Sometimes, when we read the Bible, there’s a distinct sense of déjà vu, that feeling of ‘Here we go again!’ The cycle of faith, falling away, crying out to God and repentance which we see in Judges is so repetitive that we feel frustrated at people’s inability to learn from history, but this continues to this day.
In Genesis 26:1-11, we have that same feeling of frustration and repetition, as Isaac falls into the same trap that his father Abraham did when he lies to Abimelek about his relationship to Rebekah, claiming she is his sister because he was afraid. This chapter reminds us that we need to learn from the past, from our own mistakes and from the mistakes of others. Kemi Sungole said, ‘The only way we grow is by learning from the past. Always be willing to learn and grow daily.’ So often, we keep making the same mistakes (and Eccl 1:9 reminds us there’s nothing new under the sun!), but we have to be willing to change and to explore new paths.
Perhaps Isaac would not have made this mistake if Abraham had been more open about his own weaknesses. We tend not to want to show our weaknesses to others, fearing their reactions and wanting to appear strong and capable at all times. Nonetheless, Paul reminds us that he learned to depend on Christ’s strength through his thorn in the flesh (see 2 Cor 12:1-10) and was not afraid to be open and vulnerable to people (see also 1 Cor 2:1-5). James tells us there is great value in confessing our sins to each other so we can pray and know wholeness and healing (James 5:16). When we are open and honest about our weaknesses as well as our strengths, sin loses its grip on us and we can help others to avoid making the same mistakes and falling into the same traps. (Rom 6:11-14).