LIVING BY FAITH
"A Lack of Faith Complicates Life"
Jerry A. Collins
Sometimes we may believe that to get ourselves out of a difficult or dangerous scrape, the easiest thing to do is to manipulate or scheme deceptively, still bordering the truth so that our deception is not an outright lie. When we deceive we are ‘..causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid’. Our purpose is to mislead and beguile a person so that they will not discover the truth. A teenager might practice deception when she is confronted about breaking curfew. You might be deceptive at work when asked about justifying your business expenses. We could be misleading in any number of threatening situations to cover up the truth and keep ourselves from exposure. That is what Abraham did. In this story Abraham is not the man walking by faith as he is in the beginning, but a Bedouin sheik manipulating a threatening situation by deceit. His example teaches us that;
1. WE WILL OFTEN RESPOND TO DANGER BY DECEPTION 10-13
To understand the point of the passage, we have to look closely at what Abraham did wrong. In essence, he schemed because of fear. It eventually backfires on him and God must intervene. This scheme, although having good motives, was nothing but deception.
A. We can face what seem to be insurmountable problems 10
Faced with a famine, which in itself formed a difficulty for the promise of the land, Abraham decides to continue south (vs.9) into Egypt. We might tend to fault him for this decision but with the use of the word ‘sojourn’ it indicates that he had no intention of abandoning the promise but was going to Egypt for a temporary stay for the duration of the famine. However, there are no indications here that faith was operative. Especially since he has no word from God to ‘go’ as he had received before.
B. The tension created by this threat can motivate us to scheme 11-13
We see the tension mount in vs. 11-12 because of his fear that the Egyptians may acquire Sarai since she is beautiful, (by the way she is around 70 yrs.) by killing Abram. That would mean the end to the promised blessing. This scheme he concocted came not from his faith but from his Bedouin background. He wanted Sarai to deceive the Egyptians into thinking she was his sister, possibly to buy time to escape since anyone wanting to marry a sister would have to make negotiations. This deception was subtle because she was his half-sister and he could satisfy his own conscience with this but he would also know how the Egyptians would understand what he was conveying. So for the good of the marriage and of the good of the promise of God they would deceive the Egyptians to protect Abrades life. This is the first of two attempts to deceive about his relationship to Sarai (Genesis 20:13).
When we scheme to cover ourselves it is usually because we perceive some threat that we believe God may not or cannot deliver us out of. Our motives may even be good and we can convince ourselves that this is an appropriate course of action. So we take matters into our own hands. The problem with this approach is that it disregards Gods sovereignty, by saying He is really not in control, and results in complications God may have to act to deliver us from. This is what happened to Abraham.
2. DECEPTION MAY JEOPARDIZE GODS BLESSING IN OUR LIVES 14-16
When we practice deception and purposely mislead, we not only cause more trouble for ourselves but we also place Gods favor on us in jeopardy.
A. Our deception complicates things 14-15
The ironic twist to the story comes when someone wants Sarai--someone who will not have to bargain and negotiate to have her--Pharaoh. Consequently, after hearing the report from his princes, he whisks her away to his royal harem. Sarai is both silent and passive during the episode. And Abram is powerless to prevent the seizure. His scheme might have worked with those who would negotiate for Sarai, but here was one who had no need to do so. He has now gotten himself into a bind from which he is not able to deliver himself. In the meantime, his scheme has lost him his wife, and without Sarai the promised blessing is doomed! His fearful scheme has backfired. So, Abram did have cause for concern after all, as he approached Egypt and we are left with the question ‘should he have even gone to Egypt in the first place?’ So much was at stake in his going. More, it seems, than God was willing for him to take.
B. The complications created due to deception jeopardize Gods favor 16
The very words of Abram vs. 13 "so that it may go well with me" because of Sarai come back upon him. Not only was he alive, he gained wealth in exchange for Sarai. Instead of a stranger he is now an honored guest. This transaction only serves to heighten the complication--the loss of Sarai. This wealth would be a perpetual reminder that Sari was no longer in his household but in Pharaohs, the source of the wealth! What good would this wealth do if the price for it were the loss of his wife? Without her the promise of God is jeopardized.
Once again in Genesis, through fear and disobedience, the intimacy of the man and the woman is broken; once again someone has taken that which God had put off limits. But this time God would prevent it from going further, for His word of promise was in jeopardy.
3. SOMETIMES GOD (17-20) INTERVENES TO DELIVER US AND PROTECT HIS PROMISES
The purity of Sarai was in danger, and the future of the covenant God has made with Abraham is in jeopardy. So God acts.
A. God brings resolution to the complications of our deception 17
We simply read that God intervened by plagues to resolve the complication of the loss of Sarai. We learn that divine intervention alone can deliver her untouched from the royal harem back to Abram. Since these are described as great plagues, it is reasonable to conclude that they overwhelmed Pharaoh's household while Sarai was left untouched. If there were to be any way out, the Lord would have to provide it. And He did because His word was at stake. This would have sent a message to Pharaoh that something was up between he and Abram.
B. Our deception has repercussions 18-20
Pharaoh summoned and rebuked Abram for the deception. This is reminiscent of the Word of the Lord to Adam and Eve in the garden; 3:13 ‘what is this you have done’. The connection to their guilt was enough to expose Abram's. The exchange strongly suggests that she was returned to him unharmed as his wife. It would have taken time for her to come before the Pharaoh (12 months for Esther's preparation 2:12). ‘Take her and get out’ recalls the divine commission to Abram but this command to leave was occasioned by disobedience and characterized by shame. He was expelled from Egypt and escorted to the border. So Gods deliverance in no way condones the deception rather it embarrassed it in the end.
First, the Israelites living in Egypt at the time of the great plagues, 450 yrs. Later, would have identified with this situation very well. God's plagues on Egypt under Moses not only brought ruin to the nation of Egypt but they protected and preserved them in their houses. Knowing this history of Abram would have been comfort to them for if God who made a promise to Abram delivered him from Egypt to return to the land, then God, who confirmed the promises to his descendants, could also deliver them as well.
INCIDENT (Abram) (Israel)
Severe famine in land 12:10 43:1; 47:4
Sojourn in Egypt 12:10 47:4
Killing of males 12:11 Ex. 1:16
Bondage 12:14 Ex. 1:11
Great wealth 12:16 Ex. 12:36
Plagues in Egypt 12:17 Ex. 7-11
Summons ‘take...go’ 12:19 Ex. 12:32
‘Send’ 12:20 Ex. ‘let people go’
Journey to Negev 13:1 Num. 13:17,22
Second, we learn that it is foolish to try to deliver ourselves from threatening situations by deceptive scheming. To put it another way, sinful acts cannot save Gods people from threatening circumstances. Evil cannot bring about good.
Third, we can say that anytime God must deliver his people there has been some failure or weakness in their obedience.
Fourth, we cannot know the long-range effects of our own devices. It appears that Abram prospered from his deception but his ill-gotten wealth will plague him with problems for years to come. Immediately as source of strife with Lot and then through tension with his maid Hagar later (Arab-Israeli war).