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Abraham, Part 2: My Sister, My Spouse

Scripture: Genesis 12:9-20, 1 Peter 3:1
Date: 02/07/2004 
This is the second of a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. This sermon focuses on Abraham's experience in Egypt. Like Sarah, the beauty of a godly heart is an inward adorning. Abraham's lie to the Pharaoh shows God's long suffering with us.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

If you were here last week you know that we have begun a series dealing with the ultimate patriarch, Abraham. And last week we introduced Abraham in the context of his pedigree, genealogy and the call to leave Mesopotamia sometimes thought of as greater Babylon and to come to the land of Canaan a place he had never been. Abraham had the courage and the faith to make that journey and he did it in two degrees, first going from Ur of Chaldeans up to Haran stayed there until his father Terah passed away and the lord encouraged him to go on he made the journey then from Haran down to the land of Canaan commonly known as Israel today. And the Bible says “and the Canaanite was in the land.” The land was possessed by a very paganistic devil worshiping people. And this is where we left the story as Abraham followed the call of God, even though on every side he may have wondered why and God had promised to give him the land he set up an altar everywhere he went as a witness to this God that was being largely abandoned by the rest of the world. Now, if you take your Bibles we’re going to begin and today we’re just going to finish chapter twelve in case you’re wondering where we’re going. We're beginning with verse nine on to verse twenty. That will be the landscape we hope to cover in our study today.

This is part two in the series on Abraham and the title today is “My Sister, My Spouse” and that will be self-explanatory as we go on. So let’s pick it up with verse nine. Genesis chapter twelve verse nine. “So Abram journeyed, going on still towards the South.” Now when he was about seventy-five years of age, Sarah was sixty-four, sixty-five they had entered in the land of Canaan and because he was a shepherd he would move from place to place and with all the flocks that he and Lot had… you remember when they left Haran it says they had multitudes of flocks and camels and donkeys and servants. They had a big household. He was a sheikh, a king in his own right except he had a mobile kingdom. They would have to move with the flocks. Something like some of the tribes in the planes that would follow the Buffalo and it was a migratory kingdom, so to speak, and so he and his tribe would move. And they were making their way south following the pasture but something happened. It says in verse ten “Now there was a famine in the land.” You can’t help but wonder what must’ve been going through Abram’s mind. He leaves one of the most fertile places in the world, the Garden of Eden used to be in Mesopotamia. He follows the Lord, family gets all settled in Haran for a while and God says, “No, you’ve gotta keep going.”

He goes to the land of Canaan. When he arrives it’s flowing with milk and honey. But no sooner does he arrived then they experienced famine. It stops raining. And as it stops raining the grass dries up, there’s no pasture, the livestock begin to die. You can’t help but wonder what Abraham was thinking because God said, “I’ll bless you if you go to this place.” He gets there and now everybody’s dying from hunger. He may have began to wonder, “Was that God who appeared to me and spoke to me or maybe it was too much goat’s milk? I mean, did I have a dream or what was it?” And he began to doubt. But you know, very important lesson if you forget everything else this morning, God does not promise when we follow him that everything will go well. Very important truth is that you may be going exactly the direction God wants you to go and that is no guarantee you will not have trials indeed it usually means you will have trials because those Lord loves he also chastens. This was a time of testing for Abraham, Abram at the time, and it was also a judgment that fell on the nations around him. You remember it says “the Canaanite was in the land” and these were these seven pagan people that believed in human sacrifice and just very ruthless in their worship and the plagues that fell on his neighbors effected him. We can’t assume that just because we might be following the Lord, when those around us suffer it doesn’t mean we’re always going to be protected and isolated. God does often protect his people, but let’s face it when there’s a war and maybe a guilty nation suffers there are innocent people usually that are swept away at the same time. Not only is it true in that way, but sometimes the wicked are blessed through association with the righteous.

Let me put it this way. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. God sends the sunshine on the good and the evil. In other words, the famine that came on Canaan because of the pagan inhabitants as a judgment it affected Abram even though he was following the lord. And in times of blessing just because things are going well doesn’t mean that you’re not out of God’s will. Matter of fact, sometimes you need to worry when everything is going well. Jesus said, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.” I remember hearing a story one time where I think it was George Whitfield, the great preacher, I mean, he experienced persecution everywhere he went because he was sort of going against the grain, preaching outdoors to these multitudes in England and North America and he had all kinds of people threaten his life and he had a lot of persecution because he was working outside of the organized state church. And one day after a week of things going very smoothly it occurred to him that he hadn’t experienced any persecution and he was riding along the road and he thought, “Lord, am I out of your will? Maybe I’m no threat to the devil anymore.” And he got off his horse and he knelt down in the road and began to pray and say, “Lord, am I doing something wrong? I want to make sure I’m being faithful.” And right then someone said, “Is that George Whitfield?” and they hurled a brick at him and missed. And he said, “Thank you, Lord.” And he got back on his horse. So you don’t always know if things are going well.

