Responding to Envy with Honor

What are some examples of honor?

Do you envision government or military officials that hold a high rank?

Maybe you think of students who showed superior academic abilities.

How about the privilege of going first in a sport or other activity?

One definition of honor I found is the center point of the upper half of an armorial escutcheon. Yes, I had to look up both armorial and escutcheon.

These definitions of honor aside, what does it mean to respond to envy with honor?

Join me as we consider an example from Isaac in Genesis 26:17-18.

17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. 18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. (Gen 26:17-18 ESV)

Prior to these verses, Isaac had planted crops that yielded a hundredfold in one year’s time and he continued to prosper over time, gaining great wealth, flocks, herds, and servants. All of this came about because God blessed Isaac. (See Gen 26:12-14.)

But this prosperity stirred envy in the hearts of the Philistines whom Isaac was living among. Their envy was so great they resorted to filling up the water wells with dirt that Isaac was using. These wells had been dug by Isaac’s father Abraham years ago and were part of a treaty agreement between Abraham and the Philistines. (See Gen 21:22-34 and Gen 26:14-15.)

Why was Isaac living among the Philistines? (Gen 26:1)

What ruling prevented the Philistines from more aggressive action against Isaac? (Gen 26:11)

Had the Philistines only filled the wells in response to Isaac’s prosperity? (Gen 26:18)

Review the following verses:

And the LORD appeared to [Isaac] and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.” (Gen 26:2-3 ESV)

What did the Lord promise Isaac if he stayed in Gerar?

Isaac stayed in Gerar and was blessed by the Lord. (See Gen 26:6 and Gen 26:12-14.)

After Abimelech, King of Gerar, discovered Isaac had lied about Rebekah, (Gen 26:8-10) he continued to allow Isaac to stay in Gerar. But as Isaac’s prosperity grew to overshadow Abimelech’s own people, he requested Isaac to move away from Gerar, saying Isaac had grown too powerful for them. (Gen 26:16)

Isaac moved to the Valley of Gerar. Away, but still within proximity of Gerar.

Given the Lord’s promise to Isaac in Gen 26:2-3, why do you think Isaac agreed to Abimelech’s request and moved? (Gen 26:17)

What heart change in Isaac does his putting some physical distance between him and the men of Gerar reveal? (Compare Gen 26:7-9 and Gen 26:17.)

Why was Isaac’s move the honorable thing to do in response to the Philistines filling his water wells out of envy and Abimelech’s request?

Review Gen 26:18 again.

And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham, his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. (Gen 26:18 ESV)

What honorable things did Isaac do?

Why was reinstating the names Abraham had given these wells important to Isaac? Isaac’s family? The Philistines?

How are Isaac’s actions in this situation an example of strength instead of weakness or fear?

What enabled Isaac to respond to envy with honor?

Personal Application

Describe a time someone displayed envy towards you.

How did you respond to their envy?

What happened as a result?

What would you do differently today? Why or why not?

How do the following scriptures support Isaac’s honorable example?

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5:21 ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,1 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (Phi 2:5-6 ESV)

He must increase, but I must decrease.  (Joh 3:30 ESV)

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7 ESV)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17 ESV)

I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom 12:1 ESV)

Do you allow God or others to mentor, disciple, teach, correct, or guide you? Why or why not?

What steps can you take today to develop approachability, gentleness, and humility?

How do you esteem and honor others more than yourself?

Remember Isaac’s heart change turned from fear of humans to trusting the Lord to provide. Granted, the Lord blessed him abundantly, but Isaac could have become arrogant and bullish instead of humble and honorable when Abimelech asked him to move.

What honorable actions can you take today to give space, physically or otherwise, for any of your strained relationships to improve?

Whom do you need to thank today who honorably granted you space, physically or otherwise, when you were envious of them?

What else did you learn from this study? Is there something you can share in the comments below that will encourage others?

Heavenly Father, guide us with your eternal wisdom as we interact with our fellow humans. Help us see each other as you see us. Give us a teachable heart and willing spirit to honor others above ourselves so that they may see Your love for them.


Barbara Lynn


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