Sunday Gathering – Genesis – The Danger of Underestimating – Jonny Greaves
June 2, 2024

Sunday Gathering – Genesis – The Danger of Underestimating – Jonny Greaves

Passage: Genesis 20

Summary of Sermon: The Danger of Underestimating

This sermon explores Genesis chapter 20, a story where Abraham repeats a mistake from his past.

The key takeaways are:

Abraham's character: Despite being portrayed as a man of faith, Abraham acts out of fear, lying about Sarah being his sister to protect himself.
God's character: Even though Abraham makes mistakes, God remains committed to his promises. God protects Abimelech, the king who unknowingly takes Sarah, from further sinning.
God's faithfulness: The story emphasizes God's unwavering commitment to the covenant he made with Abraham, ensuring his offspring will bring blessings.

Here's a breakdown of the sermon:

Introduction: The sermon starts with an anecdote about accidentally popping confetti balloons and highlights the theme of underestimating situations.
Scripture reading: Genesis chapter 20 is read, detailing how Abraham pretends Sarah is his sister, leading to her being taken by Abimelech.
Connection to previous chapters: The story is linked to a similar incident in Genesis chapter 12, where Abraham makes the same claim about Sarah.
Abraham's behavior: We delve into Abraham's motivations, driven by fear for his safety in a foreign land.
God's intervention: God protects Abimelech from sinning further and reveals his commitment to the covenant with Abraham. Abimelech returns Sarah and is blessed.
Difficulties in understanding God: The sermon acknowledges the challenges in reconciling God's actions with our expectations.
God's unwavering promises: Despite Abraham's mistakes, God's commitment to his promises is the core message. This is reinforced by referencing Romans 4:18, which describes Abraham as the "father of many nations" due to his faith.
Conclusion: The sermon emphasizes the importance of reading the Bible critically, even when it challenges our understanding of God. It highlights God's enduring love and commitment to his promises, even amidst human flaws.

Biblical references:

* Genesis 12:10-20
* Genesis 15
* Genesis 16
* Genesis 17
* Genesis 19:9
* Genesis 20
* Romans 4:18-23


