Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.” So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek,[c]because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?” They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the LORD.” Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully. That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba. – Genesis 26:12-32 (NIV)
It sounds like Isaac has made his fortunes and is now returning to his roots and the land of his father. The philistines are envious and apprehensive. It is somewhat interesting that the Philistines would fill the wells that Abraham made instead of simply commandeering them for their own use. Perhaps this was the equivalent of passive aggressive behavior on the part of the Philistines since they had made a treaty with Abraham. Clearly there is something cultural involved which is probably lost on my 21st century understanding of water and wells. It seems odd that they would be willing to destroy (by filling wells in) a thing that could provide them with valuable water. I have run into people in my life who were more interested in tearing things down than building them up. They are some of the most difficult people to love as Jesus called us to love.
It is not at all clear why the residents of the valley were not able to find and install their own wells just as Isaac and Abraham had done. Perhaps they could not manage it due to a lack of servants, or the wealth of Abraham and Isaac that allowed them to “invest” in the needed wells to be more prosperous. Maybe they simply lacked the skill and knowledge to accomplish it or they lacked God’s blessing that allowed Abraham and Isaac to be successful. In this culture and geographic location digging a well seems to be an indication that one is settled in a region and is willing to invest in developing long term resources and relationships. It is like a tree putting down roots to obtain the needed resources for growth.
I think we all choose whether to invest in “new wells”, both physical and spiritual, as we move through life. The “wells” could be getting to know other Christians, building a relationship with a non-Christian, or simply meeting with God on a regular basis. As we move into the hard and challenging areas of life we should pause to make sure we take time to install “wells” and ask for God’s blessing so that we can have the resources necessary to do what God has called us to do in that place. As followers of Christ we have all “found water” in the living water provided by God. We are called to drink deeply of his water, be refreshed, and share it with others.
Prayer: God help me to install new wells in those areas of my life into which you have called me today so that I have the “water” I need to accomplish the tasks you have for me.