15 For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. 16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we. 17 And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.
I mentioned previously that Isaac had inherited his father’s wealth and expanded upon it, however there was some work of his father that had fallen into ruin and needed to be repaired. His father had dug life-giving wells in the land of the Philistines, and in their envy the locals had stopped them up.
So, when Isaac saw the good works of his father being undone, he restored them. He dug the wells back as they were before and named them again after the names his father had given. A large part of Isaac’s mission in life seems to have been to preserve and expand the good works of his father to future generations. That may not sound like the most envious of roles to fill, but preserving the good of others is not a small or insignificant duty.
Many of us have also been given great gifts from our ancestors, such as a level of freedom and security that most people in history never enjoyed. And we all have an obligation to preserve those same gifts to our descendants. Otherwise, the gifts could end with us, just as Abraham’s gifts could have ended with Isaac if he hadn’t labored to pass them on to the next link in the chain.
There is a term that describes this notion of passing the good we receive to another: pay it forward. We do not pay the price for many of our own blessings, but we should then pay the price for others instead.