Can you all hear me okay?
Yes, it's great.
Good morning, everyone.
Over in 146 as well.
Great to have you with us too.
Um, has anyone here ever made the same mistake twice?
You don't have to raise your hand.
So just this week I was helping doing some tidy up.
And there was a bit of a party going on around here this week.
And there were some balloons that needed tidying away.
I ended up helping out.
There were some a whole big pile of balloons
that were starting to look a little bit sad and sorry
for themselves.
And I was on the tidy up task and the easiest way
to tidy up a whole big like bin bag full of balloons.
Just get a pair of scissors and pop, pop, pop away.
And I was happily popping away going,
this is going to be such a quick and easy job.
This is so easy.
Unbeknownst to me, two of the balloons had confetti inside.
And I realized when pop, pop, pop, one of them
created a beautiful circle of little golden disks
that all just appeared around me.
And I thought, this job's not quite as easy
as I thought it might be.
And it was also around this time.
I noticed there was a second one.
And I thought to myself, when I pop the second one,
I'm going to be really careful this time.
Really careful, because this is just too much work, isn't it?
This is such a lot of effort.
I'm going to be sweeping all these up for the next five minutes.
So when I pop the second one, I'm going to be really gentle,
like really gentle.
I'm going to make the tiniest, tiniest hole
right near the top so that pop, it went.
It just exploded.
There was a second giant confetti circle around me.
As I was thinking to myself, this is going
to go way better than last time.
I had even more sweeping up to do.
And I had five minutes of sweeping up little golden circles
bits, thinking to myself, there's a sermon in Alginess.
Always, there always is.
I think I'm not alone in saying that I've
made more than one mistake.
And I'm also not alone in making the same mistake
more than one time.
We're working our way through Genesis.
And I'm going to read Genesis chapter 20.
And when you read it, you'll probably think,
haven't we read something like this before?
And the answer is yes.
So we will talk about that.
But we're going to be reading from Genesis chapter 20.
I'm just going to read through the whole thing.
And then we're going to get stuck into it.
Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the negative
and lived near Kadesh and Shur, for a while he stayed in Garah.
And then Abraham, said of his wife, Sarah, she is my sister.
Then Abimalak, King of Garah, sent for Sarah and took her.
But God came to Abimalak in the dream one night
and said to him, you are as good as dead because of the woman
you have taken, she is a married woman.
Now Abimalak had not gone near her.
So he said, Lord, how will you destroy an innocent nation?
Sorry, Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
Did he not say to me, she is my sister?
And didn't she say also, he is my brother?
I've done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.
And God said to him in the dream, yes,
I know you did this with a clear conscience.
And so I have kept you from sinning against me.
That is why I did not let you touch her.
Now return the man's wife, but he is a prophet
and he will pray for you and you will live.
But if you do not return her, you will be sure.
You may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.
Early the next morning Abimalak summoned all his officials
and when he told them all that had happened,
they were very much afraid.
Then Abimalak called Abraham in and said,
what have you done to us?
How have I wronged you that you have brought
such great guilt upon me and my kingdom?
You have done things to me that should never have been done
and Abimalak asked Abraham, what was your reason
for doing this?
Abraham replied, I said to myself,
there is surely no fear of God in this place
and they will kill me because of my wife.
Besides, she really is my sister,
the daughter of my father,
though not of my mother, and she became my wife.
And when God had me wonder about, sorry,
and when God had me wonder from my father's household,
I said to her, this is how you can show your love to me.
Everywhere we go, save me, he is my brother.
Then Abimalak brought sheep and cattle,
male and female servants and gave them to Abraham
and he returned Sarah, his wife to him.
And Abimalak said, my land is before you,
live wherever you like.
To Sarah, he said, I am giving you,
I am giving your brother a thousand shackles of silver.
This is to cover the offense against you
before all who are with you.
You are completely vindicated.
Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimalak,
his wife and his female slaves,
so they could have children again.
But the Lord had kept all the women in Abimalak's household
from conceiving because of Abimalak's wife, Sarah.
So it's definitely ringing some bells, I think,
for some of us.
And you've got to go quite a few chapters back
before you get a story that seems to line up
almost overlapping with this story.
If you go all the way back to chapter 12,
the chapter begins with God giving those first promises
to Abraham.
He is set out from his father's,
the land of his father's where he was born
and where he grew up.
He is traveling in tents with the rest of his family.
