Introduction: God battles long and hard against wickedness until He is victorious – justly destroying hardened perpetrators of sin while also mercifully delivering the saved sinner from his bondage – such as Abraham in Genesis 20. We often speak of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints.’ But it is more accurate to speak of God’s persevering with us, bringing us repeatedly back to the place of blessing and safety after we have strayed. May the Lord use these notes to help us follow more closely the steps of our God whose grace pursues us wherever we wander.
Monday: read Genesis 19:36-38. Genesis 19 closes with the births of Lot’s grandsons Moab and Ben-Ammi: fathers of two nations, the Moabites and the Ammonites. These two tribes practiced the detestable rite of child sacrifice. In 2 Kings 3:26-27 the King of Moab, Mesha, (whose ‘Moabite Stone’ is one of the archaeological treasures of the Louvre today in Paris), is so soundly defeated by Israel and Judah that he feels compelled in defeat to sacrifice his first-born son to appease his god’s wrath. God warns His own people from the beginning to avoid such nations and their worship. See Deuteronomy 12:31. Because of such vile religious practices, as well as the cruel hatred which Moab and Ammon showed towards Israel, God forbids these grandsons of Lot from entering into the sanctuary for worship – Deuteronomy 23:3-6 – even to the tenth generation!
Meditate and Pray: What a sad inheritance Lot passed on to his daughters, and through them, to their Moabite and Ammonite offspring. As we end this Old Testament portrait of Lot, we can sum up much of his life with these words of temptation and compromise: He ‘looked’ towards the plain; he ‘pitched his tent’ towards Sodom; he ‘sat’ in the gate’ of Sodom. And, at the last, he ‘hesitated’ in Genesis 19:16 when the Lord told him to flee. Ask God to make you more decisive in avoiding the evil influences which polluted Lot’s family. Ask Him to use His Spirit in your life to restrain you from sinful alliances, instead imitating the author of Psalm 1, not ‘walking’ in the counsel of the wicked, nor ‘standing’ in the way of sinners, nor ‘sitting’ in the seat of mockers.
Tuesday: read Genesis 19:36-38, Ruth 4:10-12 and Romans 5:20-21. One of the great ways in which God triumphs over sin is by unconditional grace, justifying the wicked with His free gift of saving righteousness: ‘Where sin increased, grace increased all the more,’ (Rom. 5:20). Even Ruth the Moabitess, (yes, descended from Lot’s vile incest), becomes a trophy of grace as she is adopted into the royal tribe of Judah through her marriage to Boaz in Ruth 4:10. Moreover, the prayer for the ‘offspring of Ruth’ in Ruth 4:12 is answered as King David and King Jesus are both descended from the children of this Moabite woman. Talk about God ‘bringing clean out of unclean!’
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that it is His desire to receive glory for Himself by saving those lost in darkness like the Moabites. He did not send His Son Jesus down to this earth to help and save people known for their own good-works and self-righteousness: for such ‘good and respectable’ people, seemingly upstanding by their own effort, rarely come to see their need of a Savior to die for them. Even though they live in a ‘Sodom-like’ world, they take pride in their position and in their own personal righteousness, condemning others’ sins and blind to their own. Thank Jesus that He came as The Good Physician to help the sin-sick, not those who in their own estimate are ‘well.’ Ask God to make you love the undeserving as He does: ‘He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful,’ (Luke 6:35-36).
Wednesday: read Genesis 20:1-2. Genesis 20 opens with a familiar pattern: Abraham dangerously on the move. He leaves the safe locale of Mamre in which he had entertained the Lord and enjoyed fellowship with Him (Genesis 18:18:1-8) and ends up, sadly, in a repeat of Genesis 12:10-20: under the protection of a pagan king. Then it was Pharoah King of Egypt; this time it is Abimelech, King of the Philistines in Gerar. Evidently the same old fears of destruction came upon him – as he again lies by claiming that Sarah is his sister, (Compare Genesis 20:2 with Genesis 12:13).
Meditate and Pray: Whether Abraham wanders to Egypt in Genesis 12 or here in Genesis 20 to the Philistines, the danger is the same: “Why did Abram move on and on until he came to Egypt? It was the enemy, who had tried to keep him OUT of the Promised Land in the first place…who now tries to drive him on and on out of God’s protection into Egypt itself, where he feels compelled to lie about Sarah in Genesis 12:13. Thus Satan seeks to hinder the purpose God had in view, namely, that through Abram, Isaac and Jacob and at last through Israel herself, Messiah Himself should come.” (William Still) The danger of bypaths into sin are real and to be constantly guarded against. Ask the Lord to enable you to ‘watch and pray not to fall into temptation.’
Thursday: read Genesis 20:1-9. We are ashamed for Abraham. By his lie, Abraham exposes the Philistine King to the guilt of unknowing adultery when he takes Sarah into his harem (Gen. 20:2). Though Abraham must have rationalized his ‘just’ one lie about Sarah, the results are disastrous. He almost loses her to Abimilech in Genesis 20:2. Sarah is only spared by a God-sent dream to save her from the Philistine. Most sad of all, we hear the Philistine King rebuke Abraham for the wrong of ‘bringing great guilt on the Philistine Kingdom’ (Gen. 20:9).
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to preserve our witness among men. Ask Him to use His sanctifying Spirit to restrain us from wrong. Most of all, ask Jesus to pray for us in our days of temptation, ‘that our faith will not fail.’ (Luke 22:31-32). We may be sure that such a prayer from One who is the Living Truth Himself will not fail to help us in our day of trouble.
Friday: read Genesis 20:6-18. Though God declares Abraham to be a ‘prophet,’ (Gen. 20:7), that role required his living up to the Word of God which he preached. However, as Abraham’s explanation to Abimelech in Genesis 20:11-13 shows, his lying was no one-time event but a habitual policy! What a shame: to be called as one who proclaims the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God’s promises and yet not to live fully committed to those promises himself! Is there any hope for him after years of telling this lie?
Meditate and Pray: In our disappointment with Abraham, we could wrongly conclude that there is no hope for real progress in the life of faith, i.e., “Yes, we are by grace chosen along with Abraham for a destiny of glorious salvation to come. But our progress is no better than Abraham – we simply go around in circles and come back to the same failures again and again!” But there is a more encouraging route to take. We could see this repeated failure on Abraham’s part as a token of God’s determination to rid Abraham of this lying problem once and for all. As Iain Duguid puts it in his book on Abraham’s life:
“What do you do when a horse refuses to take one certain jump? You walk the horse around for a while to calm it down, and then you take it right back to the same fence. If necessary, you do it over and over again until finally the horse sails over the fence, as it should. Abraham needed to learn that God can be trusted to take care of him and his family. He needed to learn that lesson well, because the ultimate test of trusting God with what was most precious to him (Isaac) was still coming up in Genesis 22. God would take him back to the same hurdle over and over again, so that he would be prepared to jump over it with flying colors.”
Thank God now for His persevering with Abraham and with us, going back to the sins of the past to help us to ‘unlearn’ the sinful habits of our earlier days and to learn to walk in newness of life.