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God Rescues Faithless Abram

God Rescues Faithless Abram

May 30, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Genesis 12:10-20

Introduction:  Why Read the Old Testament?

We are looking this morning at Genesis 12:10-20.  Last week, we studied one of the more famous passages of scripture in the Old Testament, the call of Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land, and the statement that, "Through him, all peoples on earth will be blessed."  The ancient origin of modern missions is right there and a very famous passage.  This morning we study one of the more obscure passages of the Old Testament which brings to us the question, why would we want to preach on Genesis 12:10-20, and the larger question, why read the Old Testament at all?  Why should we read the Old Testament historical narratives that cover some of the more obscure events of the lives of people that we know only from scripture?  Why do the comings and goings of some kind of a nomad who lived 4,000 years ago, who lived in tents, dwelled near the Negev, went through a famine and traveled down to Egypt, why would that matter for us today?  We are a modern people, we don't live in tents and we work in air-conditioned stone, glass and concrete buildings.  We use the internet, we drive to and from work, as long as gas prices aren't too high, and we will continue to do so.  But we live in a modern world, so why would the events of 4,000 years ago matter for us today?

Why spend an entire message on a seemingly insignificant event in the life of a patriarch who lived four millennia ago?  Well, my first answer to that is a simple one, it's because it's God's word.  And if God thought it should be included in Scripture, it's worth considering, it's worth meditating on, for Scripture testifies about itself.  It says in 2 Timothy 3:6 that, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness."  We come to this Scripture as God-breathed, God-given, actually exhaled by God, that we might understand it.  The second reason for considering this passage carefully this morning is that it will, I think, set a pattern for how we handle the Old Testament from here on out, and perhaps will give you some insights into how you can handle the Old Testament as you read it for yourself.  Whenever I come to an Old Testament historical narrative, I ask three questions that will form the outline of the message this morning.  The first question I ask is, "What does this passage say about human nature and what can I learn about humanity from reading it?"

The second question, what does it say about God's nature?  What does it say about what He is like?  Those two questions came to me from considering John Calvin's statement at the beginning of the Institutes of the Christian Religion in which he says, "Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts:  The knowledge of God and of ourselves."  So those first two questions, I think, come from that statement and are reasonable.  We're going to learn about ourselves, about humanity, and we're going to learn about God.  What does it say about humanity?  Secondly, what does it teach me about God?  The third question, how does this passage fit into God's redemptive plan for the world?  Those are the three questions I ask with an Old Testament historical narrative, and they are good for you to keep in mind as well.  Now, my basic approach on the first question is that, yes, it's true that we wear different clothing, and it's true that we enjoy air-conditioning, drive cars and use the internet, and all that.  All of those things are true.  We are a modern people, but I believe that essentially, we are the same.  The same things that they struggle with, we struggle with.  And as we see the character issues unfolding, issues of faith or faithlessness, issues of courage or fear and cowardice, issues of marital purity or impurity, these issues are the same things we face today, and so people have not changed as much as we think they have.

Second of all, I know that Scripture tells me that God never changes.  And so, anything I can learn about God and His dealings with man 4,000 years ago, is exactly the same today.  Now, it doesn't mean He will deal with us in the same way.  God deals with different people according to the dictates of His wisdom and His plan, but God's essential nature and His character never changes.  And so anything I can learn about man, about humanity from 4,000 years ago, it's probably still true today.  And anything I can learn about God and His essential nature is definitely still true today.  And thirdly, I just want to know what His plan is, I want to see it unfolding.  As we study the life of Abram, we're going to see the unfolding redemptive plan of God.  

Setting the Story in Context

Abram’s Call Already Made

Now, as we set the story in context, we see already the call has been made in Abram's life in Genesis 12:1-3.  Look at that again, if you would.  It says, "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'"

Abram’s Faith Already Displayed

Abram's faith has already been displayed at one level.  He had faith enough to leave Ur of the Chaldees, he had faith enough to leave his father, Terah, and the land of Haran, finally to separate from him and go on, on his own.  He had faith enough to enter the Promised Land, and in verse 7, to receive the promise concerning the Promised Land.  Look again at verse 7, "The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’  So, he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him."  Already we've seen his faith on display as he began to call on the name of the Lord, in verse 8, it says, "From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.  There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD."  And already we see him living in tents by faith like a nomad in the land of the Negev, in the Promised Land.