I heard a couple weeks ago a man won the lottery and then got hit by a truck that afternoon. Anyone else hear that story? Just because you are apparently blessed doesn’t mean that everything is going ok. And just because you’re going through trials does not mean you’re out of God’s will. You need to go by what God’s word said. God told Abraham, “Go to Canaan.” He was in God’s will even if there was a famine. Now this is the first famine recorded in the Bible. And it’s interesting the first famine in the Bible is in the Promised Land. Interesting. Can there be a famine in the church? You read in the book Amos chapter 8 verse 11 it prophesies there will be a famine in the last days. “Behold,” the prophet says. Amos 8:11, “‘the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’” that bread from heaven and that living water. “They’ll wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they’ll run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but not find it.” And you know I also want to go one step further and suggest to you it is possible to have a famine for the word of God when there are more Bibles in the world than there ever have been. Having Bibles, printing Bibles, owning Bibles does not necessarily prevent a biblical famine. It’s possible to starve to death while you’re living in a bakery if you don’t eat it. Isn’t that true? And that could be the condition because some people think the Bible is a good luck charm. And we don’t hide the word in our hearts. And then also it’s possible to have a famine for the word of God because churches around the country the minister stands up, he reads one verse and then he shares his political philosophical opinions for forty-five minutes and they’re not getting the bread. You can’t live on crumbs. And there is a famine. In a famine people might still be alive but they’re starving.

Haven’t you seen this before, friends? Come on. One scripture, forty-five minute sermon, one scripture if one! I remember going to a church when I lived on the Indian reservation it was a tent meeting, and one of these bamboozling preachers had come through town basically to loot the people. That’s really just all it was. He put on a show and then he’d take offering after offering, promise that God was going to heal them and give them a new house and a pickup truck and everything. And he’d preach these sermons where he’d wave his Bible in the air. I went one night and I noticed. I took notes. Waved his Bible in the air, threw it, slapped it, pounded it, opened it up, pointed to it and then shared his own opinions, never quoted it. Not one time did he quote a verse. And the people came away thinking, “What a Bible sermon!” But he never, I mean, it was a prop. Never read out of it the whole time. And that’s what’s happening in a lot of churches. They’re not getting the word. Jesus sat down and taught the people and someone estimated ten percent of everything Jesus said was a quote from the Old Testament. Jesus was a Bible preacher using the Bible that he had for his day. When Jesus was tempted by the devil only scripture came out of his house. A famine for the word of God, it’s possible to have it.

So there is a famine and where does he go? When he gets hungry he goes to Egypt. Now keep in mind the good news is he didn’t go back to Babylon. We need to commend Abram for this. Also keep in mind that the Bible teaches us the Land of Canaan depended on the dew of heaven and the rain for their crops. If it did not rain… and you know it was a little bit fickle. There are cycles and seasons that bring the water off the oceans of the Mediterranean and sometimes the seasons are fickle and they even had times where there would be a famine in northern Israel and there would be food in Judea. You remember the days of Elijah. Terrible, three and a half years. Not a drop of rain in northern Israel but there was in Judea. And so any of you ever seen one of these showers where it rains across the street and not where you’re at? I mean, it can happen like that. So here was this famine, but Egypt on the other hand did not depend on rain for their produce. It was the flooding of the Nile and matter of fact, I read a commentary yesterday. The commentator said, “In some distant mountains” and at the time this Bible commentator had written his commentary, it may have been Adam Clark, they had not even discovered the source of the Nile yet. They didn’t know where it came from but they knew there was this range.

