Isaac who was afraid of being killed



“So Isaac stayed in Gerar.  When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ because he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’  He thought, ‘The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.’” (Genesis 26:6-7)


                Yesterday, I found out that the son of the first friend I met when I came to the United States was battling cancer.  I was surprised to hear that news.  When I heard that my friend's young son was diagnosed with cancer and was receiving chemotherapy, it reminded me of my first baby in the intensive care unit and I told him that I would pray for his son.  Even in the midst of this, what I was grateful for was that my friend experienced God's amazing grace and made a precious confession of faith.  How is this possible?


                While I was praying for my friend’s son after the Morning Prayer while I was praying alone, I thought about my friend and his wife.  My thoughts at that time also reminded me of the father of a pastor of the presbytery who was battling cancer, whom I met last week.  When I visited the hospital, I saw the father touching the sore spot of the lying son pastor, and also stroking his head, and I wondered how he would feel.  Among the words of that father, I remember how he said that even though modern medicine has developed a lot, he thinks that cancer still cannot be overcome.  Another thought came to mind as I thought of another pastor’s wife, who was recovering after cancer surgery and treatment, and I thought about how difficult it must be for her whose parents, former missionaries, aren’t here with her because they passed away.  Another sister in Christ, who needs to be definitely get tested now, but has cancer symptoms, I am praying for her because she cut ties with her parents and lived by herself for a long time.  I remember the words of my dear pastor, who had gone to the brink of death from cancer, last week on KakaoTalk: ‘When I stand before death, I see honor, high positions, money, big numbers… It didn't matter.  I think the terms of great ministry, great pastor, and pastoral success are too misleading.  Through cancer, He gave me as a gift that the best way to live and work worthwhile, deeply and happily and go to heaven.’


What would it be like if we had cancer and stood before death?  Aren't we afraid of death?  Or will we confess God's wonderful grace like my friend in the midst of it?


                In Genesis 26:6-7, we see a person named Isaac, who is afraid of being killed.  The reason he was afraid of being killed was because his wife, Rebekah, was beautiful (v. 7).  It may be hard to understand how Isaac feared his death because Rebekah was beautiful.  But if we think about the circumstances at the time from the point of view of Isaac, we may think that it could have been.  At that time, Isaac and Rebekah were living in a city located southwest of Gerar, the southern boundary of the land of Canaan (v. 6, Internet).  And it was the city that Abimelech king of the Philistines ruled (v. 8).  The reason Isaac moved to Gerar with Rebekah was because of a famine (v. 1).  Interestingly, there was a famine in the days of Abraham, Isaac's father, and there was another famine in Isaac's time.  That was why Isaac moved to Gerar (vv. 1, 6).  But it doesn't seem like Isaac was trying to move to Gerar when the famine came.  As for how we can know it, we can understand it a little by looking at what God said to Isaac: “The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live” (v. 2).  From this verse, it seems that Isaac was going down to Egypt during a famine.  But God gave Isaac a promise, commanding him not to go down to Egypt, but to “live in the land where I tell you to live” (v. 2): “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (vv. 3-4).  Therefore, after receiving the word of this blessing from God, Isaac didn’t go down to Egypt but lived in Gerar.  But he was afraid to call her his wife, Rebekah, because Rebekah was beautiful, and the people there might covet her and kill him (v. 7).  So, when the people there asked about his wife, he didn’t say Rebekah was ‘my wife’ but said “my sister” (v. 7).  How could Isaac lie by saying Rebekah was his sister instead of his wife?  From the fact that he lived in Gera for a long time (v. 8), it seems that Isaac not only deceived the Philistines there for a long time to say that his wife Rebekah was his sister, but also treated his wife like a sister in front of the Philistines.  We can know this little bit when we look at verse 8: “When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah.”  This means that while Isaac was living in Gerar for a long time until he was caught by Abimelech king of the Philistines, he embraced his wife and treated her like his wife, and in the public eyes, he treated her like his own sister.  Considering this situation, how could Isaac afraid of himself being killed because of his beautiful wife, instead of being afraid that she could be raped, or even killed by the Philistines, who coveted her?  It seems that Isaac was such a selfish person.  He didn’t love Rebekah, who was one with him, as he did himself.  So he led a long double life, deceiving the Philistines of Gerar and lying that his wife was his sister.  Then one day Isaac hugged his wife Rebekah and caught by Abimelech king of the Philistines (v. 8).  So King Abimelech called Isaac and said, “She is really your wife!  Why did you say, 'She is my sister'?” (v. 9)  Then Isaac replied, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her” (v. 9).


                This was Isaac's thought.  Although God clearly gave Isaac the word of promise (vv. 3-4), Isaac didn’t believe in the word and the God of the covenant who gave it.  Instead, he relied on his own thought and lived a life by lying that his wife was his sister, and caught by King Abimelech (v. 8).  God promised Isaac, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands” (v. 4), would God allow Isaac to be killed by the Philistines of Gerar for his beautiful wife Rebekah?  Not only does God never allow this to happen, but even if the Philistines coveted the beautiful Rebekah and tried to kill her in order to steal her from Isaac, wouldn’t God surely save him?  But why did Isaac live in Gerar for a long time by deceiving the people, telling them lie that Satan, the father of lies, likes as he though ahead of time and was afraid of dying?  Wasn’t Isaac, the son of Abraham, the father of faith?  But his father Abraham also had nothing to say because he also called Sarah his sister in Gerar (20:2).  And the reason was because he thought that those who didn’t fear God would kill him because of his wife Sarah (v. 11).  I think it was transmission from the father to the son.  However, God's amazing faithful grace was that when Isaac farmed in the land, God blessed him so that the same year reaped a hundredfold, and he became rich and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy (vv. 12-13).  He had so many flocks and herds, and servants, to the extent that the Philistines envied Isaac (verse 14).  Isn’t this God's grace?  God, who gave this wonderful blessing to Isaac, who had lived for a long time by lying and deceiving others without believing in God's promises, faithfully fulfilled His promises to the unbelieving and unfaithful Isaac.  The reason is because even though we are unfaithful, God is always faithful and cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).


                Like Isaac, we too may fear being put to death.  So, like Isaac, we can lie and deceive others, not for a day or two, but for a long time.  After all, we too can rely on our own understanding to protect ourselves in artificial ways, rather than relying entirely on God.  However, we must keep in mind that the God who is in charge of life and death protects and keeps our lives.  Also, the truth we must believe is that the God of the covenant will surely fulfill the promises to us in His time and His way.  Therefore, we should not rely on our own understanding, but trust in God with all our hearts (Prov. 3:5).  Also, we must live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  If we rely on our understanding, we can fear our death when we have cancer.  However, if we trust God and live by faith, we will be able to confess God's wonderful grace to those around us just like my friend’s son who has cancer as we experience God's wonderful grace.  I hope and pray that no matter what kind of famine or dreadful situations we face in our lives, we all need to hold on to the word of promise the Lord has given us and to speak and act in faith while looking only at Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb.12:2).





Praying for victory in the fight against myself, sin, the world, Satan, and death,




James Kim

(January 9, 2018, As I pray for me to live by faith in the Lord and the word of His promise)