Good for Evil By Woodrow Kroll

And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.

In his "Essay on Criticism" British author Alexander Pope inscribed the everlasting words, "To err is human; to forgive is divine." How easy it is to offend. Yet how difficult it is to forgive the offense. The devil counsels you to hate your enemies, hinder them, and seek every opportunity to destroy them. Our Lord counsels, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). The words of the Lord Jesus sound very idealistic, but in the nitty-gritty of everyday life it is quite difficult to forgive someone who has purposefully persecuted you.

Consider the plight of Isaac. When a famine arose in Canaan, Isaac was driven south to dwell in the land of Gerar. Here Isaac sowed the land and the Lord blessed him one-hundredfold. The patriarch became a very great man with possessions of flocks and herds. This made the Philistines of Gerar envious, and their king, Abimelech, asked Isaac to move elsewhere.

Thus Isaac departed in peace and pitched his tent farther south in the valley of Gerar. Immediately Isaac and his men redug the wells there which were previously owned by Abraham. Then Isaac's servants began to dig a new well. This brought strife with the herdsmen of Gerar who apparently did not want any more of the south country to be claimed by Isaac. The conflict was so great that Isaac named the well Esek, which means "contention." In order to avoid the problem, Isaac peaceably forsook that well and dug another. But this too brought the wrath of the Gerar herdsmen and Isaac named this well Sitnah (hatred). Again the well was given up in order to avoid confrontation. Isaac moved still farther south and his men dug yet a third well. This time they were apparently beyond the range of the envious herdsmen, for no strife followed. Isaac called this well Rehoboth, meaning "wide space," where the Lord would make them fruitful in the land.

Shortly Isaac traveled north to Beersheba. When Abimelech learned that the increasingly wealthy and influential Isaac had come to Beersheba, he quickly paid him a visit. Abimelech hoped to regain the favor of Isaac whom he had earlier expelled. When Isaac inquired why Abimelech and his friends had come, they replied, "We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath between us, even between us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; That thou wilt do us no harm, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD."

Abimelech and his friends were being quite gracious to themselves by saying that they had done Isaac nothing but good. In fact, they had uprooted him from fields which were giving a one-hundredfold yield. Even after he migrated south, the herdsmen of Gerar took possession of two of Isaac's tediously dug wells. Isaac had much to resent and be bitter about. But in typically godly fashion Isaac was willing to forgive the offenses against him.

A feast was made. Together they ate and drank. "And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another" (Genesis 26:31). Early the next morning they "cut a covenant," that is, they made a pact of peace that they would not harm one another. For Isaac this was a one-sided pact, for he had wronged no one. He could have reacted angrily to the suggestion of the peace pact. But instead, he forgave his offenders and dug another well at Beersheba (the "well of the covenant"). This confirmed the covenant with Abimelech.

To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is godlike. The rich and powerful Isaac had no reason to forgive Abimelech and agree to the peace pact except that the love of God constrained him to do so. Isaac?s forgiving spirit is reflected in our Lord's instruction, "Be ye, therefore, merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven" (Luke 6:36-37). It's good advice. Let's heed it today.

More like the Master I would live and grow,
More of His love to others I would show;
More self-denial, like His in Galilee
More like the Master I long to ever be.

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