Have you ever experienced a knee-jerk reaction? Would you be surprised to learn that the phrase is based on an actual medical phenomenon known as a patellar reflex? Sounds technical, but it is merely the striking of the tendon below the patella (or knee) giving rise to a sudden extension of the leg, known as the knee-jerk, as penned by Michael Foster in his Textbook of Physiology, 1877. The idiom began to be used figuratively in the early 20th century to indicate an immediate reaction made without examining causes, facts, or outcomes; a reflex action. I still recall sitting as a young girl in my doctor’s examining room, determined in this hard-headed brain of mine not to let my leg react to the doctor’s knee tap, only to watch my short, stubby leg uncontrollably flail out as soon as my knee was thumped. Little did I know at the time that God would use that simple reflex to teach His child a truth so desperately needed in the confrontational world in which I find myself today.
Isaac, the beloved promised child of Abraham and Sarah, could have experienced a normal knee-jerk reaction in our story today, and most of us would have sided with this stately Patriarch in his decision to react rashly. A famine had arisen in the land of Canaan, so Isaac journeyed with his wife, Rebekah, and his possessions, to Gerar, in the land of the Philistines. God instructed Isaac to, “Sojourn in the land, and I will be with thee, and I will bless thee…” and bless him God did! Isaac sowed his crops in this foreign land and when harvest rolled around “he received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him…And the man waxed great.” God kept His promise and showered His chosen child with abundance. Sounds good so far, right?
But a problem arose for Isaac, for when the native Philistines saw the blessing of God upon this man of God, they “envied him.” Envy, that’s one nasty emotion! So what would the Philistines do with all this pent-up envy? They would take the life-sustaining wells that Isaac’s father, Abraham, had “digged” and “stopped them, and filled them with earth.” We are going to throw dirt in your well, so there! Can we all say the word childish together? So how would Isaac react to this blatant act of stupidity, immaturity, and meanness? “And Isaac departed thence…” Wait, what? He moved on? No retaliation for this childish stunt? No calling down the wrath of his God upon them? Nothing? Isaac simply moves on and digs another well. But the Philistines stake claim on that well also, saying “the water is ours.” Time and again Isaac moves on, re-digs, until the Philistines finally relent, seeking peace, realizing that Isaac was truly “blessed of the LORD.”
In today’s world of harsh words and unfounded criticism, let’s not engage in knee-jerk reactions. Offenses will come, spiteful actions may cross our paths, undeserved meanness may rear its ugly head in our direction. What a testimony can be ours when our reaction is not one of anger, but of love and forgiveness, not giving “place to the devil,” but honoring our Savior Who set the ultimate example of humility for us. King Solomon wisely encourages us to “be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.” I don’t want to be foolish. Let’s learn a lesson from peaceful Isaac and let our Father fight our battles for us. There is a time to engage in a battle and stand for right, but there is also a time to stay silent and walk away. Lean on His wisdom to weigh the reaction calmly in His Spirit before implementing any angry response. I may not be able to control my knee from jerking, but the Spirit can control my mouth from running amok.
Romans 13:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Dear Lord, spare me from knee-jerk reactions. Keep my emotions under Your control. When I am wronged, gently remind me to be Spirit-controlled in my response, not flesh-controlled. Develop me into a peaceful saint, a testimony of self-control, love and forgiveness.<div class='sharedaddy sd-block sd-like jetpack-likes-widget-wrapper jetpack-likes-widget-unloaded' id='like-post-wrapper-164683012-533-6513b6869e4e2' data-src='https://widgets.wp.com/likes/#blog_id=164683012&post_id=533&origin=grandmasgleanings.com&obj_id=164683012-533-6513b6869e4e2' data-name='like-post-frame-164683012-533-6513b6869e4e2' data-title='Like or Reblog'><h3 class="sd-title">Like this:</h3><div class='likes-widget-placeholder post-likes-widget-placeholder' style='height: 55px;'><span class='button'><span>Like</span></span> <span class="loading">Loading...</span></div><span class='sd-text-color'></span><a class='sd-link-color'></a></div>