And out in the middle of nowhere,
God speaks to him and says, I'm gonna give these promises to you.
I'm gonna bless you.
I'm gonna give you children and through your children,
blessing is gonna come to all the nations.
And in that same chapter, it says,
that's the one that Jensen spoke on a few weeks back,
that at the same time, as soon as he arrived in this place
that God had promised that he would provide to him,
where he would receive these offspring,
he immediately has to leave.
As a famine in the land, they go down to Egypt.
And it's in Egypt is the first time we hear the story
that Abraham says of Sarah, his wife, he is my sister.
So we've definitely got a big, strong link
between these two passages that happened a long time earlier.
And yet, a lot of things have happened in between.
Real quick recap.
He left his family home in Genesis 11.
In Genesis 12, God spoke those promises to him.
And then he goes into Egypt, as we mentioned.
And he comes out of it really well off for those who aren't aware.
It pretty much works out exactly the same as this.
And then, as God moves on in the story,
God keeps reiterating those promises to him,
even though he doesn't have a child at that point.
In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abraham.
He promises, I am going to make this happen.
I am going to give you a child.
You are going to be received that blessing
and it is going to be passed on through your children.
And then in chapter 16 immediately, after those promises,
that's when he sleeps with his female slave,
Hega, and has a son called Ishmael.
And that is the one that God says in chapter 17,
it's not going to be through him.
You're now going to be Abraham.
You're going to be the father of many nations,
but it's not through him.
You've got to keep trusting.
It is going to be through your wife with Sarah
and yourself that this blessing is going to come.
And so chapter 17 was all about circumcision
and that covenant of thinking to the promises,
trusting in those promises of God.
And so then we have that whole thing about the visitors came
and said, it's nearly time.
God appears to Abraham in chapter 18 and says,
you are going to have a son and it's nearly about to happen.
It's happening about less than a year's time.
When I come back, you will have a son.
And then the story of Lot in Sodom
and the destruction of Sodom happened in chapter 19.
And then here we are.
He's moving on.
He's still in that land that God had promised him.
He's still traveling, living in a tent.
And then he is somewhat retracing his steps.
The chapter starts by talking about him heading south.
He talks about him heading to the negative,
which is towards Egypt, where last time that was a famine,
and that's why he was heading.
It doesn't mention a famine this time,
but it says, this is what he does.
He sets out in this direction and he's heading down there.
One of the big differences is time.
So it mentions when he first sets out,
Abraham mentions in the story, he is 75 years old.
At this point in the story, he is 99, nearly 25 years of past
and he's retracing the same steps and his behavior.
The things that he does seem to repeat.
So way back in chapter 12, he set off and headed towards Egypt
and he said that Sarah was his sister.
And then he does it again.
He's heading south and it says all the details it gives us here.
In verse two, Abraham said of his wife,
she is my sister.
And the similar thing starts to happen.
So we're gonna look at Abraham's character a little bit
and then we're gonna look at God's character
because if you feel uncomfortable reading this passage,
that's great, that's really good.
I always want to say, if we're engaging with the Bible,
it's gonna bump up against what we think
and what we feel, what we believe and what we know.
That's okay, that's normal.
And there are plenty of people who only,
if they're reading through the Bible, get this far
and say, this is the second time this has happened.
Why would I wanna listen to a God who acts like this?
Because one way you could retell this story is,
Abraham turns up in a place,
he lies about something or doesn't tell the whole truth.
And as a result, God threatens this bloke
who's showing him hospitality and generosity
who he's living with.
God threatens this king of Bimilek
and says, things are gonna go real bad for you
if you don't turn your ways around
and their Bimilek says, but I'm innocent.
And then as a result, Abraham comes out of this ahead
in terms of money and possessions
and it's Abraham who's the one who has the bless of Bimilek
at the end of the chapter.
What's going on there?
First of all, let's look at Abraham.
Why is he acting this way?
So one of the things that, you know, we're,
and we're looking back to chapter 12,
but this is also immediately preceding chapter 19.
One of the first things I noticed that you can't see,
if you're studying it in English,
because it's hidden away in there,
is right at the beginning, it says,
Abraham moved from there into the region of the Dandeghav
and lived between K-dash and Shur.
And for a while, he stayed in Gharar.
Now, that word stayed is staying in a tent.
It doesn't mean he moves in.
It doesn't mean he gets an Airbnb.
It means he and everything he possesses,
everyone he knows, his whole family are together
and they're moving into this region.
