Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
Remember back in Genesis 12, when Abram out of fear for his life told Sarai to tell a half-truth and say she was his sister? That did not end well. God inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household, and in righteous fury Pharaoh sent Abram packing. “Take her and go,” was his stinging rebuke.
So why bring up that embarrassing incident? Surely Abram learned his lesson, didn’t he? He wouldn’t put Sarah through that one more time, would he? Unfortunately, he would.
As we’ll find out this week, though years have passed and his wife is now bearing the promised offspring, this previous sin comes back one more time to blot the name of God and sully the reputation of one of His greatest prophets.
Genesis 20 is a shameful moment for Abraham. Donald Grey Barnhouse says that:
“There is nothing pretty about the sight of this old man who had just had lofty experiences, being called to account by a petty Philistine king. It was bad enough that a justified believer, a prophet of God, should be reproved at all by this pagan king, but the disgrace is all the greater, since Abraham was totally responsible for it, and deserved the humiliation. It wasn’t as though he had been caught off guard. He was guilty of a lie that had been well-rehearsed and which had already sent him out of Egypt like a cur with his tail between his legs.”
What lessons can we learn from Abraham’s failure that will keep us running strong? F. B. Meyer gives us some helpful reminders.
(1) WE ARE NEVER SAFE SO LONG AS WE ARE IN THIS WORLD
Abraham was an old man. Thirty years had passed since that sin had shown itself last. During that time he had been growing and learning much. But, alas! the snake was scotched, not killed. The weeds were cut down, not eradicated. The dry-rot had been checked; but the rotten timbers had not been cut away. Never boast yourself against once-cherished sins: only by God’s grace are they kept in check; and if you cease to abide in Christ, they will revive and revisit you, as the seven sleepers of Ephesus reappeared to the panic-stricken town.
(2) WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO THROW OURSELVES INTO THE WAY OF THE TEMPTATION WHICH HAS OFTEN MASTERED US
Those who daily cry, “Lead us not into temptation,” should see to it that they do not court the temptation against which they pray. We must not expect angels to catch us every time we choose to cast ourselves from the mountain brow. A godly fear will avoid the perilous pass marked by crosses to indicate the failures of the past, and will choose a safer route. Abraham had been wiser had he never gone into the Philistines’ territory at all.
(3) WE MAY BE ENCOURAGED BY GOD’S TREATMENT OF ABRAHAM’S SIN
Although God had a secret controversy with His child, He did not put him away. And when his wife and he were in extreme danger, as the result of his sin, their Almighty Friend stepped in to deliver them from the peril which menaced them. Again “He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, ‘Touch not My anointed, and do My prophets no harm.’” He told Abimelech that he was a dead man; put an arrest upon him by the ministry of an ominous disease; and bade him apply to the intercession of the very man by whom he had been so grievously misled, and who, in spite of all his failures, was a prophet still, having power with God.
Have you sinned, bringing disrepute on the name of God? Do not despair. Go alone, as Abraham must have done, and confess your sin with tears and childlike trust. Do not abandon prayer. Your prayers are still sweet to Him; and He waits to answer them. It is only through them that His purposes can be fulfilled toward men. Trust then in the patience and forgiveness of God, and let His love, as consuming fire, rid you of concealed and hidden sin.