It’s embarrassing, really. Abram, newly settled in the land God has shown him, and fresh off the experience of hearing God vow to him that he and his family will be blessed, finds himself facing famine in this new land of promise. The story points out to us that the fact that God has promised to bless His children doesn’t mean we won’t face hardship along the way.
So Abram and his wife Sarai sojourn to Egypt to survive. But as they are entering Egypt, Abram realizes there is danger ahead. Sarai is young and beautiful. And in a pagan culture like Egypt, Abram is concerned that some unscrupulous scoundrel may see his attractive wife, bump off her husband and take Sarai to be his own.
Abram comes up with a pragmatic solution for his dilemma. Lie. He tells Sarai “if anyone asks, say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” After all, he figures, isn’t a little lie justified if it keeps you from danger and harm?
As it turned out, this pagan Pharaoh had more scruples than the man Yahweh had called out of Ur. When he realizes he’s been lied to, he confronts Abram and sends him away.
A few observations from this brief pericope found in Genesis 12.
First, we should be rightly embarrassed that the pagan King demonstrates more godly virtue than follower of Yahweh. As Christians, we are called to live lives that reflect the goodness and noble character of our King. Our virtue should be exemplary. It should stand out. We are, Peter says, to keep our conduct honorable, so that unbelievers might see our good deeds and give glory to God (1 Peter 2:12). Peter was of course echoing what he had heard Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
But living a life characterized by virtue and goodness does not happen automatically when we surrender our lives to Jesus. Virtue is cultivated over time. It grows in us as we do the ongoing work of putting off the patterns and practices of our old life and putting on the new attitudes and behaviors that are consistent with our profession of faith.
You no doubt know unbelievers who, by temperament or training, are kind, generous, selfless, compassionate people. And you certainly know believers who can be surly, ill-tempered and harsh. Virtue is not the exclusive domain of Christians. As Jesus points out, even the evil know how to give good gifts to their children.
The Bible doesn’t tell us if Abram was ashamed or embarrassed in this situation. But reading the story, we are embarrassed for him. We all know that lying and misrepresenting yourself is not honorable behavior. It does not glorify God.
Gratefully, the book of Genesis shows us progress in Abram’s life. Although we see him make the same mistake again in Genesis 20 with the King of Gerar, and we watch him resort to pragmatism again in the birth of Ishmael, by the time God calls him to offer up his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, Abram (now Abraham) is no longer looking for a work around. By the end of his life, he has learned to trust and obey instead of trying to “help God.” Abraham’s life, like yours and mine, is marked by fits and starts. Lapses and victories. Like all the great men of God we read about in scripture, Abraham was deeply flawed. I find comfort in knowing that.
One final note. While our lives should be characterized by the pursuit of godly virtue, there is danger along that path as well. Satan sees our pursuit as an opportunity to tempt us to become proud, self-righteous or judgmental. If our goal in seeking to live an honorable, virtuous life is something other than for God to be glorified, and if our cultivation of noble character is not accompanied by the profound humility, Satan will have a field day.
As followers of Jesus, we are to add to our faith self-control, steadfastness, brotherly affection, and love. We are to pursue the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We are to put on kindness, compassion, humility, meekness and patience. We do all of this with one great purpose in view – that these virtues seen in us might point people away from us to the God who has given us a new life, a new heart and a new purpose for our lives.
If you missed the first week of the new parenting class, it’s not too late to join in.
art of parenting | Sundays 8:45-9:45a
If you haven’t signed up, you can still log on, sign up and lock this in.
Small groups have been gathering this week. Have you been to yours yet?
Small groups are where community happens, where the “one anothers” of scripture are lived out and where we connect. We think small groups are a big deal. We hope you’ll make it a priority to be part of a small group this fall.
If you didn’t visit a small group this week, plan to visit next week.
Here’s the info. Contact Pastor Matt with any questions.
|Guys, if you didn’t download the syllabus for the next First Tuesday men’s meeting on October 5, here again is the link. You’ll find recommended articles, podcasts and books that address the subject of how we are to think biblically about gender and sexuality.|
GRANDPARENTING SUMMIT | oCT 21 & 22
Remember that email I sent you last week about the Grandparenting Summit that we’re hosting on October 21 and 22? Did you forward it to anyone? If not, pull it up again right now and send it on to a grandparent or two or ten that you know.
And if you’re a grandparent and not already signed up for the Summit, sign up now.
|It’s a famous account from John’s gospel. Jesus gets up from dinner with His disciples, wraps a towel around him, brings a basin of water to the table and begins to wash the feet of all who are there – including Judas. But what’s the point of the story? We’ll explore that as we turn to John 13 this Sunday.|
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!