The Great Entrepreneurs of the Bible: Isaac: Building Altars and Pitching Tents

| October 16, 2018

The Christian Professional Network presents this series of articles on the great entrepreneurs in the Bible.  Our series continues with Isaac.

Isaac is a spectacular example for Christians operating businesses in environments of constant change. The account of Isaac’s business life and the waves it caused are accounted for us in Genesis 26.

Isaac was an entrepreneur.  He farmed, sowed, and reaped.  The ESV translation says, “And the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy.”  The NKJV says, “The man began to prosper, and continued to prosper, until he became very prosperous.”  (Genesis 26: 13).

His work was blessed a hundredfold in one year (Genesis 12: 12).  That is a return of 10,000%.  I have heard of only one other return like that.

God does not promise us great material blessings like He did to Isaac; but in this account in Genesis 26 there are great spiritual principles in business and in life for us to learn from.

In Genesis 26:2-3, the “LORD appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.  Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.’”  Isaac was called to sojourn.

The word sojourn indicates a journey of a resident alien.  Isaac was called to live and journey in the land, but not to make it his home.  This was how he lived his whole life – as a sojourner.  Here we find a tremendous spiritual principle: Build Altars, Pitch Tents.

In Genesis 26:25, Isaac builds an altar and he pitched his tent.  Notice the difference?

Isaac builds an altar. His commitment to the Lord would be the foundation for his life and his work.  It was sure and it was permanent.  He “called on the name of the Lord.”

In the same place, he pitches his tent.  He’s not pitching an altar and building his home.  There is more permanence in the altar than in his home.  He will not build a palace, because he knows the journey isn’t over.  He still has further to go.  This land is not his home.

We, like Isaac, are called to live in the land of God’s promises, but it is not our home.  In this world we should be building altars of personal commitment and worship; but we’re not to make this world our home.  God calls us to sojourn in this life.  Personally, it is a word I have adopted to describe my own business.

You can’t receive a 10,000% gain and not have the world take notice.  If this happened today Isaac would be on the front page of all the financial and business publications.  The Philistines took notice as well.

Earlier, the Philistines envied Isaac, then they feared him, but ultimately because of his example, they respected him.  Abimelech and the Philistines told Isaac to leave.  Isaac did not want to create conflict, even though he had the means to do so.  He accommodated even an unjust request, gave up his farming operation, and turned his focus to being a herdsman – and a herdsman who needed plenty of water.

Isaac and his men dug a series of wells.  Again, his success led to difficulty with the Philistines.  There were arguments over the wells.  First, Isaac was faced with a well of “contention” (Esek), and then a well of “hostility” (Sitnah).  But Isaac did not fight or even quarrel.  Being a sojourner has a tremendous advantage – Isaac just trusts the Lord then moves on.

We are not told how many times Isaac had to dig to find water again. He was never discouraged, but continued in diligence and trusted God.  His faith and his efforts were rewarded when he dug the well Rehoboth (Genesis 26: 22) for “the Lord has made room for us.”

There, the Philistines who had been such a problem to him come to him with respect.  They say “we have certainly seen that the Lord is with you.” (Genesis 26: 28 – 31). They make an agreement and live in peace.

It is here, as Isaac lived as a sojourner, that the LORD appears and says to him, “I am the God of Abraham your father.  Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.”  With confidence, Isaac looks forward to being “fruitful in the land.” (Genesis 26: 22 – 24). Isaac

I am always very careful when talking about performance of returns.  A person in my business has to be.  But there is one other investment that has yielded 10,000%.  That investment is explained in the Parable of the Sower.  It is a story about what happens when the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ takes root in our lives.

“And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:8, 20).  Jesus explained to His disciples, “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”  Such is the spiritual return that the Gospel brings.

It is an immense privilege to be in the marketplace.  The marketplace is where ideas are built upon.  It is populated by unique individuals, families, organizations, and governments.  The marketplace can seem like a great pond with thousands of ripples shooting off in different directions.  It provides an opportunity for influence like no other.

Whatever our position in it, we should use that influence creatively for the glory of God, and trust Him for the increase.  Build altars, pitch tents.


Category: Entrepreneurs

About the Author ()

Visit Author Profile to read more articles submitted by this writer.
Email | Website | Sean M. Williams is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) practitioner with Sojourn Wealth Advisory LLC in Timonium, Maryland. Sean serves families and business owners. You can connect with him at