“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
We continue our teaching on marriage from the book of Genesis. Last week we concluded our look at Adam and Eve and saw how sin entered the world and their marriage. And we saw the devastating effect it had on them.
This week we will turn our attention to the marriage of another couple we read about in Genesis—Abraham and Sarah. We will discover in their relationship several other ways our sin can impact our own marriage.
We first meet Abraham in Genesis 11, where he is called by the name Abram, which means “father.” He is later renamed Abraham by God (see Genesis 17), which means “father of many.” This was because of the covenant that God made with him that included the promise that Abraham would “be the father of many nations” (v. 4).
Abraham’s wife is called by the name Sarai in Genesis 11. God also changes her name—to Sarah—in Genesis 17 as part of this covenant.
God is faithful to His original and ongoing intent for marriage. The two are to be as one (see Genesis 2:24). Therefore, they share in the covenant together. It will take both of them to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that he will “be the father of many nations.”
Again, this is true to God’s original plan for marriage. Eve was created by God as “a helper suitable for him [Adam]” (Genesis 2:18). One of the things she was to help Adam with—and for which she was indispensable—was God’s command to them: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
Abraham and Sarah were certainly godly people. Both were chosen by God to be the parents of a lineage that would lead to His chosen people, and eventually the birth of His Son, Jesus (see Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). And we see Abraham as an example of a man of faith in Romans 4 and Hebrews 11:8-12.
Sarah is also used as an example of faith in Hebrews 11:11. Wives are instructed to follow her example in 1 Peter 3:1-6.
But neither of them was perfect. Both of them were infected by the same thing that Adam and Eve had brought to mankind—sin. They were as guilty of the disobedience of God’s Word as any of us have been since. That’s why we read in Isaiah 53:6: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.”
This disobedience led to many problems in Abraham and Sarah’s marriage. The same disobedience will lead to problems in our lives and marriage. So let’s look at some examples from Abraham and Sarah’s marriage to see what God has to teach us.
We will begin in Genesis 12. Abraham and Sarah began their journey to follow God from their homeland in Haran (see Genesis 11:31-32) to an undesignated place that God would lead them to (see Genesis 12:1-4). God was faithful and led them to the new homeland He had promised them (see Genesis 12:5-8).
This is where Abraham allowed his sinful nature to begin to lead him instead of following God’s teaching. A famine came upon the land, and he trusted his own wisdom instead of seeking God’s help. Here we have lesson one.
Always begin by seeking God’s help in every situation in your marriage. Ask God for His wisdom, do not depend on your own.
We are told in 1 Corinthians 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
We read in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” God gives us this incredible promise in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Abraham and Sarah did not ask God for help, but decided to try to figure things out on their own. This led them to yet another sin. It began with them leaving God’s promised land to go to Egypt to get relief from the famine (see Genesis 12:10). And it gives us lesson two.
Always hold your fear of the Lord higher than your fear of man.
Abraham’s sin-stained heart led him to fear man instead of God. This is why we are told in Proverbs 29:25: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Jesus taught in Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Abraham’s list of sins continued and led him to instruct Sarah to lie. We read about this in Genesis 12:11-13:
“As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’”
We discussed in a previous post in this series how Adam had not followed God’s command to husbands to protect their wives by cleansing them “by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Abraham did not do this either. Instead he instructed Sarah to sin.
The result of these sins was almost disastrous for Abraham and Sarah. Only God’s grace saved them from further harm. It did not, however, keep others from being negatively impacted.
We read about that in Genesis 12:17: “But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.” That is what our sin does. It not only harms us, but others as well.
In my counseling with married couples, I have listened with a broken heart to husbands and wives in great pain because of the sin of their spouse. I have observed children struggling over the sin of parents. I have seen families torn apart because the world’s lies were believed instead of God’s truthful wisdom.
God was gracious to Sarah and Abraham. We read about this in Genesis 12:18-20: “So Pharaoh summoned Abram. ‘What have you done to me?’ he said. ‘Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, “She is my sister,” so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!’ 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.”
The same gracious God will also forgive and help us when we sin. But we must confess, ask for His forgiveness, and start following His wisdom.
We read this promise in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
We also read in Acts 3:19: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” The Greek word translated as “refreshing” is “anapsucho.” It literally pictures someone who has had the wind knocked out of them recovering by taking a deep breath and beginning to breath normally again.
That is what repentance does when sin knocks the breath out of us and our marriage. It lets us breathe again. It allows us to continue to enjoy God’s blessings. It leads us to seek, discover, and follow God’s wisdom that leads to those blessings.
As we hold God in highest esteem, seek Him and follow His wisdom, and turn to him in repentance when we do go astray, He will refresh our lives and breathe new life into our marriage.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ What did God teach you through this week’s post? How will you apply it to your marriage?
♦ One of the sins we see Abraham commit is to follow his own wisdom instead of God’s wisdom. Do you sometimes seek to use your own wisdom—or that of the world—to make decisions? Do you seek God’s wisdom in His Word and through prayer? If not, then commit to each other that you will do this.
♦ Is there something right now you need wisdom for in order to make the right decisions? Use these steps to help guide you:
◊ Begin by seeing what God’s Word has to say about it. Does it say you should do what you are considering? Does it say not to do it?
◊ If there is no clear direction, then ask God for His wisdom. Include praying His promise of James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to to you.”
◊ If you come to the same conclusion, then you can pray and move forward together. Remember God’s promise of Matthew 18:19-20: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
◊ If you do not agree, then that is probably God telling you either not to move forward, or to wait to do so.
♦ We have emphasized in our study of these early marriages the importance of protecting our marriage by following God’s Word. We have observed the importance of husbands leading in doing this. Unfortunately, Abraham did not learn this lesson the first time, as he repeated this sin in Genesis 20 with similar results because of God’s grace.
Nevertheless, we are to love our spouse and be the husband or wife God wants us to be as He teaches us in His Word.
He gives special instructions to husbands. God says in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
He tells us further of our need to do this and of the terrible consequence of not doing it in 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
We read throughout the Bible of men who protected their wives and families by faithfully following God’s instruction. We find one example in Genesis 6-9. There we read how Noah protected his wife and family, and God protected all of them. Noah’s faith became an ark for his family.
Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you both to study God’s Word, to “listen to the word,” and then “do what it says” (James 1:22). Ask Him to help you do this individually and together. Ask Him to use this to help you have the marriage that He desires for you.
Next week we will find another lesson we can learn from the marriage of Abraham and Sarah that we can apply to our own marriage.
May God bless you and your marriages in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in THE GENESIS OF MARRIAGE series:
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.