Abraham’s crisis of faith
There’s a saying: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
The problem is, anyone in any position of leadership or mentorship (and this includes parenting), knows that this is patently ridiculous. Firstly, everyone, from child to adult, knows that this is not a fair expectation. Why do you get special permission to do things that I can’t? And secondly, can you really expect anyone to follow this?
The answer is no. What you do will always be followed by those who look up to you. Not what you say. And, if you “say” different things from what you “do” you’ll likely be pegged as a hypocrite to boot.
So, there’s really no surprise when we look at the three major patriarchs in Genesis and see a growing train wreck of behavior from generation to generation. It started with Abraham, and then dominoed from there.
Their specific problem, it seems, is lying.
We start with Abraham, who on two separate occasions, lies about his wife, Sarah, in order to protect … himself.
To start to unravel this, we have to understand that Sarah was exceptionally beautiful, and also that the Middle East at that time was the proverbial Wild West, because Abraham evidently walked around in fear that powerful men (note that Abraham is quite wealthy himself, though he is no king) were going to whack him and take Sarah for themselves.
Now, as background, traditionally Sarah has been portrayed as Abraham’s half-sister (blech, I know, there’s the incest again). But, the evidence to back that up is a little wonky, and I’ll explain why when I detail the situation. However, know that it’s generally accepted that she was related to him in some way, possibly as a half-sister.
At any rate, we see Abraham, on two separate occasions, telling poor Sarah to pretend that she is his sister and nothing more than his sister in the presence of a powerful king. This inevitably leads to Sarah getting carted off to the harem. Then God has to literally step in and sort everything out.
All discussion of Abraham’s lack of trust in God aside for a moment (and, honestly, how could he think God didn’t have it covered after the first time He got Abraham out of his self-inflicted mess?), what does he think he is doing? If this is how he handles this sort of situation, how is he handling other parts of his life?
Now, for those of you who were taught she was his half-sister and are jumping up and down on “Well, it’s not so much of a lie!”:
I’m not sure the lie being “smaller” in exchange for her actually being his half-sister makes anything better.
But, let’s talk about that for a minute, because it’s important for what we’ll discuss next week.
The belief that she is his half-sister comes from Abraham himself.
Yes, you read that right. The one who just lied.
Further, the “half-sister” excuse is what he tells the second king after God sets the situation straight. It’s not even recorded that he tells the first king this!
Who’s to say that Abraham isn’t lying again? When Abraham’s family is introduced earlier in Genesis, the account is pretty specific about who is related to whom, and Sarah isn’t mentioned as a daughter of Abraham’s father.
But, it’s also worth mentioning that the word “sister” in Ancient Hebrew could pertain to many female relatives descending from one’s father, such as a niece. (Not that this makes the incest thing any better; there’s no hope there.)
So, to sum it up, we’ve got Abraham lying about his wife and saying she’s his sister (regardless of the nuances of the level of truth there) to save his own skin. Nice.
Now, I guess we’d hope that he would learn something from all of this and change his ways before his son was born, but, um, well –
His son pulled the exact same stunt.
Except it’s kind of (?) worse, because “sister,” in that couple’s case, is even more of a stretch.
This chain reaction of falsehoods, of sons learning that behavior from their fathers (read: children learning it from their parents or mentees learning it from their mentors) is something we’ll be looking at over the next week or two. It’s a behavior that actually leads to a giant wedge being driven into this family as the generations progress.
And, let’s not forget that in all of this, Abraham is a man who has had many, many firsthand interactions, encounters, and promises from God. To quote Jesus in the New Testament:
“Oh ye of little faith.”
This is a man who should have the utmost confidence that God had a far better solution then to flat out lie and then let Sarah be carted away. A man who should have the utmost confidence, after being told by God that he would be the father of nations, that God had everything well in hand.
Good grief, Abraham!
Let’s not make the mistakes of Abraham. We may not have firsthand encounters with God, but we have His promises that if we seek Him, He will guide us and help us. Let us be an example of faith for those who look up to us, especially in times like these.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:23