When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. – Genesis 12:14-20
I’m a Camelot fan. From quoting Lancelot, “If I’d been made the partner of Eve, we’d be in Eden still!” [NOT!], to Arthur’s, If Ever I would leave you, to the title song, Camelot: I love the music. That might be related to the fact that I had the cassette tape many years ago and played it many times as I drove from Vernal, Utah to Rangely, Colorado – a 50 mile trip – serving that dual parish. It was my first call. When I think of this event in the life of Pharaoh, Sarai, and Abram, I thought of this one:
I wonder what the king is doing tonight?
What merriment is the king pursuing tonight?
The candles at the court, they never burned as bright.
I wonder what the king is up to tonight?
How goes the final hour
As he sees the bridal bower
Being regally and legally prepared?
Well, I’ll tell you what the king is doing tonight:
He’s scared! He’s scared!
Arthur realizes that Guinevere is a formidable woman. He may be king, and she may be the woman of his dreams, but he is king and must never show fear. Not to mention that he has some competition for Guinevere’s heart. So as he prepares for their wedding night he is afraid.
Pharaoh was not preparing for his wedding, but surely he was afraid as he and his whole household were experiencing the visitation of God’s wrath because of his and Sarai’s improper relationship. It seems that it was not so much a matter of being found out. Pharaoh does as Pharaoh pleases. It’s good to be king, after all. You answer to no one. Except to One. And the One True God will require an answer. From all of us.
So whether it is fear in the face of an upcoming wedding or the onset of illness that Pharaoh experiences: fear intrudes into all our lives. Whether we are king or vassal, boss or new hire, hero or rescued, we will all one day give an account to God.
This isn’t only about justice – which it certainly is. It’s not merely about proper acknowledgement of the One to whom we will all give an account – that day will come. But in the here and now – before that final Day of Accounting – it’s about God’s desire that we repent and embrace his reign and rule in faith and love. God doesn’t wipe out Abram, Sarai, and Pharaoh. He doesn’t abandon them in their folly. He brings illness to bring them to repentance.
Outwardly Pharaoh seems to repent. At least he brings an end to his relationship with Sarai. Abram and Sarai are outed and will continue their sojourn according to God’s calling and his good will. Whether that amounts to true repentance we’ll leave for God to determine.
We, however, can determine whether or not we will repent from the heart and seek God’s reign and rule in our lives. If we think this is a matter of surrender under duress, we might experience only part of his true reign and rule. For God’s purposes in calling and leading Abram and Sarai are profound and far-reaching. They will have a child of the promise. They will experience a miraculous birth. They will become the parents of the child of promise. And from that child will come – ultimately the 12 tribes of Israel. And from the tribe of Judah will come the Savior of the World.
God isn’t interested in mere outward compliance and solely fear-based surrender. God’s desire is for our faith. And Abram is the father of that faith. So whether from grave consequences, an encounter with soul-shaking need for mercy, a new glimpse of God’s glory, or a life-long experience of God’s grace, God deeply desires our hearts of fear, love, and faith. Jesus is the embodiment of that and the source of the grace needed so that we may fear, love, and trust in the One True King.
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