She's Your Wife!

Abraham  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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As Abraham makes a mistake that sounds a lot like one he made before, we learn about how God deals with our mistakes; even when we seem to take awhile to learn from them.

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Did you ever notice how many sayings we have against making mistakes?
3 strikes and you’re out
Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me
To make mistakes is life, to repeat mistakes is just stupid
How about this one:
Paulo Coelho: “A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.”
Society tells us repeated mistakes is a status of failure
We all know people that seem to do the same dumb stuff over and over
Our response is to distance ourselves from them
We believe they’re only capable of letting us down
It’s who they are, it’s what they do
Story of Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal was a monster at 7’1” - 325 lbs.
8th all-time scorers - over 25,000 points
15th all-time rebounds - just under 14,000
8th all-time blocks - more than 2,700
Yet, he’s 3rd all-time in free throw attempts - 11,152
In fact, Shaq spent more than 25-hours of his life shooting regular season free throws!
That’s because they came up with “Hack-a-Shaq”
What is “Hack-a-Shaq”?
If you have a dominant player like Shaquille O’Neal who will dunk on you all day...
…but can’t shoot free throws if he gets fouled, why not foul him on purpose?
Shaq’s worst season he shot 42.2% from the line, averaging 52.7% career
Strategy is, intentionally exploit the fact that someone will make a mistake
In that case, it’s Shaq with free throws
To Shaq’s opponents, his failures became their weapons
Here’s the thing, mistakes are a part of life - unavoidable
We ask: Is our identity just a sum of our mistakes?
I’d rather ask a different question:
How does God feel about our mistakes, and what does He do about it?
YouVersion: She’s Your Wife!
We’re in Genesis 20:1-18
As we get into the text, we’re going to see Abraham make mistakes
Not just mistakes, but the same mistakes we’ve seen before
He’s going to slip into old, unhealthy patterns
The question is, is God going to write him off? Is He going to reject him?
What we’re going to see is that God’s reaction is a reaction of grace
Even if he does the same wrong thing over and over again
Genesis 20:1–2 (ESV)
1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
If you’ll remember, Abraham is supposed to be around the area of Mamre
Up between Bethel and Ai
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This is where God gave Abraham the important promise:
Genesis 13:15 (ESV)
15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.
This is also where Abraham left from to rescue Lot and brought him back
This is where is gave a tenth of his stuff to Melchizedek
This is where he spoke with the Lord about saving Sodom
This is his home base...
But then he goes around to observe the damage to Sodom and Gomorrah
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Now he’s headed towards the Negeb between Kadesh and Gerar
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And he is living there - not just passing through
You might remember Abraham has been in this area before...
In first message, Abraham got to the Promised Land
Then there was a famine and he went down to Egypt and got into trouble...
Remember God said, “I will make you a great nation RIGHT HERE...”
And at the first sign of trouble, he went somewhere else
When Abraham got to Egypt he said exactly what he just said here: “she is my sister.”
The first time Pharaoh took her as a wife and God pulled them out of that situation
That’s a big deal because Sarah’s womb is where Israel was supposed to come from
I promise you, Pharaoh unknowingly had plans to defile that womb
The lesson we learned was that everything was almost ruined because he didn’t trust God
Abraham failed, bottom line
But there’s a good lesson:

God even forgives repeat offenders

This is the second time God forgives this very sin
We know, because Israel exists!
His relationship with God is still moving forward!
We will see, God not only protects Abraham, but gives him a purpose!
That’s good news for us too
Because if you’re like me, you keep making the same mistakes over and over again!
I need a God who forgives repeat offenders!
No matter what, God is willing to restore us and put us back on track
1 John 2:2 (ESV)
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
As Jesus hung on the cross, every mistake was handled right then and there
It didn’t matter that our sins were in the future or that some were in the past
God offered everyone reconciliation and payment for their mistakes
Jesus even taught us to do the same for our brothers!
Matthew 18:21–22 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Jesus teaches us that, but first He LIVED that
Not only while He walked the earth, but still today
So if you believe in Jesus today, which sin of yours did He not die for?
There isn’t a single one
You’re not powerful enough for your darkness to overcome the light of Christ
Genesis 20:3 (ESV)
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”
That must have been a scary dream!
Imagine dreaming and God says, “You’re a dead man!”
That’s not something you’d want to hear...

If you try to handle sin alone, you’re a dead man!

Or woman...

