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neighboring houses January 22 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Genesis 25:1-6; 1 Chronicles 1:32-34; Genesis 25:19-26; Genesis 25:7-11; Genesis 26:1-35

Peace with our Neighbors

Loud noise, not respecting property rights, and even some pranks make it difficult to love our neighbors. Some problems come to us just because we are Christians. Other times jealousy is the problem. Some Christians have been especially blessed by God in their families. Not that any family is perfect, but perhaps Mom and Dad are committed to each other for life, all their children have become Christians and respectable citizens, married well, and now their grandchildren are also being blessed. Perhaps they also have been blessed by God in business. Because of their industriousness, discipline, and ingenuity they started what became a successful business and have become wealthy. Perhaps they now own much land and property. They enjoy God’s blessings, but sometimes their neighbors do not; they become envious. How do they (or we) live peaceably with our neighbors?

After the death of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, he got remarried and had six more children and grandchildren (though he was an old man). God was blessing Abraham as he promised (Genesis 15:4-6; 17:1-7). He lived peacefully in the land, but this small family was increasing in size and becoming a large tribe of people. In fact, they were becoming so large that their neighbors feared they would be over taken. Sometimes perceived threats can make neighbors nervous. For instance, suppose a rich religious group moved into the neighborhood and started buying many homes in our area. Would we fear they might take over the neighborhood and force their beliefs upon us? It is only natural to protect what is ours. That protection can bring us into contention with our neighbors. This is what happened between Isaac, Abraham’s chosen son, and the people in Gerar, a city southwest in the land of Canaan (the land of the Philistines), near the Mediterranean Sea; they feared Abraham's family would take over their land. How can we live peacefully with our neighbors?

Living peacefully with our neighbors starts with trust and truth. We need to be genuine Christians (more...) and trust God to take care of us. It is because of God’s grace and his promise that Isaac was blessed. If we are blessed, we need to be humble, thankful, and faithfully serve the LORD. Isaac should not have feared his neighbors because God was with him, protecting him.

Isaac, however, did not fully trust God. As in Abraham's time, there was a famine in the land of Canaan. Therefore, he sought more fertile soil, but God told Isaac not to go down to Egypt. Again, like his father, Isaac went to live in Gerar in the land of the Philistines. There, Isaac copied his father Abraham’s shrewd behavior; he feared his neighbors might kill him, take his pretty wife and all his possessions, so he told them that his pretty wife, Rebekah, was his sister. Like Abraham, Isaac’s lie got him in trouble with his neighbors. Lying is a bad way to begin a relationship with your neighbors or any relationship for that matter. It makes them angry, and then they don’t trust you. Had it not been for the grace of God, Isaac could have been cast out of Gerar to die in the wilderness.

How do we handle contentious neighbors? How would you respond if a neighbor contested the borders of your property or claimed a beautiful tree he cut down was on his property not yours? Or, what would you do if your neighbor parked in your space in front of your house, even if the space was actually owned by the city? Would you have fights with your neighbor? Would you take him to court? Look at what happened to Isaac:

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth, (Genesis 26:12-15, NIV).

Three times Isaac tried to reopen the wells but was opposed by the Philistines. They were afraid of him because his family was growing to a great size, and they saw Isaac's God was blessing him abundantly. They wanted distance between their nation and this new large nation cropping up in their backyard; they did not want to face them in a battle some day.

What did Isaac do? Isaac did not fight them. Instead, he moved on until he dug a well that they did not contest, though this was far south of his original dwelling. Are we to just give in to injustices? Not necessarily, but why not lay the ground work for good neighbor relations? Just because our neighbor is contentious does not mean we have to be. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” (Proverbs 15:1, NIV). If issues fester and come to a head, could you give in and bring healing? Why not rather be hurt or treated unjustly than hurt your testimony for Christ? 2Timothy 2:24 says, “…the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful,” (NIV).

Taking our cue from Isaac and his problems with Abimelech, if things cannot be worked out reasonably, it may be best to give up some space. Sometimes it is better to move than to live in contention with your neighbor, but try to love your neighbor unconditionally first. Pray about this. God cares for you and your neighbor. He wanted Isaac to settle in Gerar for a time. Perhaps Isaac was to be a testimony of God to his neighbor while he was in Gerar, as well as to provide for his needs. Ask for a loving heart toward your neighbor. Ask God how you may minister to your him. Ask God for peaceful resolutions, and he may give you a place of peace without moving.

Lessons to live by:

  • Living peacefully with our neighbors starts with trust and truth. We need to be genuine Christians (more...) and trust God to take care of us.
  • We need to be humble and thankful for God's grace in our lives and faithfully serve the LORD.
  • Lying is a bad way to begin a relationship with your neighbors or any relationship for that matter. Live truthfully and try to live at peace with them.
  • Just because your neighbor is contentious does not mean you have to be. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” (Proverbs 15:1, NIV).
  • Sometimes it is better to move than to live in contention with your neighbor, but try to love your neighbor unconditionally first. Perhaps you can provide a positive testimony of God to your neighbor.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse:

2Timothy 2:24: “…the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (NIV).

praying girl Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

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