Atrocious Abe, 5 February 2017

Atrocious Abe
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 12:10-13

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Jesus, not Abraham, is the ultimate example of a godly husband.

Today we’re resuming our series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. And the mess begins with the marriage. We all need help!

Abraham is one of the most important figures in human history. Some have called him, “Father Abraham.” When I was a child, we used to sing a song about him.

“Father Abraham had many sons/many sons had Father Abraham/I am one of them/And so are you/So let’s just praise the LORD.”

I think the reason it was so popular is it had motions that accompanied the music. Nevertheless, it taught me a bit about Abe. I like to say Abe not merely to make him sound a bit more hip and cool, but because it applies to both of his names. You see, Abraham used to be Abram, much like Paul used to be Saul.

A few weeks ago, we talked about righteous Noah and how at the end of his biblical story he is drunk and naked, not the most noble place to be! One of the lessons from Noah is even the godliest people are imperfect, and your good deeds in the middle of your life are no guarantee that your ending will be as positive. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes years to earn trust and seconds to lose it. Perhaps that is one reason Jesus said,

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

He did not say, “Pick up your cross and you’ll be set for life.” He said to truly be his disciple requires daily surrender. We can never rest on our past accomplishments.

Abe’s story ends well.

Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

But let’s back up.

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Imagine God says, “Go to the airport, board this airplane, and begin a new life wherever the plane lands.” Would you do it? Would you go? Would you leave your home, friends, family, and even your country to follow the LORD?

For centuries, people have been doing this very thing. Some of you have been led by God overseas. You’ve sacrificed, studied new languages, and said goodbye to everything you’ve known in this life to obey God. That’s faith!

If God calls you to relocate, you had better be sure you’re hearing from God and that it’s not bad lunch! I can think of two occasions when our family followed God’s prompting to move. The first was moving to Ann Arbor in 1998 to plant a church, launching a brand-new ministry from scratch. God was so good and faithful to us despite our humble beginning as a church of three in our living room!

The second big relocation felt like an international move for us. As a Michiganian, I always considered Ohio a foreign country and when God called us to Toledo we were so surprised! Now, of course, we love Toledo!

But I don’t say that to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith. Instead, it was God’s vision and clear direction which made both moves no-brainers for us. I’m sure Abe could relate. Listen to what God promises him:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth 
will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

That sounds good, right? Would you go to Michigan or Ohio if He promised that to you? What about Canada? Mexico? Africa?

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. (Genesis 12:4-5)

Obviously, he didn’t board a plane. This was a land journey of about 400 miles…without motorized transportation…with his family…

Have you ever traveled 400 miles with your family…WITH motorized transportation?! That’s about from here to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:6-7)

That’s a special moment! Look at this land, Abe. It’s not yours, but your offspring will get it someday. But don’t stop now! We’re not there yet!

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8)

Abram is obviously devoted to God. He must be quite the altar builder!

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:9)

So far, so good. Then we get to this unusual story.

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. (Genesis 12:10)

Remember, God promised to make Abram into a great nation. That means he will become a dad…eventually. In a sense, he was invincible. He
couldn’t die! God always keeps His promises. Always.

We’ve never experienced a famine, but I can imagine it would be scary. We all need to eat. But we don’t see Abe consulting God about what to do. Maybe God was going to miraculously feed Abe manna and quail. Perhaps God wanted this couple to travel to a place other than Egypt. We don’t know, but there’s no indication that Abe followed God into Egypt.

Have you ever faced a challenge and ignored God? Have you ever taken matters into your own hands rather than consulting the Creator? I confess I have. We often talk about making Jesus the LORD of our lives. That means He’s the boss. He’s in charge. He is always consulted before making important life decisions. Always.

But let’s suppose God told Abram to go to Egypt (which
is possible).

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-13)

Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

First, Abram is worried about himself. He’s sure his wife Sarai will be fine. The plan isn’t even for Abe to lie, but for his wife to do his dirty work! She’s supposed to lie for him! Now I’m sure if she loved her husband, she would obviously be concerned for his welfare, too. But Abe’s plan is hardly going to benefit her.

