“Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South. Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.’ So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.’ So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.”
Abraham took all his family including his nephew Lot, and all his possessions to the land of Canaan. But there were already other tribes living in this land, and these inhabitants were the descendants of Ham. Nonetheless, when Abraham reached Canaan, God appeared before him and said to him that He would give this land to him and all his descendants. Whenever Abraham arrived at a strange place, the first thing he did was to build an altar and offer up a sacrifice to God. He always offered up a sacrifice of faith first.
The People of God Are Blessed through His Church
After spending some time in the land of Canaan, Abraham left and went on to Egypt, and the Bible records similar incidents happening in the lives of three men of faith namely, Isaac, Abraham and Jacob, whose stories are so similar that they are almost like a carbon copy of each other. Here we need to find out what God is trying to say to us through these accounts. Faced with a severe famine, Abraham went down to Egypt even though God had told him not to do it, and when he arrived there he told the inhabitants living there that his wife was his sister, as he was afraid that he might get killed because of his wife. Isaac did the very same thing.
Here in Egypt, Abraham turned cowardly even though he had not been like this when he was in the land of Canaan. The Egyptian civilization in those days was highly developed. So it was not an easy country to deal with. Since the Egyptian civilization had already entered the Iron Age, for Abraham a nomad, it was clearly too strong an opponent. He had gone into the land of Egypt in search of food because of the famine he was experiencing and to find good pasture land for his flock. But when he saw how advanced the Egyptians were, he realized that he was in for a rough ride. And on top of this the Egyptians were impressed with his wife’s beauty and they were keenly interested in her. In those ancient times, when a man traveled to a foreign land accompanied with his wife, it was not unusual for the inhabitants of that land to kill the traveler and take his wife. That is why Abraham felt so threatened. So he told his wife not to call herself his wife, but his sister.
Abraham’s wife was then taken to the palace of Pharaoh, probably to be offered to him as one of his concubines. His subordinates had taken her to Pharaoh as she was extremely beautiful, and the king was also very pleased to see her. How did Pharaoh treat Abraham when his wife was brought to him? He rewarded him with many things, such as oxen and sheep. Abraham received them all.
But soon God brought down a great plague on Pharaoh’s palace. Although we don’t know exactly what kind of plague this was, we can surmise that it was a disastrous plague, and Pharaoh realized why this had happened. That is because God had taught him. Although it’s not written here in the Bible, through this plague Pharaoh realized that God had brought it upon him because he had taken Abraham’s wife. So Abraham’s wife was sent back to him, along with many treasures. And as a result of this, Abraham became very wealthy all thanks to his wife.
The Same Thing Happened with Isaac, the Son of Abraham
The Bible records that Isaac also did the same thing when there was a famine in his land. Like Abraham, Isaac went down to Gerar with his wife Rebekah in search for food, and just like Abraham experienced, the men in Gerar asked him about his wife. Again, just like Abraham, Isaac also told them that she was his sister, as he was afraid that if he told them that she was his wife, they would kill him to take her. But later Abimelech the king of the Philistines came to know that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife. So he called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you then say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac then said to him, “Because I was afraid that someone would kill me to take her away from me.” Abimelech then said to Isaac, “What is this you have done to us? One of my people might soon have laid with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” So King Abimelech issued an order to all his people, saying that whoever touched Isaac or his wife would surely be put to death. (Genesis 26:6-11).
When we read the Bible we see the same thing happen to both Abraham and his son Isaac. This is quite puzzling, since it wasn’t just Abraham who betrayed his wife, but it happened again with his son, repeating this same thing over. We therefore wonder what this all means.
Regardless of how he did, Abraham became very wealthy because of his wife. What does this story tell us? In the Bible woman refers to the Church, and the Church is the bride of Jesus Christ. So this account tells us that we are made rich both spiritually and materially because of God’s Church. But despite this there are people who remain unable to profess their trust in God’s Church to those around them, afraid that this would somehow have a negative impact on their fleshy interests. In other words, even the born-again Christians have faithless thoughts concerning God’s Church, thinking that if they say that this is our church, it would hurt our interests, undermine our prosperity, and lead us to be despised and shunned by many. Just as Abraham thought that he would be killed because of his wife, likewise today, some people of God who have received the remission of their sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit have similar faithless thoughts over their church. God is teaching us through His written Word that this is wrong. If you say in your faithlessness that this church is not your church, then you may avoid persecution, gain wealth in this world, and be approved by others, but God is saying that this is not right.
When I look into the hearts of the saints and servants of God, I sometimes see that their hearts are not right. Those who have faith in the righteousness of God and His Word are fine, but those who are faithless are unable to say this is their church. In other words, even as they believe that the gospel preached by their church is right, they are still ashamed of their church. Whenever some saints come across some worldly Christians and are asked about their church, they just say that they attend the same church as everyone else. This is what faithless saints are saying.
Of course, the saints in God’s Church here would not actually say such a thing. But the truth is when we were first saved by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, all of us could have such an urge in our minds. Even though God’s Church is right, it’s quite easy for us to say that every church is God’s Church, rather than saying that this church ‘alone’ is God’s Church. By chance, have you also had this inclination after receiving the remission of sins? Even though this church is clearly God’s Church, have you ever thought to yourself that if you did say so, you would be shunned, persecuted and despised by many people, and as a result do you wish to deny that this church is in fact God’s Church? This can happen to anyone of us, since we all are insufficient.
