“So Isaac stayed in Gerar. When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ because he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.'” (Gen 26:6-7,NIV)
I wonder how we might have reacted in Isaac shoes. Would we deny our own spouse, thus creating a scenario where others would lust after him/her, just to save our own skin? When Isaac lied, saying that Rebekah was her sister, anyone could have asked to marry her. What would Isaac have done if that had happened? He would be in big trouble!
Interestingly enough, he IS accused of being dishonest…The pagan king of the Philistines, King Abimelech, saw Isaac and Rebekah together, acting in a way that should not be seen by a brother and sister: “When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah.” (Gen 26:8, NIV). Realizing that he has been lied to, the king became very upset: “So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, ‘She is really your wife! Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’ Isaac answered him, ‘Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.'” (Gen 26:9, NIV).
Wait. Is this real love? Creating a scenario where your beautiful wife is put at ultimate risk all because you wish to save your own skin? And then all you can say for yourself is, “She’s an adult, after all…”?
It’s true that Isaac is following in the exact footsteps of his father, Abraham, who lied about his wife on two different occasions (See Gen. 12:10-20, 20:2). Nonetheless, the chosen of God is not acting in a very righteous manner. He makes himself into a liar who thinks only of himself, and as a result, he is not being a good example to Abimelek and his people. He does not show that he is a follower of the Most High.
Abimelek’s reaction? “Then Abimelek said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.'” (Gen 26:10, NIV).
In this scenario, the pagan king was the one who was doing the right thing. His actions show that he cared more about Rebekah than her own husband did. And then this pagan king went on to teach Isaac how he SHOULD live his life: caring more about his wife than about himself! “So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: ‘Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.'” (Gen 26:11). In other words, If Isaac wouldn’t protect his own wife, then Abimelek would protect her!
In so doing, Abimelek taught Isaac the difference between right and wrong. The unrighteous was more righteous that the follower of the One true God. The unrighteous taught the follower of God what righteousness should look like.
In this world, we will be condemned when we do wrong, especially when we are followers of the Most High. In fact, this is taught in God’s Word: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NIV)
I had many coop students work with me during my teaching career. One day, a girl in my class made a bad choice, and I knew I would have to talk with her. My current coop student was a follower of Christ, and she wanted to see how I would handle the situation.
First, I asked that child if she was a Christian.
She said she wasn’t.
“That is OK,” I said. “However, how would your parents react if I shared with them what you did today?”
Her cheeks started to redden, and I could see that she was beginning to realize that she had done wrong. I told her I wouldn’t call her parents this time if she would promise to never act in this way again. She promised, and she kept that promise. Never again did she act in the same way.
When it was all over, however, my coop student was mad at me. She turned to me and told me that I had been completely wrong to ask the girl if she was a Christian.
I could see that the coop student would report my “wrongdoing” to her coop teacher, and I knew that trouble could soon come knocking at my door. I had no choice but to contact the COOP teacher myself, along with my principal, and explain what had happened. After all, I didn’t want the child to be in any more trouble.
Neither the coop teacher nor the principal were Christians; yet despite this, they gave me their full support. They brought my coop student to the office and shared that what I had asked that child was completely appropriate since I was simply trying to teach the child to make the right choices.
In both of these cases, non-believers were doing what our Heavenly Father would do: The unrighteous were bringing the children of God to righteousness.
Imagine seeing the baby Jesus in the manger. People could begin criticizing God for sending Jesus. It would be even worse when they found out that God’s Son was going to be crucified. They had no idea what our Father was doing.
But God was doing the unthinkable: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV). In other words, Jesus became the “unrighteous”, and in so doing, the “unrighteous” brought God’s children to righteousness. He brought salvation to anyone who is willing to accept His offer.
If Jesus was willing to become the unrighteous so that you and I could have righteousness, shouldn’t we accept His beautiful gift that began in the manger?
“Then Jesus cried out, ‘Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12: 44-47, NIV)
(To access the entire “Hope in the Distance” devotional series, please click here.)