Genesis 18-20

Genesis 18

“ Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

The story of the Good Samaritan. ( Luke 10)

This is a remarkable story about our Remarkable God. It tells of a visit by the Lord soon after the covenant has been confirmed, the circumcisions have taken place and Abraham has God’s sure word that he and Sarah will have a child.

The first verse of this chapter permits us the readers to know this is the Lord appearing in human form and as we will see later He is accompanied by two angels in disguise also.

18:1- “ The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he(Abraham) was sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.”  Noon in this part of the country means temperatures over 100 degrees. I do not believe Abraham recognizes him yet as the Lord.

Let’s consider some other scriptures before we get into this story fully.

Hebrews 13: 2-“ Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Matthew 18: 20- “ For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 25: 35- “ For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”

Revelation 3:20: “ Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me.”

There is a parable by theologian, Soren  Kierkegaard, entitled –“ The King and the Maiden.”

Let me paraphrase it so you get the meaning:  A powerful king fell in love with a simple maiden. If he declared his love for her as king and brought her to his palace and crowned her with jewels and royal robes – she first of all would not be able to resist the king’s orders to be his wife. And certainly she would be impressed with his wealth and power and grandeur. But- would she love him for who he really was? So he devised a plan that instead of riding to her forest cottage in his royal carriage with an armed escort and royal banners flying- he would disguise himself as a beggar and went alone into the woods to knock on her door and win her heart.

In a movie called Sweet Home Alabama we see a similar story line. A young couple who wed in their teens separate and she goes to NYC to become a famous designer and fall in love with a wealthy, handsome young man. He proposes to her and she accepts his proposal- but knows she must first divorce her first husband, her high school boyfriend. Who was in her opinion a good ole boy- but a ne’er do well. What she did not know, is he also had become successful and wealthy. But he did not reveal that to her- for he wanted her to love him- not his wealth.

Is this not what the Lord Jesus did?  Is this not the greatest love story ever told?  He could have come in all His glory from  heaven with a host of angels in fiery chariots- who would not have bowed down to Him. But He wanted us to love Him because He first loved us- not because of what He could do for us.

God does not want us to seek Him for the rewards He can give us- He wants us to seek Him because He first loved us. Remember the miracle of the five loaves of bread and the two fish the young boy had that Jesus used to feed the thousands. The crowd came looking for Jesus the next day and asked Him- ‘what miraculous sign will you give that we may see it and believe you?’ In fact at the outset of His ministry we are told –“ Now while at Jerusalem at the Passover, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them for he knew what was in the hearts of men.” ( John 2)

So He came in disguise the first time- disguised  in human flesh- a baby born in a stable, his earthly parents were nobodies. So as a young boy, God in the flesh, grew up in the house of a poor but honest carpenter where He spent his first 30 years.

Jeremiah 24:7 reveals His plan:  “ I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people and I will be their God ( their King) for they will return to me with all their hearts.”

Now keep in mind as we continue this story that Abraham does not know this is the Lord  initially. Abraham is a man who has undergone the circumcision of the flesh- but has his heart of hearts been circumcised?  You see- it is obvious from the Scriptures I quoted earlier- we do not always recognize the Lord when He appears in our midst- in our daily walk, in our circumstances both good and not so good/

You do realize don’t you- that every thing that comes into your life as His child, He has permitted. There is nothing you can do apart from Him- if you think you can- then go get your own dirt!

Have we passed Him by as the priest and the Levite did in the story of the Good Samaritan. Did we step over his body as he lay in the gutter?  Did we refuse to give him food or water or take him in?

The Lord will test us- as He tests Abraham in a test as simple as how we treat strangers or those different from us.

Let’s continue with the story to see how Abraham did on this test. Let’s put ourselves in his place- it is the middle of the day- it is 100 degrees. Abraham is nearly 100 years old. He has a lot of servants who can take care of these inconvenient visitors. Watch how Abraham, a man like us, responds.

Verse 2&3:  “Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bow low to the ground. He (Abraham) said, ‘ if I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”  There is no indication from this greeting that Abraham recognizes the Lord. In the NIV, the word lord is not capitalized for it is simply the common language of courtesy in Abraham’s day and time. Abraham is being a courteous, thoughtful host in welcoming these strangers.