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. (Genesis 12:14-16)

Let’s give credit to Abram. He was right. The Egyptians found his sister—err—wife to be beautiful. She was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. What would Pharaoh want with a strange woman in his palace?!

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:17-20)

Abe’s plan worked. His life was spared. But what an ordeal. Can you imagine how Sarai must’ve felt during this whole experience? Abram receives grace—unmerited favor—despite his selfish, deceitful behavior. He became a biblical hero and the father of many nations, but this episode did not cause him to win Husband of the Year!

So What?

Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. Twice! It happened again in Genesis chapter 20. Look it up!

Parents—and grandparents—it’s important to remember the next generation(s) is watching you. Whether it’s interpersonal conflicts as we saw in the drama or habitual sins like dishonesty, children often become like their parents.

Abraham’s son, Isaac, lied about his wife being his sister! It’s in Genesis chapter 26. You can’t make this stuff up! I know the Bible’s true, if only because nobody would fabricate these embarrassing stories and call them sacred scripture!

One thing we continue to see in this series is the imperfections of the heroes of the Bible. I find this encouraging, knowing I’m not alone in my weak faith, selfishness, pride, and sinfulness. Obviously, the message is not, “Husbands, lie about your wives because it’s the biblical thing to do,” but rather a message of what NOT to do…and hope when we fail.


Jesus, ironically, sets the perfect example for husbands to follow…love and sacrifice, not selfishness and lies. Where Abram failed in the desert, for Jesus, the desert was the site of one of his finest hours, resisting temptation despite forty days of fasting. Paul famously wrote to the church in Ephesus

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:25-30)

That’s what real marriage looks like—true love that’s not based on feelings, but rather on commitment, even when it’s costly.

Jesus loved us, the Church, to the point of laying down his very life.

Jesus has entered into your suffering and into your disgraces and into your depressions and into your shames and into your pains. The cross is not just a redemptive place for the follower of Jesus. The cross is also the solidarity place where God joined us in our deepest death. Perhaps you’ve lost a friend who got drunk and then had a fatal car accident, or perhaps you’ve lost the joy of family togetherness because of divorce, or perhaps you’ve seen a friend waste away from some disease, or perhaps you’ve got a tattoo on your body that evokes bad memories. The cross is about that, too.

At the cross Jesus enters into our pain, into our tragedies, into our injustices, and into the systemic evil we have created and into the sins we have ourselves committed. But his solidarity with us is also an act of redemption.

Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Wedlock or Deadlock, 4 October 2015

    Wedlock or Deadlock?
    Series: What In The World Is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
    1 Peter 3:1-7

    Series Overview:
    God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

    Big Idea: Spouses, love one another and submit to Jesus.


    This morning we continue our series on 1 Peter, “What In The World Is Going On?” This short letter to the early, suffering church is a powerful message not only to an ancient people but is increasing relevant to modern Christians as we face persecution. We may never face the horrors of ISIS victims, but nevertheless we can—and perhaps should—feel in the minority as followers of Jesus in a world consumed with money, sex and power. The theme of this book may well be called hope and grace in the midst of suffering. We’ve looked at hope, holiness, harmony, and last week living a cruciform life in the way of the cross, knowing our suffering is temporary and known by God.

    Throughout the book, Peter has been talking about a very offensive word in our culture:

    Why do we struggle to submit?

    We want to do things our way. We live in a hyper-individualistic society. We can get seemingly anything customized and on-demand. Don’t like the selection of meat at your grocery store? Go down the street. You’ve got options! Don’t like your spouse? Trade them in for a newer model. Sick of your church? Hop over to another one.

    We want autonomy and control. We want to be independent and free. We want choices and often rebel when told what to do. Of course this is nothing new. It began with Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and His one prohibition in the Garden of Eden.

