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Genesis 20:1-18 and 21:22-34 What Impression Do You Make?

October 12, 2014

Genesis 20:1-18 and 21:22-34

“What Impression Do You Make?”

 

Intro:  History tends to repeat itself.  Look at fashion styles.  How many of you have experienced today’s teenagers wearing their hair and clothes the same way you did in the 70’s?  Let’s talk sports.  How many father/son relationships can you recall in NASCAR, baseball or football?  Let’s talk politics.  Besides George M. and George W. Bush both serving the country as presidents, how many other children have followed their parents into the political arena.  And we could speak of the pathways of civilizations who choose to follow their own ways instead of the ways of God and eventually implode.  And on a positive note!  We can look at the church and see generations of families who have made sure to make disciples of their children and grandchildren who have made a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.

 

In the book of Ecclesiastes we read the wise words of Solomon: What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

 

As we return to the story of Abraham in Genesis, we have an instance of repeated history.  Because we’ve already talked about how wrong his actions were in chapter 12 when this situation occurred, this time, I’d like to focus on the power of the presence of God’s person in a community. We will be reading two passages regarding Abraham and Abimelek, king of Gerar.  Listen to what happens – again! and also how God shows up because Abraham is there.

 

We pick up with Abraham at the place he encountered God, read with me from Gen 20:1-18 and 21:22-34. 

 

True story.  Not exactly pretty, but true.  How many things did Abraham get wrong in that story?  In how many ways did God make things right?  Who gets the glory in that story?  God!  Abimelek acknowledges God and surrenders – at least for the moment – to the sovereignty of God not because Abraham gets it right but because God has chosen to be with Abraham.  Yeah – even when he seems to behave poorly.

 

One point we can take from this story is the faithfulness of God even when we mess up and don’t practice trust.  It is interesting as we will discover in a bit, that Abraham had no problem trusting God when God spoke to him directly, but he had people issues!  He did not seem to trust God to protect him when he encountered kings of other countries.

 

Let’s take a moment to evaluate that situation in our own lives.  Are there times and places that you are able to trust God and times and places when you are pretty sure you need to take matters into your own hands?  When you do that, do you discover as Abraham did, that it doesn’t work out so well?  Abraham’s deception led to Abimelek’s family and household not being able to bear children.  Sure, Abraham was protected but in turn set up others to bear the punishment for his deception. Can you imagine how Abimelek heard God in the dream he had?  I imagine God speaking like a gangster, mob boss who in a film might appear in someone’s bedroom in the dark of night. “

“You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

And Abimelek responds, knowing he is innocent  “No Dom Yaweh!                                      “. . .  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, the mob boss answers back:

            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 who belong to you will die.”

Well, good grief!  How would you respond to that?

 

Abimelek does what God asks and in doing so confronts Abraham on his deception.  And in his reply to the question of why he did this, Abraham speaks the truth:

  • In verse 11 – He was sure that in this city there was no fear of God
  • Also he feared they would kill him and just take Sarah for her beauty
  • He defends that he was telling the truth – I can see it on the tabloids now:  Abraham’s wife is really his half-sister – they share Terah as a father!  Okay, just Eew.  But they had worked out this deal that if Abraham was ever in this kind of trouble, Sarah would play the “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” card.

Well now everyone knows what is going on.

 

Must be Abimelek saw in this whole event the power of God.  And if there hadn’t been fear of God when Abraham came to town, you can bet there was now!

The response from Abimelek is to dump riches after riches upon Abraham - silver, sheep, cattle, slaves and the choice of where to live on his land.  I would venture that this was not fear of Abraham that elicited this sort of generosity, but that visit in the night from Dom Yaweh.

 

Awhile later, as we read in chapter 21, Abimelek seems to need a little assurance from Abraham that there will be no trouble between them and Abraham promises.  And then, he brings up the issue of a well that he dug, but Abimelek’s people are refusing him access to.  You can imagine that in the desert country this is a pretty big deal.  So Abraham takes action and brings sheep as an oath that he is speaking the truth and Abimelek judges in his favor and the very place all of this took place is Beersheba.  And after that things are settled and peaceful between these two men for a very long time.  True story.

 

The second point in this story is the impact of a God-fearing person in the midst of a non-God-fearing place.  Abraham, though not perfect, feared, honored and revered God.  He sought God and was faithful to him.  He brought God with him wherever he went. 

 

Barry and I marked our 22nd year of marriage yesterday.  I’d say we “celebrated”, but we were both so busy that we barely saw each other!  One of the best things I’ve ever heard said about my husband came from an elementary school teacher.  She said, “When Barry comes to the school, he brings Jesus with him.  He doesn’t come right out and talk about him but you know He’s there.”  This is what we see with Abraham, God came to Abimelek’s kingdom with Abraham and it made a difference in the place.

 

So here’s my question for us.  Are you taking Jesus with you wherever you go?  Into your home, school, workplace, recreation.  I know that I have recently asked this question before, but it keeps coming up, so I’m asking again.

 

Yesterday, our church was privileged to host a MAG meeting (Mission Accountability Group).  We hosted some elders from Stevensville, Hallstead, and Endicott. After we opened with worship, each church shared a thanksgiving, a need and a dream.  Judy did a great job of speaking on our behalf!  Every church shared a common dream – to grow in the area of being Christ in their community.  Taking Jesus out of the church and into their work environments and home environments and wherever they shop, do business, encounter other people.

 

Here is where I think Abraham can be a positive example for us.  He was so intimately associated with God – they had face to face conversations – that God went with him and it was evident.  Note that Abraham was not perfect and note that God had to step in – again – to make things right.  But that is what God does when we seek him in spirit and truth.  He redeems our messes.

 

Taking Jesus outside of the church isn’t necessarily about starting a Bible Study in your lunchroom at work.  It’s not about starting a new program in the community.  But it is about you living out your faith, messiness and all, wherever you are.  And what you bring to the world will be a reflection of the time you’ve spent with God, one on one.  

 

Review your past week.  Where did you go?  How did you live while you were there?  How was Christ reflected in your actions or words or even just your spirit?

 

Let’s just take a moment to check in with God on that.  I’m going to read through Psalm 139:23-24 and ask you to listen for God at each stanza.  This is called an examination of conscience and is an ancient spiritual discipline or way of praying.  Some people do this every night before they go to bed and then confess their errors (or sins) and thank God for forgiveness and ask for grace for the sleep they enter and the new day they will awaken to.  In case you’d like to try this at home, it’s Psalm 139:23-24.

 

  • Search me, O God, and know my heart;
  • Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
  • See if there is any offensive way in me,
  • Lead me in the way everlasting.