We know now it’s Lake Victoria. They knew there was this range and these distant mountains and that was the supply. But the Nile flooded every year. It flooded the delta and they got their food from the Nile. You notice this. The bread that came in Canaan was grace from above. The bread in Egypt they would haul the water in buckets from below, works from below. And so here now he goes from the grace to the works. And he goes down to Egypt and it’s not the first time that happened. So verse 9 and 10, “Abram journeyed, going… South,” “there was a famine… and Abram went down to Egypt.” It sounds sort of somber too, doesn’t it? He went down to Egypt. Now the name Egypt, I didn’t know this until I searched last night. The name Egypt comes from some ancient word. It’s a very old kingdom and they believe the word means “two lands.” Egypt, whenever you say it, it means two lands because Egypt is divided into upper and lower. It’s a kingdom that is divided. That’s what Egypt is. Matter of fact, some of the pharaohs were pharaoh over lower, some were pharaoh over upper Egypt and some were pharaoh over the whole thing, all Egypt and you’ll see that phrase. And so here he goes down now to Egypt and God there is no record that God said, “Abraham, go to Egypt.” Can you remember when the Children of Israel got hungry where did they tell Moses they wanted to go? Not only when they got hungry did they say “go back to Egypt”. God gives them bread from Heaven and then they get tired of God’s bread and they want to go back to Egypt because now they’re craving the flesh pots of Egypt. And so they want to go back to Egypt. Whenever God’s people go back to Egypt they get in trouble. You don’t find God’s people doing very well in Egypt.

Things can sometimes change there but it’s always somehow mingled with a bad experience. Did Joseph have a good experience in Egypt? Yeah, but only after he had a bad one. And when Jacob went down during the famine it started out a good experience but it turned into a bad one. They all became slaves, right? That’s sort of like that two kingdoms, Egypt. It’s like trying to serve two masters. So Abram goes down to Egypt. Now, on his way he’s beginning to get nervous. Let me explain what may have been going through his mind. He has a lot of resources. He’s a wealthy man. He had come… He evidently had substance when he left Ur and then in Haran God blessed him again. God said, “I’m going to bless you,” and one of the ways he blessed him was not only by sustaining him but he increased, and his flocks increased and his household and servants increased and his silver and gold increased and he was a very wealthy man, but one area did not increase. What was that? No offspring. No children. Now if you died back then in those circumstances and you did not have any offspring your spouse automatically inherited things and we still have laws today that are based on these ancient laws. If you get the spouse you get the kingdom. Anyone here ever know someone that married for money? I do. And Abram is going down there and he’s realizing, “I’ve got this vast substance. I have no heir. I’ve got this wife who is incredibly beautiful.” Sarah was a beautiful woman. Now we don’t know exactly what she looked like, but I’ll tell you something. The very fact that she was sixty-something and Abram was afraid that they were doing to kill him for his wife. Matter of fact, it happens again, I want you to notice something.

Not only does it happen when she is in her sixties, go with me to Genesis chapter twenty. I’m jumping ahead. “And Abraham journeyed from there” and he went “to the South, and he dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abram said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’” And now when he explains why he did this it says then if you go to verse eleven Abraham says to the king, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. But indeed she truly is my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander...” He says I didn’t ask to get this call of God. God caused me to wander. “…from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you will do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say, “He is my brother.”’” Now why did Abraham do this? He did it on several occasions. Well, first of all, because of his substance, but even more importantly because Sarah was a beautiful woman. Have you ever noticed the daughters of Terah were all beautiful? Not only does it specifically… not all the women in the Bible does it specify are beautiful. The daughters of Job the Bible says “were the fairest in the land.” But it does say that Sarah was beautiful. It tells us Rebecca was beautiful and then it tells us Rachel was beautiful. Now these are the spouses of the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And all of those spouses were related to Terah. He must have been a good looking guy, or his wife. Now some have suggested, and I say this with reluctance, but I’ve heard two commentaries that say the race of people in Egypt at that time was different from the race of people that had come from Mesopotamia and she was fair skinned and she stood out and that was one reason that he thought that they were going to want to add her to his harem.

These are just what some of the commentators say. The Bible really says she was beautiful. The interesting thing I noticed about Sarah even years later, not only when she’s sixty-six, he’s still telling Abimelech that, there’s no place in the Bible where it ever says that Sarah’s beauty faded. Did you think about that? Now, I’ll submit to you that real beauty is not something that is external but something internal. God wants us to be all beautiful but how much do we spend on external beauty without thinking about the internal beauty? Proverbs 31:30, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” What kind of beauty does God want? I heard a figure but I’ve forgotten already. Billions of dollars are spent every year on cosmetic surgery, not repairing necessarily some scar or blemish but trying to reverse the effects of aging. But the inner beauty… you know, I won’t name any names, but I know some people who because of their relationship with the Lord, and these are ladies who are grandmothers but they’re still beautiful. There is that inner beauty. I think Sarah had both. She had a character that was beautiful. The Bible addresses that. Go with me to I Peter chapter 3. “Likewise, wives, be in submission to your own husbands,” verse one.

