Almost everyone tells a little white lie from time to time.
In some situations, that may seem to be the best course of action. Abraham thought so early on in his journey to the Promised Land. But as we'll see, sin always has consequences, and Abraham had to learn some tough early lessons in the school of faith. From Chicago, this is The Moody Church Hour, a weekly service of worship and teaching with Pastor Erwin Lutzer. Today, Dr. Lutzer continues his series on Strength for the Journey, Taking Your Next Steps with God, a study in the life of Abraham.
Later in our broadcast, we'll see Abraham experience a wavering faith. Pastor Lutzer comes now to open our service. And if you would please take your hymnals and turn to 210. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. The moment we're going to have that opportunity to worship our Lord together, you'll notice that following the singing of this hymn, our scripture reading today will be by Pastor Burchy, who's our pastor of adults and missions, and he will guide us as we read together. Then also notice hymn number 23, the God of Abraham prays.
We will, of course, be speaking about Abraham in this series of messages. And then the chorus, be still and know that I am God. And once we have stood to sing, we'll continue to stand until we have sung that chorus. A 13th century sage said, He who does not praise God while he is here on earth shall in eternity be dumb. Now we know that in eternity, all those who are in heaven are going to praise God. But those who praise God on earth will already have been prepared for eternity because we've given God our hearts.
So these words are not simply words on a page. They are expressions of what goes on inside of us in the presence of the Almighty. I shall lead in prayer, and after we've done that, we shall stand to sing all the stanzas of 210 praise to the Lord, the Almighty. Would you join me as we pray? Father, we do ask in the name of Jesus that your presence would be here. We know that you are here because you are everywhere, but we invite, Lord, the power of the Spirit to do something in our hearts today that is permanent and that is forever.
Even those who are here today who perhaps don't expect to be changed, surprise them. May your grace be among us as we praise you in Jesus' name. Amen. Oh, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Oh, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Praise to the Lord, all praise to the Christ the Almighty. Blessed are the sick, how might it such a life be?
Let him live on the way home, let him live on the way home. Praise to the Lord, the foster like earth and the enemy. Surely his goodness and mercy may be attended.
Mother of earth, what we all wisely can do, if we will so be we can be. Oh, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Amen.
Amen. We continue our worship of the Lord through the reading of God's word. Our passage is Psalm 145.
It is printed in your bulletin. It is a psalm that answers the question, why should we praise the Lord? It is a wonderful psalm of praise.
Please join with me on the bold print. I will extol you my God and King and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds. And the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him.
He also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Amen. We will sing the praise of the Lord forever and ever. The Lord will reign our heaven, our heaven and heaven.
We are endless, we'll sing with me forever and ever. For those I am and know, with thanks to God our God, with love so wonderful in us, with love so wonderful in us. We will sing the praise of the Lord forever and ever. We will sing the praise of the Lord forever and ever. We sing the praise of the Lord forever and ever.
We sing the praise of the Lord forever and ever. I am the Lord, and he is with me. I am the Lord, and he is with me.
I am the Lord, and he is with me. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. I now bless her, she shall be true. Yes, and it is so wonderful, isn't it? For us to have our choir back and to see this fine orchestra.
And all the blessings that come to us through the gift of music. The story can be told a thousand times. A businessman has an expense account. He can buy what he wants. He can even take out cash as long as he provides receipts for how he spends it. But his credit card was maxed out. And when the company said that you have to make at least the minimum payment, he decided to take some of the money from that expense account and use it toward his credit card, arguing that this is not stealing because he fully intended to replace the money he had taken.
And that's not stealing. The problem is that he was discovered, he was questioned about where this money went and his alibi worked for a while, but eventually, like alibis generally do, it was exposed as a fraud and he was fired from his job. Amazing how truth-telling or lying becomes important down the road in our lives. What we do when we are in a tight place really reveals the kind of character that you and I really have. It's the tight places that bring to the surface our values and our core convictions. Abraham was in a tight place. God had called him to leave Ur of the Chaldees and to go into a land that he would show him.
Because the call of God always has to supersede a call to our immediate families. That is to say that even the call of God is more important than his country and his kindred as seen in the life of Abraham. He comes into the land, he has an altar and there he worships the Lord God in the altar and he has a tent, as we learned last time.
His fellowship with God is constantly being renewed because wherever he goes, he holds another altar which prefigured the coming of Jesus. But then a test came to him. A test that would show whether or not he had really learned to trust God. Could he trust God to take care of him in quote the land that he had been given?
