Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 12

Genesis 26:17-27:46; Matthew 9:1-17; Psalm 10:16-18; Proverbs 3:9-10

"I want the truth!"

"You can't handle the truth!"

Classic movie lines, revealing tension: two sides, two realities, two desires, two "truths." Enter Abimelech, asking to make a treaty.  Isaac is, understandably, reluctant and suspicious: "Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?" (Gen. 26:27). There's the truth.  We saw it yesterday in God's word, and Isaac repeats it here.  

Abimelech has a different story, however.  His party line, and he's sticking to it, is that "we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace" (Gen. 26:29).

Did not molest you?  Treated you well?  Sent you away in peace?  Isn't this the same Abimelech who - in yesterday's reading - envied him, stopped up the wells of Abraham (part of Isaac's birthright), and essentially pushed Isaac out of the area (Gen. 26:14-16)?  How can Abimelech claim that as truth and expect Isaac to agree and act on the mis-represented reality?  Abimelech did molest Isaac.  He did not treat him well or send him away in peace.

But Isaac doesn't contest Abimelech's story.  "Isaac made a feast for them, and they ate and drank....The men swore an oath to each other....and they left [Isaac] in peace" (Gen. 26:30-31).  He fed them and honored their request and sent them off with good wishes.  Isaac denied himself the satisfaction of telling the true truth; he allowed Abimelech the dignity of acceptance.  And Isaac moved the relationship forward.  Imagine if Isaac had stonewalled and insisted on his version of the story.  Imagine the continued friction, the underhanded well-stopping, the potential for war that could have resulted from Isaac attempting to prove his point.

Instead, Isaac allowed the false reality, not out of passivity or resignation, but out of an awareness of what really mattered.  He didn't agree to Abimelech's version; he didn't assert his own rightness.  He saw what was at the heart of the situation (a treaty for mutual protection and security) and could allow Abimelech's story to stand in order for that purpose to be accomplished.  Isaac acted for the greater good.

I find this difficult.  I don't like people not seeing my "truth," my version of reality.  I want people to 'fess up to their wrongdoing and acknowledge it as a step toward future relationship.  I want to be right, and I want everyone else to know that I'm right.  I want them to admit it!  Here's a challenge from Scripture, though: Isaac chose to be in right relationship rather than be right.  He'd rather have God's blessing for righteous living than God's mercy for selfish insistence. 

The very day that Abimelech and his retinue left, Isaac's men discovered more water.  God's gift of a good, uncontested well - what need did Isaac have to be proven right in front of Abimelech?  The Lord knew the truth, and the Lord gave blessing accordingly.

It is hard to humble ourselves before the story and desires of other people.  It is hard to let them tell their reality and not to assert our own right back at them.  But if we move toward those people, if we offer a feast or an oath, if we send them on their way with peace, what might God have for us?  The Lord knows the truth, and the Lord gives blessings accordingly. 

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 


  1. Such a powerful story about not demanding our rights, but letting God provide for us. Well said, Sarah.

  2. Thanks for this, Sarah. It is not easy for me to let go of my version of the truth either!

  3. For more on truth, see

    Some good comments on 2016's word of the year: post-truth.

  4. Thanks for the link to The Good Book article on truth. Very well written and true (no pun intended) essay by Sean McDowell.