If I don’t ever tell you the verse that means just start from the beginning. “Likewise, wives, be in submission to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word…” If you’ve got a husband that’s an unbeliever “they can, without the word,” without your preaching, “be won” to the Lord “by the conduct of the wives.” Not by the looks of the wives. Very few people are brought to the Lord because someone is good looking. It’s the behavior that changes the heart not the veneer, the superficial. When they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. So what is one of the specifics? Chaste conduct, modesty. “Do not let your beauty be the outward adorning--the arranging of hair, wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel,” but isn’t that where all the emphases is today? It’s the external beauty that people spend billions on and the internal beauty is almost left completely unattended. “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit.” You know the Bible contrasts a gentle spirit a graceful woman with a contentious woman and angry woman. You read Proverbs. “Let it be the hidden person in the heart, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God adorned themselves.” Now he specifically mentions, now notice what Peter is talking about, holy women in former times that entrust themselves with this inner adornment. And then it goes on to say in verse six “as Sarah”.

The only woman that Peter specifically mentions that has these characteristics of inner beauty, who does he pick? Is Peter identifying Sarah’s outer beauty? Did she have that? I think that inner beauty affects the outside. I think that when a person has inner beauty it will change the way you look. You know we all carry an aura with us, and when you've got peace in your heart and you know you're on your way to heaven and you love God and your fellow man you immediately raise your attractive value about 75%. You should have said amen. You can increase how attractive you are. Every now and then I become engaged in some marriage counseling, and there are situations where, I’ve had phone calls, and the wife will say, “He says he’s leaving.” And I automatically will say, “Is there someone else?” It’s one of the first things that pops into your mind. Very rarely does a man or woman want to jump out of the nest unless they’ve got another one being built somewhere else. And if they assure me that there is not or even if they think there may be some question I say, “Here is the best advice that I can give you. You make it as difficult as possible for him or her to leave not by nagging and being suspicious and haranguing and sniffing his collar for perfume, but you make yourself as attractive as you can be.” And they say, “Well, you know, I fix my hair.” And I say, “That’s not what I’m talking about.” I say, “Take care of yourself.” I hope everyone here knows that Christians ought to take care of themselves.

Christians should be neat and clean and groomed and if you’re a man you pluck those hairs out of your nose if they’re crawling out. I mean, women that goes without saying, right? Some men think that it’s only optional. I mean, you ought to be well groomed if you’re a Christian. You ought to, I hope everyone knows that. Take care of yourself. Stay neat and clean as far as possible. But what makes you attractive is don’t be obnoxious. So many women and men have driven their spouse away because they try to force them to stay and they make themselves very undesirable by their behavior. Attractive means like a magnet you attract. It isn’t the looks. That’s a small part of it. It is part of it. Take care of yourself. But it’s being winsome. It’s that inner adornment that draws. Sometimes a woman might get a man’s attention by their outward appearance but they never keep a man by that. And no, food is not the way to a man's heart. That's the way to his stomach. Everyone knows that. You can get fast food. It’s the attractive behavior. Well, Sarah had that beauty both outer and inner and the Bible says that if you’ve got both it’s wonderful. Of course then you’ve got some who are attractive on the outside but on the inside they’re vain and cantankerous. You know the Bible says Jezebel was a conniving woman. She thought she was something because she was able to seduce people, but… Let me read another Proverb to you. Proverbs 11:22 you’ve heard me share this. I think this is a great scripture. “As a ring of gold in a pig's nose, so is a pretty woman who lacks discretion.” It’s wasted value. But when you get both together, when you get that beauty on the outside, and that the inner beauty and Sarai had that.

She was as attractive as a woman could be and so Abraham is afraid and he goes down and he tells a big lie to the King of the Egypt. Go back with me to Genesis chapter twelve. “And as he came near Egypt” she noticed that he was beginning to look a little bit restless and he's twitching “and he said to Sarai his wife,” it doesn’t say Sarai his sister “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.” I know that. “Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.” They’ll keep you and then of course they would annex all of his substance. “Please say you are my sister, that it might be well with me,” and I’m doing this because I worry about you. I don’t want you to have to be married. It's for your sake. “…that it might be well with me for your sake, and I might live because of you.” You can save my life. Don’t tell them you’re my wife because you’re so good looking they’ll take you. Well, what did he think was going to happen? If they were going to get to the point where they were going to kill Abram how much more volatile is the situation when he shows up with this beautiful sister who is unmarried? Doesn't that make it even more dangerous? So she goes along with the story and the Bible says when the princes of Pharaoh, “It came to pass,” verse fourteen, “when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.” Notice the emphasis here.