Abram’s Faith and God’s Redemptive Plan Challenged

However, Abram's faith is immature, and God's redemptive plan is yet to be fully unfolded and both the faith and the redemptive plan receive a very stiff challenge here in the second half of Genesis 12. 

Lessons in Human Nature

Now, as we look at this, the second half, let's look at some lessons concerning human nature.  What can we learn about humanity from these verses?

The Amazing Power of Female Beauty

Look at verse 11, "As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, 'I know what a beautiful woman you are.'"  And so, the first lesson that I want to take from this is the amazing power of female beauty.  I knew I would get your attention, as you're all looking up, what am I going to say about this?  Well, Sarai had an astonishing physical beauty, astonishing in that she is at least 65 years old at this point, if not 70, probably more like 70.  Many descriptions of her beauty abound, but this is one of the clearest.  As a matter of fact, Sarai's physical beauty is the hinge, humanly speaking, around this, on which this whole story pivots.  It really is the focal point.  If she were not so physically attractive, the events would not have happened the way they did.  And so, this is really a kind of central theme in this section.  Female physical beauty is a major theme in the Book of Genesis.  For example, when God brings Eve to Adam, you really have to know something of Hebrew poetry to know it isn't just a straight statement he makes when he says in Genesis 2:23, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ’woman,’ for she was taken out of man."  He is really excited and burst into poetry.  The first thing he says is a poem when he sees his wife and she is delightful to him and beautiful.

We have also seen female physical beauty at the core of the rebellion that led eventually to the flood.  Depending on how you interpret Genesis 6:2, "the sons of God."  Some think they were angels and some think they were just mighty powerful kings, but either way, physical beauty was at the core of it.  The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they married any of them they chose.  Clearly, that was a major issue concerning the flood, because shortly thereafter, God resolves to bring a flood on the earth and this is going to come up again and again in the Book of Genesis.  For example, Rebekah, who eventually will be Isaac's wife, is said to be beautiful.  In Genesis 24:16, "The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her.  She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again."  Her physical beauty was enough to mention and made it into the text.  And again, we see it with Rachel, who will be Jacob's wife, one of his two wives.  In Genesis 29:17, it says of Leah that she had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.  And not just in the Book of Genesis, but throughout the Old Testament, for example, Esther's physical beauty was a major feature in that story.  If she were not as beautiful, I think she would not have been chosen as queen, as pointed out in that story.

It is openly discussed in the book Song of Solomon, in which the king is just praising his wife for her physical beauty.  Now, I find the descriptions interesting, and I'm not going to read them all, but in Song of Solomon 4:1, for example, "How beautiful you are, my darling!  Oh, how beautiful!  Your eyes behind your veil are doves.  Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead."  So, try that husbands with your wives and see what they say.  They may be blessed by it, they may not, but try it.  But at any rate, if that doesn't work, then find something to praise about your wife, but the physical beauty is a major theme in the book of Song of Solomon.  And then in Song of Solomon 7:5, it says, "Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel. Your hair is like royal tapestry; the king is held captive by its tresses."  Now it's a very interesting expression.  Basically, you've chained me up with your beauty and therein lies the power of female physical beauty.  It's a power to hold in thrall, in thrall means in chains, the attention of a man, and so it's a major theme here.  Sarai's physical beauty openly stated in verse 11, "I know what a beautiful woman you are.”

This Hebrew phrase literally means beautiful to look at, outward beauty, physical appearance, especially in the face.  And it's stated again in verses 14 and 15, "When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.  And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace."  Sarai's physical beauty was so astounding that it became in effect the talk of the land.  It started out just with commoners, as they saw.  He was just coming basically as a refugee because of the famine, and it became the topic of conversation.  Someone heard of it in the court and praised her to Pharaoh, and next thing she knows, she's drafted into his harem.  It doesn't say anything about the harem, but I imagine that Pharaoh already had a number of wives, as was the custom among pagan kings of the time.  And so in the spirit of the age, the tyrant King Pharaoh, says, "She's beautiful, I'll take her."  And she comes into his harem.  And therefore, physical beauty is a powerful force in the Bible and in human experience.  I'm going to say more about this topic later in the application section, but this is one thing I learned, and it hasn't changed, it continues to be an issue even to this day.

