Isaac was a man of the well. There are five wells associated with his life (Gen. 25:11; 26:20-22-23). Since five is the Biblical number of grace, it is quite natural for us to look for some important lesson about the way God’s blessings of grace are dispensed both to Isaac and to the Church-age believer.
In the Scripture before us, we find that Isaac is well hunting because there was a “famine in the land” (Gen. 26:1). A time of famine would be a time of intense pressure and temptation to seek relief and satisfaction. So, Isaac leaves his place of appointed blessing and is on his way down into Egypt when God intervenes and stops him from going into the land of sin and slavery (Gen. 26:2).
All individual believers and Christian organizations will, like Isaac, face times of great famine. We will feel the ache of great deprivation, the pain of barrenness and emptiness of both our souls and ministry! We will experience both the pressures and temptations to seek the water (Ex. 17:1-3) and food (Num. 11:5) of the world for our sustenance. However, It would be suicidal to pursue such a course.
In the course of time, Isaac separates himself from the men of Gerar (Gen. 26:13-16) and starts back home.
It should be pointed out that though Isaac prospered materialistically in the world, he was of little blessing to others while he lived in the land of the Philistines! In fact, they grew to hate him! It isn’t until Isaac separates himself from the Philistines that they came to seek God’s blessing through Isaac (Gen. 26:26-29). Again, we are reminded that though we are in the world, we “are not of the world” (Jn. 17:16), and that we best serve those who need Christ by separating ourselves from the things of the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
On his way back home, Isaac finds that the Philistines (the enemies of God) had filled up the old wells with “earth” and stopped their life-giving flow (Gen. 26:15).
In the ancient days of Isaac, the digging of a well on a piece of property was a sign of ownership. To destroy a well was to denote conquest and denial of property rights; thus, we see pictured a very real danger both then and now for the servant of God. That is, given enough time in careless living, we will find that our wells of living water (which we so desperately need) are stopped up by the world’s influence. We are denied our rightful possessions. Like Isaac, we must check the old wells of blessing to make sure that the enemies of God have not stopped them up with sticks, stones, earth and the debris of unbelief. And if they are stopped up, we must dig them again! Every new generation of believers must fight again the old enemies of the faith! Water is necessary for the maintenance of natural life. So, too, we have an urgent need for the “living water” (Gen. 26:19 cf. , Jn. 7:38-39; Eph. 5:26).
God was not ashamed to be called “The God of Isaac” (Gen. 28:13), because he went back and dug again the old wells that the enemies of God had filled up.
Because it is a part of man’s nature to wander away from God’s plan and place of blessing, God has had to call, time and again, for His people to return to the streams of living water: the place of blessing. Isaac had to dig again the old wells (Gen. 26:17-33). Jacob had to return to Bethel (Gen. 31:13). The Jews of Jeremiah’s day were told to return to the “old paths” (Jer. 6:16; 18:15). The Ephesian Church of the Tribulation Period is encouraged to return to their “first love” and do the “first works” (Rev. 2:4-5). Christian Truth is a “way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 22:4) from which we often wander, and to which we must be readjusted (Acts 18:26; Isa. 30:21).
In the past, whenever the impact of the world and the spread of unworthy religious practices have left the church in need of revival, it has been to the Apostle Paul that men have returned. Here, at the well of Pauline Truth, men have found the well of pure waters. Here the waters of the “one faith” (Eph. 4:5) could be drawn and, thus, restore power and spiritual prosperity. It is as men have drunk deeply of Christ the “living water,” as revealed by Paul’s revelation of the Mystery, that he discovers the reason for living beyond the here and now. It is from this well that the great evangelistic, Bible study, missionary movements and national revivals have resulted.
But, even as I write these words, I am saddened. I know that the enemy has been busy polluting the well, and when the water stops, people die and go to Hell! We need a heart and attitude adjustment that will cause us to say with John Wyeth as he wrote in his song:
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
“0 to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee:
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, 0 take and seal it;
Seal it for they courts above.”
THE WELL OF FUNDAMENTALISM
Throughout the Pauline Epistles, top priority is given to “sound doctrine.” Paul repeatedly instructed the young pastor, Timothy, in sound doctrine, example and practice. Paul reminds him that he had “fully known Paul’s doctrine” (2 Tim. 3:10), and warns him to “take heed unto himself and unto the doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:16), and to “teach and exhort” those things (1 Tim. 6:2). This was very important to Paul because the time would come when they the congregation or constituency would not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3): in which case, Timothy was to “withdraw” himself from doctrinal apostasy (1 Tim. 6:3-5). On the other hand, his faithfulness to doctrine would be doubly rewarded (1 Tim. 5:17).