How many would like a photographs of Sarah, just to wonder, curious, you know, aren’t you curious? She was very beautiful. You know you wonder sometimes what did Bathsheba look like. David had it said Abigail was beautiful. He had some other beautiful wives but he was ready to kill for Bathsheba? You know one thing I’ve discovered is there is a standard general acceptance of what’s beautiful and then there are little nuances that everybody sees differently. And some people will say, “Oh Boy, just wait until you see my fiancé. She is really something.” And then you meet her and you go, “Well, looks normal to me.” But there was something about her that he thought she was just the most beautiful woman in the world. Fine. I’ve taken this too far. I’m sorry. So “say that you’re my sister,” so he did. “So the princes of Pharaoh saw her and commended her to Pharaoh.” She was universally believed to be beautiful. “And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house”. The commentaries say that means, you remember before Esther married the king she first had to spend some time preparing in his harem of virgins, and so Sarai is brought now being treated like one of Pharaoh’s virgins in waiting and she’s in her sixties. We've already learned they lived longer which means they maintained those good years longer too. And in the Bible says, “The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram…” Evidently, we don’t know what exactly the plagues were.

The plagues may have fallen upon the princes who commended Sarah to Pharaoh. The plagues may have been of such a nature that it prevented Pharaoh from ever getting around to taking her as wife. Oh, I missed an important verse sixteen. Pharaoh was so happy to have… he couldn’t pay a dowry to Abram because she was only his sister so he pays it to Abram because she is his sister and not his wife. “He treated Abram well for her sake.” And “he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys and camels.” He gives him all these treasures and these riches sort of as a dowry for his sister. So he’s paid for her in advance. But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and these plagues were of such a supernatural nature and they came with such swiftness and they must have been in some form that prevented Pharaoh from marrying. Later when the Lord plagues Abimelech because Abimelech is going to take Sarah it says that all the wombs in his house had been closed and all of a sudden his harem became infertile and he thought, what was the problem? What was this curse? And he found out in a dream it was because he had taken Abram’s wife. And so here this happens again. Actually I think that one happened to Isaac. It was sort of chronic in the family which is probably a good place for me to stop and mention this. Abraham did this twice. She’s not my wife. She’s my sister. And Isaac who learned from his father’s example he did it once. Now go to the Song of Solomon and you’ll read something interesting here. Song of Solomon 4:10.

You don’t read Song of Solomon very often, do you? “How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse!” You think about this. He married his sister? Verse twelve, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse.” Song of Solomon 5:1 “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.” You know this week while I was preparing this sermon I read this daily devotional of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. I named my sermon “My sister and my spouse”. I sent it into the office and Melissa wrote that down and then I went and read in my devotion and you know what it was called? My sister, my spouse and it was from Song of Solomon and I thought, “I guess I picked the right title. Praise the Lord.” I mean how often do you find that one verse in the Bible the very week you’re going to preach on it? Just a coincidence, right? Who did Adam marry? Did he marry his spouse or his sister? What defines a sister? Same parents. Did Adam and Eve have the same parents? Now think of this. Is the church the bride of Christ or is the church the sister? Both when you think about it. Does the Lord identify with us as our elder brother? Is the church always mentioned in the vernacular of the gender of a woman? It’s never called the… we’re not called the brother. And so, think about this also. God put Adam asleep and he took his wife and his sister from his side. Jesus’ side was pierced after he went to sleep and out came a flow of blood and water. The church was born, and his wife, isn’t that right? My sister, my spouse.

Who did Cain marry? I always get this question. People say, you know it says Cain killed his brother and then he took his wife and he left and everyone goes, whoa! Hold on. We get this question on a regular basis on Bible Answers, Live. People decide, especially the first of the year everybody says, “I’m going to read through my Bible.” And of course they get to Genesis five and that’s as far as they get but then they ask that question and they say, “Who did Cain marry? It says Adam and Eve had two sons and one killed the other and then Cain took his wife. Whoa! Where’d she come from?” And all kinds of theories have evolved that there was another race of people that we don’t know anything about. You just keep reading. It tells you in Genesis five Abraham also had sons and daughters. It was not considered a sin or defiling or improper to marry your sister back in those days. The further you get away from Adam and Eve and the more contaminated our genetics the more interbreeding you have more potential for problems through intermarriage. By the time of Moses it was said that a person could not marry his sister. You could marry your cousin. Matter of fact, Isaac married his cousin. Jacob married his cousin. Abraham married his sister. So you know… and in the Bible they didn’t call them cousins. They called them sisters. So using the Bible definition a cousin was a sister, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob married sisters. My wife, my sister, my spouse. This is how close the relationship is with Jesus and the church. How intimate is the husband wife relationship? But isn’t a brother sister relationship one of the only relationships where a man can be friends with a woman and really be a friend? Isn’t that right?