From these verses I conclude the Lord may test us in the ordinary day-to-day activities and circumstances. Are we ready to take the time to meet the needs of a neighbor, a stranger in need, or do we sometimes choose not to answer the phone when we recognize the name on caller ID and don’t want to miss the end of our television show?

Yet Paul encourages us to ‘ present our bodies a living sacrifice.’ He didn’t say present your bodies as living sacrifices when it was convenient or when we felt like it or were not too busy.  Did you notice that Abraham, who was probably one of the richest and most powerful men in the area- addressed the stranger as lord and referred to himself as ‘ your servant’.  What an attitude – what humility. Think of the Lord Jesus washing the dirty feet of  His disciples.

Let’s see how Abraham does on his test. So far so good- he hurried to greet the visitors. Now Abraham has many servants upon which he can call to tend to these visitors- but notice he does this himself.

He hurries- obedience in doing the will of God is to be done promptly- not reluctantly or partially.

He hurries into tell Sarah to prepare three measure of fine flour and bake some bread.

Then Abraham ran to the herd to select a choice, tender calf. ( You might say this is the first Outback Steak House). He gives to a servant who has instructions to hurry and prepare it.

Abraham then prepares some refreshments of curds and milk ( appetizers) while the steak is being prepared and bread is being baked…you can almost smell this sweet aroma can’t you? That is what our service to the Lord is- it is a form of worship that comes up to Him as a sweet smelling aroma.   Remember this is the Lord incarnate and two angels in disguise- but Abraham does not yet recognize them. To them they are three strangers he has made welcome in his home

Jesus said I was a stranger and you invited me in ..( Matthew 25)  I wonder was the Lord thinking of that hot day in Mamre when Abraham who was 100 years old invited Him in and fed him a delicious meal.

In fact Jesus tells us whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine- you did for me.

This is a practical outworking of our faith. These are the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in. In doing so we are doing what He would have us to do- minster to others.

You see the test here?  If the Lord appeared as the Lord of Glory in brilliant light- He would get our complete attention wouldn’t He? Abraham does not know who he is dealing with. As far as Abraham is concerned this could be three nomads who have no money or influence he will never see again. But Abraham treats them royally. He treats them as if they were the Lord.

Is this not Christianity in its simplest form? James says: “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.? ( James 1:27)

When Jesus Christ came into our lives, He did not come into our lives to just give us good times and blessings- He came to fulfill His most heart-felt desire to seek and save the lost. We, the believers, are His body and He wants to minister through us.

How ?Feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. That is both physically and spiritually. There are people in our lives who we come in contact with who hunger and thirst for righteousness- while we talk about the weather, sports, and politics. Invite the stranger in- reach out to the lonely. Clothe those who need clothes- both physically but also to show them how to be clothed in righteousness.  Visit the sick; both the physically sick and sin-sick. And visit those in prison- like Jay and Linda Benthal do- but also visit those held captive by their sins.

What motivated Abraham to do what he did? Abraham had a truly circumcised heart. He is not doing this to impress anyone or receive credit or recognition.

Abraham did this because he had a heart for God. A heart that was really in New Testament language- Christ’s heart. Let this mind be in you that is in Christ Jesus.

This simple test revealed his heart motives. For man looks on the outside- but the Lord looks in our heart.  Your reputation is what you do when everyone is looking, while your character is what you do when no one sees.

We see Abraham running to serve. What do you do when the tests of the heart come in the everyday events of life- where we come across so many opportunities to do good- to help and thus minister the life of Christ? Do you run to serve or do you run and hide?

After all it was the priest who went over to the other side of the road away from the victim in the story of the Good Samaritan- it was the Levite, a religious man who passed by on the other side.

Notice while the Lord and the two angels in disguise enjoy this fresh, tender steak, curds, milk and homemade fresh bread, Abraham stands nearby ready to serve.

Verse 9 is a turning point in our story today. “ Where is your wife Sarah?” Her name has not been mentioned in the narrative- especially her new name Sarah, which she had just received.   Abraham replies : ‘ there in the tent.”

What follows next leads us to believe Sarah had problems believing she would bear a child by Abraham due to their age in spite of what Abraham had told her God had promised. She was weak in her faith. But faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

Hebrews 11:11 records this moment in history for us: “ Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive  seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”

This verse is about this very occurrence in Genesis 18.