Proper and Improper Views of Marriage

Secondly, we see concerning human nature, proper and improper views of marriage.  Look at verses 11-15, "As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, 'I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.”  Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.'  When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.  And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace."  Now, Abram should have been protecting his wife, in effect standing in front of her with her behind and he protecting her from the dangers that would come in this foreign land rather than the other way around, him standing behind her physical beauty, so that her beauty becomes his shield of protection.  Abram was willing to put Sarai in harm's way to keep himself safe.  Now, some commentators feel that Abram never intended it to go as far as it did, I think that's probably true. 

Probably he thought, when he says, "I will be treated well for your sake," that he could play a kind of con game.  He could keep suitors at arm's length, they would bring him gifts, they would bribe him, they would try to get his attention and hers, and he say, "Well, we'll let you know next week. Don't call us. We'll call you."  And just keep the thing going for as long as he needed to, and in this way, he would benefit greatly.  I don't think he ever imagined that Pharaoh would get interested in her and probably went far beyond what he imagined.  What a gamble Abram was willing to take with his own wife.   God intended a husband to be willing to lay down his life to protect his wife, after the very pattern that Jesus Christ Himself set, where it says in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."  Abram had an improper view of marriage.  Pharaoh also had an improper view of marriage.  Almost certainly he intended Sarai to be one of his harems as I mentioned, and he knew nothing about her whatsoever other than her physical beauty.  Now, physical beauty may be the spark that ignites some attention, but it's no firm foundation for a marriage.

Pharaoh, however, didn't look at marriage the way a Christian should, namely the bonding of two godly people together for the advancement of the kingdom of heaven and for procreation, for the birth of Godly children, but rather he just looked on her as perhaps a vessel for his pleasure.  She was pretty, and that was all that was required of the position of Pharaoh's wife, so he also had an improper view of marriage.  God alone upholds the view of marriage in this text.  Six times in the account, Sarai is called Abram's wife, lest you miss it.  You should go through and count them again and again and again, she's called Abram's wife.  No lie on Abram's part, no action or decree on Pharaoh's part can change that.  She is his wife, and that's the end of the matter.  God's judgment on Pharaoh and on his household shows the seriousness with which God upheld Abram's marriage.  We'll speak more about this in a moment.  

Abram’s Moral Failing

The third thing we notice about human nature comes from Abram's failings, his character flaws.  We see five things in him, faithlessness, cowardice and fear, lack of love, deceit, and poor modeling.  Now, it's somewhat with fear and trembling that any pastor would be pointing out the failings of a man like Abraham.  When you think about where his faith eventually will lead him, he's willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac on the altar by faith, trusting God to raise him from the dead, then it's hard for us to even question this man.  Yet, I believe that examples like this are given so that we can learn from their failings and from their moral weakness and be warned thereby and not do those same things.  First, we see in Abram, faithlessness.  At least this much is the case, God was able to keep Abram and Sarai with enough food during the famine so that they didn't need to leave the Promised Land.  Remember that God called Abram to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go to the Promised Land.  We have no word from the Lord that he is to depart the Promised Land right here and go to Egypt.  In one sense, if he had trusted God enough to keep him in the famine, to find food for them during the famine, which God is abundantly able to do, he never would have gone to Egypt to begin with, and would have avoided this whole problem.  But that's reading between the texts.  At least this much, we know.  He displays faithlessness in other ways.  His fear shows a certain kind of faithlessness, doesn't it?  God has already promised to Abram through his offspring, all peoples on earth would be blessed, his seed or his descendants will inherit this land.  He has no seed.

Now, think with me, doesn't that make him immortal until he gets the seed?  Isn't it impossible for him to die until he has a child?  And so, he should have trusted God enough to say, "Nothing's going to happen to me here.  God's going to protect me.  He's going to keep me safe."  But instead, we see faithlessness and we see fear, very much like Jesus asleep in the back of the boat in the middle of a storm.  I've talked about it before.  How can He do that?  How can Jesus be asleep in the heaving waves?  Totally fearless in the middle of a storm because He trusted His Heavenly Father and knew His mission.  Jesus didn't come to drown.  He came to die on a cross.  So, therefore, He could lay asleep in the back of the boat and say, "There's no way that God's going to let me drown.  That's not why I came into the world."  When He woke up, He said to His disciples, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Abram's faith should have driven out his fear.  And we do see his cowardice and his fear here.  How unseemly it is for a man of God to be so craven and so fearful?  How ugly for a patriarch like Abram to have beads of sweat on his upper lip and a quavering voice and a darting eye and a palpitating heart as he was about to cross the border into Egypt?

