Yikes. This should have been up 12-hours ago. If I had the ability, I'd spend the rest of the day designing a time machine just so I could get this done quicker, but advanced computational fictional time physics isn't one of the books I've read yet. That, and I lack a blue police box to put it all in.
We're 20 chapters into the Through the Whole Bible blog effort, which puts us squarely in Genesis 20 (LINK). Last year, I preached through the first 25 chapters of Genesis, and you can find the relevant postings here and here.
Taken historically, at this point Abraham is traveling away from the wreck of Sodom and Gomorrah. His relationship with Lot is completely severed and he moves on. Assuming a straightforward chronology of Genesis here, the incident of this chapter comes between the visit of God that precedes the destruction and the birth of Isaac, which means it fits into a year's time span.
During that year, Abraham apparently moved back toward the Negev into the kingdom of Gerar. The king there, Abimelech (or Abimelek, new NIV—I like using the phonetic spellings, by the way, that's nice), was a typical city-state totalitarian despot and Abraham was afraid they would kill him and take Sarah.
Sound familiar? Look here. He's pulled this stunt before.
For most of us, that's it. Here's the repeat of the same willful, sinful mistake as before. When that happens, we're done with someone. The man that sins twice is no longer fit to be our role model. The woman who, having once betrayed us, stabs us in the back again, she's gone from our life.
Is that the right way to act?
Now some of you are about to over-react to this statement because you're jumping to certain, specific situations. So let's hit the exceptions to the rule and then the rule: physical safety and prevention of emotional destruction are important. If someone is physically abusive or emotionally abusive (sexual abuse is really both of those, so count it in the batch) then yes: get away and get safe. If someone is a thief then don't give them your house keys again.
However, while those circumstances surely do affect too many people, they do not affect each one of us. And typically, we're responding to lesser issues. Or we're responding to those abstract failures of people we don't even know: we're done with reading Billy Graham because he once embraced Catholics as Christians or done with Ed Stetzer since he preached to the Assembly of God people that one time.
We cut out our brother for his failed marriage, our cousin for his too frequent drinking binges, our niece for her early pregnancy. Especially since "they should know better by now!"
Take a look at this, though: Abraham makes the same willful decision twice. Sarah is comfortable enough with the ruse to go along, and back in Genesis 20:13 he tells Abimelech that this was their practice everywhere they went. It's a habit.
This coming after all of the restatements of the promise to preserve Abraham and Sarah and bring a child to them. This coming after the vision of the covenant in Genesis 15. After seeing God rain destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah. After he has bloomin' seen God deliver him and his wife from Pharaoh after he pulled the same stunt.
He should have known better. He did know better.
How quick are we to dispose of relationships when they violate the "You should know better" clause we've attached? Who are we to attach that clause in the first place?