However, through the event that is described in today’s reading, God is telling us that Abraham’s conduct was wrong. Likewise, the born-again should affirm their membership in God’s Church by faith, making it clear for all to see that this is their church, its members are their spiritual family, and its servants are God’s servants; they should not deny it as Abraham denied his wife. Through this event, God is telling us clearly that Abraham should have declared, “This woman is my wife and with whom I am living. This woman is my spouse.”
Was Abraham and Isaac’s wife not beautiful? They both were so very beautiful that they would have easily won any beauty contest. What about God’s Church then? Is it spiritually beautiful or not? It is extremely beautiful. God’s Church is extremely beautiful, more beautiful than any other worldly church, and it is a Church that we can all take pride in. Yet despite this, some people have a hard time saying that this Church of God is their church, as they are afraid that they might suffer at the hands of the people of this world, and that their faith might not be approved by others. But God is telling us that we should all declare that His Church is in fact our church, just as Abraham should have declared Sarah to be his wife. Abraham would not have died because of this. He deceived the Egyptians because he thought he would be killed, but when he was found out, God protected him and ensured his safety even more.
Isaac also claimed that his wife was his sister when he dwelt in Gerar amongst the Philistines, and as a result of this mistake one of the Philistines took her and came very close to sleeping with her. But Abimelech, the king of the Philistines protected Isaac, decreeing that anyone who slept with his wife would be put to death without fail. And he protected Isaac’s property as well. This implies that God always protects His people when they profess their faith in His Church. Some born-again saints think that they will be ruined and shunned by worldly Christians as heretics if they say by faith that God’s Church here where they belong is the real Church of God, but in reality, the Church they attend will be approved as the right and good church. In other words, if you use your faith before God and make His Church known, then far from being despised, you will be acknowledged by the people of the world. And you will be treated well. Therefore, don’t deny your own church out of faithlessness, being afraid over your life. Although I am confident that no one here would do so, who knows if some of us might end up denying God’s Church?
In fact, there are many people who do this even after being saved. Such people cannot separate their faith from their old church even as they hear the gospel of the water and the Spirit and know that this gospel is the true gospel. Like Abraham, they also say that their wives are not their wives but their sisters. The Bible commands us to say boldly that God’s Church is our church and to make its genuineness known to all, rather than being ashamed of it. We also have the same urges that prompted Abraham to claim that his wife was his sister rather than his wife. That’s why we hesitate to come into God’s Church even after being born again. We can’t make up our minds to unite with the Church even after being saved from our sins, but God is telling us clearly not to do this. He is telling us to say clearly that our wives are our wives, rather than remaining silent. That’s why these things are written repeatedly in the Bible.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob alike sometimes traveled to the Gentile lands like Egypt. And the wives of these people of faith are extremely beautiful. They are even more beautiful than any woman in this entire world. Abraham’s wife was extremely beautiful. Even the Gentiles were bewitched by her beauty when they looked upon her. What does all this mean to us? Is the Bible just telling us that Sarah was a beautiful woman? Was the account in today’s Scripture passage written just to tell us how beautiful Sarah was?
Through this event, God is speaking to us about His Church. And He is saying that He will protect His Church. Abraham’s wife was taken to Pharaoh’s palace, but what did God do? What did He do by striking Pharaoh’s palace with a plague? He made it so that Abraham’s wife was returned back to him. This means that God will defend His Church, and it also means that through God’s Church, believers who are leading their lives of faith in this Church will be protected from both the world and its heretics. In other words, God is saying that He will not allow anyone to touch His saints.
To be honest, did all of you gathered here not also have some shame after receiving the remission of your sins? Were you completely without shame? Having found God’s Church, were you not ashamed to say to those who have not been born again that this church is in fact God’s Church, and this is your church? My fellow believers, I know that almost all of you had these thoughts in your hearts, even if you did not carry them out with your acts. I had also entertained the possibility that if I did not insist on distinguishing God’s Church from the rest, I would not have faced persecution but found approval. But I could not bring myself to do this, just as you can’t bring yourself to do so either.
In Egypt a man had to offer several heads of oxen and a considerable amount of money as dowry to the woman’s family in order to marry her. Simply put, a bride was purchased with money. The groom would say to the bride’s father, “I want to marry your daughter. Will you give her to me?” Then the bride’s father would say, “How much dowries have you saved up so that you can marry my daughter? Do you have enough money? You can marry my daughter, but only if you pay us enough money.” The groom would then come up with the required money and bring the bride home. Then the bride would become one with the groom.
It’s the same with our salvation. Jesus Christ also purchased us with His own life. To make us His, He paid the ultimate price with His own life, exchanging it for ours. I am therefore unabashed to say that Christ is my Groom. I have been protected and blessed by God because of His Church. Were it not for God’s Church, how else could I have received God’s blessings and love? It would have been impossible. I am confident because of the Church, and that is why I can shout out boldly, “My wife is beautiful! My church is God’s Church and Christ’s Church! It is most beautiful!”
My fellow believers, I ask you not to betray your wife and to live with her all your life. While money is indispensable, is your wife expendable? No of course not. No matter how much money you might have, you still cannot be happy without your wife. Do you love God’s Church, my fellow believers? I am sure that you do, for here you can find rest, and even though at times you face hardship, you can carry out the Lord’s righteous work. We can receive all our blessings through God’s Church.
My fellow believers please do not chase after only money. Instead, you must follow the righteousness of God. We must realize that we are in fact the beautiful brides of Jesus Christ, and that the Lord will come and take us away in the near future. This is what the Bible is teaching us about in today’s Scripture passage.
We should therefore never leave God’s Church in faithlessness. Far from it, we must trust in God’s Church, enjoy the God-given blessings by faith, and serve the gospel.