We also see in Abram a lack of love.  How ugly it is for the future father of nations to think so little of his wife as to put her in such a dangerous course, in a dangerous position.  We see fourthly, of course, deceit, the one most obvious, "Say you are my sister."  It's a little bit of a half-truth.  We'll find out later in chapter 20, when this whole scene is replayed with Abimelech as Abram does it twice.  We will talk about that in due time but we see his deceit, his lying, his trickery.  And then we see also poor role modeling.  He's setting an example for his wife and for his household, eventually for his own son, because Isaac is going to do this exact same trick in Genesis 26, like father, like son.  It's not a good pattern that's set.  How effective a witness could Abram be with all of the Egyptians he's going to meet if this whole presentation of them is a lie?  

Ill Gotten Gains

A con game really whereby he can plunder them for wealth based on this lie concerning his wife, and he does get wealthy.  You see the ill-gotten gains. What does he end up with?   Look at verse 16, "Pharaoh treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels." Camels.  He got camels out of it.  That's pretty good.  I wonder how many camels he got for trading his wife.  How could he lie in bed at night and think about those ill-gotten gains, what he was going to get and what he was going to do with all of these new camels?  And so, it's just another example, I think, of biblical honesty concerning sin, even of its greatest heroes.  To me, one of the greatest evidences of the Bible's truthfulness is how honestly it exposes the flaws of even its greatest heroes.

Biblical Honesty About Human Sin

The Bible hides nothing.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through Jesus Christ.  Even Abraham, the forefather of faith, needed a savior and was, in his heart, a wicked man by the perfect and holy standards of heaven.  Now, if that word “wicked” causes you to catch a little bit as we consider this great man, Abraham, understand I said by the standards of heaven.  It was Paul himself that described the label to Abraham in context in Romans 4:5, "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."

God’s Nature

What does that mean for us?  There's no one righteous.  There's no one here in this sanctuary today, not the pastor, not the worship leader, not any in the choir, not any deacons or leaders or anybody in this room that's going to be able to stand before God based on their own righteousness.  Every one of us has sinned.  If a record like this were written of some of our worst days, too, how embarrassing and humiliating would it be?  And these are the lessons I take from this text concerning human nature.  What do we learn about God from this text? 

God’s Providence

Well, first, we see God's providence.  We see God acting very strongly and energetically in this matter.  God is an active player in human history.  He does not merely lay back or wait for things to happen.  He is an active worker of His purposes.  He controls the outcome for his own ends.  Throughout the book of Genesis, we see God speaking, guiding, working, manipulating, judging, convicting, blessing.  Again and again, He is guiding and navigating the ship of history.  And so, is rebuked the false doctrine of deists that teach that God merely created the world and wound it up like a clock and it just runs on its own.  God interferes with history.  Benjamin Franklin, a noted deist, said this, "I imagine it great vanity in me to suppose that the Supremely Perfect does in the least regard such an inconsiderable nothing as man."  Well, Benjamin Franklin, that sounds very pious.  In effect, God is so mighty to be even giving me a single thought, but yet it is not the God of the Bible.  For the God of the Bible is actively involved in the smallest details of your life.

He knows the course of your decisions.  He knows the track that you are following.  And we see this, again and again, as God regularly interferes, if we can use that word, in events to turn them the way that He chooses.  Now, what is God's providence?  Well, one defined it this way.  Providence is the almighty, everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by his hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures, and so, governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.  And that includes the famine that led Abram and Sarai out of the Promised Land to begin with.  It was under God's hand that had occurred, providence of God.  God is actively involved in your life.  Nothing that's happening to you right now is happening by chance, but God is sovereign and rules over all things for His glory.  

God’s Purity

Secondly, we see God's purity.  We've already covered this somewhat, but we see it in the way He upheld Abram's marriage.  We've already pointed out that Abram and Pharaoh had a faulty view of marriage, but God did not.  Upholding Abram's marriage, even when Abram did not.  You see, God never forgets that marriage was intended to be a picture of Christ and the church.  He never forgets that.  And so it says in Ephesians 5:31 and 32, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church.”  You see, God never forgets that.

