27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
30 And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
31 Wherefore he called that place Beer-sheba; because there they sware both of them.
Abraham brought to Abimelech’s attention that his own servants had taken one of Abraham’s wells by force. Abimelech had not been aware of the offense, but it had come from those that he was responsible for.
A well was an extremely valuable commodity at the time, and one could see how a disagreement about the ownership of it could cause a rift between two newly established friends. So Abraham immediately follows up his accusation with something designed to quell any negative feelings. He gives seven lambs to Abimelech as a testament that he really was the owner of the well. This is a very interesting gesture. Essentially Abraham is giving a small compensation to Abimelech for the inconvenience of having to give back to Abraham what was rightfully his!
This shows a great maturity in Abraham. It helps to prove his sincerity, because at the end of the day he would be out seven lambs whether Abimelech returned the well or not. It also shows that he is sensitive to the embarrassment Abimelech might feel in having his servants called out as thieves, and the offering of this gift makes clear that Abraham has no ill feelings towards Abimelech himself. It is a way of saying “I wanted you to know about this…but don’t worry, we’re still friends.”
Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
He that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope
There have been times when I have proselyted the gospel from a sense of duty only. I did it because it was what I was supposed to do, with very little sincerity behind it. I did not expect to make any real impact in the lives of others, which resulted in a passionless effort, which resulted in a self-fulfilling failure.
You can plow all you want on rock, but you’re never going to raise a great crop on it. And you can proselyte in pessimism, but your ministry will never flourish. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, then you might as well not do it. For the work alone is insufficient, what matters is whether the heart lies in it.
If ever we want to reap the fruit of hope, we need to do our work in hope as well. Not begrudgingly and not half-heartedly, but sincerely and with all our hearts.
That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man
And if we cannot plow in hope and cannot thresh in hope, then the problem lies within us, not the work. If we reach into ourselves and find only pessimistic, half-hearted efforts to offer, then we need to pause and ask ourselves what is wrong with us. Before we can do our duty to our fellow man we’ve got to sort ourselves out first. Only when we’re right inside will there be good things that can come out of us and be shared with others.