Abraham knew at the moment the Lord referred to Sarah who he was talking to. The Lord tells Abraham : “ I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Sarah overhears, as the Lord intended her to overhear and laughs within herself and thought – ‘ after I am worn out and my master is old will now have this pleasure?’ She laughed a cynical laugh to herself and thought  this is impossible.

Reading her thoughts..the Lord surprises Sarah by asking why she laughed and said will I have a child now that I am old?

Here is one of the greatest statements in the bible: ‘ IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD!?’

I believe it was at that moment Sarah judged Him faithful who promised. And through faith – that comes from hearing the word of the Lord she received strength to conceive.

Do you see what happens when we serve the Lord in the ordinary, circumstances of everyday life?  People get saved- people’s lives get changed.

Let me ask you the same question the Lord posed to Sarah: Is anything too hard for the Lord?  Now let me give you the answer Jesus gave in Matthew 19- Nothing is impossible for the Lord.  The one who created the laws of nature and enacted the laws of nature can change laws of nature if He wills.

He is Almighty God who created everything- including the laws of nature which He established and enacted but can also change.

What is amazing is  God has not called upon us to do anything He did not do. We are told to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. ( Phil 2)

We serve Servant King who puts His subjects before His very own self.

Genesis 19- The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

This is a sad story in this chapter- made even sadder when you realize how much like Sodom and Gomorrah we have become in the United States and indeed in the world.

Twice in Genesis, God has revealed to us there is a ‘ tipping point’ with Him. A critical point in an evolving situation that leads to inevitable judgment by God. We saw it in the flood, when only 8 souls were left who acknowledged God and now in this account of Sodom and Gomorrah.

God does not change- given the same set of circumstances, God acts in the same way He did before. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and escape of Lot in the nick of time illustrate the doom of the world and the escape of the church. God sets a limit to wickedness then there is the tipping point. It is unsuspected by the majority of the world. But as Christians we should recognize the signs.

Let’s look at some other verses that are relevant to this account:

Luke 17: 32,33:  the Lord Jesus speaking  “ remember Lot’s wife. Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

II Peter 2:6  “ ..He condemned  Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.”

II Peter 2: 7&8:  “ And if He rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed (vexed) by the filthy lives of lawless men ( for that  righteous man) living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard..”

I Cor. 3: 13-15:  It (our works) will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he had built survives, he will be receive his reward. If it is burned up, he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through fire.”

Romans 1: 16-32:

Notice the truth is suppressed by wickedness – unrighteousness.

God has revealed Himself through the witness of creation. His invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature being CLEARLY SEEN, being UNDERSTOOD from what has been made, so that men are WITHOUT EXCUSE. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God or gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

The witness of creation described here and in Psalms 19 and  the witness of conscience discussed in Romans 2 tell us everyone knows there is a God. They have a two fold witness- creation which declares His Glory (an external witness) and the conscience which bears witness to right and wrong.(an internal witness)- for the law has been written in their hearts.

Here is what we see over and over: degenerate, sinful and lawless behavior begins with  a rejection of God as Creator and Sovereign.  You may think evolution and science are intelligent approaches- but if they deny God as Creator and Sovereign it will lead to a depraved society.

Jesus said this is the verdict- light has come into the world but men preferred darkness. In other words they suppress the truth in wickedness- in sin.

Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 1- that for these reasons- God gives them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They have exchanged the truth for a lie and worshipped and served created things (creation) rather than the Creator who is forever praised. Amen. A tipping point has been reached… when you look at America as a Christian with the truth of the Scripture what do you think God is thinking?  Should we not take to the streets as Jonah did and say judgment is coming?  Should we not imitate John the Baptist and tell people to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand?  What was the text of Jesus’ first sermon? “From that time on, Jesus began to preach :Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand?

As we study this story- look at in the context of today and  based on the fact of an unchanging God who responds the same way when a tipping point is reached tell me where you think we are headed.

In regard to God’s world and environment, we should take care of God’s creation- being good stewards. However- when a society has been given over in their sinful desires- they get out of balance- more concerned about the environment’s purity while sin is rotting our society- more concerned for the life of animals and their young, to the point of making it against the law to destroy the egg of a bald eagle, while destroying the unborn baby ( a human life) in the womb is a constitutional right rather than a crime.