He knows very well what marriage is.  Our society is getting a little confused, isn't it?  We're starting to wonder what marriage is.  I listened to a secular radio station recently as they were discussing the events concerning gay marriage up in Massachusetts and it occurred to me that they don't have the first idea how to define marriage.  They don't know how to define it and apart from God telling us what it's for, we can't define it.  I challenge you to give a good definition of marriage that will sustain this onslaught and stand up in court, have nothing to do with the Scripture or not come down from God himself.  You can't do it.  If you throw out God's right to define what marriage is, you end up with a morass, a sea of uncertainty, and anything goes.  I hope it doesn't happen in this country, but you can see it's already starting to happen.  Anything goes.  But God is pure in his understanding of marriage, and He knows that it means one man and one woman, one flesh, a picture of Christ and the church.

God’s Punishment

Thirdly, we see God's punishment chastening Pharaoh's house.  God's clearest act in this whole account, is his striking of Pharaoh with a withering disease.  The word in the Hebrew, usually translated as leprosy, and it could be that there was at least some leprosy, a dread disease perhaps, of the skin or something like that.  God's action here is much more serious than He will act in Genesis 20 with Abimelech, as we'll see in due time.  But we see God's punishment as he reaches out and interferes and brings a judgment on Pharaoh for taking another man's wife.  

God’s Patience

We see also God's patience in putting up with Abram's weakness.  Aren't you glad that God does not deal with us as our sins deserve?  Aren't you glad that He waits patiently for us to repent?  Aren't you glad that He's willing to bear with our weakness and our failing and not throw us out the first time we make a mistake?  Praise God for that.  Think about Pentecost, God did not throw out Peter, even though he denied Jesus three times, but used him mightily.  Now, this is no excuse for sin, but at the same time, we rejoice in the patience of God in putting up with Abram and with all of us as we sin. 

God’s Protection

We see God's protection setting a wall around Abram and Sarai.  This is a remarkable thing.  The devil, speaking of Job said he couldn’t get at him and asked God., “Have you not put a hedge around him and everything he has?”  Satan could not get to Job.  Exactly, exactly.  And neither will Satan get to any of us except with God's permission.  God alone permits the things that come to you and He has put a wall of protection on Abram.  How do you see that?  Well, let me ask you a question.  How in the world did Abram and Sarai get out of Egypt with all of the stuff they plundered from them?  I mean, what are the odds that Pharaoh didn't just give an order and have Abram killed, take Sarai into the harem and be done with it?  And yet, God sovereignly protects Abram and his possessions.  He even gets to keep the ill-gotten gains.

Now, we learned a bad lesson from it and say, "Hey, that's a good scam." but just do that again with Abimelech in Chapter 20.  I mean, you get wealthy that way.  Well, that's not what it was meant for, but God did put a hedge of protection around him.  And Abram should have trusted in that protection when he went into Egypt, rather than hiding behind his wife for his protection.  His wife was not a shield, God was a shield.  God saw to it that Abram and Sarai and everything he had be protected, as with a wall, until he got out of Egypt--an amazing thing.  And so, we've learned lessons also concerning the nature of God.

Lessons in God’s Redemptive Plan

Eternal Plan

Now, what about God's redemptive plan?  Well, first of all, God's plan is an eternal plan and no changes are possible.  God is not going to permit somebody other than Abram and his seed to be the one through whom all peoples on earth will be blessed.  It's going to be Abram.  And before the foundation of the world, God had worked out this plan.  God had ordained to call Abraham to be the father of the Jews.  Like Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, salvation is from the Jews so the Savior would have a Jewish genealogy.   God ordained that and nothing was going to change His plan.  God's plan was perfectly worked out before the foundation of the world.  The prophet Isaiah put it this way in Isaiah 14:26-27, "This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations.  For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart Him?  His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?"  That is the sovereign power of God.  His plan is an eternal plan, no changes are possible.

Declared Plan

Secondly, His is a declared plan.  He's unfolded it to Abraham, to Abram at this point.  Leave your country and your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.  I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse.  And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.  Abram already knew that God had planned, from eternity past, to bless all peoples on earth through him.  He also knew that he would do this through standard biological multiplication.  He would have a child.  "To your offspring I will give this land.” in verse 7.  And so, the end goal of worldwide blessing was already clearly revealed.