    Last Sunday we talked about submission to authority. This includes government and commerce, the president and your boss, in the original context the emperor and the slave’s master. It also involves church authority, submitting to godly leaders. Regardless of the outcome, we are to do the right thing knowing we will eventually be rewarded—and oppressors will eventually be punished. Perhaps most important was the example of Jesus who was unjustly treated, died sacrificially despite being innocent of all accusations, and sought to please the Father above pleasing people or even Himself.

    Today’s passage brings the subject of submission from the streets to the home. Peter addresses married people, but the message is applicable to all. If you are unmarried, don’t check out! Listen up. Perhaps someday you will have a spouse. The principles are relevant to all regardless of marital status…and they usually look nothing like Hollywood’s messages to us!

    Remember context is critical. We can never read the Bible in the same way the original recipients read it. Our world is so different. Peter was writing to an early church where a large number of women had husbands who were not yet Christians. It was likely a very patriarchal, restrictive society that debilitated the development of their gifts.

    1 Peter 3…

    Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (3:1-2)

    Likewise. In the same way. This refers to the previous verses on submitting to authority.

    We may suffer for doing good. If we suffer for doing evil, that’s to be expected. Jesus suffered for doing good. A perfect man was crucified unjustly. He glorified the Father through it all, though. He submitted to the Father’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested, Jesus prayed

    “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

    If you don’t like the idea of submission, you’re in the wrong place. Both husbands and wives are to first submit to Jesus…who submitted to the Father. This is about order, not value or importance. God has a place for everything and has ordained levels of authority.

    This does not mean we become doormats and let people manipulate and abuse us. We don’t have time to say much about this extreme, but I highly recommend the book
    Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

    They write

    We have never seen a “submission problem” that did not have a controlling husband at its root. When the wife begins to set clear boundaries, the lack of Christlikeness in a controlling husband becomes evident because the wife is no longer enabling his immature behavior. She is confronting the truth and setting biblical limits on hurtful behavior. Often, when the wife sets boundaries, the husband begins to grow up.

    In other words, “focusing on submission is almost surely an indicator that one’s priorities are messed up.” (Scot McKnight)

    One evangelical scholar said, “I believe in a wife submitting to her husband, but I don’t believe the husband ever has the right to demand it. In fact, I know that when I am worthy of submission, my wife submits; and when I am unworthy of it, she does not.”

    Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. (3:1-2)

    Peter is not saying wives are to be slaves or treated like children. Perhaps a better word than submit is respond. It is voluntary. Engage. Partner with your partner!

    Notice Peter’s reason: a witness to the unbeliever. Actions speak louder than words. The Bible warns against being “unequally yoked.” Marriages between a follower of Jesus and a person who is not following Jesus almost always results in grief to both. They have different world views. They have different goals.

    However, there are couples that—for a variety of reasons—are not spiritually compatible. In this instance Peter says to believing wife with unbelieving husbands let your behavior be so full of love and grace and purity that the husband sees real faith to be attractive.

    At the risk of reversing roles, my great grandfather was a bouncer in a bar in Hungary, accepted Christ through a co-worker (if I’m not mistaken), and freaked out his wife! She was skeptical of his faith and wanted nothing to do with Jesus—until she realized it was not a short-term phase he would grow out of but, instead, an authentic relationship with Jesus that was transforming him into a man filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

    Do you look like Jesus to your spouse? To your family? To your boss? To your friends?

    For decades there has been great emphasis on “sharing one’s faith” with words, telling people the gospel—the good news. That’s extremely important, but first we need to earn the right to be heard or we’ll never be heard. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They don’t care about Jesus until they meet Him through you! What kind of sermon are you preaching with your life, every day?

    Peter continues…

    Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. (3:3)

    This word “adornment” is
    kosmos in Greek, as in the cosmic universe or…cosmetics! It is the opposite of chaos.

    It has been said that beauty is on the inside. I think both external and internal beauty are attractive, but Peter’s saying it’s the inner self that matters most.

