Summary: Abraham, Pt. 7
MAKE ME A BLESSING (GENESIS 20)
Several years ago, USA Today published the results of a survey on how people feel about their neighbors and their relationship with them. The interview with 1,002 adults revealed that people consider their neighbors as valuable friends, and not as nameless, faceless or heartless strangers.
Below are the results of the survey:
69% have offered to give or have received help from neighbors the previous year.
63% feel as safe in neighborhood now as 5 years ago
61% know neighbors fairly well or very well
51% borrowed from or lent something to a neighbor last year
47% chat with their neighbors five times or more a month, 37% one to four times, and 14% never talk to folks next door.
33% have shared a meal in one or the other’s house. (USA Today, 7/14/97)
In Genesis 12, God had promised Abraham three things: land, seed and blessing. The fulfillment of the promise was right on track even though Abraham was still far from the kind of man exemplifying God’s generous blessing. As the story unfolded God later specified the boundaries of the land in Genesis 15 (Gen 15:18-21) and in chapter 17 the seed Isaac was born. The present chapter captures the relationship between the Father of all who believe and his Gentile neighbors. The time had come for the father of the circumcised (Rom 4:12) and the father of many nations (Rom 4:17) to assume the role that God had assigned for him - to be God’s bearer of the promise, His instrument of peace and His mouthpiece to the world.
How should Christians relate to people of a different faith or do not worship God? What do we need to change about our understanding of them? Why does God want us to extend His blessing even to the unbelieving world?
People Can Be Honestly Mistaken and Easily Disadvantaged
20:1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. (Gen 20:1-2)
A man who lost his axe suspected that the missing axe was not misplaced but was stolen. He searched the house everywhere carefully, repeatedly but futilely – in the kitchen, inside the bedroom and behind every fixture. He was convinced in his heart that the axe could not just walk away, go into hiding or vanish into thin air. All signs pointed and led to his neighbor’s son. As the boy passed by, the man looked at the boy’s mannerism - the way he walked, the way he looked, the way he talked – and he was certain that he had found the thief. In fact, everything about the boy’s appearance, behavior and activities suggested that he had stolen the ax.
However, before too long, the man accidentally found his axe while he was digging in his cellar. The next time when he saw his neighbor’s son passed by again, he had another attitude, perspective and opinion: nothing about the boy’s behavior or appearance seemed to suggest that he had stolen the axe.
Deep in the heart, mind and being of Abraham was a sense of distrust, fear and intolerance of his Gentile neighbors. This was nothing new or shocking. Abraham was afraid of Pharaoh and lied when he was far away in foreign Egypt (Gen 12). His latest neighbor, Abimelech, was viewed with the same suspicion. Abraham was incredibly helpful to his nephew and fellow Jew, Lot, but was extremely suspicious of all Gentiles, be they enemies or friends. He would do all that is in his power to rescue his relative Lot and his household from foreign invaders, to recover all their goods and possessions, and to safeguard them from future invasions (Gen 14:16-17), but he would keep things to himself, keep things in the community and keep things separate with the Gentiles. In Abraham’s mind, they could harm, betray or even kill him, his family, or relatives if they had their way, grounds and opportunity to do so.
Abimelech, unwittingly, made what we called an honest mistake. He mistook Sarah for a single woman, someone who was available, and decided to make her a showpiece for his palace; thereby he was exposed to, called into and bound for God’s judgment.
Abraham thought he understood the Gentile human nature, but they were not as bad or mean as he thought they were! At least not all or even most of them. Plain and simple, Abimelech was dragged into trouble simply because Abraham lied. Abraham did not think the Gentiles were capable of being law-abiding citizens, godly neighbors and potential friends. They were unclean, uncircumcised and ungodly sinners, mostly predators, bandits and villains to him. So he kept secrets, told lies and fed misinformation to his neighbors the moment he arrived at Gerar.