There’s a certain story that plays out no less than three times in the book of Genesis. Different actors, on different stages, but there’s no denying the same things are happening all three times.
A patriarch, one of the founding fathers of the nation of Israel, goes to sojurn in a foreign land. The patriarch has this wife who’s very beautiful, and the ruler of this foreign land makes some very serious advances toward her, looking for to put her in his harem.
The patriarch is very fearful of telling the ruler his wife in indeed his wife. He’s afraid the ruler will have him bumped off to possess his lovely wife. So what does this patriarch do? He tells a baldfaced lie to the ruler.
“Oh, her? She’s my sister!”
And he coaches his wife to corroborate the fib. The ruler then thinks that everything is perfectly cool to go ahead and marry the seemingly unattached hot babe.
But just before his majesty is about to do the Wild Thing with her, God intervenes, telling the ruler in no uncertain terms that this is a married woman and He will not tolerate climbing into bed with her. The ruler is peeved, and confronts the patriarch about his lie and how it almost brought guilt and shame and destruction down on the entire kingdom.
The three casts of characters in each retelling of this story of deception are as follows:
- In Genesis 12:10-20: Abram, his wife Sarai, and the Pharaoh of Egypt.
- In Genesis 20:1-18: Abraham (formerly Abram), Sarah (formerly Sarai), and King Abimelech of Gerar.
- In Genesis 26:1-11: Abraham’s son Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and King Abimilech of Gerar.
Fear of telling the truth
The first constant, the first same thread that runs through all three of the storylines, is the fear the patriarch has of telling the truth about being married to his lovely wife. I am no stranger to fear and how it will drive an otherwise good man to falsehood. Fear is a powerful voice that refuses to be silenced. It is also a faith in all the wrong things happening. Fear is faith pulling in the wrong direction.
How to combat fear? Realize it for the “counter-faith” that it is, and ask God to draw you to His voice, and to silence all other voices that are not His own.
Lies are unnecessary
The next thing that I want to point out is that the lies told to the rulers were absolutely unnecessary. Even before the account in Genesis 12, God had promised Abram (Genesis 12:1-3) that He would make a great nation out of him. Abram would have descendants. This promise and a little logic should have convinced him that neither he nor Sarai would have anything to worry about. But no, he had to listen to the voice of fear inside his head! He had to act like there was no God to help him! He had to take matters into his own hands! He had to try to manipulate Pharaoh into sparing his life through lies!
But God is “not a man that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). In spite of the lies Abraham and Isaac told Pharaoh and King Abimilech, He still acted to protect them. All three times the patriarchs became convinced God is either incapable of or unwilling to save them. All three times, God saved them. God never failed.
Brethren, why are you fearful? Why have you become convinced that God will not deliver you? Why do you feel the need to take matters into your own hands? Has He not promised to feed you, to clothe you, to heal you, and to protect you? Has He not promised to hear all your prayers? Has he not promised to always love you and be with you? There is no need to replace His promises with lies and manipulation. There is not need to sin.
God was not the only one whose good name was smeared by the disbelief of Abraham and Isaac. I seem to think that King Abimilech was also discredited. From what I see of Abimilech, he seems to be an honorable sort who wants to do the right thing, but neither Abraham nor Isaac would give him the benefit of the doubt. It was unfair for them to pre-judge Abimilech as being untrustworthy.
A final thing that I want to point out is that the lies the patriarchs told had consequences. Misled, Abimilech felt free to take Sarah to wife. It is good that God is understanding of this and warned him away. Wrong information leads people into the wrong actions.