Summary: An Expository Sermon from Genesis 20:1-19 concerning how God responds to our failures.
Genesis Lesson 42 March 31, 2002
Introduction: Read Genesis 20:1-18
Most of you have heard of Babe Ruth, the famous baseball player who was exceptional at hitting home runs. The crowds would cheer his coming to the plate with great enthusiasm. They would say things like "you’re the greatest!" or "we know you’re the best." Babe Ruth played for many years and as the years progressed Babe’s skills diminished. Soon he was striking out a whole lot more than hitting home runs. Those same crowds now booed him when he came to the plate! The crowds applauded him when he was successful but rejected him when he failed.
I guess that’s what we should expect from people when we strike out - when we don’t have the success others expect, but how does God respond to our failures? How does God react when we strike out? How will God look at us when we fail a lot more then succeed in the Christian Life?
These are important questions because we will all have times when we strike out. Sometimes we will have repeated moral failures. Sometimes our faith will not stand the test. Sometimes we we’ll fail to live up to our calling from God or the expectation of others. How does God respond when we strike out?
This is a question we can answer because the Bible shows us how God responds to his people’s faults and failures. The true account found in Genesis 20 is one of the times that God reveals how he responds to spiritual or moral strikeouts. In this story we see that Abraham once again distrusts and therefore lies about Sarah being his sister in order to protect himself. This is despite the fact that Abraham has committed this same sin before when he was in Egypt and had been rebuked by Pharaoh and then he returned to the Promised Land in repentance. You can find this account in Genesis 12:10-13:4.
This occurrence with Abimelech makes Abraham a repeat offender. Abraham has been in this situation before and has failed before. Perhaps you can identify with Abraham here because the same struggles and the same failures keep turning up in your own life, even long after you may have believed they were gone or overcome. When you’re in a situation like this you may wonder how God will respond to your repeated failures. You may doubt God’s love for you and expect to be pulled from the game or even kicked off the team because of your spiritual strikeouts. I’ve got good news for you and me because we see from this story how God really responds when we strikeout. He responds with grace! He does this in four ways in particular.
First: When we strike out God still forgives us
Second: When we strikeout God still protects us
Third: When we strikeout God still blesses us
Fourth: When we strikeout God still uses us
Read Verses 1-2
Now we do not know why Abraham moved from where he was to the location in Gerar. There is no hint from Scriptures that he had done so out of any wrong motives or unbelief. We do know that this city is on the border of or just outside of the Promised Land and that it is ruled by a powerful king-Abimelech. In other words these are very similar circumstances to when Abraham failed before and therefore he should have been even more alert to this temptation. That is a lesson for us also. You need to always be alert for sin but especially diligent when you know you’re in a situation where you are more likely to fail.
Abraham strikesout spiritually speaking because he once again lets his fears dictate his actions and therefore he deceitfully claims that Sarah is his sister. He does this so that he will not be killed so that the local, powerful king can take Sarah as his wife. As a result of his distrust and deceit the worst possible thing happened - Abimelech decided to take Sarah to be one of his wives. This may have been out of personal desire, for she was a beautiful woman even in her old age, or it may have been for political reasons, as was often the case. In any case this is a serious situation because now the entire covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah is in danger of not being fulfilled! We’ll see how God intervened to protect Abraham in a moment but first I want reiterate one way God responds to our strikeouts.
First: When we strike out God still forgives us
This is not explicitly stated in the text, though it is in many other Bible references. Nevertheless we know that Abraham was forgiven because of the ways God responded to Abraham in the rest of the story. God protects him and then bless him with material goods from Abimelech, and then God has Abraham pray for Abimelech’s family to be healed. These acts all imply strongly that Abraham was forgiven and that his relationship with God was a healthy one. This is good news for us! God’s grace insufficient to forgive all of our failures, even when we are striking out a lot more than hitting home runs. He is rich in mercy. He is a unlimited in patience toward his people. He is always ready to restore us by forgiving us. Praise the Lord!