What is a fundamentalist?
Paul and Timothy would have been called a fundamentalist today. A fundamentalist is one who is sound in doctrine, practice and separated from the world’s customs, culture and philosophies – especially separated from apostasy in the ecclesiastical community (2 Cor. 6:14-18).
A word is necessary here about separation lest we be misunderstood. True Biblical separation always starts with yielding to God. When we examine the Lord Jesus and the Apostles in the way they ministered, we discover that they never, ever withdrew from contact with people, even the worst of sinners. They were among them ministering! Yes, they were even criticized because they mingled with sinners, went to sinners, and ate with sinners. Not once do you ever see Christ and the Apostles compromising themselves, their convictions, their message or their lives in order to be with and reach sinners! The Lord Jesus always remained untarnished. He loved people. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” But, always there is the emphasis upon the purity of doctrine and life. No, not once can you question the fact of the high standard of purity, absolute devotion, and obedience to the Father. Always that absolute standard of purity of doctrine and life was present. At the same time, however, they never hesitated to expose the false religious leaders of their day!
Sound doctrine and sound practice cannot be divorced. We cannot say one thing and do another. We cannot rightly represent God and His truth and, at the same time, live following the philosophies and practices of the world.
Authority and truth
The well of Bible authority and truth must be constantly inspected. Around the turn of the century this well was inspected and found to be full of the rocks, sticks and the debris of the Philistines (the modern-day agnostics, atheists, modernists, rationalists, intellectuals, formalists and more recently the neo-evangelicals). At the turn of the last century, the old wells of Bible truth were dug again to free up the life-giving waters of life. Those who labored so tirelessly for the truth of the gospel were disparagingly called “the come-outers.” They mocked them, called them “Backwoods Bible Thumpers” and “Jack-leg Preachers” (preachers without ecclesiastical authorization – This is what the Pharisees would have called the Apostle Peter – Acts 4:7). Today they and we are called “Fundamentalists.” But, praise God, the springs of the living waters began to flow again. Once again, the church had a crystal-clear, refreshing testimony that the Bible is God’s Word. God says what He means and means what He says.
We have built our hope, message and ministry on these fundamental truths. We believe and preach that God exists eternally in three persons; that our virgin-born Savior was our substitute, Who suffered, bled, died, was buried and rose again for our justification. We know and teach that sin is real and its consequences are terrible. We believe that salvation is by grace through faith. We are sure that there is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun and, thank God, our friends, loved ones and strangers who believe our message are saved and eternally secure.
We believe that Christ is coming again. Because of that we live and labor in a way that glorifies Him.
“O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:11-14).
The Church’s experience has been that of constant conflict with varying forms and degrees of modernism. We must “earnestly contend” for the Well of Fundamentalism (Jude 1:3).
THE WELL OF DISPENSATIONALISM
This is the well we draw from when we want to know the why, how, and what of God’s expectations for us. We believe the entire Bible is verbally inspired; it is all for our learning and instruction. But, when we want to know specifically the why, how and what of our personal and corporate instruction and refreshment, we must learn to use the bucket of “right division” (2 Tim. 2:15). By using this “bucket,” we draw up the water that was meant just for us.
This well was dug at a great expense and sacrifice. Because of it, Paul said he was “an ambassador in chains” (Eph. 6:19-20). This “Dispensation of the Mystery” (Eph. 3:9) which Paul called “my Gospel” (Rom. 16:25-26), is pure spring water, since it gives us a clear understanding of what God is doing today and the believers orientation to the plan of God. This water frees us from the bondage of Old Testament Law, ceremonies, sacrifices and rituals. It places us under the principles of grace and into the security of the Body of Christ by one Divine Holy Spirit baptism.
I am getting concerned. Many in the Christian community have not only turned away from the fundamentalist view of doctrine and philosophy of ministry, but have turned away from the dispensational well also. I personally think there is a link between the two. A weakness in or a denial of fundamentalism leads to a weakness or denial of the need for the waters from the dispensational well. Especially, there is a tendency among many in the neo-evangelical community who have become passive about dispensational teaching, or ridicule, and even deny its truth and value. A visit to a local Christian book store, church library, or a careful survey of what is being taught from many Christian pulpits will show you that very little is ever said about dispensational truth. We need to continue to take a stand on these issues. If we, Fundamentalist – Grace Believers, do not emphasize dispensational truth, who will do it? There are so few who really see and appreciate this wonderful “rightly divided” water.
