Disobedience and Lies
In 1927 two graphic artists, Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney, created a new cartoon character for Universal Studios by the name of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the world of entertainment was forever changed. Over the last 85 years the world has been touched by the Disney corporation in one way or another. Most famously the Walt Disney Company has a way of taking Fairy Tails and bringing them to life on the screen right in front of us.
In 1991 the Walt Disney Company released their version of a 1740 French Story entitled Beauty and The Beast and it quickly made it’s way into the homes and hearts of families world wide. I’m sure you know that story, or at least the Disney version of the story.
A young spoiled Prince was visited by an old beggar-woman who offered him a rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. He was repulsed by her appearance and turned her away. Then the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful Enchantress, who punished the prince by transforming him into a hideous Beast, and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there.
In the 21st year of his curse, a young visitor appears on the steps of the castle and offers to take the place of her sick father who was captured and thrown in the dungeon for trespassing. Through a series of events, the young girl goes from being repulsed, to falling in love with the Beast, and at the very last moment she professes her love for the Beast who transforms back into a handsome Prince. And they live happily after every after.
Now while you have that story bouncing around in your mind let me tell you a different story. Sam Williamson writes about the following conversation in His blog, Beliefs of the Heart: Several years ago I met with a woman distraught by her son’s rejection of Christianity. She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.” She was struggling with the fact that he had rejected Christianity and was wondering what could she have done differently. Sam says he wondered why it took him so long.
In my mind these stories fit perfectly together, but you might have a bit of trouble connecting the dots so let me see if I can explain this just a bit. This morning we are going to start a new series looking at the hero’s of the faith who were at best broken and shameful. I am struck by the fact that the Bible is willing to tell the whole story, warts and all. What do we do with those stories that make us a bit uncomfortable? We sanitize them, so that good Godly people can talk about them.
In the same way that Disney sanitizes their Fairy Tails to make them appropriate for younger viewers, we feel the need to cleanse the Biblical accounts of history so we don’t traumatize our kids. Here’s what I mean:
Abraham was faithful, and God made him the father of a nation. So be faithful like Abraham.
Moses was a good little boy who choose God over the riches of Egypt and God blessed him. So be good like Moses.
David had a pure heart and God made him King of Israel. So have a pure heart like David.
Esther was an obedient girl. God made her Queen of Persia and she saved God’s people. So be obedient like Esther.
These are neat little stories that can be wrapped up in a nice little bow, but if we are willing to look at the whole story we will see that these stories are not exactly the story that the Bible teaches. From Genesis to Revelation, that Bible teaches that God lovingly pursues people who are unworthy of His love.
This is where Beauty and the Beast comes in to the discussion. The gospel story is not that God loves us because we are beautiful; the Gospel story is what happens when Beauty kisses the Beast. The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved.
The Gospel story is that God loves us before we are good. It’s an idea that we need to redeem and then shout it from the top of every building in mid-county. We need to know without a doubt that God’s love isn’t vague emotionalism. God sacrificed His most precious treasure to turn us into His prized possession. The story of the Bible is God’s search and rescue mission to find the dying beast and bring him into joyous life.
The Bible tells the truth that Moses was angry and God loved him and pursued him; that David was a murdering adulterer and God loved him and pursued him; and that Esther had sex outside of marriage with a pagan and God loved her and pursued her. These hero’s of the faith weren’t loved because they were good; they were good because they were loved.
As we start this look at the lifestyles of the broken and shameful, I wanted us to look at a lying idol worshiper that God not only loved but pursued. Abraham, the Father of Faith; what a wonderful nickname. As sons and daughters of God we all want to be know or at least considered faithful.
You know the sanitized story of Abraham as a beautiful account of faith and obedience. In Genesis 11 we are introduced to a man named Abram, the son of Terah who put down roots in land of Haran. After his dad dies, God comes to Abram and says if you will pack up your family and follow where I lead then I will bless you.
So that’s what Abram does, he sets out on this beautiful journey of faith and along the way God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, as a sign that he would be the father of a nation. God blesses him with gold and silver, he stockpiles cattle and servants, and has a son named Isaac. All the time Abraham’s faith in God is strong and he never wavered even when God asked him to sacrifice his young son Isaac.
And while Abraham never ended his journey, we know that he followed God faithfully for 100 years and his story ends in Genesis 25 with these words; Abraham lived to be one hundred seventy- five years old. He breathed his last breath and died at an old age, after a long and satisfying life.
WOW! What a wonderful story of faith, of a life that that God honors, and one that we can tell our children without having to answer to many questions. But it’s not the whole story, and if we are going to be honest, we need to tell the whole story.
Small Decisions and Wrong Choices
Abraham’s life and his experience with God is filled with small decisions and wrong choices that have lasting consequences. There are times that we try to clean up these stories or downplay the consequences of Abraham’s decisions. Abraham was the father of the Israelite Nation, and through his blood line our Savior would be born, but through his small decisions and wrong choices he was also responsible for the Israelites greatest enemies.
In Genesis 12:1 God comes to Abraham and tells him, Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. That seems like a very straight forward request, Abram you can take your wife, but leave your relatives and follow me.
In other words, this is a journey for you and Sari; but in verse 5 we see the first small decision and wrong choice that would have great consequences. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan.