Paul goes on to describe the result of their shameful lusts: men and women abandoning the natural relations to commit indecent acts with one another. These acts of homosexuality  are called by God- sinful, perversion, wickedness, evil, and depraved. These words are considered ‘ hate crimes’ and are punishable under the laws of many nations. Can you imagine- the world is accusing God who is Love of committing crimes of hate by telling us the truth.

But listen to the outcome of this unchecked and accepted behavior:  : “Although they knew God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do those very things but also approve of those who practice them” Romans 1:32.  A description of  an out-of-control society. It was true in Paul’s day in the Roman Empire, it was true in Noah’s day and it was true in Lot’s day.  And sadly it is true in our country today where homosexuals take to the streets in parades in celebration of Gay Pride week.  They have no shame- they are proud of their sin. Now you may be thinking – but those people were born that way. We all were born with sinful natures- with proclivities for certain sins- strong urges- but that does not make them right.

Here we read of the extreme of sin- when a society applauds sin rather than regrets sin or judges sin.  They call darkness – light and light – darkness. A society that tolerates and recognizes this type of behavior as acceptable and admirable is a society – according to God’s Word, that  is a totally abandoned society. If it will not take action- God will.

The men of Sodom and Gomorrah marched in the streets and demanded the right to practice their sin and for their lifestyle to be recognized as an accepted and appreciated life style. Certainly not to be criticized or told their acts were criminal.  No- we demand the right to live and behave the way we want to- the original Sodomites claimed.  Gay pride marches are as old as Sodom and Gomorrah.

What we have seen in the last few decades is a successful campaign for homosexuality to be not only accepted in our society but applauded.   Jesus said ‘ as it was in the days of Sodom-so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Let’s review what we know about nephew Lot.  He was taken into the home of Abraham and Sarah after his father died and treated like a son.  He left Haran with Abraham to go to Canaan. He went with Abraham down into Egypt, where both became even wealthier.

Then problems arose with arguments between Lot’s herdsmen and Abraham’s herdsmen. Abraham, as you recall , let Lot choose where he would go with his flocks. We read that Lot looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah and noticed these things about the area- it was well watered like the garden of the Lord; and it was like the land of Egypt. In other words Lot saw an opportunity to increase his wealth because of the business opportunities. We are told –“ Lot chose for himself.”

There is an important principle for believers:  it is stated clearly in Matthew 6:33: “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you also.”  Did Lot seek first the kingdom of God?  No- he sought first what would make him the most money. There was no mention of prayer, an altar or seeking the advice of his more spiritually mature Uncle Abraham.

The  Bible tells us though that Lot was a righteous man. The verses II Peter describes Lot as righteous. But we will see as the story unfolds- he was also carnal. And because he was carnal, the verses in II Peter tells us his life was one of distress, he was vexed and tormented. So it is always with the carnal Christian. And Lot is , if nothing else, the Poster Boy for carnality.

We are told Lot first pitched his tent toward Sodom and Gomorrah. Next we read when Lot was captured in battle of the kings he had already moved into Sodom and Gomorrah. And in chapter 19, we read Lot has a house and is a member of the city council in Sodom and Gomorrah. Sounds like a success story, right? Wrong- he lived a life of distress and torment. The only kind of life a carnal believer can live- as they try to serve two masters. Compromising principles and rationalizing their life until their words pertaining to God’s judgment and righteousness are a joke.

19:1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.  ( This denotes in that time and culture, Lot holds a position of authority in the city- like an alderman or city council member. This position tells us Lot  has learned to go along in order to get along. He obviously knows the lifestyle is wrong- but has rationalized  he is not going  against the status quo in order to be accepted and thus successful. He has not committed these sins, but has by his actions and silence condoned them.)  When Lot saw the two men, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.

Vs.2 :  “My lords, he said , please turn aside to your servant’s house.You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning. No they answered, we will spend the night in the square.” ( Interesting-these two angels who readily accepted the similar invitation of Abraham- at first reject Lot’s invitation.)

Vs. 3:  Lot may have had enough spiritual insight to recognize these were not ordinary men. He insists strongly , urges them to go with him and they enter into his house. Lot knew what took place at night in the Sodom in the streets and that it was not safe.