That was the test. And one of the things that Abraham was going to have to discover is that backsliding, that means turning away from God and doing our own thing. That backsliding always has more burdens than blessings.
You do it for the blessings but you end up with the burdens. The story of course is found in the 12th chapter of the book of Genesis. Genesis chapter 12 is where we read. And as we go through this, we are going to walk with Abraham through his experience.
Then we're going to end up with some life changing lessons and we're trusting the Spirit of God today to do something in our hearts that is absolutely permanent and eternal. Let's look at the experience that Abraham had. First of all, God chose to test him. He's in the land by obedience to the command of God and it says in chapter 12 verse 10, now there was a famine in the land.
Last part of the verse, for the famine was severe in the land. That was the test chosen by God for him. You say well the text doesn't say that God chose it for him but we know that God stands back of natural disasters.
Even if the immediate cause is some kind of a weather pattern, even if the immediate cause of an earthquake is a fault in the heart of the earth, the ultimate cause standing behind all that is God. And so God chose this test for Abraham and notice that the test came after Abraham was in fellowship. The previous verses say so clearly that Abraham built an altar and he called on the name of the Lord. And also it was a famine in the land of plenty. God tested him in the very area in which he had been given promises. Because as we noticed in the previous message that God says to Abraham this land is yours and God gave him the title deed to you and to your descendants. And it is right there in the midst of those promises of God that he has the severe test.
The test comes without warning or without instructions. Years ago when our children were small we bought them a bicycle. I still don't know why but we did not bring it home as a bicycle. We brought it home. We brought it home in a box. And then the box had instructions at least. Now I have to tell you that I knew that if I were going to put it together our kids would have graduated from college before I'd have been finished.
So I hired a young man to come and put it together which he did in an hour or two. But it had instructions. It said in effect if you do this right you could end up with a bicycle. And what you have to do is do point A, B, C, D all the way along the line and this is what it should eventually look like even though it doesn't look like that now. The trials of life come without instructions. You can't see what it's going to look like.
You can't see its purpose. All that you have is the bits and pieces that are dumped onto your lap without an instruction book because God wants to see what kind of a response Abraham is going to have. So first of all we've looked at the trial that God chose for Abraham. A trial right in the middle of the land he'd been given.
A famine, a severe famine in the land. God often tests us in the area of promises and in the area of our strength. Well we move through the text and we discover that Abraham fails the test. Abraham fails the test.
No evidence that he prayed about his decision. But look at the tight place that he was in. He had 300 people you remember to care for. Herdsmen, servants. The Bible says that 300.
That's a lot of people to care for. And when you've got a famine coming in the land the temptation is to do whatever you have to do to supply their needs. And so he does not consult God. God has said this is the land. This is approximately the boundaries as he understood them.
Later on God is going to give a new set of boundaries that are much greater. A famine comes into the land and the Bible says in verse 10 that Abraham went down into Egypt. Now that is true topographically. If you look at a map you know where Israel is. That's where Abraham was. It was the land of Canaan at that time. You go down into Egypt.
But it also meant he went down spiritually. Now in order to find out what happened there in the land you need a little bit of background. In those days it was customary if a man went to a country like that and somebody liked your wife you might be killed so that the man who liked her could marry her.
Tough culture but that's the way it was. But if you were to say that you're with your sister you wouldn't get killed but somebody would have to negotiate with you regarding her and maybe during those negotiations you could work out some kind of a deal and tell the truth. Abraham is scared.
He's really, really scared. So as they go into the land you'll notice that he suggests to Sarah his wife that they tell a lie. This is not Abraham at his best. You'll notice it says in verse 11 when he was about to enter Egypt he said to Sarah his wife I know that you're a woman beautiful in appearance.
The Elizabeth Taylor of the day. And when the Egyptians see you they will say this is his wife then they will kill me but they will let you live. Say you are my sister that it may go well with me because of you that my life may be spared for your sake. Oh come on for your sake. Abraham it's for your sake. She's not going to get a whole lot of benefit out of this especially if she ends up being the wife of somebody else.
This is for your skin thank you. And that when the princes of Pharaoh saw her they praised her to Pharaoh. Now you must understand something here that technically Abraham was not lying. According to chapter 20 of the book of Genesis where he does the very same thing with Abimelech he later explains and says well she is my sister she's my half sister we have the same father but a different mother Sarah was actually a half sister to him. So he could actually say she's my sister and be speaking the truth after a manner of speaking.
But what he wanted to do is to have them misunderstand it and to think that she was not his wife. That was really the point that Abraham was after. And so he tells this lie because when you leave the place of God's blessing and decide now that you're going to do everything on your own that you're going to take care of yourself in your way. Now deceit begins to enter into your life and that's what happened in the case of Abraham.
