Summary: Abraham’s lack of faith in God’s care for him leads him to sin
We started out this series on the life of Abraham using the illustration of the “trust walk.” A “trust walk” is a game we played at camp where we’d have kids partner up, blind-fold each other, and lead their blind-folded partners on a trust walk through the woods. Abraham began his trust-walk when he left Ur of the Chaldees (modern day Iraq) to begin his spiritual journey. If you’ve been here throughout the story you’ve noticed the “ups and downs” of Abraham’s journey. You’ve read of incredible faith and courage, as well as incredible deceit and cowardice. Today’s story was obviously an example of the latter. Abraham was up to his old tricks. He couldn’t trust God to handle Abimelech, so he told some half-truths and compromised his wedding vows to save his hide.
Most believers have ups and downs of faith and obedience just like Abraham did. The modern day term in religious circles is “backsliding.” We refer to Christians who have fallen into temptation or disobedience as “backslidden” believers. Do you ever worry that you’ll “backslide” right out of the Kingdom? Do you ever fear that God will give up on you as you struggle with chronic character flaws? Let me read something on this subject from the back of our hymnals, page 924. The authors of the H.C. give their interpretation of the meaning of the phrase “lead us not into temptation” from the Lord’s Prayer:
Earlier in the week as I studied this passage I began preparing a message about Abraham’s fear and lack of faith as an example for us of “what not to do” in crisis. As the week progressed I became uncomfortable with my approach and I believe the Lord has directed me to emphasize a deeper truth in this story, a truth that focuses on God’s plans and purposes, and the comfort that brings us as we fret over “backsliding.”
Abraham was a great example for us, a man of faith. But as we’ve discovered he was just a man, a man with flaws and struggles like the rest of us. Every other chapter in this drama is a story of his fear, scheming, and conniving that hinder his trust walk with God. But in each one of these dramas God comes to the rescue. In each one of these lessons God did not allow Abraham to “go down in defeat in his spiritual struggle.” God made a way.
There are times when God decides that we are going to win, no matter how much we try to “bungle” matters. When I’m playing a game with a small child, teaching them how to shoot baskets, or play chess or monopoly, I sometimes decide ahead of time that they are going to experience victory. There are usually a hundred different mistakes they make that I could capitalize on, but I work with them, and ignore their, blunders, and give them second chances because I want them to experience success. My plan is for them to win.
God had a plan and purpose for Abraham and Sarah. God had a plan not only to bless them but also to bless the whole world. Jesus Christ, the Savior of humankind would come from the nation that developed through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sarah was about to get pregnant with Isaac. Abraham & Sarah kept trying to blow this plan. They doubted, complained, and connived. Sarah set up Abraham with Hagar. Abraham tried to enroll his servant as his heir. Now Abraham sends his wife off with Abimelech to be his wife. But God didn’t let Abraham blow it. He didn’t allow Sarah to sleep with Abimelech. God had his plan and neither Satan’s temptations, Abraham’s fears, nor the gates of hell were going to stop what God wanted to do.
Make no mistake. The bad choices we make will have profound consequences. God wants us to learn from our mistakes. He’ll let us lose a few chess or monopoly games to help us learn. But his plans and purposes will never be thwarted. His plan was Abraham and Sarah to stay on track and not backslide out of the kingdom. His plan in the history of salvation was not going to be stopped by anything or anyone. His plan for us is for victory over spiritual and physical struggles. He won’t let our immaturity, or lack of discretion, or fear get in the way of his plans for us: to prosper and not to harm us. God will keep us on track. When we stubbornly jump the tracks anyhow, he will provide a way for us to get back on track.
If you look at the story of Abimelech and Abraham as a whole, things might not seem completely fair. Abimelech and his family are the ones who suffer the most, when Abraham and Sarah are the ones who were responsible for the situation. But God provides a way out for Abimelech. If he returns Sarah to her husband and if Abraham prays for him, everything will be all right.