Vs. 4 &5:  before they go to bed, all the men from every part of Sodom- both young and old- surrounded the house . They called to Lot’ “ Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” ( KJV uses the phrase know them- the same words used when Adam knew his wife, referring to having sexual intercourse with  her.)  See the demands of the people in a society out of control – they want their own way. Lot was a representative of the local government- so in some ways they were demanding their representative of their government give into their demands.  You might think of them as lobbyists – lobbying their representative to give them what they wanted.

Vs. 6-8:  Lot confronts the mob and addresses them:  No my friend don’t do this wicked thing. In KJV, Lot addresses them as ‘ brothers.’. But he only inflames them more when he calls their proposed actions- wicked.  I confess I do not understand why Lot would offer his two daughters to this crowd except that in his panic to do the right thing- he, as a carnal, double-minded man is not thinking clearly. Needless to say it did not satisfy the appetites of these Sodomites.

Vs.9:  Lot learns a truth- although he has lived there for years and achieved a position of leadership- he is still considered an outsider. So it will always be with the carnal Christian- out of fellowship with the Lord but never really accepted by the world. Truly wandering in the wilderness-

Vs 10-11 :  These two angels recue Lot  and struck the mob with blindness. Take note of how judgment always works:  first they are warned, often repeatedly ; they harden their hearts and suppress the truth in unrighteousness; then a tipping point is reached and they are blinded and come to believe a lie. Can you see how so many of our population in this country have come to believe the lies of the enemy ? Abortion is a constitutional right, homosexuality is an accepted alternative lifestyle to be not only tolerated, but appreciated and taught to our children and grandchildren as normal. To call it sinful, indecent, wicked, perverted and depraved behavior will not be tolerated.  We have become a nation that more closely resembles Sodom and Gomorrah and Christians who seem to have taken Lot as a role model rather than the One who died for our sins.

As a result of the life Lot has lived- of the danger of compromise- Lot’s  witness is a joke. Told of the impending destruction by the angels, Lot rushes into the streets to tell his two son-in-laws- who laugh at him and mock him. As it was in the days of Sodom so will it be at the coming of the Son of God.

Finally the two angels urged Lot , his wife and two daughter to flee or be swept up in the destruction to come.

They are so hesitant, the angels actually grab hold of them and lead them safely out of the city. ( vs. 16)

Next the angels warn Lot and family:  flee to the mountains- don’t look back or you will be consumed.  Do you see that Lot was saved as one through flames. He lost everything, although he, himself was saved as one scorched by fire.

The danger of becoming a carnal Christian is revealed here in Lot’s attitude and thinking:

He was reluctant to leave Sodom and now is ready to stop and once again choose for himself. He did not want to go to the mountains- he wanted to go to a city. God intervenes to save Lot from the total destruction- but once Lot is out of harm’s way, he wants to return to living life the way he wants to live it.

The angels agree to allow Lot and his family to travel to Zoar, a small town in the area. As the sun comes up, the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of the heavens.  Note: where God’s wrath against unrighteousness is revealed- from the heavens against all godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.

Remember Lot’s wife, the Lord said… and we see why He told us to remember her:  She looked back perhaps for one more glance at the house that she had lovingly decorated with great care- but she had been warned and she was turned into a pillar of salt.

In his book of Antiquities, Josephus wrote some 2000 years ago, that this pillar of salt remained in his day and he had seen it.

There is a brief interlude in this story as verse 27 tells us early the next morning Abraham go up and returned to the place where he had stood with Lord  to look toward Sodom and Gomorrah and see the smoke rising from the cities like a furnace.

But God remembered Abraham and saved Lot and his family.    Lot had lost everything- Abraham had not even lost a night’s sleep. What a contrast between two believers.

The last verses of this story- do not get any better for Lot and his two daughters. It is hard to understand how they could have fallen into such a condition- but clearly Lot was a man no longer of making good decisions. His daughters’ behavior – the incest that followed – I cannot fully comprehend or explain.

Evidently his daughters had observed and absorbed how their father compromised and chose for himself the way to live his life. Children do not just listen to what parents say- they watch how they behave, how they live and how they make decisions.  Lot chose for himself- we never do read of Lot building an altar and calling on the Lord. In fact when instructed by angels where to go and what to do and not do- Lot chose for himself…and sadly so did his daughters.

Genesis 20:  The Old Nature

The incident recorded in this chapter regarding Abraham’s action is somewhat of a shock. Here is Abraham doing the same thing he did 30 years ago. We would have thought Abraham had reached a point of spiritual maturity that he would not commit such a sin as he had done before. In other words we thought he had learned his lesson.

But the truth of the matter is when it comes to our ‘old natures’- old natures never die. Have you not noticed in your own life there is a familiar pattern to temptation and sin? I have no doubt that Abraham loves the Lord and wants more than anything to do what is right.   Just like the Apostle Paul who loved the Lord and yet confessed- ‘ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do- I do not do; but what I hate – I do.’(Romans 7) The Apostle Paul goes on to explain something we need to remember- I know nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature- his old nature. Paul describes how he feels when he gives into his old nature’s demands – wretched.

It is a constant battle in the Christian life- this internal battle between our new nature and the old nature. Let’s notice and learn from this relapse in Abraham’s life how to better guard against such occurrences.

Notice first when this ‘relapse’ occurs. Abraham, after 30 years of walking with the Lord, finds himself in a place of favor with God. He is a friend of God. That have enjoyed great fellowship- his prayer life has become effective and fervent, God is now at the point of fulfilling His promise to Abraham and Sarah to have the promised son of their own. God has chosen to share His secrets with Abraham.  You might be thinking- if I were experiencing this kind of closeness with God- there is no way I would commit such a sin, especially since I had done this before and reaped the disappointment and sorrow that came as a result of such behavior.

That type of thinking is the first warning sign—for if you think you are standing firm- be careful that you do not fall. Pride goes before a fall.

Genesis 20:1 – We see Abraham traveling toward Egypt- stopping in an area known as Gerar. This is sea coast country on the southwest side of Palestine above the Gulf of Suez. The people who lived there were later known as Philistines- the same people from which Goliath came. The king of this group of people is King Abimelech.  Why is Abraham on the move?  We are not told and can only speculate- but perhaps the destruction of the Sodom and Gomorrah had created some type of financial and economic crisis- those cities were definitely cities with consumer demands which Abraham had probably been providing some of.

Vs. 2:  Regardless of the reason for his travels, we see Abraham resort to a pattern of lying as he did 30 years before- when he feared for his life. This was a deception that Abraham and Sarah had deployed in Egypt ( see Gen. 12) with disastrous results and now he has resorted to using this lie once again. We often find ourselves drifting into the old patterns of sin- that had made deep ruts of habit in our old lives. Once we enter into the rut- we usually fall into the old behavior patterns. It seems we have vulnerable areas in our spiritual armor. This deception will put Sarah in harm’s way.

Abraham has drifted into enemy territory. We must remember that good and evil travel on a parallel path. Whenever we want to do good-evil is always present. We can easily get off the way God intended for us to take, quite often by taking what seems to be a better direction- a short cut. By doing so we may drift into enemy territory. It can be any number of shortcuts that seem perfectly reasonable- for there is a way that seems right to man- but it ends in destruction. Caution – you are entering dangerous territory.

Abraham had placed himself in a position to be tempted. Listen to what James says: “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one  is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed..Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown give birth to death.”  (James 1: 14-15)   Remember this:  God tests- Satan tempts.

Our old nature or flesh has a heart that is always bent on doing what it wants to do- it is deceitful above all things. That is why we must guard our hearts with all diligence for out it come the issues of life. We must be diligent and on guard- for our adversary goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy. Watch and pray, said the Lord, lest you fall into temptation.  Your old nature will steer you wrong. Your mind is a steering wheel,and where you aim your thoughts is where you usually end up.  That is why we are instructed to not let our thinking be conformed by the world- but transformed by the Word of God.

Remember the rules of war – whoever controls the high ground- controls the battle. Our high ground is our mind.

If we are not careful, we find ourselves in the same situation Abraham found himself. Having reached a point in our spiritual journey- we think we are way past giving into such obvious temptation and sin. The lesson today- is simple- if it can happen to Abraham a friend of God, a man whose faith is spoken of in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, a man that God chose , befriended and shared His secrets with- it can happen to you and me. Then all of a sudden- we find ourselves doing what we thought we would never do again and shocked with our lapse and behavior we say to ourselves, ‘ what was I thinking?’  The problem is we were not thinking- we were not on guard. Thinking we were standing firm- we were headed for a fall. And quite often it can come after a spiritual high point.