Unfolding Plan

Thirdly, however, this is an unfolding plan.  Not everything in God's redemptive plan was clear at this point.  We know some things but other things we don't know, and so the thing is going to unfold.  It's only partially understood.  Abraham would come to understand that, in Genesis 13, his offspring would inherit the land, he already knew that, but they would be as numerous as the dust on the Earth.  Well, that was something new.  And then in Genesis 15, they would be like the stars in the sky, so shall your offspring be.  And then the covenant.  He tells him in Genesis 15, the exact extent of the Promised Land, “…I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates…”  and to the Great Sea.  And so, he unfolds it.

And then in Genesis 17, He gives them the covenant of circumcision.  That's something new.  It's an unfolding plan.  And then in Genesis 18, specifically that it would be through Sarah that the descendant would be born and that he would come in a year's time.  You remember when Sarah laughed when she heard that, but it was true.  God had ordained it would be through Sarah.  So this is in an unfolding redemptive plan.  God has already declared the end, all nations on earth will be blessed.  But step by step, he starts to unfold His redemptive plan.  It's an unfolding or a partially revealed plan.

Opposed Plan

Fourth, it's an opposed plan.  The devil nowhere appears here, but I see the devil's work all over this thing.  The devil's going to oppose everything that God tries to do.  He's heard already what God's promised to Abram.  He knows the promise, and he's going to try what he can to put a wedge between him and Sarah.  He's going to try to break apart their family and their home.  He's going to try to destroy it in some way, muddy the waters, stir things up, maybe even get Abraham killed if he can.  And so, this is an opposed plan.  He's going to fight it every step of the way, but he will fail.  He will fail because God has ordained that all peoples on earth will be represented at the throne and before the lamb.  Revelations 7:9-10, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’"  The devil is going to fail, but he's going to fight, isn't he?  He's going to try to oppose Abraham and his seed every step of the way, to try to snip the genealogical line, if he can.  It's an opposed plan.

Prophetic Plan

And finally, it's a prophetic plan.  One little aspect of this is very interesting to me.  God prophesies or predicts the future in two different ways.  There's verbally predictive prophecy, such as, "Through you all nations on earth will be blessed," or, "To your descendants, I will give this land."  That's just something God says straight out and that's the way it is.  But then there's what we call typically, or type-prediction prophecy, in which certain things are acted out in history.  In their acting out, they pre-figure something that's going to come later.  And so, Abram and Sarai leaving Egypt is a picture of the Exodus later on.  If you think about it, God, in a way, calls Israel His bride.  He does that in Jeremiah, "Like a bride, you followed me."  And he loved.  And there's that love relationship between God and His people.  Alright?  And He's rescuing his wife out of Pharaoh's household by means of these plagues that come on Pharaoh.  And as they come out, they plunder the Egyptians and carry all these possessions and they go out. It's a picture of the exodus, a little miniature one, but a picture of it nonetheless.  And so, we see it's a prophetic plan.

Application

Well, how should we apply this?  We've looked this morning at three aspects of this Old Testament narrative.  What have we learned about man?  And we've seen that.  We've seen what we can learn about the unchanging God that we worship.  We've seen something of His redemptive plan and how it's unfolding and being fulfilled.  How do we apply this across 4,000 years to us today?  Well, let's start with the first thing that we learned about human nature, namely godly stewardship of physical beauty.  Feminine beauty is a great gift from God and a powerful influence as we've seen in Biblical history, but feminine beauty can also be a dangerous thing.  Such power wielded in the hands of a godless woman can destroy a man.  We see that in the Bible, don't we?

We see Samson brought low by his love for Delilah's beauty.  We see Solomon brought low by foreign wives.  We see David brought low and humiliated by his lust for a woman who bathed out in the open, named Bathsheba.  We see Amnon ruining his life because of his lust for his half-sister Tamar.  We see Herod inflamed by lust for a dancing girl order the execution of John the Baptist, the very thing he didn't want to do.  And so we see the incredible power there of feminine beauty.  As much of an issue as it was back in biblical days, it may even more so be one today, because of the technology for spreading images and pictures all over the world.  There are whole industries that exist to enhance the physical beauty of a woman.

