Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Little white lies?

"The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment."
Proverbs 12: 19, King James Version


"Sarai: There's No Such Thing as a Little White Lie"

"Truth, like the burgeoning of a bulb under the soil, however deeply sown, will make its way to the light."
Ellis Peters

Do I live a truth-filled life?


"Truth is the only safe ground to stand upon."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

For days the family caravan had been trudging over dusty paths, headed toward the "Promised Land" -- Canaan. But as often happens, Abram and Sarai came upon a detour. I wish none of us ever found our paths straying from God's map, but I know that more than once in my own life, I've found myself veering off course, wandering like a lost lamb, hunting desperately for greener pastures, when in fact, God has a beautiful meadow up ahead and I'm too blind and stupid to stay on the road with Him so I strike out on my own. Has this happened to you?

In the case of Sarai and Abram, Genesis 12: 9 & 10 (K.J.V.), tells us that Abram journeyed toward the south. "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." Now, you can correct me if I'm mistaken, but I don't see any place where God told Abram, "I want you to go to Egypt to 'sojourn.'" In fact, if we take a look at the Hebrew meaning of "sojourn" as used in this situation, I find it enlightening for it shines a spotlight on exactly what was going on. Sojourn means to "turn aside from the road for another purpose." There's more! The word "sojourn" also means to shrink back or fear a strange place. Let's lay out the situation. God called Abram for a single purpose -- to make of him a great nation. At God's instruction, Abram was to leave the comforts of family, home, and land, and travel to Canaan. This was God's bidding. But when trouble popped-up, and in this case it was a famine, Abram became afraid. Evidently, he forgot who was leading him. He convinced himself that he was in charge of solving the food crisis. Aren't we humans a crazy lot? Abram decided he could figure out how to get food better than the Creator of all food! I've often wondered what would have happened if Abram had told God, "I'll keep walking on Your path, I'll fulfill Your purpose, and I'll trust you to provide food for the journey."

Instead, off to Egypt Abram headed. Only now that he had taken things into his own hands, he encountered another obstacle. He was married to a beautiful woman.

Historians tell us that at this time, Sarai was not the age of a teenage beauty queen. She was even better. She was a mature woman who was not only beautiful but who also radiated a dignity and bearing that would have been appealing to the Egyptian Pharaoh for Sarai would have been admired as a goddess. Take that girls! For those of us who find the "teen years" of our life are only a faint memory in the rear view mirror, in Bible times, mid-life and old age often brought admiration and respect borne out of the dignity, strength, and wisdom shown by mature women.

Since Abram had taken things into his own hands, the problem of Sarai's beauty and allurement became his to solve, so he cooked up a real dilly of a story that was partially true.

Abram instructed his wife, "Do not tell anyone who asks that you are my sister, otherwise they will kill me."

I say there was some truth to the story because as we found out, Terah was Abram and Sarai's father. With the threat of her husband's potential murder hanging over her head, Sarai accommodatingly went along with the little white lie and within a short period of time, the story blew up in Abram and Sarai's face.

Even though Abram and Sarai stepped off God's path, He didn't lose track of their whereabouts. God saw exactly what was going on and so He did an interesting thing.

As Abram thought, the princes of Pharaoh saw Sarai and said, "What a knock out. We'll gain favor with the Pharaoh if we bring a beautiful woman like this to him for his pleasure." They were right! The Pharaoh was so thrilled he sent Abram "sheep, oxen, asses, menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels" (Genesis 12: 16, K.J.V.).

In the United States, we have a word for men who get money for selling the favors of their women. They are called pimps. And pardon me, this is what Abram, the father of a Great Nation became when he got off God's path and detoured into Egypt to get food. Abram became a pimp and God didn't like his behavior at all. Since Abram hadn't been paying attention to God's will, God went to see Pharaoh. Genesis 12: 17 (K.J.V.) says "And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife." God stepped in, not to save Abram, but to protect Sarai! One of God's daughters was going to be "used" and God said, "NO!" I love this story because for every one of God's daughters in this world who is being disrespected, the God of the Universe, our Father who art in heaven is watching. To His girls in Kenya and Zimbabwe who are brutalized -- God is watching. He is with you. He will save you. As one of our Transformation Garden sisters from Kenya wrote me last week, "I believe God is faithful." I wept as I read her note because many of us have no idea the pain and suffering our sisters are enduring and as I read of God's intervention to protect Sarai, I asked our God, who used plagues to protect one of His girls, to please use His mighty power to protect His daughters around the world who are suffering at the hands of those who have no respect or concern for God's daughters.

Well, poor Pharaoh! He was taken off guard. He thought he was adding another gorgeous woman to his harem. As the plagues fell, he called Abram and said, "What is this that thou hast done unto me?" I'm glad Pharaoh was astute enough to lay the blame, not on God who was protecting His daughter, but on Abram who had betrayed His Father and his wife, too.

This short story has so many lessons I could write all day but let's just focus on four of them.

1. When God gives you a purpose for your life, follow His path or you might end up in Egypt.

2. There's no such thing as a little lie. Little lies can cause great suffering.

3. Each of us must choose what is right, no matter what threats hang over our heads.

4. Just because we can't see God's solution to the famine in our lives, doesn't mean God's food basket isn't filled to over-flowing waiting for us just around the next corner.

Tomorrow, we're going to leave Egypt and find out what lessons Sarai learned about hospitality and God's gracious love.

"A half-truth is a dangerous thing, especially if you have got hold of the wrong half."
Myron F. Boyd


Cindy said...

I learned a valuable lesson about leaving things in God's hands a couple of years ago. Something had happened,lives were going to be torn to pieces,it was going to split the family apart, etc...there was not one thing I could do about the whole mess, except pray and ask God for His wisdom and strength. And as I was praying I distinctly heard God tell me, "You can cry and wail about the circumstances you find yourself in, but if you do, it's like telling Me that I don't know what I am doing." There was nothing I could do except apologize to Him for my arrogance and ignorance.
Two years have passed since then. In those two years God has done some amazing things. Two sisters, my daughters, who could easily have wound up hating each other for the rest of their lives, are rebuilding their relationship. A son in law who could have lost his life by now and found himself in hell was given, by God's mercy and grace, another chance. We've been able to forgive him and are moving on. God knew all along what He was doing and how He was going to work it all out.