And when they're staying there,
they're living in a land that other people live in.
There are cities and there are towns.
There are people who own this land.
There are people who live in this land.
And this word to stay in this land
or in other translations, it says stay as an alien
or a foreigner in this land is exactly the same word
that we just read in Genesis chapter 19,
verse nine, when the people of Sodom described lot,
they say, why should we, when lot calls out to them
and says, don't do this wicked and evil thing
that you're trying to do, they say to him, you're a foreigner,
you're just a journeying person living
into the month, min amongst us, why should we listen to you?
And this is exactly the same kind of situation
that Abraham is in, time and time and time again.
From that, from that beginning that we said,
he's now been living in a tent for 25 years,
hands up who's been on a 25 year camping holiday.
No, two weeks maximum, I think,
and then we're all ready for a solid roof over our head, right?
And central heating.
So he's been doing this for a long time.
And this chapter demonstrates he's repeating
the same kind of behaviors again.
The same things that he said back in chapter 12,
when he was 75, he goes into this land
and this is the thing, you have to wait until chapter 20
to get a real explanation from him
when he explains to him a bit more like at the end,
why have you done this?
He really starts to open up.
And he's motivated by fear.
Did you see that when we read from right towards the end,
Abraham replies to himself and he says,
I said to myself, there's surely no fear of God in this place
and they will kill me because of my wife.
When that comes right after the story of Sodom and Gomorrah,
you see how the way that Abraham feels
and the way that he's living, he sees a world
or at least he believes he is living in a place just like Sodom.
People do what they want and they take what they want
and he's scared and he's afraid.
And that is motivating his actions here.
And he says, this is why he said this thing.
It's culturally a whole rabbit hole to get down
to figure out why this is any better than what was going on.
But it's interesting that the thing that he describes
is also a pattern that's come through the Bible
right from the Garden of Eden up to now.
This is yet another story that it talks about
someone seeing something and wanting to take it.
That this becomes a pattern throughout the Bible
when people see what they want and decide to take for themselves.
That's a pattern that's established from the Garden of Eden
with Eve when the snake deceives her and tells her
and it says, as she takes the fruit,
it says she sees what she wants.
She desires it and she chooses to take it for herself.
And if you go back to chapter 12,
when Abraham goes into Egypt and the Pharaoh of Egypt
sees Sarah, Abraham's wife, it says he desires her
and it says his servants talk about how beautiful she is.
He sees her, he desires her, he takes her for himself
and that this is a pattern that comes throughout
and this is what Abraham fears.
He fears this kind of behavior
that he sees a world where people are living for themselves.
They're seeing what they want and they're taking it
and they don't care who they hurt on the way.
And that is why he's acting this way.
That seems to be what he's saying.
But interestingly, he tries to justify himself.
He says technically I'm not lying about that.
That we are related and yet the point is,
he does this thing and he is motivated by fear
and he's trying to conceal the truth
in order to preserve his life, to save himself.
Possibly also to save the rest of his household as well.
But he is motivated by fear.
So where is this man of faith
that we've been hearing about so far
that has been a recurring theme from Genesis,
chapter 12 all the way up till now.
He was a man of faith, where is that?
And also who is this God that we say that we love
and that we worship and that the Bible
reveals his character through it?
Why is he acting this way?
That the story says a bit more like meets this man
and this woman and is introduced
that they are brother and sister.
And in this culture, possibly because of political alliances
and things like this, intermarrying between families
was probably normal in order to maintain peace
when you guys are related, when you're a family together,
then you look out for each other.
In a world like we described in Sodom and Gomorrah
where everyone seems to be out for themselves
to take what they want and don't care who they hurt,
it makes sense to join together and to join forces.
And that this is potentially why all this
intermarrying thing and giving an exchanging wives.
This is why it seems like a bemaleck had multiple wives
in this story.
And this is why in this story, he seems to be a bemaleck,
sees himself as doing the right thing.
And we know that because he speaks in this dream,
we get this revelation of this dream
where God doesn't speak to Abraham in this situation.
He goes to a bemaleck and says to a bemaleck,
things are gonna go bad for you
because of the situation you're in.
And a bemaleck says, what have I done?
What situation am I in that I've done anything wrong?
He responds when God speaks to him in an incredible way,
but he also says, what have I done wrong?
He says, I am innocent in this.
