Today’s post brought to you by: Cheesy 1980’s television!
And since we’ve started this post off with a bit of a goofball flair today, I might as well continue in that vein. When I was reading Genesis chapter 20, I couldn’t help but imagine what the conversation between Abimelech and Abraham would have sounded like in today’s vernacular…
Abimelech: Dude. What’s up with telling me Sarah was your sister when she’s your wife? You could have gotten me killed. God showed up in my dream last night and told me I was dead meat unless I sent her right back to you. What the heck were you thinking?
Abraham: Yeah well, about that… Sarah and I came up with this cover story while we were traveling, to keep me from getting my throat cut by all those Godless heathen types who’d want to steal her from me. I mean, you’ve seen her. She’s smokin’ hot, even at 89. Who can blame me? Besides, she really is my sister. Or half-sister, anyway, we have the same dad but different mothers.
Abimelech: OK, first? Eww.
Today’s reading is all about trust issues — so early in this love story between God and mankind, and we humans are already showing our inability to trust that God will follow through on His promises.
Genesis 20:11 in The Message translation reads:
Abraham said, “I just assumed that there was no fear of God in this place and that they’d kill me to get my wife.”
Now, now, Abe… we all know what happens when you assume. At heart, he just didn’t trust that God would protect him and Sarah, so he decided to tell a half-truth and — at least as I see it — took an even bigger risk that whoever ran off with his “sister” might not have heard God’s voice and returned her.
Don’t we all do the same thing, though? We’re confronted regularly by situations where the truth might lead to confrontation, inconvenience, or danger (although usually not life or death), and we don’t trust God to defend and protect us, so we obfuscate much like Abraham’s little technicality.
It makes me feel better to think that Abraham, the father of the Faith — father of three faiths, really, since Christianity is built on the foundations of Judaism, and Islam also claims Abraham as patriarch through Ishmael — Abraham, who made it into the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, struggled with trusting God at times. It makes me realize that there’s hope for me. After all, Abraham learned from his trust issues, and grew into the kind of guy who could pass the most harrowing test of faith I can fathom.
Sarah had her own trust issues, as we see in Genesis 21. Her lack of trust in God’s promise led her to instigating the whole Hagar/Ishmael mess, which after Isaac was born, she tried to fix by sending them away. God was faithful to His promise to take care of Ishmael as well, and make him into a great nation. Fortunately for most of us, our trust issues will not blossom into regional conflicts that will occupy world leaders and diplomats for decades to come.
And then we come to Genesis 22, where Abraham really earns his Faith merit badge. All of God’s promises to Abraham were focused on his son Isaac, and his future descendants through that one child. And then God asked Abraham to take those promises, that future, and… kill it.
Oh, we use the words “offer him up as a sacrifice,” and it sounds so spiritual and abstract, but what God was asking Abraham to do, in harsh reality, was to take his son up onto a mountain, slit his throat, and burn his corpse. The entire future that God had promised was in the balance, and if Abraham had any trust issues remaining, they would have come to the forefront then.
I can’t even begin to imagine how wrenching that experience would have been for Abraham. And let’s not forget Isaac, who was most likely old enough to have figured out something was amiss, if not on the way up the mountain when he was questioning the missing sheep, at very least when Abraham started to tie him up and lay him across the kindling. He had to have some trust in his father not to run screaming down Mount Moriah when Abraham started toward him with the rope.
Abraham was ready to give up what God had promised him, instead of clinging to the manifestation of that promise that he’d so recently received. How often when God promises us something do we hold tight to that word, and hang on by our fingernails to every bit of ground we gain, constantly reminding God, “But You promised this to me!”
If God asked you to, would you be willing to lay your promise on the altar and kill it, out of obedience?
And finally, in Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that we can trust God even in the little things: food, drink, clothes… Don’t sweat the small stuff, He tells us. God’s watching out for our needs.
Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing.