Faithful, yet flawed. Bold, yet bound. Courageous, yet cowardly. These are words that come to mind about Abraham as I read through Genesis 18 and 20. What can contradict the admirable qualities so that they become incapacitated? One little word…..fear.
These two chapters are almost describing two different men to me. Genesis 18 is one of my Old Testament favorites as it describes Abraham as he meets with the three visitors. These strangers were actually the Lord and two of His angels.
In this chapter, Abraham is humble, yet so bold I cannot even fathom how he speaks with the Lord as he does. I would have been quaking in my boots had I even tried to think such thoughts, much less say them to the Lord! How he says to the Lord, ” Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” in verse 25 and then the six times he asks the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah is beyond my comprehension! All I can think is that his boldness testifies of his intimacy with the Lord his God. He is my inspiration in this chapter!
Judging by the Lord’s response to him reveals that Abraham did not cross any lines in his attitude and boldness toward God. His humility matched his boldness. What an example!!
Then I get to chapter 20 and read an all too familiar scenario. This circumstance is almost exactly what happened back in Genesis 12:10-20, but instead of Pharoah in Egypt, it involves Abimelech in Gerar. Same old situation, same old response from Abraham. What is so amazing to me is that this happens after the hindsight of Egypt and on the heels of Abraham’s boldness with the Lord! What was all that for?! Wasn’t that worth something?! Why was there not a different Abraham facing this “do-over”?
I think it is because he still had some baggage with him that he carried from his past. Fear is insidious. It had it’s grip on him and was all to happy to make the journey with him, wherever he went. So as faithful, and bold, and courageous as he was to follow God and fight to rescue Lot (Genesis 14), he was still very much afraid.
I understand his conflict. I relate more than I want to admit. I was pondering recently who I am and why I am the way I am. God tenderly recalled my first two memories in life. My earliest memories involve traumatic events that happened to me, which were beyond my control and left me feeling vulnerable, unsafe and unprotected. The lasting results, or baggage, was that I generally feel fearful and insecure much of the time, which then explains my tendency in my adulthood to be guarded and controlling in life. I am trying to protect myself and my world. And isn’t that what Abraham is doing? Whereas he was my inspiration in chapter 18, he is my partner in crime in chapter 20.
Fear does not always produce the most wise and beneficial responses to life’s circumstances. Fear often gives a knee-jerk response that does not make sense in hindsight, but in the moment, it will do just fine! Maybe that is why God says hundreds of times in the Bible for us not to fear or be afraid. He knows how detrimental fear is to our faith.
I have heard it said that fear is the opposite of faith. And I believe it. I cannot live in fear and truly trust God. These actions are in conflict with one another. Fear incapacitates my faith, it hinders it. That is where the light goes off in my mind and reveals the gracious reason for the “do-overs” in life. God is giving opportunities for His children to exercise faith and break free from the stronghold of fear. John 8:36 reminds me, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
I was meant to be free. Abraham was meant to be free. You are meant to be free. God never intended for us to settle for less. He even provided much grace and mercy along the way until we can journey without the yoke keeping us bound in fear. He is patient and compassionate with us even while we blow our do-overs.
This is evidenced in Abraham’s life as the promise of a child comes to fruition after 25 years, right after he repeats his action to lie out of fear and put Sarah at risk. God gave him what he did not deserve (grace) and did not give him what he did deserve (mercy). How many times has this happened to me? Countless! Because His grace is greater than my sin (Romans 5:20-21) and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
How this grows our faith, when God meets our fear with His compassion and faithfulness! No wonder He is such a Wonder!! We learn first hand that His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So as much as fear testifies against our faith, the blood of Christ testifies on our behalf and so we are set free yet again! Jesus conquered our do-over, once and for all! Oh what a Savior!!