Old Habits are Hard to Break

Genesis 20

1Now Abraham moved south to the Negev and settled for a while between Kadesh and Shur at a place called Gerar. 2Abraham told people there that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. So King Abimelech sent for her and had her brought to him at his palace.

3But one night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, “You are a dead man, for that woman you took is married.”

4But Abimelech had not slept with her yet, so he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent man? 5Abraham told me, ‘She is my sister,’ and she herself said, ‘Yes, he is my brother.’ I acted in complete innocence!”

6“Yes, I know you are innocent,” God replied. “That is why I kept you from sinning against me; I did not let you touch her. 7Now return her to her husband, and he will pray for you, for he is a prophet. Then you will live. But if you don’t return her to him, you can be sure that you and your entire household will die.”

8Abimelech got up early the next morning and hastily called a meeting of all his servants. When he told them what had happened, great fear swept through the crowd. 9Then Abimelech called for Abraham. “What is this you have done to us?” he demanded. “What have I done to you that deserves treatment like this, making me and my kingdom guilty of this great sin? This kind of thing should not be done! 10Why have you done this to us?”

11“Well,” Abraham said, “I figured this to be a godless place. I thought, ‘They will want my wife and will kill me to get her.’ 12Besides, she is my sister—we both have the same father, though different mothers—and I married her. 13When God sent me to travel far from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Wherever we go, have the kindness to say that you are my sister.’”

14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and servants—both men and women—and gave them to Abraham, and he returned his wife, Sarah, to him. 15“Look over my kingdom, and choose a place where you would like to live,” Abimelech told him. 16Then he turned to Sarah. “Look,” he said, “I am giving your ‘brother’ a thousand pieces of silver to compensate for any embarrassment I may have caused you. This will settle any claim against me in this matter.”

17Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and the other women of the household, so they could have children. 18For the LORD had stricken all the women with infertility as a warning to Abimelech for having taken Abraham’s wife. (Genesis 20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Genesis 20, we find Abraham resorting to one of his old habits – deception. Abraham, fearing the locals, convinces his wife to go along with his story that Sarah is his sister, which is technically true, but still deceptive because Sarah is actually Abraham’s wife.

If you’ve followed the story of Abraham, you know that he did the same thing with the Egyptian Pharaoh in Genesis 12:10-20.

In both cases, Abraham feared for his life, thinking that if people knew Sarah was his wife, they would kill him to get her.

Throughout the Bible, Abraham is regarded as a great man of faith, and yet we see him resorting to deception on multiple occasions in order to protect himself.

What are we to make of this?

First of all, Abraham is not innocent. Abimelech pleads his innocence to the Lord, to which the Lord replies, “I know you are innocent….that is why I kept you from sinning against me.”

Secondly, Abraham does not demonstrate much faith in this situation or the situation in Genesis 12. In both cases, Abraham resorts to deception because he’s afraid that the locals will kill him because of Sarah’s beauty.

Yet Abraham had been promised by God that he would become the father of many nations. In fact, God changes his name from Abram, which means “exalted father”, to Abraham, which means “father of many”. In addition, God had promised that his wife Sarah would bear him a son and it would be through that son that his covenant promises would emerge (see Genesis 17).

If Abraham was such a great man of faith, why does he resort to deception to save himself? Wouldn’t a man of faith tell the truth and trust that the Lord would provide? Wouldn’t a great man of faith trust the Lord to save him from the locals instead of taking matters into his own hands?

The reality is that Abraham was just like us. We often see Abraham taking matters into his own hands, as he does in this situation and also when he decided to father a child through his wife’s maid, Hagar, instead of trusting the Lord to provide a child through his wife.

The story of Abraham gives me hope to know that I don’t need to be perfect in order to receive God’s blessing. Abraham doesn’t always demonstrate faith and he often falls into old sinful habits, but he’s regarded as a great man of faith, not because of these incidents, but because of how he responds to the Lord’s leading and direction and how he finishes his life.

Reflection

What are some of your old habits that you are prone to fall back into?

In what kinds of situations do you find it difficult to trust God for the outcome?

What steps or habits can you implement in your life to ensure you are regarded as a person of faith?

 

Photo by Basil MK from Pexels

 

The Consequences of Not Checking Your Facts!

1Now all the kings west of the Jordan heard about what had happened. (These were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who lived in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far north as the Lebanon mountains.)  2These kings quickly combined their armies to fight against Joshua and the Israelites.

3But when the people of Gibeon heard what had happened to Jericho and Ai, 4they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old patched wineskins. 5They put on ragged clothes and worn-out, patched sandals. And they took along dry, moldy bread for provisions. 6When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us.”

7The Israelites replied to these Hivites, “How do we know you don’t live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you.”

8They replied, “We will be your servants.”

“But who are you?” Joshua demanded. “Where do you come from?”

9They answered, “We are from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the LORD your God and of all he did in Egypt.  10We have also heard what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River—King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth). 11So our leaders and our people instructed us, ‘Prepare for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and declare our people to be their servants, and ask for peace.’

