There were two events in the life of Abraham that God intervened in order to protect him. The first one is recorded in Genesis 12:10-20, and the second one is recorded in Genesis 20. These two events are similar in nature, whereas Pharaoh in Genesis 12 and Abimelech in Genesis 20 wanted to take Sarah as their wives. Abraham obviously was holding one important truth that Sarah was his wife, because he was afraid that he would be harmed. But on those two events God intervened. In Genesis 12 God inflicted diseases on Pharaoh’s household because he was going to take Sarah as his wife. Eventually, Pharaoh realized that Sarah was Abraham’s wife and then he returned her to Abraham.
The event with Abimelech was similar. Abimelech wanted to take Sarah as his wife, not knowing that she was married to Abraham, because Abraham did not reveal her status on purpose. “But God came to Abimelech in a 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” (Genesis 20:3). Again, eventually Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham. So God protected Abraham in those events, and no harm befallen Abraham and his company, and instead they were blessed with riches.
God also protected Jesus with a similar intervention. God appeared in Pilate’s dream to warn Pilate to be just. “While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him” (Matthew 27:19). However, the result here was a contrast to the Abraham’s. Pilate did not make the right decision. Instead of heeding his wife’s warning, and thus God’s warning, Pilate was more afraid of the crowd. Instead of trying to please God, Pilate chose to please the crowd. So Pilate sent Jesus to be crucified and died on the cross.
If we compare the two, we might be bewildered. I know I am. When God protected Abraham, Abraham was purposefully lying to Pharaoh and Abimelech, and yet God intervened in his behalf. Our sense of justice might say that Abraham did not deserve to be protected in that way due to his act of deception. But God chose to protect Abraham and inflict troubles to both Pharaoh and Abimelech. In the event of Jesus, instead of inflicting Pilate with diseases, God let him make a decision that led to the crucifixion of the Son of God. Honestly, I am puzzled when comparing those events. Jesus was more righteous than Abraham. In fact he was innocent on all accounts. He was sinless. He deserved to be saved more than Abraham. But yet, Abraham got away with his lies, but Jesus was punished for his innocence.
There are a couple of things that need to be reflected carefully. First, obviously God did his part in protecting Jesus even though Jesus was vividly destined to die a gruesome death on a cross bearing the sins of the world. God also did his part as God protected Abraham and rescued him from the hands of Pharaoh and Abimelech. But the results are different. This shows that God does not like it if something is not right. Pharaoh and Abimelech’s intentions to marry Sarah were wrong because Sarah was Abraham’s wife. So God had to intervene regardless of Abraham’s lies. God also did not allow Pilate to feel at ease sending Jesus to the hands of the wicked. God had to warn him so he would know that the only right decision was to let Jesus go. So the fault was on Pilate completely when he handed Jesus over to the crowd to be crucified.
Secondly, we tend to want to be like Abraham, rescued by God even though we might have committed a sin. We don’t like the event of Jesus before Pilate to be experienced by us, which is being innocent and yet suffer greatly due to injustice. But look at Jesus. Did he complain? Did he say to the Father: “Where is justice?” or “Why Abraham was rescued and I am not, even though I am purer than Abraham?” Jesus took it in his heart without complains at all. Clearly, no one would want to suffer. But the question is, if suffering is necessary, would we complain to God for our unfortunate experience? The Bible honestly shows two events of two contrast results. Two men of God, one is greater than the other, but yet the one greater suffers but the other one does not. Jesus suffered when he maintained his innocence, while Abraham gained fortune and was protected even after he lied. Upon our reflection, do we want to be like Jesus or Abraham?
Thirdly, the call is for us to be like Jesus and not like Abraham. “We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). To be like Christ, frankly speaking, is not in everyone’s dream. We tend to like it when we are like Jesus in glory, but we tend to run away if to identify ourselves with his suffering. We cannot be like Jesus if we don’t share his suffering. The suffering caused by evil is actually the path to knowing evil without committing sin. Adam and Eve chose the wrong path to know evil, which is by committing evil. For many people, they ask: “How can we know good and evil without actually eating the fruit?” The answer is that there is another way to know evil, that is through suffering it, just like Jesus Christ. Jesus knows evil but he does not commit any evil.
Fourthly, Many times we doubt God in times of trouble. We complain to God and even question God’s genuine love to us. Even Abraham put his faith completely in the Lord when he let Pharaoh and Abimelech take Sarah away. Abraham let God work his part. In our life, we seldom wait for God. We tend to be impulsive and take matters in our own hands. We always want to be in control and not allowing God to work his wonders. Many people, because of this, have lost their faith. Our faith is tested when trouble comes. When our life is merry and happy, we don’t know if we even have faith. Sometimes, trouble is needed for us to know who we really are. But Jesus taught us not to ask for trouble. Asking for trouble is the same as wanting to be in control. This is the same with doubting God, for instead of relying on God we want to win over the trouble so we don’t need to rely on God anymore. The right action is when trouble comes we should depend on God and not doubt him.
God’s providence is real. Even when Jesus was supposed to be sentenced to death, God did intervene to show his holiness, righteousness, and justice. In this way God declared Jesus’ innocence. The end result might not like what we have in mind, but the fact that God does his part remains. We should never doubt God even if the situation might have shown otherwise. I do not want to pretend I understand this mystery, nor pretending that I have experienced enough suffering to qualify for speaking of this matter. But the Bible speaks clearly that leaves us no room to pick and choose our favorites. What the Bible plainly tells us, we must ponder comprehensively. Many Christians love to pick and choose situations that fit their experience. This is where we must learn to grow to be like Christ. This journey is difficult. But God promises his company to stay with us forever. Praise the Lord!
* The Business of Christian Education XXV