I recently read a story about blind skiers in the 1988 Olympics in Canada which perfectly complemented a lesson I gathered from my Scripture reading that day. According to the story, a television program preceding the 1988 Winter Olympics featured blind skiers in training for slalom skiing. The thought of blind men and women skiing down a slope is already quite extraordinary. Add to it a course full of poles and gates that must be avoided or jumped over and it is hard to fathom the difficulty of the task.
The broadcast showed the skiers training for the course on flat ground, while sighted skiers told them when to turn to the right or to the left. Once they mastered the leveled course, they were taken to the slalom slope, where their sighted partners followed beside them, shouting, “Left!” and “Right!” As they obeyed their partners’ commands, they were able to navigate the entire course and cross the finish line, solely depending on the sighted skiers’ directions. Either they would trust those who could see ahead of them, or catastrophe would ensue.
Scriptures are full of stories of men and women who had to blindly trust God for impossible tasks, supernatural deliverance and guidance. The two first books of the Old Testament alone contain many accounts: Think of Abraham leaving his homeland on a journey toward unknown territory, solely trusting God for each step. Or Moses — insecure, stubborn Moses — fully aware of his inadequacy to lead 2 million Jews out of Pharaoh’s grip and toward the Promise Land. The list is long.
I came across a story extracted from the life of Isaac, Abraham’s promised son, who, after his father’s death, settled in Gerar, a Philistine city in today’s Central Israel. His father had also settled in that same area years before. When Isaac arrived in the territory, he looked for the wells which his father had dug in the past; however, he found them stopped up. In ancient times, stopping a well could be considered an act of war. Isaac could have chosen to rise against the Philistines, but rather chose to tell his herdsman to simply move on and find another well.
When Isaac’s servants started digging in the valley of Gerar, they found a new well of flowing water. The Philistines immediately started quarreling with Isaac’s men, claiming that the well was in their territory. As we read on, more conflict meets Isaac after he peacefully withdraws his men from that site and finds another place with groundwater. As his men start digging the well, the Philistines appear, once more, ready for war: “The water is ours!” they shouted.
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Isaac quietly left one more time, but not before naming the two cursed wells: the first one, he called Esek, which means “contention” and the second one, Sitnah, which means “enmity.” He moved yet to a fourth location, where he found more than a well. Isaac finally found peace. He named that well “Rehoboth” — which means broad places, a place of enlargement. He found where he was supposed to be, all along. That very night, God appeared to Isaac and reaffirmed the covenant he had made with his father Abraham — a covenant of protection, provision and eternal blessing.
More than a random narrative thrown in the middle of the story of the genesis of God’s people, this account is packed with principles that should give us pause in the beginning of a new year. So is the skiers’ story.
The blind skiers were able to navigate a most treacherous course, simply because they learned to focus on the voice that told them where to turn. Jacob did the same. He was keenly aware of the obstacles and moved away from each one of them. He read the circumstances, and trusted that the uneasiness he found was an indicator that God had a better place for him.
It may be that you are “digging a well” in a place of constant contention and unrest. Maybe you feel compelled to stay, out of fear of the unknown or simple complacency. It may be time to listen to that still small voice beside you, saying you must move away from dangerous obstacles and roadblocks. Trust it — for I truly believe God has a Rehoboth for each of us, where our souls find rest and his voice is ever clear, but we will not find it until we peacefully move away from Esek, the place of contention and unrest.