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From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” – Genesis 20:1-7
“They say we preach best what we need most. If that’s the case, hang on, for you’re in for a hum dinger today!” That’s how a pastor began his message at a pastors conference two decades ago. He must really have needed grace and truth. He brought it. Maybe you’re in for a hum dinger today as well.
It caught me just the other day right after I hit “publish” on my blog post for the day. I had already done the hard work of thinking, researching, and writing. I probably should have gone back and re-written the whole post. But I did not. In stead, I decided to wait till today. The phrase was almost a throw away. God is speaking to Abimelech, king of Gerar. He says, “I did not let you sin against me…” When I saw that (for at least the 20th time in my life) I was reminded of David who confessed his sin with Bathsheba, “Against you, only you have I sinned and done this evil in your sight…”(Psalm 51:4). David had sinned against Bathsheba. He had sinned against Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. He had sinned against the commander of his army when he had ordered him purposefully to leave Uriah in a vulnerable position so that Uriah was killed in battle. But David cuts to the chase when he confesses all this. He had sinned really only against God.
When I sin – in any way, sins of commission, sins of omission, purposeful, unintentional, knowingly or unknowingly – I sin against God. I need to remember that. Maybe you do too.
John writes to the early Christians that we cannot say we love God and hate our neighbor. Loving God means loving our neighbor. God is not some distant deity, aloof from the warp and woof of life on earth. He’s not unconcerned about the way we treat one another. Nor is he tsk tsking at our wayward ways with one another. He deeply cares for all of his creation. And to think that we can treat one of his creatures with contempt and not offend him? Well, that’s just plain wrong. Dead wrong.
One of the foundational truths of God’s word is that he is creator of all that exists. His creation is fallen, broken, and corrupt(ed). The devil has been at work and had his way with us. And whenever we give into the temptations of the evil one, our own sinful flesh, or the world’s allure, we sin against God.
Maybe that’s not profound to you. But it is to me. I need God’s forgiveness. And so do you. For all my sins, great and small. Sometimes God prevents us from sinning, just as he did with Abimelech. But sometimes we run right past the roadblocks and warnings he posts. When we do, we confess with David, “Against you, you alone, have I sinned.” And we thank God that he forgives sin. And has done so in Jesus, his Son, who never ran past the roadblocks or warnings. But died with the weight of the world’s sin on his heart and shoulders. In him we have redemption and forgiveness. I need to hear that again and again. And I thank God that it is a message I am able to proclaim again and again. Whew! I really needed that. You?