4-3-23 Only One Righteous

This week’s reading: Genesis 12:10-20

Hi Friends, 

     This week we see that no one is perfect. We all have our doubts and low moments in life. What is amazing is how God understands. And while He never condones, He works with what He is given. This should be a very encouraging attribute of God because, if He were only looking for a perfect person, He would not find anyone but Himself! Over and over again the Bible reminds us that there is no human who is righteous, not even one. (see Ps 14:1-3; Ps 143:2; Ecc 7:20; Ro 3:10) This is the whole point to Jesus though, isn’t it? Only He can do what we cannot do because only Jesus is the Righteous One. So before we get too critical of Abram in our reading for this week wondering, “What was he thinking?!” let’s choose to see this event as a reminder of God’s incredible Mercy and Grace. Listen to the problem:

“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’” Gen 12:10-13 NIV

     Did God really say? This idea puts doubt into our mind, doesn’t it? It was the original strategy of that old serpent as he weaved his web to deceive Eve. He caused her to question what God commanded and down went the first domino. Then Adam did not do his part by being the head of the household, allowing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and then he listened to her and ate it too. Those dominoes have been falling ever since. We all have this tendency to reason within our own minds about what the right things to do should be. Problem is, we only see part of the picture, and many times, this small part excludes God. Note how the Bible does not say that God told Abram to go down to Egypt to escape the famine. What seems to be happening is what seems to happen to all of us when we come up with our own “bight ideas.” Abram saw the famine, and that it was severe, and thought, “Let’s go down to Egypt so we can save ourselves from this calamity.” This is how I see what’s happening here anyway, because I know, way too many times, I have travelled this road too. I see a potential issue and come up with what I think will solve the problem. But the real problem is when we leave God out of the solution. Oh if we humans would always seek God’s guidance and then, always and only, do what He commands! Life would go a lot smoother for sure…even though we might not be completely sure of what God is doing at the moment, it would still be smoother. So Abram here makes the first mistake of not seeking God’s Will. He sees the famine and wants to save his family, which is wonderful, but HOW he goes about it causes some more problems, especially for Sarai. 

     To save my life. When we leave God out of our decision making process, it always leads to more trouble. After choosing to escape to Egypt, Abram tells his wife, Sarai, to lie about who she is so that Abram’s life might be spared. Now a portion of the truth is, Sarai really is Abram’s half-sister, as we will see in Gen 20:12, but the full truth is she is also his wife. Do we know what a half-truth is called? It’s a lie. How can anyone make informed decisions when we only know half the truth? We can’t! That’s another point to trying to live apart from God Who is the Truth. We cannot make wise chooses apart from Him Who knows it all. Apart from Him Who knows the tiniest detail of it all. Apart from Him Who loves us and will help us make the best decision of them all. We need God, my Friends. And when we attempt to live apart from Him, keeping God out of our decision making, we are only inviting difficulties into our lives, and the lives of those around us. No man is an island, as the saying goes. The choices we make will affect others, and certainly here we see what Sarai must endure as she obediently does her husband’s bidding. Two lovely things to note that we in our current culture might not quite understand. First, in every family there must be a leader who makes the final decisions. This is not to say that leader does not listen to the advice, opinions and desires of the others, but he is to make the final decision. There is a high amount of respect for this leader that causes the rest of the family not to question his choices. Here we see Sarai giving Abram this type of deep loving respect. Second, part of godly love is being sacrificially obedient to the one we claim to love. Again, we clearly see Sarai displaying this reverent character trait. She trusts and loves Abram and desires to keep his life safe, so she agrees to his plan. Part of the problem here though is, when we feel like it is up to us to save our own lives, we grasp for any possible way to do so. Abram tells Sarai to lie about her identity and she is taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Another two side notes: 1- just how beautiful is this woman that men were so drawn to her? She was older than 65 at this point, yet her beauty was very evident. Could her loving obedience to her husband be a contributing factor to this beauty? Just a thought. And 2- when we lie about our identity, it only leads to trouble. We must know who God says we are and live a life, a sacrificial life, displaying this identity over any others that may have been forced upon us, or we ourselves have falsely come to see ourselves as. Living under a false identity always leads to a prison of shame, confusion and an unfulfilling life. We, like Sarai, become an unwitting member of the household of the king of this world. Pharaoh takes Sarai to “become his wife,” (see Gen 12:19) and as a result, Pharaoh showers Abram with all sorts of gifts as he prospers greatly from the exchange. I know, this is just plain wrong! We can point bewildered fingers at Abram, but don’t forget, Sarai agreed to his scheme. Her dignity is damaged by this encounter, but God has a plan that He will not allow to fall apart. We will read that God later restores Sarai’s virtue, but I am getting ahead of this very human story. Only God can save a life and restore it as we will see in a moment.

