Greetings, everybody, and welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS! I’m glad to be with you for another day in the Scriptures together, and as we move deeper into our week, my prayer is that you’re growing in Christ, growing in your knowledge of the Lord’s love for you, and growing in your understanding of His holy Word, where today we’re finishing up our time in Genesis 12. I’m thankful to have you along; let’s pray and begin.
Lord Jesus Christ, on this day we bless your holy name and ask that you bless the teaching of your Word. Help us to see in the Scriptures today your call for a steadfast heart that seeks you in all things. We love you, and we thank you as always for this time. In your precious name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, with Abram pretending that Sarai is his sister rather than his wife and allowing her to be taken by Pharaoh rather than defending her and holding fast to his responsibility as her husband, we’d think that the first unraveling we’d see in this debacle would center on Abram. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. Our focus this session? Chaos in Pharaoh’s house.
17But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. 18So Pharaoh summoned Abram. "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? 19Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!" 20Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
A couple of months ago, I got scammed on a purchase I made. I was so irritated that I not only opened a claim against the company in order to get my money back, but I also took the unusual step — for me at least — of reporting said company to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. What was my purchase supposed to be? A vacuum…but not just any vacuum. This vacuum was, according to the 4,500 five-star reviews it had garnered, a stunning cutting-edge wonder of scientific research and development that used NASA locomotion technology, advanced grid-mapping capabilities, and next-generation rechargeable batteries that would power my gutsy little cleaning machine through all 1,200 square feet of my home in no time at all. Plus, there was a really cool video on Facebook that demonstrated it at work and backed up all of its claims. In short, it was absolutely amazing. What could go wrong?
You already know the answer…and on the day it finally arrived, two weeks late because of a purported delay in shipping, I very quickly came to know the answer as well. The first hint at the disaster awaiting me was the weight of the package. The whole thing came in at about 10 ounces, far too light to be the thing of substance it was supposed to be. Things only went further downhill from there, and to cut to the chase, I’ll just say this: I don’t know what was more embarrassing, the joke that the product was, or the joke that was on me as a consumer who’d been had.
As we come to God’s Word today, we’re coming to another kind of scam, aren’t we — one different in nature from what I’ve just shared with you, but one similar in method and scope. It has everything to do with something grand in promise which turns out to be wholly different than what was advertised, so to speak. Everything looks up-front and above board in the beginning, but the jilted party very quickly comes to know the truth of the matter, and things only go further downhill from there.
Abram has lied about his very beautiful wife, Sarai. Afraid he’ll be killed if Pharaoh and his officials find out that he’s Sarai’s husband, he passes her off…literally, by the way…as his sister instead. The goal? To save his own skin. Now — at this juncture we could stop and do some hoop-jumping on Abram’s behalf if we wanted to. We could say, for instance, that Abram isn’t so much attempting to safeguard himself as he’s wanting to safeguard God’s promise to him; the promise that says he will be the progenitor of a great nation which will be greatly blessed (possible, but highly doubtful!). We could also say, if we really wanted to stretch things and give Abram the benefit of the doubt, that in telling Pharaoh’s men Sarai is his sister, he’s technically telling the truth. Sarai is actually Abram’s sister…his half-sister. They share Terah as their father, but have different mothers. Still, though, however we might try to slice it, the reality of this situation is that there has been a grave misrepresentation of the truth, and as we can see from today’s reading, Pharaoh and all his household are paying a steep price because of it.
As we consider all of this, there’s certainly a moral issue here, but there’s a spiritual issue here as well. The issue on the one hand is Abram’s dishonorable treatment of his wife, made all the worse because he has treated her so in order to protect himself. He’s essentially used Sarai as a human shield, and that’s not excusable under any circumstances. Indeed, everything Abram has done here goes against that which God established in the marriage covenant, and we shouldn’t give him a pass just because he’s Abram. And yet at the same time, that’s not ultimately the focus of this moment. The connected issue here, the underlying issue…the deeper issue…is one of trusting in the thoughts, ways, and purposes of man versus trusting in the thoughts, ways, and promises of God. What we have before us today is an issue of taking matters into one’s own hands rather than trusting the hand of the Lord.
How, then, do we read this? It’s tough, but if we had been the first audience of this narrative — specifically, the Israelites after the time of Moses — our focus here would be on how God was faithful to keep His promise to Abram, not just through the threats Abram faced from the Egyptians, but also through his own morally unacceptable actions. Even though Abram royally screwed up, God would redeem this situation in the end. He would rescue Sarai from Pharaoh, and rescue Abram and Sarai both from the situation Abram had gotten them into through his fearfulness, his self-centeredness, his lying, and his foolishness. God does this merciful act in spite of, not because of, Abram’s human interference, and though we as readers are left to wrestle with some of the ethical questions surrounding this incident, we are not left wondering about God’s character or God’s commitment to carry onto completion that which He has ordained.
As we wrap things up for the day, as uncomfortable as this is — perhaps unsettling is a better word — this is actually just the first of what will be many instances where we’ll see Abram — a man of faith, a man who most certainly believes — act in a decidedly faithless and unbelieving manner before God, who has called him to be His very own. Should it surprise us that this patriarch seems to have a penchant for exhibiting feet of clay? Not in the least…nor should it surprise us that God chooses to work through Abram’s weaknesses to show forth His own great strength and power — His power and might to save.
More to come on this in our next session, everyone…do plan to make time and be part of the journey as we carry on! God’s peace, have a terrific day, and I’ll look forward to seeing you then!