[Isaac] became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him. … Finally, Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.”… One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander. “Why have you come here?” Isaac asked. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.” They replied, “We can plainly see that the Lord is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant.—Genesis 26:13-28, NLT
The overwhelming success of Isaac’s business caused so much resentment among the Philistines that their king decided to nationalize his water wells and deport him from the country. Immigrants often suffer poverty, but not always! If Isaac was not the first foreign investor ever to be expelled from a country, surely he was not the last.
Why did they deport Isaac when his success was growing the Philistine economy? Isaac had drilled wells to cultivate dry land, and the products he offered in the local markets fulfilled the needs of his neighbors at more favorable prices that the exporters and caravans. Isaac knew that xenophobia lay behind the decision. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.”
But the Philistine came to regret their actions. A “certain day” came, when the king, his (economic) advisor, and his secretary of defense—what a delegation!—crossed the border to beg Isaac to return to their land. They came to understand that their economy didn’t work like they thought it did, and it needed that special grace from God that Isaac had for creating wealth and lifting the economy around him.
In our time immigrants play a crucial economic role in the nations of the world. They stetch across a spectrum from wealthy investors to migrant workers, but at all levels they are indispensable to the economic wellbeing of developed countries. They are not always treated with the courtesy and appreciation they deserve. But a “certain day” will come. Yes, sir. The day will come when they and their contributions will be vindicated.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.