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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Be Ready to Respond with Grace

Gentleness and respect.

Living the Truth (6) 

But they said, “We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the L RD.’” Genesis 26.28, 29 

The Lord with him
In our text Abimelech has traveled from his city to where Isaac is dwelling. He who’d sent the patriarch packing now comes seeking him out. He has something very serious on his mind.

It’s clear that, when Abimelech arrived at Isaac’s place, the patriarch was not a little putout. Isaac said to the king, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?” You can hear the irritation in his voice, that sense of exasperation and aggravation that had been growing in him, but which Isaac had thus far managed to check.

Why was Abimelech there in the first place? Because he’d seen something in Isaac’s demeanor. He had seen his humility, his industry and prosperity, the lack of contention with which he had moved on, and the care he had taken to avoid strife with Abimelech’s people. Abimelech must have wondered: How does a man do such things? How can anyone with that much power not use his power to assert his rights and take vengeance on those who wrong him? 

Abimelech had been around Isaac and Abraham just long enough to know that there was only one explanation for their extraordinary grace and forbearance: the Lord was with them.

Touched by God
God touched the heart of this pagan king to come and set things right with Isaac. His motives may have been entirely self-interested, but the covenant Abimelech proposed was not simply a one-way pact designed to preserve his rule and realm. In those days making a covenant like this was a big deal. When making such covenants the parties in agreement would assemble their armies and families to declare to one and all that they were now allies and friends. Any attack on one would be an attack on both; any breach of contract on the part of one or the other would mean his destruction by all.

Covenant-making was serious business, and it established strong bonds and commitments between people who deeply respected one another.

Isaac did not need this covenant with Abimelech, although he surely benefited from it. But the timing of Abimelech’s initiative must have been interpreted by Isaac as a confirmation of the promises God had just restated to him, among them the promise, “I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse.”

Isaac’s greatness of character, fruitfulness of life, and peaceable ways with his neighbors got Abimelech’s attention. And the patriarch’s greatness was only strengthened in Abimelech’s eyes by this confirmation of the Lord’s witness between them.

Three things
If we are faithful in living the truth as Isaac did, we can expect three things to happen among those to whom we bear witness to the Lord. (cf. Acts 17.32-34)

First, many of the people in our Personal Mission Field will begin to connect the lives we live with the Gospel we keep trying to share with them. In some of them, this might provoke a question about this Gospel and the hope that accompanies it. We’ll need to be ready to answer any questions they might raise about this matter (1 Pet. 3.15), not in a combative or purely argumentative way, but with gentleness and respect. Such an answer may extend over several times together, in which we pursue a line of conversation which points consistently to Jesus. Evangelism is a process, not an event. If we’re speaking the truth in love, we’ll be patient as others wait for the Lord to open their heart.

Second, some people will never reconcile with our testimony, witness, or life of faith. Indeed, they may scorn or avoid us, or perhaps even talk about us behind our back. Even worse could be in store, as persecuted believers in many places already know. This should neither surprise nor dismay us. After all, it’s only what Isaac and the apostles experienced. Opposition and persecution should signal to us that we are realizing the promise of Jesus about trouble in this world, so that we take refuge in Him to sustain us in it (Jn. 16.33).

Finally, some – perhaps only a few – will believe the Good News and give themselves to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. We need to come alongside such folk, ready to encourage them in their faith and help them get started in their journey with the Lord. Pray with them. Read a gospel together. Bring them into your circle of Christian friends.

When the people in our unbelieving world begin to sense the hope of the Gospel in us, they will consider that there might be something in our way of life for them, and they will want to know more. If we have been gracious and forbearing with them, humble, loving, and even willing to be wronged, when the time comes for them to draw closer to us, because of the grace of God, let’s make sure we’re ready to give them the answers they seek, with reverence and respect.

For reflection
1. What are some of the questions you might expect a curious unbeliever to ask you about your faith?

2. Answering such questions is not just an intellectual exercise; it’s a way of life (cf. Ps. 119.41, 42). Explain.

3. What can you do each day to make sure you’re ready to respond with grace to the people in your Personal Mission Field?

Next steps – Preparation: Brainstorm some ways you might be able to spend a little more time with the people in your Personal Mission Field – getting to know them, listening for things to pray about, considering ways to encourage and serve them. Beside each name on your Personal Mission Field map, write down one or two things you might begin doing. Start doing them right away.

T. M. Moore

Help your friends get started working their Personal Mission Fields as well. Order copies of The Gospel of the Kingdom and Joy to Your World! for your friends. You can order these free resources by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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