Daily Reflections January 19, 2018
After Abraham’s bold questioning of God’s extent of mercy, one might assume that he has matured into a perfected model of morality. However, we find in this chapter that he is still flawed. He did not learn from his experience with Pharaoh in chapter 12 and thus falls into a very similar position.
We ought to first notice that this is at least the second time where a half-truth has not only threatened Abraham but also those around him. In a desire for personal preservation, he has put Sarah at risk, placed Abimelek at the brink of death, caused God to curse Abimelek’s household, and brought sin upon the kingdom. This may seem like a small deceptive maneuver by Abraham but it has a wide and devastating reach. We live in a culture where we prize personal autonomy and preservation.
The world we live in often evaluates the morality of an action on the extent to which it benefits the person or causes harm to others. But we are rarely able to see the full effects of sin and deception and the benefits are often short-lived. In this case, it seemed like it was benefiting Abraham and would do little harm. However, we have the advantage of viewing it from God’s perspective. Not only did it not benefit Abraham but it jeopardized God’s covenant promise to him. And if God has not intervened it would have caused a nation-wide problem.
It should also be noted that God is the protector of his promises. God knew what was happening. He caused Abilelek to be ill and closed the wombs of his household so that Sarah would not be found to commit adultery and a seed would not be born that could be said to have come from her. Either of these would have cast doubt on the covenant promise that God made with Abraham in Genesis 12/15. But even though Abraham was careless, God stepped in to providentially protect his plan to fulfill his covenant.
We see a taste of this as Abimelek gives him the choice land at the end of the chapter and more vividly in the birth of Isaac in the next chapter. God is sovereign and will work all things to fulfill his divine will.
This is wonderful news for those whom God has promised to bless! He will not fail. And he will not let man thwart his plan – even you! Do not be careless like Abraham but be confident that when you are weak, God will prevail. The Apostle Paul states this hopeful theme succinctly:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Thanks be to God!
Yours in Christ,
Associate Pastor Evan Webster
In Matthew 19 we encounter Jesus’ second teaching on divorce. Astute readers will remember that Jesus already addressed this subject in His sermon on the mount (Matt 5:31-32). On that occasion he spoke the following words:
“It was also said ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Unlike Matthew 5, where Jesus was teaching what true discipleship looks like, in Matthew 19 he is responding to a test given Him by the Pharisees. In the days of Christ there was a branch of Jewish thought (Hillel) that used Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to justify divorce for a multitude of absurd reasons. For example, this school of thought taught that a man could divorce his wife because of an improperly cooked meal. This was a clear abuse of the Scriptures.
Jesus responds to the Pharisees question of, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” by building a case against divorce as a whole. He roots his argument in Genesis and shows that God’s original design was for man and woman to be united as one flesh and to not be separated.
God’s good design for marriage does not include divorce and it is to the Pharisee’s shame that they begin their discussion at this point. Nevertheless, Jesus is aware of the destructive power of sin and does permit divorce in severe circumstances (in the context of Matthew 19 Jesus refers explicitly to sexual immorality). These situations, however, are by no means the norm and it is clear that Jesus answers the question of the Pharisees with a resounding no!
This teaching of Christ should remind us of both the beauty and difficulty of marriage. Even the disciples were taken aback by how serious Jesus understood marital vows to be. They responded to Jesus’ teaching by saying,
“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” (v. 10).
These words of the disciples are certainly true for the person who wishes to live a selfish lifestyle. Marriage is unquestionably one of God’s greatest tools in the sanctification of His people. It provides both partners with countless opportunities to grow in kindness, patience, and forgiveness. It is for this reason that when marriage gets difficult our minds should not quickly turn to escape and divorce, but rather we should ask how we might better imitate Christ in the face of these challenges.
Director of Youth Ministries Ryan Shevalier