The Lord’s Covenant of Grace runs like a thread through this passage, holding the whole of it together. God’s covenant with his people is a promise of his saving presence. Three times in this passage, the Lord’s presence with Isaac is confirmed. The first two confirmations came from the Lord himself who spoke to Isaac and said, “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you,” and “Fear not, for I am with you” (vv. 4, 24). The third confirmation of the Lord’s presence came from the Philistine King Abimelech and his men who, seeing the ways that Isaac had been blessed said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you…” (vs. 28). Notice the change of tenses. The Lord’s presence is all encompassing. He has been with, is, and will be with Isaac.
The Lord is the “hero” of Isaac’s story. One commentator characterized Isaac as “the ordinary son of a great father and the ordinary father of a great son.” According to Genesis 35 Isaac lived 180 years; longer than either Abraham or Jacob. But we know little about his life. What we do know is that the younger man of faith became an older man of appetites. The boy who trusted the Lord on Mt. Moriah became a man who could not manage his household or lead his family well. Most of what we know about Isaac directly is found in Genesis chapter 26. But even here, Isaac is not held forth as a model of faithfulness. Rather, the key to the blessings upon Isaac is the covenant loyalty of the Lord.
It is God’s blessed presence with his people which is most precious about his covenant. God promised that it would be his presence which would both form them as a people and guarantee for them a land of their own. Here, Isaac is instructed to not flee to Egypt during the famine but to remain in the Land and trust the Lord’s provision. Later, Moses pleaded with the Lord to not lead his people out of the desert and into the Land of Promise if he, the Lord, would not go with them (Exodus 33). The final two chapters of the Bible affirm God’s everlasting presence with his people as his chief blessing of Christ’s atonement: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Revelation 21:3).