    Ladies, have you ever worn a wig? For that matter, men used to wear wigs. In the first century, hair was hugely important…and just huge! Wigs were very ornate.

    Women, inward beauty is most important, but don’t neglect yourself. You’re not of this world but that doesn’t mean you are to look like you came from out of this world!

    Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. (3:4-6)

    We know Sarah was beautiful. Several kings wanted her.

    We know Rachel was beautiful. Jacob worked fourteen years for Laban for her hand in marriage. (I’ve been secretly hoping that my future son-in-law would work 14 years for me before marrying Rachel!).

    Suffice it to say Peter is saying to women, “Love your husbands.” He’s not saying be a robot or a slave, but love your husbands. Look out for their best interests. Seek to serve them. Seek to bless them. Seek to honor them.

    Now we turn to the men, though he only provides us with one sentence to husbands.

    Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (3:7)

    Husbands, honor your wife. Be a gentleman. Open doors. Buy flowers. Talk with her…in person…with the phone put away!

    The phrase “be considerate” literally means “living with one’s wife knowledgeably.” Husbands, do you know your wives?

    We are to love and know our wives

    physically. This is not just sexually, but presence, protection, and time
    intellectually. Know her needs, feelings, hopes, fears, and moods
    emotionally. Be honest, humble, reconcile when you’ve sinned, and respect her
    spiritually. Pray for her. Pray with her.

    Keep dating her. If I hear another married man say to me, “When we were dating…”

    Some women have been offended by Peter calling wives the weaker partner. He’s not insulting them, but rather emphasizing how men need to care for their wives, treating them as partners, as different but equals. Most wives are physically weaker than their husbands and men are to use their strength to serve—never control or harm—their wives. Simply put, men love your wives. Look out for their best interests. Seek to serve them. Seek to bless them. Seek to honor them.

    Notice those final seven words: “so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Don’t miss that. God cares about how we love Him and how we love others. The most important relationship beyond our relationship with God is to be our marriage. The scriptures are loaded with directives regarding men and women, husbands and wives. We are created different and complementary. We were designed to be a team, to balance the strengths and weaknesses of one another. A husband, wife and child are a reflection of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each with a role and purpose.

    So What?

    Wives, love your husbands.

    Husbands, love your wives.

    Unmarrieds, love those around you, that they may see Jesus living in and through you.

    If you’re still trying to understand your spouse, Gary Smalley says,

    I would venture to say that most marital difficulties center around one fact—men and women are TOTALLY different. The differences (emotional, mental, and physical) are so extreme that without a concentrated effort to understand them, it is nearly impossible to have a happy marriage. A famous psychiatrist once said, “After thirty years of studying women, I ask myself, ‘What is it that they really want?’”

    Paul said it this way:

    Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
    Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

    Although He was never married, Jesus demonstrated love. He demonstrated submission. He demonstrated how a husband is to treat his bride, laying down His very life.

    As we celebrate communion and remember Jesus’ sacrifice, let it be an example of how we are to love and treat one another.


    One More Thing…

    The divorce rate in the USA is…50%, right? Wrong! That figure is an urban legend based upon projections decades ago that were completely false. Nobody knows exactly, but 71% of women are still married to their first spouse (2009 Census), and many no longer married are widowed, not divorced.

    Researcher Shaunti Feldhahn (
    The Good News About Marriage) discovered four things that are helpful in building a strong marriage:

    •  Don’t live together before marriage. It increases your rate of divorce because the relationship is built on convenience rather than commitment.
    •  Go to church together. It may drop the divorce rate by about 25-50%.
    •  Pray together.
    •  Be intentionally affectionate. Research shows that physical connection builds a sense of happiness in a marriage, so hold hands, hug, and kiss each other good-bye!

    Perhaps you’ve heard the divorce rate is the same for Christians and non-Christians. That is also false. In fact, some research suggests couples who pray together have a divorce rate around 1% (


    Some ideas from

    Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren

    Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

    1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.