Yep, you read that subject line right. It’s not the title of a Jerry Springer episode. One of the cool things about Scripture is that its “heroes” are flawed men and women who screw up. The Bible tells us things that those involved wouldn’t want us to know, not so that we can indulge in sin, but so that we can learn from it. God is the singular hero of the Bible.
Abraham started out as a Babylonian who God loved and saved. He is known as the father of our faith. He lived about 2,000 years before Jesus. His name, which is mentioned over 300 times in the Bible, is synonymous with faith almost everywhere it is mentioned. I’ve noticed in Scripture that God gives people great names that they don’t deserve (and later prove that they don’t deserve), only to make them worthy of those names in the end. An example that comes immediately to mind is Simon, who Jesus renamed Peter, which means “rock.” Peter was no rock when Jesus gave him that name. He was as unstable as they come. He told Jesus that he would follow him into death, then cut the soldier’s ear off when they tried to arrest Jesus, then denied 3 times even knowing Jesus while standing outside of Jesus’ trial. Rock??? Really? Well, not yet. But later, this same Peter would be crucified upside down, not wanting to die in the same manner as his Savior, because of his unwavering profession of faith in Christ.God did the same thing with Abram. We saw yesterday the promises that God makes to Abram as a man of faith. Faith in Scripture is trusting the promises of God, and trusting the God of the promises. Abram isn’t there yet, and we are about to clearly see that. But God knew how Abram would end up.
Read Genesis 12:10-13:4
When I read this, the first thought that comes to mind is, “Where’s the blessing?” We saw yesterday that God asked him to leave family, friends, and everything else to go to a certain land (Canaan), where God would bless Abram. So, Abram left almost everything and went where God told him to go – and he is starving. God led him into a famine.
So, Abram went “down” into Egypt. Because of the Nile River, Egypt seemed a far more advantageous place to be in a famine than Canaaan. If you’re thinking, “but God called him to go to Canaan,” you’re right. But we walk away from God and God’s commands for much less than famine. Our hearts are prone to wander from God.
Now, we don’t know all of Abram’s motives, but here is what we do know. As they were nearing Egypt, Abram conspired with his wife to lie about their relationship. This was a half-truth, which they told more than once. Sarah was actually Abram’s half-sister, the daughter of his father but not his mother. (Genesis 20:12) Maybe he was truly concerned about his welfare, or maybe he was hoping that this lie would be as lucrative for them as it turned out to be. I love that he argues, “that my life may be spared for your sake.” LOL! “I’m doing this for you, sweetheart.” Yeah right. It is amazing how we can rationalize sin.
The deception works out pretty well for Abram too, for a while. He allows his wife to go into Pharaoh’s harem. “And for her sake he (Pharaoh) dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.” The man of faith has pimped out his wife to Pharaoh, and he is living it up. This list is the 4,000 year ago equivalent of an Escalade, Xbox, plasma TV, … You name it, Abram has it – all in return for sex with his wife!
But, what Abram acquires in Egypt as a result of his deception becomes a curse for him later. You can obtain wealth, fame and power, but if you do it apart from the kindness of God, what you perceive to be blessing will ultimately consume you in the end. God had promised Abram that He would protect and take care of him. God had promised Abram lineage and land. In this passage, Abram nearly gave away his wife (and therefore his lineage), and in the next chapter he tries to give away the promised land. God graciously saved Abram from his own stupid decisions. There is nothing wrong with having wealth, if the Lord chooses to give it to you. Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” It is possible to have great wealth without sorrow or trouble, if it is the blessing of the Lord. There are four categories of people: the righteous rich, the unrighteous rich, the righteous poor and the unrighteous poor. We tend to obsess more about whether we are going to be rich or poor. The Lord is more concerned with whether we are going to seek righteousness or remain in unrighteousness. One of those female servants Abram acquired in Egypt will later become his mistress in another great lapse of faith. His son with her, Ishmael, became the father of the Arab nations. And from that time until today there will be strife, war and bloodshed between the Arabs and the Israelis. Just turn on the news pretty much any day and you will see the consequences of Abraham’s disobedience and lack of faith still ongoing. And yet, the last word of Scripture on Abraham is this:
and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. (James 2:23)
Our daughter is named after Sarah – and we hope and pray that she will serve the Lord faithfully, “do good, and not fear anything that is frightening.”
Ultimately, God put an end to this tragic deception by afflicting Pharaoh and his household with various “plagues”. This causes the truth to come out and Abram and his wife to be expelled from Egypt. Caught in his sin, Abram goes back to Canaan and back to the altar that he built when he first got there. There he “called upon the name of the Lord.” He turned around and went back to the last place where he had a good day with God. This is called repenting. He named his sin, asked God to forgive Him, and worshipped the Lord.
I’d really rather skip over passages like this in Scripture. But the cool thing about passages like this is that they are included in Scripture. Texts like this one cast significant doubt on any argument that Scripture is just made up to promote some political or spiritual agenda. If you were making up the story of Abraham as a man of faith, why would you include a story from his life like this one – or other significant moral lapses that are to come? But texts like this also show us that deeply flawed, sinful, messed-up people can be used by God in highly significant ways, if they are willing to repent of their sin, turn from it, and live for the glory of God.
The Christian faith has no human heroes, because our faith teaches that all men are sinners with wicked and deceitful hearts who are desperately in need of God’s grace. The only hero of Scripture is the God to Whom it consistently points.