And interestingly, this is where we start to see
a revelation of God's character.
It's a weird, isn't it, up to this point?
It's weird that God acts this way.
Why doesn't God speak to Abraham?
Why does he speak to a bemaleck?
Why does he say to a bemaleck,
you are in big trouble because you've taken this man's wife.
But a bemaleck says, he lied to me.
He didn't tell me he was his wife.
And yet, in this story from verse six,
we start to get this really interesting revelation
of what God is really like.
When God says in the dream, I knew that you had a clear conscience.
When a bemaleck says, I had, how has he described it?
He said, I had a clear mind and I had clean hands.
He said, I wasn't trying to do anything wrong.
And God says, I knew that about you.
And that is why I kept you from sinning
because he seems to be saying,
he may have taken her into a household
but he hasn't slept with me.
And that God has preserved a bemaleck's righteousness.
That a bemaleck says, I'm not guilty here.
And God says, I know that because I have protected you from that.
And yet he then, it makes it very, very clear.
This man, as this woman, is this man's wife.
That Abraham and Sarah are the ones
that God had made the promise their offspring
would bring about this blessing.
And God is committed to his promises.
That is something that this passage tells us.
God is committed to his promises.
And this is what he says, you have to return this woman.
Return the man's wife for he is a prophet
and he will pray for you.
And this is what he does.
He real, but the threat is, if he doesn't do that,
if he continues to live his own way,
sees what he wants and takes it for himself,
the consequences are gonna be dire for him
and for his entire household.
And so he responds.
He responds.
And interestingly, Abraham in the story
doesn't get a chance to respond like that, does he?
God doesn't speak to Abraham.
This all happens to a Bimlek, the other guy,
and he responds and asks Abraham to pray for him.
This is what happens at the end.
And the blessing that comes to Abraham as a result,
he gets possessions, he gets animals,
he receives slaves, he receives more silver
than you can carry in a backpack.
I can't remember if you figure out
how much a thousand shekels is,
but it's not change.
It's not going in your back pocket, that.
He's loading him up with riches,
as a result of this, who cover over his transgression
and to say, to prove to people that I am vindicated,
that is how he describes it and the NIV there.
And so we've got this really interesting examination
into Abraham's character, when we've seen him
described as a man of faith, and yet,
he seems to be still living in fear.
And then God is the one who he says,
cares for the downtrodden and the oppressed.
He cares about people who are innocent.
He cares about people who are mistreated.
And in the story, it seems to be a Bimlek,
the one who's being mistreated here,
and God is against him.
Well, it seems to be against him.
And yet, as we saw that glimmer,
that God still cares about justice.
God says to a Bimlek, I protected you in the midst of this.
But God is committed to his promises.
The reason why he cares about the situation,
the reason why God steps in and intercedes in the situation
is because even if Abraham is motivated by fear,
even if he's making wrong choices,
even if he's making the same choices he's been making
for the last 25 years, God is committed to his promises.
God's committed to God's promises.
And he is promised Abraham, he's gonna make him
into a great nation.
He's gonna blast the world through his offspring
between him and Sarah.
And it's not gonna come when Abraham thinks it's going to.
It's not gonna come in his own time and his own motivation
in his own way.
When he takes a second wife,
and they say, maybe this is the way to do it.
One of the other challenges about all this relationship
with his nephew, Lot, is probably,
Lot was his closest relative.
Maybe he thought Lot was going to be the way
that God was gonna keep these promises
through his descendants, through someone related to him.
And yet God keeps saying, you just have to keep trusting me.
And God is the one who's committed to this.
God is the one who commits to us.
God is the one who commits to Abraham.
And the Abraham, no matter how many mistakes he makes,
and if he repeats the same mistakes,
God is the one who's gonna work things out through him.
And it's interesting that as he goes on,
we see that revelation of the way that God keeps his promises.
God really commits to this.
And this is the thing.
Abraham, if you read the New Testament,
and we're gonna flick ahead to Romans,
I've lost my bookmark here, as I'm looking for it,
Abraham is described for the rest of the Bible,
throughout the Bible as a man of faith,
as a man who put his trust in God,
and that when push came to shove,
he believed God would keep his promises.
And we see him at one of his lowest points here.
He's repeating the same mistakes that he's made
He's getting himself into hot water.
This is obviously not a great situation to be in.
It's not great for Sarah, it's not great for him.
It's certainly not great for Robimelec.
Either is it?
He's had this visitor turn up on his doorstep,
and then he gets these visions from God,
who's threatening his family,