The Sunday School version of this story is that Abram was such a compassionate and loving uncle that he took Lot, the son of his deceased brother, on this incredible journey. But the Biblical account is that God told Abram to leave Lot with his other uncle Nahor in Haran. Abram’s small act of disobedience will have some pretty grave consequences.
When we get to Genesis 13 we see that there is a growing strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen, which ends with Lot moving to Sodom. Chapter 19 the story switches to Lot and it is one of the most disgusting chapters in the Bible. While we know about God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, and we know that Lot’s wife looked back at the city and was turned into a giant salt lick, we tend to skip over the last part of the text.
In verse 30 we read that Lot has taken his two daughters to live in a cave. The older daughter devises a plan to continue the family line, but the problem is that the only man in the area was their dad. So they conspire to get Lot drunk and conceive children through him. They both gave birth to son’s who would become the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites. If you know your Bible, you will recognize those as enemy nations that harassed and fought and were a thorn in the side of Israel throughout the course of the Old Testament.
The law of sowing and reaping cannot be denied, Paul writes in Galatians 6:7: Do not be fooled: You cannot cheat God. People harvest only what they plant. What Abraham considered a small seed of disobedience resulted in a harvest of difficulty and hardship.
I am thankful that God included this story in the narrative, because it gives me hope in my own disobedience. While God will not take away the consequences of my sinfulness and lack of faith, He will continue to pursue and love me through those consequences.
Small Words with Big Implications
In Genesis 12 right after Abraham packs up everything in an effort to follow God we see they he began to feel the economic pinch of the famine in the land, so Abraham moved his family to Egypt. We don’t see anywhere that God directed him to move, he just pulled up stakes and moved. A journey that was started by faith was now taking a detour of fear.
As they neared the Egyptian border, Abram took one look at his beautiful wife and said, Sarai, I see some problems down the road. Pharaoh and his men will desire you, and they’re going to kill me in order to have you. So we’d better lie and say you’re my sister instead of my wife. The little scheme only half-worked. Abraham avoided losing his life, but poor Sarah was taken away and dropped in the royal harem. It was an outrageous and low-life thing to do. Abraham saved his own neck, but risked Sarah’s virtue and future.
Unfortunately that was not the only time that Abraham lived by fear instead of faith. In Genesis 20 we see Abraham, 25 years later experiencing a bit of déjà-vu. Once again Abraham is on the move and this time he camps in Gerar. We don’t have a record of a conversation between Abraham and Sarah, we just know that Abraham at 100 years old tells the people that his 91 year old wife Sarah was really his sister. And just like before the king sent some servants to take her to be a part of his harem.
I wonder when Abraham realized that he had lived this story before. I wonder if it even dawned on him that once again in his fear he was willing to make the same dumb decision. You would think that he would have been even more alert to this temptation. But the story repeats itself once again.
Abraham the faithful lets his fears dictate his actions. As a result of his distrust and deceit Abimelech takes Sarah to be one of his wives. I wonder how far the story played out before Abraham realized he had seen this before?
One of our go to actions when we are afraid is to lie, and Abraham was not immune to the temptation. But God doesn’t leave him there, to wallow in his lies. Instead God continues to love, forgive, and pursue. And as a show of His love, God even brings blessings into the life of Abraham. God wants Abraham and us to know that we are never alone, and in the same way we can say what the Psalmist says in Psalm 118:6 I will not be afraid, because the Lord is with me. People can't do anything to me.
Faithful does not mean Flawless
I find hope in the full story that the Bible tells about the Father of Faith. The Bible is not critical of Abraham, in fact there are instances in his story where he showed great faith. He is not just called the Father of Faith because no one could think of another name to call him. The Hebrew writer talks about his great faith in Hebrews 11, By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land.
It wasn’t just this one example of faith, but time and time again we read that Abraham believed and lived by faith. He believed that he would have a son at the age of 100, he believed that God would return his son after he sacrificed Isaac, he showed great faith when he bargained with God and went to war against Chedorlaomer.
In the midst of this great story of faith, the Bible is honest that Abraham was a man who struggled and sinned like we all do. I believe that’s the real point of his story, and our story as well; the whole point of the Gospel story is that God longs to redeems us. Abraham shows us that God wants to redeem liars and those of us who have made decisions thinking that we knew better than God and are now suffering through the consequences. When we look at the lives of the broken and shameful what we see is a love that covers a multitude of sins.
That’s the story that we all need to hear, and believe, and tell. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of shortcomings. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Too often I’ve starred at God’s promise and been unfaithful to Him. But it hasn’t kept Him from loving me. It hasn’t kept Him from blessing me. It hasn’t kept Him from making me righteous. That’s not an excuse to go out and sin some more since God’s grace is enough to cover it, but it sure is reason for us to love Him more!
Questions For You To Consider
Did you learn the complete story of Abraham as a child?
Why do you think we feel the need to sanitize the stories we find in the Bible?
This morning Jeremy said, “The gospel story is not that God loves us because we are beautiful; the Gospel story is what happens when Beauty kisses the Beast.” What does that mean?
How can we tell that story?
How did the law of sowing and reaping show itself in Abraham’s life?
How does that law show itself in your life?
Is the law of sowing and reaping always a bad thing?
What benefit can we get from being honest with our sins and God’s forgiveness?