I’ve been reading through Abraham’s story the past couple days. If someone wanted to make up a perfect figurehead for the launch of a religion, Abraham would not be it. His life was full of contradiction. I know it’s usually David, with the whole Bathsheba incident/cover-up and the “man after God’s own heart” moniker, that gets played up as the example of living on both ends of the field – but I don’t think he has much on Abraham.
He was so faithful to God that he left his homeland at God’s request, with only a vague direction regarding where he was going. “I’ll tell you when you get there.” was good enough for Abram to go. He trusted God so much that when he and his nephew, Lot, needed to separate their ‘tribes’, he let Lot have the first choice of land – putting all his hope in God to provide for him in whatever option was left. He was such an honorable man that he refused the spoils of a victory over the kings who’d captured Lot and his family – not allowing any man to lay claim to a future prosperity that Abram knew was coming.
But he also pimped out his wife into royal harems twice, once to Pharaoh in Egypt (“Say you’re my sister, so I’ll be treated well… and my life will be spared…”) and once to King Abimelech in Gerar. Now, I understand you couldn’t just say no to royalty, but Abraham wasn’t trusting God in these moments of fear. After God promised him descendants, he and Sarah ran out of patience – she gave him her servant Hagar to take care of the child bearing duties. Bigamy wasn’t unheard of in that time/place, but it also wasn’t God’s ideal. Once Hagar became pregnant, he essentially “gave her back” to a very jealous Sarah and allowed Sarah to mistreat her to the point where Hagar fled. Nice guy!
I’m not bringing this up to disparage Abraham, by any means. But this type of contradiction makes me think, and gives me hope (’cause I screw up sometimes, too). When Abraham wisely sent his servant back to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac, there was some fear in the servant as he made his promise to follow Abraham’s instructions: “What if I can’t find a young woman to come back with me?” Abraham’s answer reveals the ledger that reconciles the many contradictions of his life: “The Lord, in whose presence I have walked… will make your mission successful.”
Abraham lived with God. He recognized His presence.
He listened to God. He recognized His voice.
He obeyed God. He recognized His control over results.
A couple observations I glean from all this:
– Idolizing leaders is dangerous. Don’t worship great leaders – follow them as they follow Christ and worship Him alone. If my hope was in Abraham, and I had just read Genesis 12-25 for the first time, I would be seriously disillusioned right now!
– Fear causes really good people to do really stupid things. Abraham slipped up the most when he was most fearful of men. If God called you into the uncertainty, it is a great time to remember to be certain about Him. “Don’t fear the fog.”
– Being a leader has a lot more to do with God than it has to do with me. Seriously, what does a person have to do to disqualify themselves from leadership in God’s scheme? He is at work and is working through those who will live with Him, listen to Him, and obey Him.