I hope we can all agree that it’s never a good thing to miss God’s will. The fact is, though, that some trips outside God’s will result in a figurative slap on the wrist, while others result in a figurative flogging. Under the category of flogging, let’s consider a couple of stories from the life of Abraham.
Not long after Abraham arrived in Canaan with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot, a famine struck the land (Genesis 12:10). This famine was a test of Abraham’s faith because God wanted him to stay in Canaan and trust Him to take care of them. But Abraham loaded up his camp and stepped out of God’s will by bolting south to abundant Egypt.
And what happened down in Egypt? Abraham lied about the beautiful Sarah being his wife, claiming instead that she was his sister (Genesis 12:11-13), and that lie allowed the Pharaoh to purchase Sarah for his harem (Genesis 12:14-16). However, once she was in Pharaoh’s house, God struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues (Genesis 12:16). It was then that the lie was exposed, which prompted Pharaoh to call for Abraham and throw the whole family out of Egypt (Genesis 12:18-20).
Okay, I understand that Abraham got what he deserved, but my point is that lots of people take trips out of God’s will every day, and their rebellion doesn’t result in great plagues or them being kicked out of countries. I mean, seriously, God could have prevented all those consequences in Abraham’s life by simply not allowing Abraham to go to Egypt, not allowing him to get into a situation where he felt compelled to tell his lie about Sarah, or not allowing Sarah to end up in Pharaoh’s house. But God lowered the boom on Abraham by letting the entire situation get about as bad as it could get. Sure, Abraham failed the test about staying in Canaan when times got tough, but God didn’t have to make that particular test count for 50% of the term grade.
In a related story that took place a decade later, Abraham and Sarah grew impatient waiting on God to give them a son. So, Sarah employed the custom of that day by asking Abraham to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar (Genesis 16:1-3). The idea was that Abraham could father a child through Hagar, and that child would be considered Sarah’s. Even though such a plan was perfectly legitimate in the ancient world, it was not God’s will. Instead, God wanted Abraham and Sarah to continue waiting upon Him to give them a son. (By the way, Hagar wasn’t with Abraham, Sarah, and Lot when they first arrived in Canaan. Where do you think Abraham acquired her as a servant? You got it: Egypt (Genesis 12:16,20).
So, what happened when Abraham had sexual relations with Hagar? She got pregnant, which caused her and Sarah to despise each other and Sarah to deal harshly with her (Genesis 16:4-6). This, in turn, caused the pregnant Hagar to flee from the camp. With some help from the Lord, she eventually returned (Genesis 16:7-16), but the dysfunctional tone in the camp was set for the years that would follow. Finally, a couple of years after Sarah had given birth to Isaac 14 years later, the whole situation reached a boiling point and Hagar and the now teenage Ishmael had to leave the camp for good (Genesis 21:1-21).
Here again, though, my point is that God could have prevented all those consequences in Abraham’s life by simply not allowing Hagar to get pregnant. All He had to do was close up her womb (at least temporarily) the way He did so many other women in the Bible: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Hannah, and Elizabeth. For that matter, how many people down through the centuries have had sex that didn’t produce a pregnancy? But the way the story about Abraham and Hagar reads, she got pregnant very quickly, perhaps even during their first sexual encounter.
So, the moral of today’s post is simple: That sin that you are toying around with these days (and you know which one it is) might very well result in a flogging for you rather than a slap on the wrist. Believe me, whenever you purposely choose to step outside God’s will and embrace some sin, you start playing a dangerous, high-stakes game of Russian Roulette. And don’t count on God to show you mercy and grace by not allowing your sin to mess up your life too much. You just never know when He will decide to “go Abraham” on you and let you experience the full, far-reaching consequences of your bad choice.