Great care must be taken and labor spent to keep the rocks, stones, sticks, earth and the debris of legalism from this well.
THE WELL OF CONSECRATION
The great degree of Paul’s dedication and consecration to the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the amazing features of his life. Paul says he did not count “his life dear unto himself” (Acts 20:24). Furthermore, he counted “all things but loss” (Phil. 3:7-9) and he considered himself “crucified unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
This well of consecration was dug deep in his life; he labored “night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). It was this well of living water that produced the love, compassion, tenderness, fellowship, spiritual growth, praise, worship and glory to God in his life and ministry.
If Paul had not drunk deeply from this well, he would not have been able to say, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
God forbid that we should return to this well of consecration and find that the enemy has stopped its life-giving flow with the rock and stones of worldliness, and the sticks of materialism and indifference, and the earth and debris of half-heartedness and selfishness. This surely is the reason why so many of our churches are poorly attended. Christ, and the church are given second place and evil triumphs.
THE WELL OF COMMUNICATION
Paul was a teacher: a teacher who was well prepared (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). A teacher who said, “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
It is the water of the Word that purges and prepares the believer for service (Eph. 4:11-15). This well of living water is to be communicated systematically, categorically and verse by verse to our people (Isa. 28:10). God’s people don’t need plays, programs and entertainment to survive. And these things will not help us change the spiritual climate. We have forgotten that believers have been called to the battlefield (Eph. 6:11), not the recreation room. It is only the knowledge of God’s Word that will sustain us and protect us from the fiery darts of the Devil. Will history repeat itself? In the past, God’s people were destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:1-6). The enemies of God will attempt to stop up this well with book reviews, current events, social reform and “sermonettes for Christianettes.”
Oh! God forbid that we, who take our name from Acts 17:11, and call ourselves “Bereans,” should ever return to this well and find it filled with “earth.” The carnal Corinthians had polluted their own well! Paul had to tell them that they needed to “awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor. 15:34). They were not only ignorant of the Word but failed to teach others. We can’t rightly divide and teach the Word if we don’t know it! We will never be “approved workmen” without going to the well. This well must be kept clean at any cost.
THE WELL OF EVANGELISM
Paul’s red-hot passion for the souls of the lost goes back to the time of his own salvation. There God commissioned him saying: “I have set thee to be a light to the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47 cf., 26:17-18). When Paul testified before King Agrippa, he said he had not been “disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:17-18). Earlier he had told the Ephesian elders that he was “pure from the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26).
We are no less responsible than Paul is to keep the well of evangelism flowing. Like Paul, we have been commissioned as “ambassadors for Christ” with both the “Word” and “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
Millions of souls will die and go out into a Christless eternity unless we keep this well of evangelism free from the obstructions of works, religion, cults and the false teachers. But, it will take more than this; we must be “workers together” with God (2 Cor. 6:1), using every legitimate means at our disposal to win the lost to Christ. In this regard, Paul says, I beg you “that ye receive not the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). We are accountable to God (2 Cor. 5:10) for the distribution of this soul-saving water to spiritually-thirsty souls.
I believe I have identified at least five old wells associated with Paul. Now we need to “follow” him as he followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) to power and prosperity. We must give these wells daily inspection and, if necessary, dig them again. If we, as individual Grace Believers or as Christian Organizations, do not need to do this, we are the only ones in history!
Experience has proven that, like Isaac of old, whenever believing individuals or Christian organizations attempt to dig again the old wells, there will be opposition to it. This is especially true if we labor with calluses and blisters to dig again the old wells and bring back news that we have found water. Then the “herdsman of Gerar” will speak harshly about us, and there will be contention and strife (“esek” Gen. 26:20) or even hatred (“sitnah” Gen. 26:21). All of this is bitterness to our soul. It chokes the sweet song and distorts our countenance. But we must keep digging! Continual digging is the only sure way to wear out the enemy, to find room, rest and contentment (“rehobeth” Gen. 26:22), and to return to the place of settled and unchangeable blessing (“sheba” Gen. 26:33).