Whenever I hear about men saying, “Oh, she’s just my friend.” I say, “Is she your sister? No? Then you better stay away from her.” Especially if you’re married, right? You ought to be friends with your wife, but those are the only two relationships that a man really has with a woman without it getting dangerous unless it’s your grandmother or something. Do you all know what I’m talking about? I’m scrambling to say a lot in just one thought here. So he married his sister and she was his spouse. And then he had told the pharaoh, “Oh no, she’s my sister.” But it wasn’t really a lie, was it? Or was it? It says Pharaoh called Abram and he says, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife?” Now one thing you discover here is now Abram has found out that the pagan king of Egypt is more ethical than he is. He says, “What kind of man do you think I am? Why didn’t you tell me?” The pharaoh could have killed Abram right there for that and still taken Sarah isn’t that right? But he didn’t. He said, “What kind of…?” Abraham had painted the worst possible character on these people but even among the pagans God has people with ethics and morals, right? Amen? He says, “What are you doing?” And then Abraham said, “Well, you know she was my sister.” “Don’t you think you should have mentioned she was also your wife when I took her to my harem?” Here is the question. Did Abraham lie? You have trouble saying that, don’t you? Or you just don’t want to respond. Maybe you think it’s a trick question. No.

It was a lie. Is a half truth a lie? Is a little lie a lie? Let’s talk about honesty because this is really, this was a terrible failure if you want to know the truth. You know, we’re living in a culture where dishonesty is almost taken for granted. The daytime TV programs are rife with examples of dishonesty and it is laughed at as expected and normal behavior. Everybody believes a little stretching of the truth is just a way of life. We’re surrounded with it. In the sports arena you fake a punt or a swing and there’s just so many areas where deception seems to be the norm. But in the Bible God wants us to be perfectly honest. Jesus said in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil. He abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it.” So when we lie, little lies, stretching the truth, exaggerations, whose government are we buying into? Christ only speaks the truth. Now don’t misunderstand. Just because you don’t always tell everything you know does not mean you’re lying. It’s ok not to say everything you know. I mean, those of you who are parents you can’t tell your children everything all of the time. There’s some things they can’t handle, right? That’s different from twisting the truth. Withholding the truth may be appropriate when it’s not necessary to know something at a given time. And if you’re parents you know that. Jesus said, John 16:12, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

So he withheld some things because they just couldn’t digest it yet. Mark Twain said, “The reason we hold the truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.” In Proverbs 6:16-19 it lists the seven things that God hates. Three of those seven things have to do with honesty. A lying tongue he hates, false witnesses that speak lies he hates, and he that sews discord among brethren. It all has to do with speaking the truth. The first sin entered our world through the handle of a lie. The devil said, “You will not really die.” And when you look in Revelation chapter 21 when it talks about the punishment of the wicked, listen I’m going to give you three examples. Revelation 21 and 22 beginning with verse 8, “But the fearful,” speaking of the lost, “the fearful, the unbelieving, the abominable, the murderers, the whoremongers, the sorcerers and idolaters, and all liars will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” All liars. Revelation 21:27, “And there shall in no wise enter into it,” speaking of heaven, “no wise will enter into it anything that defiles, neither whatsoever works an abomination or makes a lie.” No liars in the kingdom. Revelation 22:15, “For outside are dogs,” speaking of in the lake of fire “sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and whoever loves and makes a lie.” Now was that clear? It’s one of the Ten Commandments if that’s not clear. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” We are not supposed to say anything that isn’t true and if you’re tempted to tell a half-truth it’s usually because you’re trying to protect yourself or give a false impression. Why did Abraham lie? It was a lie, “she’s my sister.” She was his wife!