If that’s your message from God today, I hope you pay attention!
If you think you can face God alone with your own righteousness, that’s not wise...
Please listen to what God has to say...
Genesis 20:4–5 ESV
4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”
Abimelech is not a God worshipper
Actually, Abimelech was a generic name given to all Philistine kings
The Philistines were pantheists - many gods who are the universe
When He responds to God here and calls Him Lord, notice it’s not capitalized
That means this isn’t the proper name for God, as in “Yahweh”
This is “Adonai,” which is a title of God with an emphasis on majesty and authority
He thinks this is another God - Abraham’s particular God - but he recognized power
Remember what just happened in the region? Sodom and Gomorrah!
Show map
This is 40 miles away at the most!
Show image of Mt. St. Helens from Longview Wash. 40 miles away
If you can see from that far, you think S & G’s smoke was visible to Abimelech? Probably...
So basically, Abimelech was a pagan...
But he had clear respect for God
A fear Abraham doesn’t seem to have...

God can use anyone to teach us about Him

Abimelech has the right response: Respect and service to God
Interesting that a pagan can get that right
In this case, we’re better off looking like him than Abraham
When we get too comfortable with God, we let ourselves slip
That’s why churches end up missing the point sometimes
We argue over carpet
Or we expect sermons to “make us feel good”
Or we think we need to bend everything to the culture
That’s why we see songs before the message - to remind us why were here
To remind us who God is...
We sing, “Mercy and goodness give me assurance that I’ll see HIS glory face-to-face!”
And, “Nothing can stand against the power of our God! The battle belongs to You!”
It’s important that we reminds ourselves of who God is
Because we’re the ones who should know!
In this case, a pagan will teach Abraham a lesson about respecting God
Genesis 20:6–7 (ESV)
6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
In spite of repeated failures, God protects Abraham
That’s what Goes does - when we keep failing, God protects His promises
There is going to be consequences for what Abraham does
But God is not going to let Abraham get in the way of His promises
He told him, “I will make of you a great nation.”
This nation will come out of Sarah’s womb, and it will be Abraham’s baby
Not some other king...
And Abraham puts that at risk by saying Sarah is his sister, again
And God protects him, again

God protects His promises

God promised to take care of our sin
We try over and over again to test that promise
But no matter how much we mess up, He protects His promises of salvation to us
The blood of Christ continues to cover our sin
He also protects us by encouraging us to grow and turn from that sin
Satan is the one that wants you to think your sin is too much for God
When we start thinking we’re defeated, we diminish the power of the cross
God isn’t done with you just because you fail
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences:
Genesis 20:8–10 (ESV)
8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?”
Humans have tendency to not learn if there is no pain
So although our sins are covered and God’s promises protected, we still have consequences
In this case, Abimelech is furious
You might not be able to tell, but Abimelech is furious
This is a very powerful king - Abraham lied for a reason!
God is allowing Abraham to stand before Abimelech and get his butt chewed
Not pleasant...
God already told Abimelech that he can’t hurt Abraham
But Abraham doesn’t know that… he’s probably shaking in his boots
God is not a reckless parent who overlooks bad behavior
I see a lot of young parents who don’t teach their kids
If they’re screaming they just try to distract them
If they’re bad in public they just never leave the house
If they’re misbehaving they just beg them to be good
The problem with that is that you’re not teaching right and wrong
You’re just manipulating them to look like they’re doing right
God doesn’t do that
Yes, He covers our mistakes when we mess up...
But He also lets us face repercussions
That helps us to learn what’s wrong and right
Let me give a small example - we never childproofed our house
If our kids went into a cupboard, we slapped their hand
We didn’t want a tower of pans to fall on them and kill them
A little pain prevents serious danger
They learned, “Oh, I don’t go in there because my parents have authority.”
So when we visited somewhere, they already knew, “I don’t go in cupboards.”
Had we childproofed, they wouldn’t learn they can’t go in there
They learn, “I can’t get in there because it’s locked”
What happens when they go somewhere without child locks?
They think, “I can go in there because it’s not locked!”
Now you try to teach them while they’re screaming at your friends house
So you say, “I just won’t go to my friends houses anymore...”
So the lessons never get learned and they’re only protected from every facing reality
I’m not saying don’t childproof your house...
I’m saying, it’s important that your kids behave because they’ve learned
Not because they’ve been tricked
This principle applies to every part of life
Kids don’t learn to do well because they’ve been prevented from facing challenges
Is it reasonable to expect our kids to live lives without challenges?
You can’t safety proof the whole word for the entirety of your kids lives
How can our kids face the world with good character if they’ve never been trained?
That’s what God does with us
We are protected from the major consequence of sin - death
But God still works through hard experience
That’s what helps us make an impact on the world
That’s what God is doing with Abraham here
You’re not messing up the promise, but you need to learn a lesson...
Genesis 20:11–13 (ESV)
11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.” ’ ”
Because of God’s discipline, Abraham’s starting to own up to his mistakes...
But he also tries to justify it by saying, “Well, technically she is my half-sister...”
Think about this from Abimelech’s position...
You didn’t “lie” about the sister thing… but what about the wife part?!
I’ll tell you the same thing I said when we talked about this last time:

