A Broad Place


Genesis 26 highlights a time in the patriarch Isaac’s life when he and his family were quarreling with the servants of Gerar over the rights to water wells dotting the landscape. Here is the passage:

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. 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. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. 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. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” (Genesis 26:17-22)

The Names Matter

It helps to know what those proper names mean. “Esek” means “contention” in the Hebrew language, and “Sitnah” means “enmity.” Clearly, these wells symbolize for Isaac and his household some level of despair and shame, some sense of conflict and threat. The next proper name mentioned, “Rehoboth,” implies something very different for Isaac and those close to him. The word means “broad place” or “room.” Compared to “contention” and “enmity” the words “broad place” and “room” allow us modern-day readers to breathe a bit more deeply. We can feel the safety and relief those words evoke.

Is your life marked by enmity and contention? Is there some conflict with which you are dealing—some shame-provoking tension not wanting to go away? Are you at odds with your employer, so you loathe going in to the office? Is there a strain between you and someone with whom you had been close; someone you thought was a friend?

Perhaps the tensions with which you are dealing are not so much relational, but circumstantial. Maybe there are financial challenges getting the best of you, or you are struggling with grades at school. Maybe, despite your best effort for the team, you are not meeting the coach’s expectations. Whatever the issue, you are hungry to sit at the refreshing well called Rehoboth. You no longer want to drink from the bitter waters of Esek and Sitnah.

Is your life marked by enmity and contention?

A Bold Thought

What if you were to pray for relief? Or, at the very least, a pause in the intensity? What if you were to plead anew with God for some margin, some room, a broad place where you could find refreshment?

RIght away you may yell at me, saying, “I’ve been doing that but there is no relief!” Yet notice that Rehoboth did not nullify the places of conflict. Esek and Sitnah still existed. It was that God simply provided relief in the midst of the tension. This slight nuance is important. Too often when dealing with conflict we just want it to go away. That is what we expect, and anything less than that is God’s failure.

This time, however, don’t ask for all the pain to disappear, or the cause of it to go away. Just ask for room to breathe in the midst of it. Then watch what happens as the Lord allows you rest in a broad place where you can drink in his healing and helping grace.