What relationship was more important? That wife relationship. And he deceived others. What do you think that did to his influence? Now, you know one thing that I appreciate, and I think this is from John Wesley said, “The scripture is impartial in relating the misdeeds of even the most celebrated saints which are recorded not for our imitation but our admonition. He who thinks he stands may take heed lest he fall.” And so even though Abraham is the Ultimate Patriarch and the father of the faithful his failures are recorded. There are two primary areas where Abraham blew it. One is his dishonesty about his relationship with his wife, and the other one was taking an extra surrogate wife. And so this was a big failure. What do you think it did to his witness to his wife when you have to ask her to cover for you to buy in with your lie? Did his servants in his household know about this deception? Yeah, you bet all of them. I mean, didn’t they know that Abraham and Sarah went into the same tent at night? They knew they were married and here he’s got this whole tribe and he gets everyone together and says, “Now make sure and don’t say we’re husband and wife.” They see Sarah being carried off to Pharaoh’s harem and they’re watching what their great leader is going to do. And Abraham doesn’t do anything.

He’s afraid of the King of Egypt that he’s going to be killed. Didn’t God say, “Trust me”? God said, “I’m going to make of you a great nation. You don’t have to lie to cover yourself. I will be your defense. I will protect you from these kings.” But Abraham looked at the biggest kingdom in the world was Egypt back then and he comparatively was so small and he thought, “What am I going to do?” And then after the pharaoh paid him for Sarah he said, “Now I’ve received something. How can I tell the pharaoh?” You wonder at what point would Abraham have ever said, “Uh, Pharaoh, I can’t let you do this. She’s my wife.” Would he have stood up for her? It really troubles me to think about that. One more thought. I’ll suggest to you that the history of the world might have been different if Abraham had not told this half-truth. Is a half-truth a whole lie? What do you think happened to the nation of Egypt’s respect for the religion of Abraham because of this compromise? Did it increase their respect or did they say, “These people…” Not only did Abraham do it twice but then Isaac did it. I mean, when you deny your wife. That’s a terrible failure. And Abraham was to be a perfect representation of Jesus and this is one area where it is flawed because of dishonesty and unfaithfulness in this.

He lost faith, but you know the good news is God still protected him. Now don’t miss this. God could have said, “Look, you’re in Egypt. I didn’t necessarily tell you to go to Egypt. I will sustain you there and even though you are doing something wrong I’m still going to keep my word. I promise to bless you.” God blesses his people in spite of our failures. Notice what happens here. Go with me back to Genesis chapter 12. It says Pharaoh favored Abram and he treated him well and he gave him a lot of possessions and when Pharaoh said, “Why did you do this?” Abram said, “Well, she was my sister and I was afraid.” He said, “Now therefore, here take your wife…” a little rebuke there. Pharaoh says, Take your wife. “‘Take her and go your way.’ So pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.” He is sort of rebuked.

He commanded his men concerning him. He probably sent an escort to convey him out of Egypt. Now hopefully at this point the famine was subsiding and even if not when Joseph sent his brothers out of Egypt he filled their grain sacks first. And so here Pharaoh gives all of these servants and these cattle and this wealth. He lets him keep the dowry and he says, “Now this is your wife. Take your wife and be gone.” And it really was a rebuke to the whole nation. And you wonder how history might have been different if Abraham had been faithful. You know you hear stories about when God sends the ambassadors to Hezekiah to find out or the King of Babylon sends these ambassadors to find about the God who makes the sun go backwards. And Hezekiah, instead of showing them the Lord, he brags about his stuff and it changed, it could have changed history. It could have introduced the religion of God into Babylon. Abraham could have introduced the religion of Jehovah into Egypt and all the architecture of Egypt would be different today if he hadn’t told that little lie.

The religion of the world could have been different today. We’ll never know. The Pharaoh had received him. Everything might have changed, but because he compromised in this area he lost his influence. I remember hearing the story where Marco Polo when he was with the great Kublai Khan in Mongolia this great empire of China back then. The Kublai Khan said to Nicholo and Mateo Polo, Marco Polo’s father and uncle, “Tell your priest to send me a hundred priests” meaning the pope “that they can teach your Christian religion” because the Kublai Khan practiced open religion in Mongolia and mingled with the Buddhism and other religions he was welcoming Christianity and when Nicholo and Mateo went back to the pope and they finally got an audience they said, “there’s this kingdom that wants you to teach them Christianity. Quick! Send a hundred priests.” And they plead with him to do that and they said, “Ah, the Chinese are primitive. They’re pagans. It’s a waste of time. We don’t know if it’s even true.” They finally consented to send two priests. One died on the way.

