As we have learned in this series and by experience, human beings all have issues. We are dysfunctional. No one is immune to making bad decisions or giving into temptation. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” In other words, we all experience it. It is common, prevalent, and widespread. In Romans 3:10 the Apostle Paul quoting from Psalm 14:3 tells us that “There is no one righteous, not even one;” He also says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And, just in case there are those who think they are above it all and have somehow avoided the lure of sin altogether, John tells us in 1 John 1:8 that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” So, we all have the same problem, sin, and our need for redemption is universal. While it may provide comfort knowing that we aren’t alone in our struggle against sin, it does not give us an excuse or license to continue in sin because “everyone is doing it”.
1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6:1-2 NIV
The King James Version of the Bible says, “shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!” God doesn’t want us to remain in our current sinful condition. He has a better plan. As we discovered last week from 2 Corinthians 5:17, He wants to transform us into a new creation. Like the woman caught in adultery, Jesus is telling us to “go and sin no more”.
Just like us, all of the Biblical “Misfits & Rejects” in this series shared in this “common” human experience and struggle with sin. Even though, they are recognized for their great faith. They also stumbled along the path of righteousness. Their transformation took time.
Abraham, the founding father of the nation of Israel, is kind of like a faith superhero. Even other religions recognize his greatness. The short version of his story from the faith “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11:8-9 says that “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. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise”. Pretty impressive, but if you read Genesis chapters 11-25 it’s not quite so simple. Not long into Abraham’s story. After he receives and obeys God’s call to go to the promised land, we discover that his faith isn’t unshakable.
For example, while traveling through Egypt, Abraham is afraid he would be killed because the Egyptians would want his pretty wife, Sarah. So, rather than trust God, he told her to say that she was his sister. The Egyptians seem to be quite taken with Sarah and tell Pharoah how beautiful she is. Next thing you know Sarah is invited to Pharoah’s palace and Pharoah wants to marry her unaware that she’s already married. Then the Lord intervenes and strikes Pharoah and his household with a serious disease to straighten things out. Eventually Pharoah learns the truth and tells Abraham “Take your wife and go”. You would think that Abraham would have learned something from this experience, but he does it again several years later with another king. Fortunately for Abimelek king of Gerar, God warns him in a dream that Sarah is already married.
Okay, take a deep breath because we’re just getting warmed up. Abraham and Sarah’s next blunder is going to be a whopper!
So, if you’re going to be the father of a great nation, you need to have children, right? I mean it makes sense. (Sarcasm Alert!) The only problem is that Abraham and Sarah are getting up in years. It says in Genesis 18:11 that Sarah was “past the age of childbearing”, and later when Sarah hears that she’s going to have a son at her age, she laughs. Nevertheless, God has promised them a son and heir, but it will take 25 years for God to deliver. That’s a long time to wait, so after about 10 years Sarah has an idea. She encourages Abraham to sleep with her Egyptian slave girl Haggar, so he can have a son and heir through her. But that’s not God’s plan, right?
“Don’t do it Abraham! There’s going to be trouble!” Warning! Warning!
But Abraham does it anyway. Rather than trusting God to keep His promise and deliver a son and heir, Abraham sleeps with Haggar. Haggar gets pregnant, gives birth to Ishmael, and another soap opera begins. Even though it was her idea, Sarah eventually gets jealous of Haggar, which is no big surprise and banishes her and Ishmael after Isaac is born. But that’s not the end of it. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
The consequences for Abraham and Sarah’s lack of faith and indiscretions would have a long-lasting affect. Ishmael, Isaacs half-brother, will of course become the father of another great nation or tribe of people, the Arabs. It will also lead to another religion, Islam. If you are a student of history and watch the news, you know that Israel and Arab nations-Jews and Muslims don’t get along. Their half-brotherly feud has been going on for thousands of years. We often underestimate what poor decisions and sin can lead to, the collateral damage that they can cause. On the Richter Scale, the scale that measures the magnitude of earthquakes, Abraham and Sarah’s quake is a doozy! We are still feeling the aftershocks today.
After setting these consequential events in motion and failing to trust God, Abraham is offered another shot at redemption, a test from God. This test of faith will be the mother of all tests, especially for a parent who has just waited 25 years to have a child.
1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 NIV
As a person of faith and a parent, I can’t imagine or even put into words what this means. It’s unthinkable, but somehow Abraham follows through with it. He obeys God. He takes Isaac to Moriah, builds the altar, binds his son, lays him on the altar, raises his knife to slay his son, and then at the last second an angel cries out from heaven and says, “Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy, do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:11-12 NIV) Whew that was close!!! You can breathe now!
So, Abraham passes the test and in return, God kept his promise. Abraham preservers through adversity and failure to become a great hero of faith. But, if you read Hebrews 11:8-9 first without the backstory, you miss out on some important details. There was a lot more to Abraham’s journey than traveling to the promised land and camping out along the way. I’m not knocking Hebrews 11. I appreciate the brief recap, but I prefer the long version in Genesis. If I’m going to make it through my own journey of faith, it’s helpful to know that when I fail God isn’t going to give up on me.
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC