JUST LIKE US (part two)
Recap: Last week we looked at the fact that although we all make mistakes it isn't easy to admit it. Sometimes we make the mistake of looking at celebrities in an elevated way that portrays them as larger than life and almost too perfect. Therefore we conclude that they are nothing like us. But we forget that despite their good looks or great abilities they are human too and they have their flaws like the rest of us.
We can also make that mistake when it comes to how we view biblical people. We read about what these spiritual giants accomplish and we don't see them as people, we see them as super-human. And again, although many people in the bible did some pretty amazing things that doesn't mean they were perfect; they too have their defects.
It's important that we realize that so we can relate to them as well as understand that God wants to use us like he used them. Let's take a look at some of these biblical characters and see how they are just like us.
Abraham was a great man of God. He was the patriarch of God's people and he was the first prophet. It all started with God telling Abraham (Abram) to get all his people and his belongings and leave his country. The only problem was God didn't tell him where they were going. Yet Abraham obeyed and did as God said. He had a remarkable display of faith.
In the faith chapter, Heb. 11, it says in vs. 8, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." Who would do that apart from having amazing faith?
Yet, shortly after this, Abram has a weak moment. During their travels, there was a famine in the land and they settled in Egypt. But, Abram had an idea.
Gen. 12:10-13, "Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
So, instead of trusting in God, Abram came up with a deceptive plan to save his skin. The man who trusted God enough to pack up everything he had and leave without a destination now caved into fear. It doesn't make sense how we can have strong faith in one situation and have weak faith in the next.
The situation shouldn't matter because the God we trusted in one situation is the same powerful God in the new situation. But when the circumstances are different or what we're being asked to believe or do is different, we can act differently. Perhaps the difference with Abram was he didn't feel his life was in danger by just packing and traveling but when he entered Egypt it was going to play out differently. Abram trusted in his own plan.
Pharaoh saw the beautiful Sarah and did as expected. He took her into his palace and she became part of his harem. Then, God intervened and inflicted Pharaoh's household with infectious diseases. Pharaoh figured out why this was happening and he called Abram in and scolded him for his trickery. He kicked them out and they left. Then we see something interesting happen.
13:1-2, "So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD."
Abraham did wrong but God still blessed him greatly. This shows that God's blessing upon us isn't because we deserve it. Abram deserved to have everything taken away for not trusting God but it didn't turn out that way. How many times has God blessed us even though we didn't honor him?
And then we see Abram calling on the name of the Lord. Abram messed up but his response was to call out to God. When we fall short we need to turn back to God in repentance and humility.
Unfortunately, however, Abraham was a repeat offender. In ch. 17 God institutes the covenant of circumcision with Abram and that's when he changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah.
20:1-2, "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, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her."
Here we go again. You would think Abraham would've learned his lesson, right? But before we jump all over him for this we need to consider how many times we have done this. I think we can all say we are repeat offenders.
God is repetitive too. He intervenes like he did with Pharaoh. Except this time God appears to Abimelech in a dream and explains the situation and that he needs to bring Sarah back to Abraham. Abimelech pleads his case by claiming ignorance and deception and God factored all that in.
vs. 6-7, "Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
Even though Abraham committed this deceptive act God was still identifying him as his prophet and that it would be his prayer that would rectify this situation. I can picture Abimilech thinking, "you mean to tell me that this deceiver is your prophet? Really?" This wouldn't look good on God or Abraham.
That's why it's so important for us to represent God in the truest light.But this shows that when we make mistakes God is still willing to call us his own and grant us success in his ministry. It's like he is saying, "You did wrong but you're still my guy". God is a forgiving God who shows mercy and continues to use us despite our shortcomings.
The next morning Abimelech calls Abraham in and confronts him. Vs. 9-13, "Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done. ” And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”
"There is no fear of God in this place". Abraham was wrong-Abimelech was pretty scared when God appeared to him the night before and when he told his officials Vs. 8 says that they were very much afraid. I guess we could argue whether or not they had the fear of God before this visitation but there's no question how they felt now. So, it seems Abraham's fear was built on an assumption.
"She really is my sister". It may not have been an outright lie, but it was deceptive-she was also his wife. Why do we lie or deceive-fear; fear of getting caught, fear of what people will think, fear of the consequences, etc. How often do our fears really turn out the way we perceive? Notice Abraham's fear caused him to be manipulative towards his wife.
"This is how you can show your love to me". Abraham coerces Sarah into playing the game along with him. I'm sure she played along the first time with Pharaoh but perhaps she said she wasn't going to do that again. So, Abraham convinces her to go along with it. In our fears and paranoia we often don't consider the people we pull in. We sin and influence others to sin also.
Abraham thought he would be killed but actually, Abimelech blesses Abraham and Sarah. Vs. 14-16, "Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.” To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
This may have been Abimelech's response to him needing Abraham to pray for him but all God asked of him was to bring Sarah back, not everything else so I believe this was out of a true desire to bless them. So, Abraham prayed and all was well. But none of this should've happened in the first place because of the first time Abraham did this with Sarah.
Abraham does the sister thing with Sarah in Egypt and God intervenes and saves them. Then, a short time later Abraham does it again-and God still chooses to save and bless him. And after this he blesses them with Isaac, the son of promise. God is willing to bless us even when our mistakes are repeated ones. God knows our hearts and he knows although we mess-up, sometimes repeatedly, we still love him and want to please him.