The other one got discouraged and turned back. And you wonder how different history would be in that whole world today if even the Catholics had been there. You know where our church is growing the fastest? Catholic countries. All of history could have been different. And this little compromise here that Abraham made affected the whole history of Egypt. Now don’t miss this. Abraham is now sent out of Egypt with his great wealth. What happened to Abraham in Egypt is a microcosm; it’s a little scenario of what would later happen to his posterity. Notice, Abraham goes to Egypt because of a famine. Did the children of Israel go down to Egypt because of a famine? The pharaoh takes Israel as his slaves, his servants, just as Sarah was taken into pharaoh’s house. And in case you didn’t know it, back in those days a wife was sort of property. They were considered servants. And then plagues fall on Pharaoh because he has Sarah. Did plagues fall on the pharaoh because he had Israel years later? And then he sends Abram out. He says, “Get out from us” with great wealth. Egypt in the book of Exodus 12:31. “Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, ‘Rise up and get forth from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve your Lord as you have said. And take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone.’” Verse 36 says, “And the Lord gave the people in the sight of the Egyptians” they had “favor so that they leant them whatever things they required.”

The word leant there really means gave them. “And they spoiled the Egyptians.” They left with great wealth and so when they went out of Egypt they had much more than when they came in. The very same thing that happened to Abram later happened to his posterity. It’s interesting how Bible history repeats itself, isn’t it? You know why? What happened to Abram is the story of salvation. What happened to Egypt, to Israel is the story of salvation. We are saved from slavery in Egypt by the intervention of God. And the Lord plagues the devil until he finally needs to let us go. It’s an allegory of that. You know in closing I want to read a quote from the book Education I’ve used many times, but it’s still, I think, one of the greatest quotes. “The greatest want of the world is the want of men; men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle is to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall, tell the truth even though you might die, in their inmost souls are true and honest.” Psalm 51:6 how can we be truly honest? “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts.” Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

If we’re going to be truly honest we need it in our hearts. You know I’ll submit that I think that Abram loved himself more than he loved Sarai. He was afraid of what might happen to him. Not so much what… I mean, he was willing to let her get married off to an Egyptian before he spoke up. Never did speak up, did he? He finally got caught. Don’t worry. The good side of Abraham comes out later. He… we can learn from these things. I don’t want you to get discouraged with our hero, but it tells us he was human. I think he loved himself more, and later he came to the place where he loved others more. He loved God more, he loved his family more. The equation for happiness is to love the lord and your neighbor as yourself. That’s the priority; God, others, you. Jesus, others, you spells joy doesn’t it? And most of us have it turned around; ourselves, then maybe other people then God. This is where he got in trouble. We all need to love the Lord more and to trust him more. Turn with me please 458, “More Love to Thee” and let’s ask God to have that faithfulness and that love in our hearts that will be demonstrated in our lives. Let’s stand as we sing.

You know as we go through the story of Abraham we’ll find that even though God had promised him a heavenly kingdom it took a while for him to realize it was not the earthly kingdom that he was talking about. He had to transfer his affection. He was concerned about losing that which is below instead of gaining that which was above. Remember the rain came down in Canaan from above. The water came from below in Egypt and he had to go back to Canaan. Where is our reward? Are you looking for your reward from God? Can you trust him no matter what trials come? Even if there is a famine in the land he can water your soul. Amen? He promises our bread and our water will be sure. He will sustain us with that which really matters. Maybe you’ve been struggling. You think the Lord called you but you’re wondering why you’re going through the trials. You can trust him. Just trust him more and love him more. You may have some special burden on your heart. Something in the message today may have spoken to you. If you’d like to bring that to the Lord as we sing verse two. Come now as we sing this and we’ll pray with you.

Father in Heaven, we are both encouraged and admonished as we look at the life and story of this ultimate patriarch, Abraham. We’re inspired by his determination to follow where he heard you lead but also we’re admonished not to compromise in little things and these little lies can be very dangerous. Lord, I pray that we can be faithful. Help us to trust you knowing that even if we’re surrounded by a famine you can sustain us and no matter how the devil might seek to intimidate or frighten us we never need to be dishonest or untrue. I pray, Lord, that we will not be ashamed of you as Abraham was ashamed to tell about his relationship with Sarah, that we will be willing to let others know about our love for you and our relationship with you. Bless us to give us that courage to be your witnesses and give us more love for thee. Be with those how have responded this morning to the altar call and whatever their special needs might be I pray that you’ll answer these prayers. And bless us that we can be joined together as your people in that heavenly Canaan. In Jesus’ name we ask. Amen.

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God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell

God Cares: The Message of Daniel by Mervyn Maxwell
God's Promises




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