12“This bread was hot from the ovens when we left. But now, as you can see, it is dry and moldy. 13These wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and cracked. And our clothing and sandals are worn out from our long, hard trip.”

14So the Israelite leaders examined their bread, but they did not consult the LORD. 15Then Joshua went ahead and signed a peace treaty with them, and the leaders of Israel ratified their agreement with a binding oath.

16Three days later, the facts came out—these people of Gibeon lived nearby! 17The Israelites set out at once to investigate and reached their towns in three days. The names of these towns were Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18But the Israelites did not attack the towns, for their leaders had made a vow to the LORD, the God of Israel.


In Joshua 9, we see Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites committing a rookie mistake of leadership – check your facts!

The Israelites had spent 40 years wandering in the desert and when they finally crossed the Jordan river into the land of Canaan, they had a simple directive from the Lord – destroy the cities of the Canaanites who inhabited the land.

At this point in the narrative, the Israelites have removed the cities of Jericho and Ai. The Gibeonites hear about what happened to Jericho and Ai, and fearing for their own lives, they resort to deception to save themselves.

When they arrive on the scene, they tell Joshua and the other leaders that they’ve heard about the Lord’s amazing miracles in delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians and also His deeds in subduing the Amorite kings on the east side of the Jordan River. Cleverly, the Gibeonites make no mention of the recent conquests of Jericho and Ai, for that would likely reveal their ruse.

Joshua’s mistake is revealed in verse 14 where it says that he examined the bread but he didn’t consult the Lord.

How often have you neglected to consult the Lord when confronted with a critical decision or an important issue?

The facts came out just a few days later that the towns of the Gibeonites were close by, only a three days journey in fact.

If Joshua had paused to check the facts before signing the treaty, he could’ve learned that the information he was being fed wasn’t true and that the people were in fact part of the contingent of people that the Lord had directed them to remove from the land.

How exactly would Joshua have checked the facts? He didn’t have Google or Snopes.com.

The Lord was Joshua’s fact checker. Joshua was being directed by the Lord and his unique relationship gave him access to God’s insight and wisdom. But instead of checking with the Lord, Joshua instead chose to rush to judgment.

I see this rush to judgment play out all the time, even today. For example, have you ever received an e-mail from someone that shares some important information urging you to pass it on to everyone you know, only to find out, after checking Snopes.com or some other fact-check website that the information was completely false?

We live in an age of urgency, where people have a desire to be the first to get the scoop or demonstrate to others that we’re in the know. As a result, disinformation is rampant.

This passage reminds me that it’s important to verify information before passing it on and before acting on it. We have lots of tools at our disposal that allow us to verify the facts of a story or situation. When facts are in question or tools aren’t available to help us, we still can consult the Lord and ask for wisdom.

When we rush to make decisions without examining the facts or consulting the Lord, we’re more likely to make rash decisions that we later come to regret.

Reflection

When have you experienced the result of someone who neglected to “check the facts” before passing on misinformation?

What safeguards can you put in place to ensure that you aren’t unknowingly an agent of misinformation?

What are some simple ways you can “consult the Lord” in  your decisions?

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

The Consequences of Deceit

1There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.  4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”  5As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him. (Acts 5:1-6, NLT)

I don’t know about you but I’ve read this story dozens, if not hundreds of times over the years and I always thought the punishment seemed kind of extreme. I mean, I know God doesn’t like lying, but to see these two fall dead for their deceit always seemed a bit extreme (Verses 7-10 tell of a similar fate for Sapphira).

My standard explanation has always been the idea that God is really holy and any sin is deserving of death. We really can’t be surprised when peole get what they actually deserve. Theologically, that’s true, but we don’t tend to see the consequences of lying play out this way normally. Perhaps there is more at play here.

So what’s going on?

A few thoughts:

    • The sin was not in selling the property or even keeping part of the proceeds. Peter says that the land was theirs to sell or not sell as they saw fit. The sin was deceiving others regarding how much they gave (see Acts 5:2).
    • They (Ananias and Sapphira) wanted to give the impression that they gave everything when they really didn’t. This is religious charlatanism. It is projecting an outer image that doesn’t match what is really true.
    • If you read through the gospels, you’ll see that Jesus spoke of this often with the Pharisees. He often pointed out their hypocrisy and the true nature of their heart condition. So it’s not surprising that this kind of attitude and religious impressionism is dealt with swiftly in the early church.

Honestly, it’s much easier to object to the outcome of the story as being unjust instead of reflecting on my own heart and thinking about the myriad of ways in which I do the same thing. The truth is, we all want to be liked and it’s very easy to stretch the truth or bend the facts of my situation in order to make myself look better to others. This is what John Ortberg calls “impression management.”

In what ways are you tempted to make yourself look better to others than you are?

What are the areas in your life where you struggle to present your real self?

What is keeping you from sharing your real struggles and honest thoughts with those closest to you?

I’m thankful that this story is not normative of how the Lord responds to those who engage in the sin of deceit, for I know if that were the case, I would’ve been hauled out in a wrapped up sheet long ago!