Now he tells the lie and what happens. Blessings come to him. You'll notice it says that when Pharaoh saw her they praised her to Pharaoh and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
Ouch! Abraham you're willing to sacrifice the chastity of your wife to save your neck. And for her sake he dealt well with Abraham and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys and camels.
Wow! Abraham could have gone on television and he could have said I believe in the doctrine of prosperity. Here I am in the land. People told me not to go there. They thought it was a bad idea but look at how God has blessed me. I've got more cattle than I can count. I've got silver. I've got gold. Surely, surely, surely this is a sign of God's blessing. Could I speak candidly today?
I may. Thank you my brother. In a case like this you and I are majority.
All right. Prosperity is not always a sign of the approval of God. It's not always a sign of the approval of God. Not even in the Old Testament where prosperity was more directly linked to the land and so forth than it is in the new.
That's a whole different subject we're going to cover sometime in a series of messages. But there are people who are prospering today and they're doing it deceitfully. They're prospering and they are manipulating others to prosper. And that is not a sign that God is approving either of their lifestyle or of their methods. And Abraham is here and he is prospering under the good hand of the pagan Pharaoh. Well, we've looked at the test God chose for him, the famine in the land.
We've also spoken of the fact that Abraham failed the test. He didn't stay in the land. He didn't ask God what to do. He did the expedient thing and then lied to get what he wanted when he wanted it.
Because after all, you have to take care of yourself. Can't depend on God. And he ended up being richer than ever, though he was a backslider. What is God's response to all this? Well, we read of it in verse 17, but the Lord afflicted Pharaoh.
That's a shock. Wouldn't you think that the text would say now the Lord afflicted Abraham? Isn't he the problem?
I think so. He's the one who's walking in disobedience. He's the child of God who knows better than this, but the Lord afflicts Pharaoh. This is something very gracious about God and his dealings with his people. The Lord afflicts Pharaoh because God has a purpose for Abraham and Sarah. God had promised the land to Abraham and to his seed, and we do not serve a frustrated deity. We do not serve a God who becomes confused and does not know what to do when one of his children ruin his, quote, perfect plan. He is never at a loss.
His options are more than you and I could ever possibly count. And so we serve a great God. And God said, I'm giving you the land to you and to your seed. Thus I will preserve Sarah and I will preserve you. And God sends this plague.
We don't know what it was. Maybe it was sexual diseases of some sort that would keep Pharaoh from cohabiting with Sarah. But at any rate, the Egyptians themselves knew this must be the hand of God. This must be because of Abraham and this must be because of Sarah.
Verse 18, so Pharaoh called Abraham and said, what is this that you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say she is my sister so that I took her for my wife? Now here is your wife.
Take her and go. And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. Get out of here. Abraham, the man of God, rebuked by a pagan king. It's tragic, isn't it? Is there anything sadder that when the world looks at us, they rebuke us for our ethics? Anything sadder than when we read in the newspapers that some Christian minister has been involved in financial mismanagement or shenanigans, if there's a word like that.
If not, let's say there is. Isn't that tragic when the world looks at us and says, hey, look at what you have done. Pharaoh sends him on his way in embarrassment and shame. Escorts him out of the land. Just leave.
Get out of here. There are four life transforming lessons from this passage. Four lessons that if they became a part of our lives and the fabric of our lives, we might live differently when we're tempted to backslide, when we're tempted to wander away from God, when we begin to learn that backsliding always has more burdens than it has blessings. The first lesson is this, the sin of unbelief. The sin of unbelief leads to other sins at root, at root. All sin has as its nucleus unbelief.
Because unbelief says, I know better than God. If I follow him, I'm not going to have the pleasures that I know I should have. I'm not going to have the advantage that I know that I should have. I'm not going to have what I think should be coming to me.
I'm going to be treated unfairly. Following God is not as profitable as following my own way. So we do our own thing. And at root is unbelief. Luther said, it is not possible to deliberately sin unless one first thinks wrongly about God. What he meant was we sin because we don't think God is good and has our best interests in mind. That's what happened with Adam and Eve in the garden.
If you were good, you'd let me eat of the fruit of the tree, but you're not good, so I'm going to go do it anyway and then I'll be like God and take you on. That's what lies at the root of our sin. Notice also that Abraham had the faith to go, but not the faith to stay. You and I can have faith for the call of God and then lack faith for the care of God. God can lead us to salvation and we trust Christ for our salvation, but we don't have enough faith to trust Christ for our sanctification, namely our being shaped as holy persons. And yet the Bible says, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him. The faith by which you are saved is the faith by which you live. The faith that took Abraham into the land should have been the faith to sustain Abraham in the land. Same faith, same God.
