I’m focusing on 2 books of the Bible in 2016: Genesis and Romans. The first half of the year is Genesis. In the life of Abraham, we can observe him make the same mistake, years apart, in Genesis chapters 12 and 20. In chapter 20 he finds himself in similar circumstances and once again misrepresents his wife as being his sister.
What in the world? Didn’t Abraham learn his lesson the first time? How could he fall into the same sin yet again? – I think these are our common reactions.
Liberal scholars interpret the story as a duplicate. It is the same event, recorded twice, as the material from several different authors was brought together to form the book of Genesis. (But that is a rabbit trail, and not the point of this post.)
Biblical historicity aside, even if we believe Moses was the primary author of Genesis, we can be flummoxed by this double event in Abraham’s life. The similar circumstance of the past should have come to Abraham’s mind and prevented him from doing the same thing again.
But why are we so flummoxed?
Why do we find it so difficult to believe that someone could repeat the same mistake twice?
Maybe because we elevate Abraham as a great man of faith and thus have a high expectation for him. But where does that false expectation come from? God’s people in the Bible often sinned time and time again. They were not perfect. David was called a man after God’s own heart, yet look as some of his blatant indiscretions – accomplice to murder, adultery, etc.
And why are we so blind to ourselves?
Are you telling me you have never made the same mistake twice? Or even dozens of times?
Of course you have!
A recent devotional book I reviewed on Abraham refers to our school days and failing a test. At some point, we probably had a teacher who allowed us to re-take a failed test. Usually in such a situation, we are thankful for the opportunity, and do much better the second time. But the author of this devotional goes on to say:
“Why isn’t it this easy in real life? Have you ever found yourself in the same bind, fighting the same bad habits, and making the choices you swore to yourself that you’d never make again? Abraham’s been there.” (page 41)
Phew. A Bible character we can relate to. (One of many actually!)
The author goes on to state how “memory is the best antidote with which to fight fear.” Indeed, it would take another post, but the Bible is filled with verses about the importance of remembering who God is and how he has worked in the past.
We are prone to forget.
We need to remember.
It is all too easy in life to make a sudden transition from faith to fear, just as Abraham did. He forgot what God had done, and he used deception to take control of a situation due to his fear…rather than trust God.
As New Testament believers, we need to be grounded in the gospel. Too often we “move on” from the gospel. We became a Christian at some point, and we move on to living our Christian life and we leave the gospel behind. I don’t think we overtly or purposefully do this, but we drift into it.
We get distracted.
But we are running the race of faith, and a runner in a race cannot get distracted. As Hebrews 12:1-3, states:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Remember all that HE accomplished for you in his life, death and resurrection. That is where our hope and power lies for Christian living…and as the ultimate antidote to fear based reactions.
The gospel also frees you to be honest with yourself – you don’t have to pretend that you have never made the same mistake twice. Admit it. You are a screw up. And that is where the power is found. When we realize our weakness, we turn from self-reliance to reliance on Christ.
When we are weak, it is then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).