First, Be Cleansed

The Bond of Peace (2)

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. Isaiah 59:1, 2

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Keeping the Peace
We began this series with the Apostle Paul charging us to “work hard” to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The bond of peace—life together within the fullness and framework of God’s covenant—is the result of the Spirit’s work within us, as He revives, renews, and transforms us day by day into the image of Jesus Christ. As long as we are growing, we experience the peace of God. And that translates into peace within our souls and peace toward our neighbors. These are the elements of a “worthy walk” to which every believer is called.

But this “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) needs continuous maintenance. While it is a sure and fixed possession, we do not always experience the unity and peace of God. Instead, we are sometimes anxious, fearful, doubting, and less than charitable toward others. At times we feel that God is far away and perhaps angry with us, and we become complacent or even indifferent to striving for a more fruitful relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, or stronger unity within His Body.

God's Covenant

The Bond of Peace (1)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

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A Bond of Peace
These three verses are packed with information about our lives as Christians. They describe our condition as followers of Jesus Christ, as well as the obligations that condition imposes on us, together with the privileges and benefits that come from that condition. They indicate the power which sustains that condition, and they warn, if only implicitly, against our failing to be good stewards of where we stand in the Lord.

The key phrase in these verses is “the bond of peace.” Paul says we possess a “bond of peace.” It is the condition in which we live, the fruit of the Spirit’s making us one together in Christ, but it is a condition that we must be “eager to maintain.” By this we understand that the unity and peace we enjoy, and which make up the condition in which we exist, are continually in jeopardy of being interrupted and lost. We have to “work hard”—as the Greek actually puts it—to maintain the unity we possess in this bond of peace.

Stay the Course

Lived Truth (7)

And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they dug and said to him, “We have found water.” Genesis 26:31, 32

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The day after making a covenant with Abimelech, guess what: nothing changed.

Abimelech went back to his part of Gerar and went about the business of being a pagan king.

Isaac and his servants returned to keeping their flocks, sowing their fields, and looking for water. There is no indication that Abimelech became a believer in the God of Isaac, and Isaac wasn’t invited back to his original place of prosperity among the Philistines.

After their brief encounter, which featured a sharper focus on Isaac’s God and the promises He had made to His people, both men went back to business-as-usual. No confessions of faith. No revival. No dramatic social or cultural transformations.

This is often how the Gospel makes progress among the unbelievers in our lives: in small increments, during opportune moments of sharper focusing, bracketed about by long periods of just taking care of things in the will of the Lord.

Be Ready to Respond with Grace

Lived Truth (6)

They said, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you.” Genesis 26:28

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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, seeing that 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 graciousness 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 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 had been with them.

Stay Close to Jesus

Lived Truth (5)

So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. Genesis 26:25

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Ready to Be Pushed Around?
Isaac’s life among the unbelievers of his day wasn’t all fun and games. We saw him move from a successful location in Gerar because the local king had become fearful of his growing wealth and prowess. Then we saw him forced to keep moving when local herdsmen objected to his flocks drinking “their” water—which was really his water, after all.

I have condoned these actions of Isaac as efforts on his part to give others some space and to avoid strife and conflict. Peace is more important than perks and privileges sometimes.

Readers might get the impression that being a Christian means signing up for a life of being pushed around by unbelievers. And there is some truth to this view, if we hear Jesus and the apostles Peter and Paul correctly. We must be willing to suffer indignities and injustices if by so doing we may represent the peace and strength of the Gospel to our unbelieving neighbors.

This is an aspect of our witness for Christ which, like all the other aspects, we can only sustain by staying close to the Lord and abiding in Him.

Keep the Peace

Lived Truth (4)

Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. Genesis 26:21, 22

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Preserving Peace
Abimelech wasn’t the only one who saw a threat in Isaac. Local herdsmen also observed his growing wealth and power and felt a strong need to secure what they regarded as their privileges. Wells were a precious commodity in those days, as water is in any era. The local herdsmen among whom Isaac had settled insisted that the wells he was using were theirs, even though they had been dug by Isaac’s father, Abraham.

Rather than fight about it, Isaac moved on, leaving the water in those wells to the unjust locals. He could always dig new wells somewhere else, and did.

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