Now as a result of this unbelief and a subsequent sin, what do you notice about this passage? Well one thing that we notice is there's no altar in Egypt. No altar. Abraham built altars.
We learned in the first part of the 12th chapter. Basically he went to Bethel and he builds an altar. He comes to Shechem first of all and builds an altar. No altar in Egypt, no fellowship with God there.
I was talking to a man one time who got involved in a series of sins that kind of spiraled out of control. And he said, you know, during that period of time, he said, I never read my Bible and I never prayed. The altar is gone. It's pretty hard, you know, to be a hypocrite.
It can be done, but why read the words? The fellowship is gone. I may still belong to God, but the fellowship is gone.
The sweetness of communion isn't there. There's no altar in Egypt. There's also no witness in Egypt.
When he was being escorted out of the land, could you imagine Abraham turning around saying, oh, oh, Pharaoh, by the way, Jehovah's the true God. Why don't you believe on him? Excuse me. Spare me. Some of you don't witness because your colleagues know you too well. And you say, because they know me and because of what I've done, my witness is compromised because I'm living in Egypt and doing as the Egyptians do, so to speak. You know that you could make that right.
You know that you could go and you could confess and you could own up and you could even ask your colleagues to forgive you because of what you've done so that you can regain the kind of credibility that you and I need in order to witness. But at root is unbelief. Will God take care of me or won't he?
If I do what is right, is he going to sustain me or is he going to leave me hanging? That's the question. All has to do with faith or lack thereof. The second lesson is that you never backslide alone. If the first lesson is the sin of unbelief leads to other sins, the second sin is that you never backslide alone.
You always take someone with you, often those who are closest to you. When Abraham decided to lie, he got his wife involved in lying with him and for him. But that wasn't the end of it. Abraham recovered from his backsliding, but his nephew Lot didn't.
We're looking into the next message already. We're anticipating it in chapter 13, but you'll notice that when they have this discussion about the land and the disagreement, it says in chapter 13 verse 10, And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan valley was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zor. There was some Egypt that got into the blood of Lot.
And he ended up jeopardizing his own life and his own testimony in Sodom and Gomorrah. Because Abraham escaped the effects of Egypt, but his nephew never got Egypt and its sins out of his heart. And then, of course, it was there when they were in Egypt that they acquired Hagar, Hagar the Egyptian, with whom Abraham is going to have a relationship, Ishmael is going to be born, and that's why it's so important that you listen to all of these messages and be here for them, because we're going to discuss Ishmael versus Isaac. We're going to discuss the way in which the Muslims view Ishmael and Isaac and the whole bit, but that's still in the future.
But for now, just know that the Egyptian maid, Hagar, was almost assuredly acquired when they were in Egypt and all of the problems and the challenges that are going to be brought about because of that. Also, his kids ended up doing essentially the same thing. Abraham had a son by the name of Isaac, as we know. Isaac ended up telling essentially the very same lie when he was in trouble. Jacob then, who is a son now of Isaac, ends up being a deceiver. And it seems as if the sin that Abraham perpetuated did not stay with him, but was passed on to his sons. Now, that's not necessary to happen. If you had an alcoholic father, you don't have to be an alcoholic. If you had a lying father, you can be a person of truth, by God's grace.
But you'd be surprised at how often the faults of a father are passed on to his children. And so I remember when we were in the farm, and sometimes we'd have Sunday school picnics. I don't know how many of you enjoy Sunday school picnics.
I think they're primarily for kids. We as adults stand around and talk, it seems to me. But we used to have a three-legged race. You know, tie your leg to somebody else's leg to somebody else's. And whenever one person would go down, he'd always drag the others with him.
Because you never go down alone. Sin is never secret. It always has consequences beyond you and beyond the secret.
It always ends up somehow having public impact. So the third lesson, or the second, rather, is that you never backslide alone. The third is this, that it's better to stay in fellowship with God in Canaan in a famine than it is to backslide into a land of plenty.
Maybe I should say that again. It is much better to be in a famine in the land of promise than to have plenty in the land of backsliding. It would have been better for Abraham to simply stick it out. You say, well, what would have happened?
May I say it candidly? God would have had to provide for him. Because God says, Abraham, it is to you and to your descendants that I'm giving this land. And the purposes of God are irrevocable.
