Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Great (Imperfect) Men of God

SOAPSOAP {Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer}:

1-2 Abraham traveled from there south to the Negev and settled down between Kadesh and Shur. While he was camping in Gerar, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She's my sister."

2-3 So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream that night and told him, "You're as good as dead—that woman you took, she's a married woman."

4-5 Now Abimelech had not yet slept with her, hadn't so much as touched her. He said, "Master, would you kill an innocent man? Didn't he tell me, 'She's my sister'? And didn't she herself say, 'He's my brother'? I had no idea I was doing anything wrong when I did this."

6-7 God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know your intentions were pure, that's why I kept you from sinning against me; I was the one who kept you from going to bed with her. So now give the man's wife back to him. He's a prophet and will pray for you—pray for your life. If you don't give her back, know that it's certain death both for you and everyone in your family."

8-9 Abimelech was up first thing in the morning. He called all his house servants together and told them the whole story. They were shocked. Then Abimelech called in Abraham and said, "What have you done to us? What have I ever done to you that you would bring on me and my kingdom this huge offense? What you've done to me ought never to have been done."

10 Abimelech went on to Abraham, "Whatever were you thinking of when you did this thing?"

11-13 Abraham said, "I just assumed that there was no fear of God in this place and that they'd kill me to get my wife. Besides, the truth is that she is my half sister; she's my father's daughter but not my mother's. When God sent me out as a wanderer from my father's home, I told her, 'Do me a favor; wherever we go, tell people that I'm your brother.'"

14-15 Then Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and along with her sent sheep and cattle and servants, both male and female. He said, "My land is open to you; live wherever you wish."

16 And to Sarah he said, "I've given your brother a thousand pieces of silver—that clears you of even a shadow of suspicion before the eyes of the world. You're vindicated."

17-18 Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants, and they started having babies again. For God had shut down every womb in Abimelech's household on account of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

Some people will never learn.

Have you ever known someone that just seems to make the same mistakes over and over and over? Someone who, no matter what the consequences, seems to choose the same course of action repeatedly, achieving the same results? There are two popular phrases in my business. (1) If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got. And (2) The definition of insanity is to always do the same thing even when you don't like the result.

It seems that, by this definition, maybe Abraham was just a little insane. Not literally, of course, but his actions sure seemed a little insane from time to time. Did he learn a lesson earlier when he told Pharoah that Sarah was his sister, not his wife? Apparently not, as he did the same with Abimelech.

Abimelech, however, was protected by God, because God knew that Abimelech had intended no harm. God knew that Abimelech was not aware that Sarah was Abraham's wife. God prevented Abimelech from consummating his marriage to Sarah, and thereby saved Abimelech, giving him the chance to return Sarah to her rightful husband, Abraham.

It seems that we also learn in chapter 19 that Abraham wasn't telling an outright lie, as Sarah was indeed his half-sister. Not lying? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of a lie. I would argue that Abraham's deception, while maybe not an outright lie, was deception by omission. If I were traveling with my wife and introduced her as "my traveling companion" and withheld the fact that she was my wife, I would be deceiving others, as they would surely not infer that we were married by my introduction.

Abraham is rightly considered a great man of God. But I believe these stories prove to us that even great men of God are not perfect. Only one man is perfect -- Jesus Christ, the Son of God. All others pale in comparison.

Also, God has used great men and women in the Bible on many occasions to teach us valuable lessons, such as the perils of deception, which we have learned from Abraham.

Father, thank You for giving us Your Word, and for using great Godly men like Abraham to teach us such basic lessons as this -- lessons that seem to be so easily forgotten in society today. Through Abraham we learn that even the littlest white lies can be harmful.

Help me, Lord, to always be mindful of my thoughts, words, and actions, to present myself as a man of integrity. Let those who meet me and those who know that I'm a follower of Christ also see what being a follower of Christ means. May I never give Your Son a bad name through my interactions with others.

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