Monday, November 16, 2009


If parents tried to referee every squabble between their children, hospitals across the country would need to double their psych wards and add more padded rooms. From toddlers to teens to tumultuous adults, we watch from afar as our kids fuss and feud until that moment when they cross the line. Every parent has a limit. Roy and I had a pretty low tolerance for arguing, but when a real fight broke out between our girls…we waited for violence or profanity before stepping in. Now, when they were toddlers, violence was a little slap, and profanity was, “Shut up!” The picture above raises the our kids ever really grow up? As teens and tumultuous adults, we extended the meaning of “violence and profanity” to include: anything that causes harm – physical, emotional or spiritual.

Just days before writing this, as the Lord was massaging the message into my heart, our older daughter visited a new church with Roy and me. We sat behind a single father with his two young daughters. The girls were about four and six years old, and when their dad was called out of the service for a few moments, the girls immediately began to squabble. The younger girl hit the older (not too hard), and the older responded the same. The younger gave an angry face and the older dissolved into tears. I saw Trina, watching them intently, and wondered what she was thinking. She elbowed me and giggled – no doubt remembering those days with her sister. Or maybe she wanted me to DO SOMETHING. I thought about stepping in, but no real violence had been committed, and so far no profanity. Then I wondered how often our Heavenly Father watches His children mess up and mess around, all the while holding back until we cross the line. Well, in today‟s Scripture, one of God‟s children made a choice that could have damaged God‟s ultimate plan, and that crossed the line. So God stepped in.

Gen. 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.”
  • Isn't this eerily, awfully similar to Abraham's earlier sin in Egypt, when he lied to Pharaoh and said Sarah (Gen. 12:13) was his sister? But don't get caught up in the theology. Get caught up in the moment. El-Shaddai promised Sarah would bear Abraham a son – within a year. Abraham lied to save his life, and Sarah is taken to another man‟s harem. You're Abraham. Can you say, “Uh-Oh!” God needed to step in – not because Abraham deserved it, but because God purposed it. Abe messed up – again.
Gen. 20:3-7 – “But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, 'You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.' Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, 'Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, “She is my sister,” and didn't she also say, “He is my brother”? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.' 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.'”
  • Notice that God's parental safety net extended both to the chosen (Abraham) and the “unchosen” (Abimelech). There is no indication that Abimelech had recognized El-Shaddai before this moment, yet God extended mercy to him and protected Abimelech from doing a detrimental thing.
Gen. 20:8-13 – “Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 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.'”'”
  • Can you see the squabbling children – Abim and Abe? Instead of obeying God and talking to Abraham right away, Abimelech calls in his friends for their opinions. Then, he publicly accuses Abraham, who makes excuses and justifies his sin instead of owning his deceit. If God could get a heavenly headache, this might do it.
Gen. 20:14-16 – “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.'”
  • God moved in Abimelech's heart to: 1) let Abraham remain in the Land (Abimelech had no idea) God had promised to give his descendants; 2) add to Abraham's wealth; and 3) honor Sarah (who was ignored in Egypt's restitution).
Gen. 20:17-18 – “Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, for the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech's household because of Abraham's wife Sarah.”
  • God moved in Abraham's heart to pray for the man who had stolen his sister/wife, and in doing so Abraham saw God's hand not only work on his behalf but through his prayers. Abimelech may not have fully understood why the wombs in his household were closed, but Abraham most certainly knew. Imagine God's power now evident in Abraham's mind – to close wombs…and to open them.
Lord, You can turn even our spiritual failures into amazing lessons and triumphs. My foolish sins and/or mistakes are never beyond Your ability to redeem. Give me wisdom to know when I am rationalizing a sin, calling it a mistake or less. Give me the courage to confess and repent. Soften my heart; break my pride; preserve Your plan.

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