Flawed Perfection: Abraham
Just imagine; you're living your life as you normally do. Every day is the same as it was yesterday, business as usual. You go to work, earn an honest living, then head home to spend time with your spouse and children. With the exception of a few incidents that are typical in life, nothing changes; things occur as planned... until you just so happen to one day have (what is commonly referred to) as a chance encounter with a unique individual. This individual tells you that you were destined for greatness, and your life will never be the same if you choose to take him up on his offer. This may seem something that only occurs in movies, but not even Hollywood could write this script.
It must not have been easy for Abraham (initially named Abram) to grasp all this. As we are accustomed to seeing, however, God does what he does best by randomly introducing himself and intruding on your personal plans. At this point Abraham didn't know God, but whatever he had planned couldn't compare to his wildest dreams as God informed Abraham of what 'destined for greatness' really means.
Genesis 12: 1-3
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
So much for a mundane life. I'm quite sure Abraham had none of this on his mind, but it was planned for him. As the only way a person could respond when the Creator makes a grand entrance, Abraham packs up his family and his belongings, and without the slightest idea of what saying yes to God really means, heads out on a journey that he would have to see to believe.
Abraham's mark of perfection is his consistent faith. Among the other qualities that could be highlighted, Abraham's faith in God was remarkable. There is no indication in scripture that Abraham knew anything about God prior to his call, and yet he still followed after God obediently. Even on two occasions when the requirement to following God was costly, Abraham didn't resist. The first was circumcision.
Genesis 17:9-14, 23-26
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.
Circumcision is already an interesting process, but to do it 99 years old?...not fun. The other circumstance that would literally require Abraham's heart involves his son.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
That was the ultimate test of his willingness to walk with God from start to finish, and in the end he passed with flying colors. Even better, he gained a closer relationship with God. That became evident when God shared his plans for Sodom and Gomorrah.
Genesis 18:17, 22-26
Then the Lord said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham? The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” The Lord said, “If I find 50 righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
No man prior to Abraham could reason with God on such a manner that God would strike a deal to relent from his wrath...especially when it came to God laying out justice and judgment against a person or city. This could only happen, in part, due to Abraham's consistent display of faith throughout the years. Even with such grace extended toward him, Abraham wasn't without his own shortcomings.
Lying seemed to be a familiar shortcoming with Abraham. There are two instances where we see Abraham blatantly lie to escape a potential life altering situation. Both of these lies centered around his wife Sarah.
There was a famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine in the land was severe. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live. Please say you’re my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh, so the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s household. He treated Abram well because of her, and Abram acquired flocks and herds, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels. But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh sent for Abram and said, “What have you done to me? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister,’ so that I took her as my wife? Now, here is your wife. Take her and go!”
Let's be clear that there are multiple ill-conceived actions involving this one lie. (1) Abraham lied, (2) Because of Abraham's lie, Pharaoh illegally acquired Sarah as his wife and, with strong presumption, slept with her. (3) Abraham illegally acquired wealth from Pharaoh under the charade that Sarah was not Abraham's wife. Was Abraham correct that Pharaoh would try to seduce Sarah to his team? Absolutely. Would Pharaoh have done this if he knew Sarah and Abraham were married? I doubt it based on the scripture above, but obviously I can't be sure on that wager. Still, this move by Abraham was very reckless considering everything God had shared with him and the plans he had for Abraham's descendants. As if lying about their marriage and letting other men sleep with her wasn't bad enough, he did it a second time.
From there Abraham traveled to the region of the Negev and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he lived in Gerar, Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar had Sarah brought to him. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman you have taken, for she is a married woman.”
Had God not warned Abimelech, he might have suffered a worse fate than Pharaoh. Even though Abimelech didn't have intercourse with Sarah, God closed off the wombs of the women in Abimelech's household (including his wife) because of the lie (Gen 20:17-18). I guess once wasn't enough for Abraham.
Abraham can be considered the progenitor of the faith in many regards. His direct obedience to a God he never really knew of opened up a relationship with the Creator that no man before him ever had. God chose him, not because of any merit Abraham earned, to become the earthly father of God's people. An extreme honor for any person that was almost derailed because of Abraham's lies; lies that should've (rightfully so) gotten him and Sarah killed twice. A lying tongue can lead to disastrous results, so try being honest.