and it also mentions towards the end of the chapter,
that he's, everyone in his family is struck with illness.
That means no one's been able to have children this whole time.
And so God,
is interesting to question that, isn't it?
Interesting question, what is God like?
And why does he continue to do this?
And what it really boils down to is God keeps his promises,
and that's what a covenant is.
We've talked a little bit about covenants
in some of those chapters,
but it's really interesting that the covenant of circumcision
that we hear about in chapter 17 is one that comes later,
but God makes a covenant in chapter 15 earlier,
and when he speaks to Abraham, and he says,
God says, I am the one who's going to make this happen.
Do you remember, there's that weird passage
where he splits animals in half,
and there's this whole ancient ritual of how promises work,
that two people enter into a contract together.
That's what a covenant is.
A promise where we're saying we're going to work together,
and we're going to achieve something.
And God's plan is to achieve blessing,
and restoring that Garden of Eden promise,
of God and mankind reunited,
and he says it's going to happen through you, Abraham,
through you and your children.
This is going to happen, but God is the one
who promises to make it happen.
That story is about God uniting himself,
and it's because of him,
he's committed to restoring broken people.
He's committed to restoring humanity.
He cares about us.
He cares about every single one of us,
and he always has, and he always will,
and this is why I think it's great reading Genesis.
You can see it right from the beginning,
even in these weird, bizarre stories
that don't really make sense the first time we read them,
it's there, his commitment to loving,
no matter what is there,
and his commitment to make the restoration
and those promises happen is there from the beginning.
He cares about those promises,
and we're just going to run through a couple of other quick things.
We're going to read from a Romans chapter four and five,
because this is where it talks about Abraham,
in quite a bit of detail, could do a whole other talk on this,
but we haven't got time.
But we're going to read from Romans chapter four, verse 18.
It says this,
against all hope, Abraham in hope believed,
and so became the father of many nations,
just as it is said of him,
so shall your offspring be.
And then in verse 23, it says,
the word it was credited to him,
credited to him as righteousness,
were written not for him alone,
but also for us,
to whom God will credit righteousness,
for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
He has delivered over to death for our sin
and was raised to life for our justification.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
into this grace in which we now stand.
God's made another covenant.
And one of the great things we're going to do together
is we're going to break bread together,
and that's what we're going to do.
We're going to remember the new covenant that God made.
And it's new and at the same time,
it's fulfilling those same promises that Abraham
God said, all the nations of the world will be blessed
through your offspring.
And this is why the offspring were important
because God was looking ahead to Jesus,
the one who would come and who would vindicate all of us,
who would die for all of our sins,
who would be raised to life,
to justify us, to bring us back to God.
He is the one that God was looking to when he promised
to stick with Abraham through anything
and to make those promises come true.
So what about us?
How does this apply to us?
How can we be people of faith like him?
Well, one of the trickiest things to do when we stop reading
right at the end of chapter 20 is to say,
this is a bit weird and a bit strange,
and Abraham seems to be at his lowest point.
But as we just said, when you read Romans,
that's not how he's remembered.
Abraham is not defined by his failures.
And neither are we.
Abraham refuses to let his failures define him.
He's a one who continues to keep walking,
keep journeying with God,
keep putting his faith in God.
Because that is what God requires of him.
He says, all I need you to do is trust him in.
And God is the one who makes it work out.
God is the one who will fulfill his purposes
and he demonstrates that in Jesus.
The one who is willing to die to take upon himself
everything that is wrong with this world,
to bring healing and restoration
and to give us the Holy Spirit
that we can have that power within us.
You see, when God looks at Abraham,
he doesn't see him as a failure.
In this story, this is why he acts his way.
He doesn't come to Abraham and judge him
or waggle his finger at him.
He knows that he is one who trusts.
That at the moment of trial, when it's really a test,
he is the one who will put his faith in God.
And he does.
And this is how God treats him all the time.
He always sees him like this.
And because of Jesus, that's the way he always sees us too.
He always puts his trust in us.
Because we're not defined by our failures.
We're defined by Christ's victory.
And we're going to remember that
as we shared break-break together.
Now Chris is going to come up.
And now, are we going straight into it?
Oh, that's all right.
All right.
Thank you, Johnny.

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