Do you know how much money is spent on cosmetics worldwide in a year?  I was shocked by this, $112 billion.  The number one cosmetic purchasing nation on earth is America, Japan is second.  So whole industries exist for enhancing feminine beauty, but there are also whole industries that exist for exploiting feminine beauty as well.  Have you ever noticed in the magazine racks at the supermarket how many of them show just the picture of a woman on the cover?  Whether she's dressed in an honorable way or not, there's a woman on the cover.  Why?  Because of the ability of a beautiful woman to attract attention, to gain attention, to catch your eye and to hold it.  And this is the reason that they choose this.  And so, this is a very powerful force.  Therefore, a godly woman recognizes the power of her physical beauty and refuses to be a stumbling block to her Christian brother or sister.

Some forms of dress are openly designed to flaunt and to exploit and expose feminine beauty.  Some styles are called hot or alluring, or flattering, or enticing, or perhaps even just sexy.  I guess I would urge each Christian woman listening to me today to ask some questions of herself.  Question number one, what is my motive for selecting this style?  Why am I choosing this?  Secondly, what am I trying to accomplish by wearing this?  Thirdly, is it possible that this style could actually lead a Christian brother to stumble into lust?  Ask those questions.  Remember God's definition of feminine beauty in 1 Peter 3:3-6, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

This is the way the godly women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.  They were submissive to their own husbands.  Like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.  You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.  Now, I think one of the great problems with this emphasis on external physical beauty is that a woman can be made to feel less and less worthy as she ages and loses some of her youthful, physical beauty.  I believe, according to 1 Peter 3 and the Scriptural emphasis on the internal godly, humble beauty of a spiritual woman, that you can be even more beautiful at age 95 in a nursing home, laying on your bed praying for evangelization of the nations or praying for your church or your family to walk with God.  You could be even more beautiful then, than you ever were at age 25.  Now, that's unheard of in the way we think in America.  You think the older you get, the less beautiful you are, but it's exactly the opposite.

You, as a woman, can become more and more and more beautiful if you understand beauty, biblically.  Concerning the men, realize it's not just the women that need to watch over this issue, but the men also need to guard their eyes.  It says in Job 31:1, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”  And so. on both ends of the street, there needs to be help.  The Christian ladies need to be careful about what they wear.  I'm not saying in any way that we should go to the extreme that the Muslims go in covering up the women entirely.  I remember I wanted to get pictures of Muslim women when I was in Pakistan.  The only way I could do it without getting assaulted and arrested is by taking a picture of a friend of mine, and then they would be walking across the street over the guy's shoulder so I could take pictures.  There's an extremism there that is evil.  Nor do I believe that 1 Peter 3 says that women should never braid their hair or wear jewelry.  I don't think the Bible teaches that either.  It's just that's not the source of your beauty because those things can be taken away but an internal godly beauty can never be taken away.

Secondly, a godly view of marriage.  Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  Don't follow Abram's example in this.  Rather, you be out in front protecting your wife, not hiding behind her and let your trust in the promises of God be the physical, as it were, and even spiritual shield for your wife.  Understand marriage the way God did.  Understand that He considers her your wife, and He considers him your husband, if you're husband or wife.  Thirdly, let faith drive out fear.  It could be that some of you are facing something you're afraid of today.  I guarantee that there's some promise of God that your trust in, will drive out that fear.  If you would trust God concerning the promises, fear goes away. That's why Jesus was able to sleep in the boat, and you can, too.

And finally, trusting in God's unfolding redemptive plan.  God has a plan for your life.  He has a plan for the church, He has a plan for the nations, and He is unfolding that right now.  And we're not done being saved, are we?  God's continuing to work out His salvation in us, as we follow him through obedience, through sanctification, through putting sin to death, walking in a godly and upright way.  Trust in God's redemptive plan.  Trust in the fact that God sent Jesus to die on the cross for sins just like we've read about in this chapter today, and whatever sins there are in your life.  Trust in Christ and in Him alone as your righteousness, and you will never be put to shame.  Not today, not in the future, not even on judgment day.

Other Sermons in This Series

September 05, 1999

God Creates the Universe

Genesis 1:1-31

Andrew Davis

Book Overviews, Spiritual Warfare, The Doctrine of the Trinity, Miracles, Creation

September 12, 1999

The Special Creation of Man

Genesis 2:1-25

Andrew Davis

Covenants, Man as Male and Female, Gender & Sexual Identity, Marriage and Parenting

October 03, 1999

From Adam to Noah

Genesis 5:1-32

Andrew Davis

Redemption, Old Covenant, The Word of God, Prophecy

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