     Doubt is a bad seed. Could this choice to lie about his wife be a struggle with Abram’s growing Faith? Did he think that God was not able to protect him from the Egyptians? Did he forget God’s unconditional promise to him about blessing Abram and others through him? The Bible never answers these questions, but if we try to place ourselves in his shoes, this might be what would be going on in our own hearts, right? Growing in Faith often allows the enemy opportunities to implant seeds of doubt into our minds. If we meditate on those seeds, they can filter into our hearts and cause us to act in fear instead of Faith. This seems to be the issue here. Abram is afraid for his life, quite literally, so he comes up with this deceitful plan. The only thing we should do with any doubt is run to God with those thoughts. Trust Him with those emotions. And ask Him for His Will in spite of any doubt. Of course, hind sight is 20-20, so we can play Monday morning quarterback all we want, but if we were in Abram’s place? We probably would have done the same foolish thing. So what does God do when we choose to leave Him out of our decisions and make some really bad ones? He works them all together for our good. (see Ro 8:28) You see, God steps in to rescue Sarai so He may continue with His promise to these new believers. An inspiring lesson here is that, even when we make foolish choices, because we will, God’s Will will not be thwarted. God had already decided these two children would be the forefathers of the nation of God, so nothing and no one, would stop this from happening. This is inspiring because, how many mistakes do I make on any given day?! Yet God has a plan for my life, and yours, and He will make sure it comes to fruition in spite of our questionable choices. God is the Author and Perfecter of our Faith (see Heb 12:2) and so He continues to work with these two new followers to grow them to the point where God’s promises could manifest. Doubts may be bad seeds, but God can work all things together for good. Bring every thought to God and trust Him to lead you in the way you should go. (see Ps 32:8; 2Co 10:4-5) Doubt becomes bad when we doubt God can help us with all our decisions.

     Again, no man is an island. So Sarai becomes one of Pharaoh’s concubines and Abram is highly rewarded as her “brother.” She goes and does what she must because Pharaoh is the king of the land, and being a foreigner, you are not going to say “No” to the powers that be. That would have surely cost all their lives. But God is watching and steps in, yet others are then affected by Abram’s bad choices. God allows Pharaoh’s entire household to become seriously sick. In those times, and maybe now too, when horrific things happened, they often viewed it as the displeasure of their gods. Probably figuring out that the afflictions began after Sarai’s entrance into Pharaoh’s home, the Egyptians turn to Abram and question his actions. This king figures out what Abram has done and… kills him on the spot! No, wait. That’s not what happens…AT…ALL. You see, they all figure, if the God of Abram is that powerful, there is no way Pharaoh is going to hurt Abram or Sarai for their deception. The “Fear of the Lord” falls upon these Egyptians, so intensely that Pharaoh returns Sarai to Abram and orders them to leave, taking with them “everything they had.” (Gen 12:20) Could this be a foreshadowing the Exodus? Interesting! Abram and company are able to leave Egypt with all sorts of riches and their lives intact. This is certainly NOT God rewarding Abram for lying. This is NOT God saying what he did was ok. This is however, God’s indescribable Mercy towards humans who are so broken, imperfect and ignorant. This is God growing the Faith of both Abram and Sarai so that they could fulfill God’s Plan. My Friends, the truth is this journey of Faith rarely goes smoothly. We never accept the sins we make along the way, and pretend they don’t matter. These choices are still wicked and wrong and hurtful. Yet we have a God Who continues to work with His fallen Creation and encourages us to grow in Faith, to walk closer and deeper with Him, so we will make less transgressions. The choices we make affect others, but we also can learn from the choices others make. We can learn about a deep Faith that moved Abram to follow God’s command to leave his father’s false worship behind, and go to wherever God would lead him. And we can learn how, even when we fall short, God will not abandon us to our own foolishness as we see here with this account. This should help our Faith grow too as we continue to trust that God has us safely in His mighty hands. He will never leave nor forsake us. What we need to learn to do is never leave nor forsake Him. 

     God protects us. Pharaoh orders his men to leave Abram alone and let them go in peace. He brings Sarai back to Abram so that God’s promise may not be derailed. God has promised to “bless all the peoples on earth” through this growing and maturing husband and wife. (see Gen 12:3) They leave this misadventure to Egypt wealthier than they started…hopefully, not just in material things, but one would hope wealthier in knowing and trusting God too. We will see, as we continue with their marvelous life story. What I want us to see here is that God not only protects them from the Egyptians, but He protects them from themselves too. There are so many times when God secretly works in the background of our choices. Many times, as He works all things together for our good, we do not notice what He is doing, and we go about our lives as if He is not involved. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God loves you and me way too much to leave us on our own. Thus the promise to never leave nor forsake us. (see Jos 1:5; Heb 13:5) God’s Word says that, apart from Him, we could do nothing and I take that very literally, even with these unacceptable decisions of Abram. (see Jn 15:5) He could not have acted on them if God did not allow him to do so. God did not give Abram the ideas. God did not tempt or encourage Abram to make those choices. That’s the other guy’s tactics. God would have preferred if Abram would have turned to Him for direction. But God allowed it all. And in doing so, I really believe these two new converts grew to trust God more. To go into a foreign land, deceive the king of the land as they did, and come out alive…and richer? That must be the hand of God in their lives, and they knew it. Perhaps this humbled Abram and perhaps this is why he does what happens next. We will have to wait until next week to talk that over. But please understand, whatever God does or allows is meant for our good. It is meant to help us grow in Faith and draw us nearer and nearer to God. It is meant to transform us into the likeness of Jesus, His one and only Righteous Son. In a world where no one is righteous, not even one, God points us to Himself, the only Righteous One. And He desires us to be more and more like Him. I long for it too because, I know enough about God that, when I act like Him, I feel more righteous and my life gets more abundant. Want that too? Then won’t you join me?

     Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.

<>< Peace, Diane