In fact, the last time we saw Abraham with the Lord they were together on a high point overlooking the valley of the Dead Sea and the cities, Sodom and Gomorrah on the plain.

This is not all that is going on in this  passage. Things are not what they seem. We are in a spiritual battle and we must remember that. The enemy is at work here trying to prevent the birth of the promised seed to Sarah and Abraham. But God acted in the way He did, as we will see as the story unfolds, in order to protect Sarah.

When Abraham lied and told the king Sarah was his sister, the king took Sarah into his harem.

In verse 3- God appears to Abimelech in a dream- and tells him he is a dead man because the woman he has taken (Sarah) is a married woman.

In verses 4-5 : Abimelech who has not gone near Sarah yet, protests to the Lord that he is innocent and would the Lord destroy an innocent nation?  Abimelech tells the Lord, Abraham told me she was his sister.  I have a clear conscience and clean hands.

In verse 6– God says I know you have a clear conscience – for I have kept you from sinning against me.  NOTE: God restrains evil. He, through His Holy Spirit, restrains evil and is at work in the world restraining human evil. But there is a day coming when the One who restrains evil will be taken out of the way. ( II Thess. 2:7)   That is why, God explains, I have kept you from sinning against me and did not let you touch her. But, God says, if you do not 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 of yours will die.  God does not make idle threats. We will never know this side of heaven how many times God has intervened on our behalf to restrain evil.

Verses 8-10:  Abimelech calls in Abraham the next morning and asked him; What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you would have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done. What were you thinking? ( what were your reasons?)

Verses 11-13:  we get an insight into Abraham’s thinking:  I said to myself (not  to the Lord) there is no fear of  God in this place-they will kill me because of my wife…Here what we see is this man of faith has an area where he leans to his own understanding and does not trust the Lord with all his heart. It is an area of weakness- an area of vulnerability . We all have one of those areas, you know.  An area we cannot seem to trust the Lord in. For Abraham this has been a habit and an action that he has taken in certain situations. Notice :  first of all the half-truth that she is his half-sister. Abraham had convinced himself this deception was not really a complete lie- but what Abraham must realize is- he has not trusted the Lord to keep His promises in the area of protecting Sarah and him. . Verse 13 reveals this has long been the deception that Abraham and Sarah had used when in areas of danger.

This chapter ends with King Abimlech looking the more noble and honest of the two.

Notice the sarcasm in verse 16  where he says to Sarah – I am giving your BROTHER a thousand shekels.

Abraham, the prophet, prays for God to heal Abimlech and his household and so ends a chapter in the life of the man of faith- Abraham.

The story of Abraham is a story of faith. Of a man like us- with fears and doubts who is learning to walk by faith and trust the Lord. Like us- sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he gets it wrong.

Was God pleased with Abraham’s actions? No. Without faith it is impossible to please God.

Let’s close today’s lesson by considering what we have learned about faith and what we know about faith.

Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 “ Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Faith is being sure of something and certain of something- but what is the ‘something’? What is the object of their faith?

When we read Hebrews 11- we see the faith of men and women spoken of in this chapter is in the ‘ promises of God.” Remember the story in Luke 8- storm on the sea and Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat?  He had one question to the disciples after He stilled the storm- where is your faith? Jesus was asking what is your confidence in?

Faith is confidence in the promises of God; confidence that God will do what He has promised. ( I John 5:14- “ This is the confidence we have IN HIM..”)

To live by faith is to live as if we believe,(trust in- have confidence) that God will keep His Promises. Do you not believe the Lord is a Promise Keeper?

The starting point is found in Hebrews 11: 6: “ Without faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him must believe that He is and a rewarder of those  who diligently seek Him.”

Do you see the starting point of faith?  It is believing that God is who He says He is and the ending point is believing He can do what He says He will do. In between those two points- starting and ending points we are instructed to diligently seek Him.

So you know what we should be doing? Diligently Seeking Him!!  Becoming so familiar with God’s promises to us, as believers, that we can review those promises on a daily basis and renew our faith.

“ For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”