It will happen. God would have taken care of him. But Abraham didn't wait to give God a chance but did his own thing. Backsliding has its rewards. Abraham had received wealth from Pharaoh when he backslid. It has its perks, but it always has more burdens than blessings.
It's always a bad idea. It is always better to suffer even if it means suffering in a famine than to turn your back on God to do your own thing. There's a final lesson, and that is that God is with us even when we backslide. God is with us even when we backslide. God could have said to himself, well, Abraham, since you're going into Egypt without asking me and since I intended you to stay in the land which I had given you and trust me there, I'm out of here.
Go ahead, do your own thing. What's God doing? He's crossing the border into Egypt. Of course, God being everywhere, but at the same time we speak this way. He goes with him into Egypt.
He is there. He gives Pharaoh some plagues so that he will be delivered. God is wooing Abraham. God is moving Abraham. And then he has Pharaoh shove Abraham out of the land and God is bringing him back.
And notice what it says in chapter 13 now. He goes into the Negev, which is the desert as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been, keyword now, verse 3 of chapter 13, in the beginning between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made the altar at first. There he is. The altar is back. Church is back. God is back.
Most importantly, fellowship is back. My conscience is clear before the Lord. All the issues of sin that clouded my conscience have been taken care of.
I've done it now. I'm back in fellowship with God. And the detour of the Egypts of our life waste our time, waste our energy, and furthermore, they impact others negatively and they're always a bad idea. But God's there. God's there.
Some of you have known that, received some information recently regarding a young woman, a Christian young woman, quick relationship with a man, pregnant. Is God there? Yeah, God's there. God is there to help. God is there to minister. God is there to cause repentance and restoration and healing and help because God never abandons his people even when they go to Egypt.
He's there to bring them back. Robin Robinson wrote a wonderful hymn that we often sing and then he himself fell into sin. And when he was living in sin, he met a woman who said, you know, I've come across a poem that has meant a great deal to me and the woman quoted the poem. And Robinson began to cry because he said, I am the author of the words that you've just quoted.
O to grace, how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be Let thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to thee Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here's my heart O take and seal it Seal it for those courts above Can you identify with him? God sends plagues to Pharaoh What does that connect in our minds? Later on, the seed of Abraham is going to be in the land of Egypt for 400 years and God is going to get them out How? By sending Pharaoh some plagues. And this is a picture already here of how God is going to get his own people out of Egypt until the Pharaoh who sent Abraham out, a different Pharaoh, is going to send the children of Israel out and say, get out of here. And the last plague is going to be the lamb that was slain on the doorpost to keep them from the final plague. Today God has his arms outstretched and says, O backsliders, I will heal your backsliding behold we come to thee for thou art our goddesses in Jeremiah Some of you have wandered far away from God Some of you have never come to Christ as Savior who died, who is our connection with God without whom we cannot be born again without whom we cannot come into God's presence and even as I'm speaking to you today the Holy Spirit is wooing you too and saying, come to me, come to me Receive my gift of salvation Receive my son and others of you He's saying to you, come back, come back Why are you doing your own thing? Leave Egypt Get back to the altar Get back to fellowship Get back to me Yeah, that's what he's saying Let us pray Father, in our need, come to us We can all say prone to wander, Lord I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Doing our own thing, making our own decisions Dating whom we want to date Going where we want to be Choosing our entertainment, our vacation without any reference to you Bring us to that point of submission, we pray And now if God has talked to you, would you talk to God Whatever it is that he's brought to your attention If you've never received Christ, say Jesus today I embrace you as mine If you know him, come back to him Father, do in our hearts all that is pleasing to you To come back In Jesus' name we pray, amen, amen Let's sing together hymn number 490 490, I've wandered far away from God Now I'm coming home I've wandered far away from God On today's Moody Church Hour, Pastor Lutzer spoke about a wavering faith The second in a ten-part series on strength for the journey A study in the life of Abraham Sometimes living by faith confronts us with tough choices It did for Abraham, as we'll see next week Join us then for a costly faith Our series on Abraham can be yours For a gift of any amount to The Moody Church Hour Call 1-800-215-5001 Let us know you'd like to support Moody Church's ministry Our thank you to you will come as a CD album With all ten messages on strength for the journey Call 1-800-215-5001 Or you can write to us at Moody Church Media 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614 Online, go to moodyoffer.com That's moodyoffer.com Join us next time for another Moody Church Hour With Pastor Erwin Lutzer And the Congregation of Historic Moody Church in Chicago This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-15 00:55:39 / 2023-03-15 01:11:24 / 16