A half-truth is a whole lie

From the moment Abraham left, he asked Sarah to lie for him
By the time Abraham gets to Abimelech, their plan to fail surfaces
I have to wonder if God did this just to make his lies play out
It’s interesting that this is in there
When this happened with Pharaoh, Abraham never said this part
The difference? Abraham is owning up to his sin...
Church, confession is the best way to deal with guilt
Forgiveness doesn’t come if you can’t admit what you’ve done
If you don’t confess, it will just haunt you forever
Confession is how we find repentance and earn forgiveness
For Abraham, this gives God a chance to restore him to what God needs
Genesis 20:14–16 (ESV)
14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.”
To humans, this doesn’t make sense
We focus on figuring out who’s to blame versus how we’re going to move forward
This story though, is about God’s grace - not our mistakes
Had God not warned Abimelech and he found out some other way… he’d be executed!
But instead, God insisted that His protection be extended
So Abraham and Sarah get land rights and silver, instead of a quick death
That’s what God does for His people
We face consequences for mistakes...
But ultimately we see His promises of healing, reconciliation and life
Not always on this side of heaven, but often times we do!
That what it means to serve a loving God of grace
Genesis 20:17–18 (ESV)
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
There are two major lies the enemy wants you to believe:
You’re mistakes mean you can’t have God’s favor
Your mistakes mean God can’t use you
Essentially, good can’t come to you, and you can’t give good to others from God
Pastor Glenn always taught me to honor the pulpit
1 Timothy and Titus gives a set of requirements for those who serve as pastor or elder
There are qualifications that apply to my wife and my kids
Qualifications we don’t do - don’t love money, don’t drink too much, don’t be violent...
Qualifications we must do - be able to teach, be hospitable, be respectable...
I pray that no one can bring accusations against me in those areas...
If they do, my heart is that I would step down
I’ve seen pastors make mistakes that clearly cross that line...
Sometimes they refuse to acknowledge it
Sometimes they try to just get past it
But they stay on the payroll and come back after a week
Sometimes they walk away and take months or years to heal and return
And sometimes they never come back into the position
But in all those examples, I’ve seen God work
Sometimes it’s in spite of them, but I still see God work
God doesn’t need you to be great so that He can accomplish something great
You know why? Because it’s not you doing it...
Some of the best things people have said to me after a sermon are things I never said in the sermon!
Some have left their position and others have done better
Some have written books to prevent their mistakes in others
Some have gone to prison and started ministries there
I promise that even if you mess up incredibly, God can still use you
Maybe not the way you want to be used, but He can use you
I pray that God protects me and I can keep doing this for years to come
But even more, if He doesn’t, I pray He uses me however He sees fit
The way that happens is by keeping God where He belongs in our life
Even with our past mistakes, even with our future mistakes, He is our King
And when we are forgiven, it should change us
Glenn used to have a sign by his clock:

You’ve been reprieved; live like it.

That’s the thing, in the end, Abraham lived his purpose
My prayer is that you do too, and you don’t let Satan get in the way
I started by talking about “Hack-a-Shaq”
Shaquille O’Neal: “[The Hack-a-Shaq is] just a way of telling me that you can’t stop me. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
If Satan is lying to you and trying to get you to back down from what God has for you
If he’s lying and trying to get you to think God is through with you, why do you think that is?
Because the hope God has for you is a threat to his kingdom...
He wants to scare you, discourage you and turn you around because he doesn’t like your direction!
It’s just Satan’s way of saying, “God is good, and I can’t stop Him...”
Don’t give up on God, church...
You will make mistakes. Confess them, learn from them, and move forward
That’s what God wants you to do...
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