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A Lesson About Sin From Genesis 12

--What We Can Learn From Abram's Mistakes

An episode in the life of Abram and Sarai(later Abraham and Sarah), recorded in the 12th chapter of Genesis, give us some insights into the causes of our sins (because in many cases, sin is a result of unbelief in the promises of God), and the effects that our sin can have on others, as well as God's mercy in dealing with our sin without having it destroy us.

Let's take a look at Genesis 12:1-20 (KJV)

1. God's Promises

"1. Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee; 2. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; 3. and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

These first three verses spell out the promises of God. Although you and I may not have received these same promises, there are many promises that God has made to His children, and God's track record on keeping His promises is a solid 100%.

2. The Importance of Worship

"7. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. 8. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he built an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD."

We see more promises by God, and Abram responded correctly, with an act of worship. How is your worship life?

3. Abram's Sin

"9. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. 10. And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. 11. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon; 12. Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee."

Abram decides to forget about God's promises to him, and take matters into his own hands. He lies, and has Sarai lie for him.

Technically, he didn't lie; Sarai was his half-sister in addition to being his wife. But his heart and intentions were full of deceit. How often do you and I rationalize our sin and say that we technically didn't do anything wrong? God is more interested in our hearts than in technicalities.

Another aspect of this sin is that Abram denied his relationship with Sarai. When I was getting married, a pastor counseled me that my wife is a gift from God to me, and I am a gift from God to her. When Abram denied his marriage to Sarai, he was effectively thumbing his nose at God's precious gift.

How often do we show appreciation for all that God has provided for us? When we complain about our spouses, jobs, kids, or finances, we are showing a lack of appreciation for what God has freely given us. Everything we have is provided by Him. Jesus didn't pray "Let us earn this day our daily bread," did He? He said "Give us this day our daily bread." Everything good in our lives is a gift from God. It's important to always embrace that which He has provided for us.

Most important, it wasn't the lie or the denying of the relationship with Sarai that was the worst sin here. The big one was the sin of unbelief. Abram, who would be known later for his great faith, showed a lack of faith in God's promises here. We need to always remember God's promises. One way to do so is to meditate on them daily.

4. Our Sin Affects Others

"14. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 15. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. 16. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. 17. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

Classic example of how our sin can affect others. No man is an island. The negative affects from individual sins can resonate in ways that we cannot predict.

5. God's Mercy

"18. And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 19. Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. 20. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had."

The bright side of all this is that God showed mercy. Yes, the plagues were mercy, as they led to the exposure of the truth before more damage was done. God will rescue us without letting our sin destroy us, but often the rescue may be something we find uncomfortable.

Finally, it should be noted that the fact that Pharoah didn't kill him after the truth was revealed showed that he wasn't going to do so anyway. In other words, the thing that Abram feared was groundless. How many times do we get caught up in fear of potential things which never materialize?

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