Again, this doesn't mean we don't need to take our sins seriously or that there won't be consequences for them, but it is reassuring to know that God doesn't kick us to the curb when we repeatedly sin. He still wants to use us in mighty ways.
Abraham showed great faith when he moved everything he had to a place God would later show him. And he had an even greater display of faith when he was called on to sacrifice his son Isaac. However, we see there were times when Abraham had weak faith too, sometimes repeatedly. He was just like us.
Speaking of repeated mistakes, consider the following series of ads that appeared in a daily newspaper: Monday: "The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale. Call 626-1313 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who lives with him, cheap." Tuesday: "We regret any embarrassment caused to Rev. Jones by a typographical error in yesterday’s paper. The ad should have read: ’The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap...call 626-1313 and ask for Mrs. Donnelley, who lives with him after 7 p.m.’"
Wednesday: "The Rev. A.J. Jones informs us that he has received several annoying phone calls because of an incorrect ad in yesterday’s paper. It should have read: ’The Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap. Call 626-1313 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who loves with him.’"
Thursday: "Please take notice that I, the Rev. A.J. Jones, have no color TV set for sale; I have smashed it. Don’t call 626-1313 anymore. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Donnelley. She was, until yesterday, my housekeeper.’" Friday: "Wanted: a love in housekeeper.’"
Joshua was the successor to Moses to lead the Israelites. In Joshua 6, Joshua had just defeated Jericho. He listened to the Lord's instructions and did just as he commanded; therefore, they were successful. Then, in chpt. 7, there were some problems and Joshua has an emotional moment. Just before they laid siege to Jericho, Joshua commanded his troops to stay away from the devoted things or else whoever didn't would bring destruction on themselves and the whole camp. The silver, gold, bronze and iron were to be sacred for the Lord and were to go into his treasury.
Well, Achan didn't listen and took some of those things and hid them. So, when the Israelites went and attacked the city of Ai they were not successful. This struck fear into the hearts of the people. Joshua's reaction was pretty emotional.
Joshua 7:6-11, "Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?
If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name? ”
The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions."
Joshua has this monumental victory at Jericho and then on the heels of that suffers defeat from the men of Ai. Joshua's response was a little too dramatic. If you remember, Joshua was one of only two spies (Caleb being the other) who had a positive outlook regarding taking the land of Canaan. He believed in what God said would happen, they just needed to trust in him.
Such faith and confidence in the Lord paid off and he and the Israelites were enjoying success. But now, as soon as there's a setback we see him making extreme statements, basically accusing God of wanting to destroy his people. What happened to the godly confidence? What happened to, 'just trust the Lord'?
Again, before we jump all over Joshua have we not done this? We display godly confidence in one situation and it goes well for us but then we may expect it to always go well for us. So when it doesn't, we are confused and we start letting our emotions get the better of us. Not that what Joshua was dealing with was a small matter but he went to some pretty wild extremes on the heels of losing this battle.
Sometimes we can go to extremes when we lose battles too. We might lash out at God and say things like, "What, do you want me to fail? Is this your plan?" We conclude this setback means all hope is lost and we're doomed. So, after Joshua's little tirade we see God telling him to stand up and get off his face. It was like God was yanking Joshua off his pity pot and saying, 'quit your whining and listen up'.
Then God filled Joshua in on what was going on and if you read on Joshua took care of business. But we see that although Joshua displayed great faith he also had times where he didn't. Does that mean the times he did was just a show? No. Joshua was a man of great faith it's just that in this situation he was caught up in fear.
He's just like us. We can have times where our faith gets us through any adversity but we can also have times where something else happens and we start to doubt. Does that mean we're double minded? Not at all. It means we're human. However, God may do the same thing to us and give us a kick in the behind to get us back on track.
Then there was another incident in ch. 9. After the Israelites defeated Ai, the Gibeonites got concerned and decided to pull a ruse. They deceived Joshua into thinking they were poor travelers who had been on a long journey. They made it look good with moldy bread and cracked wineskins.
Although the Israelites were a little suspicious and asked some questions, they ended up making a treaty with the enemy. The mistake they made can be seen in 9:14, "The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord." If you read on, Joshua found out what they were doing but it was too late, they had made an oath unto the Lord so they couldn't touch them.
So, they made them their servants, which was fine with the Gibeonites; it kept them from being destroyed. Although Joshua didn't seek God about this and ended up making a big mistake, he still took care of them. In chpt. 10, five kings joined forces and fought against Joshua. Joshua makes an amazing request-he asked God to make the sun stand still so they could have more daylight in which to defeat their enemy. God honored Joshua's request and actually caused the sun to stand still.
But here again Joshua is just like us. He listened to the Lord's instructions meticulously when it came to taking over the city of Jericho but failed to seek his wisdom with the Gibeonites, even when suspicions were aroused. We make the same mistake. We might pray and seek the Lord's wisdom regarding what to do in some situations and then there are times when we think we're smart enough to handle it on our own. Then we make a mistake and scold ourselves for not seeking the Lord.
And like Joshua's mistake, it might be too late to reverse our decision and we have to deal with it. But we move forward, acknowledging our mistake and praying to not be as foolish the next time. And we can have the assurance of knowing God is ready to bless us, answer our prayers, lead us into battle and give us the victory. Abraham and Joshua were just like us.