Thursdays With Spurgeon—Wart Warning

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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Wart Warning  

     At the instigation of his wife, Abraham adopted means that were not justifiable in order that he might obtain the promised heir [see Genesis 16]. He used means that may not be so vicious to him as they would be in men of modern times, but that were suggested by an unbelieving policy and were fraught with evil. He takes Hager to wife. He could not leave it to God to give him the promised seed. He could not leave it with God to fulfill His promise in His own time and justifies himself in turning aside from the narrow path of faith to accomplish, by doubtful methods, the end that God Himself had promised and undertaken to accomplish! How shorn of splendor is Abraham seen when we read, ‘And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarah’ (Genesis 16:2). That business of Hagar is to the patriarch’s deep discredit and reflects no honor at all upon either him or his faith. 

     Look at the consequences of his unbelieving! Misery soon followed. Hager despises her mistress. Sarah throws all the blame on her husband. The poor bondwoman is so harshly dealt with that she flees from the household. … One marvels that such a man as Abraham allowed one who had been brought into such a relationship with him to be heedlessly chased from his house while in a condition requiring care and kindness! 

     We admire the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit that He has been pleased to record the faults of the saints without extenuating them. Biographies of good men in Scripture are written with unflinching integrity—their evil recorded as well as their good. These faults are not written that we may say, ‘Abraham did so-and-so; therefore we may do it.’ No, brothers and sisters, the lives of these good men are warnings to us as well as examples, and we are to judge them as we should judge ourselves—by the laws of right and wrong.

From Consecration To God

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I also talk about the faults that we see in God’s leaders. In looking at David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Elijah’s slide into depression, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, I see something similar: They were alone. 

David stayed in Jerusalem while his army went to fight, Elijah left his servant behind and went into the wilderness alone, and Peter was separated from his fellow disciples. Just like with Abraham, all of these other men were brought back into close fellowship with God. But all of these men now have a “wart” on their biography. 

“God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—‘It is not good for you to be alone’—are words for us still today. As I mentioned earlier [in my book], you will not find the word ‘saints’ in the singular in the New Testament. Instead, you will find such phrases as ‘one another,’ ‘each other,’ and ‘all together’ prominently displayed throughout the New Testament church. Let me say it again: God designed us to be in relationship with others. If you want to go far in your shepherding, you cannot try to go alone.” —from the chapter in Shepherd Leadership called ‘Going Farther’ 

Let’s be forewarned by these examples. Stay close to God, but also stay close to godly friends that will help you in the hard times. Don’t let a wart blemish your record.

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Unintended Consequences

Sometimes even with the best of intentions, our actions can create a series of events that we never anticipated. What’s worse, like a row of neatly arranged dominos, once the first one has been knocked over, it’s hard to stop the tumble of the other dominos.

Case in point: Abram (or Abraham, as he would come to be known later).

He followed God’s call to leave his homeland of Ur and travel to Canaan—the Promised Land. He came to Canaan as a fairly wealthy man, having built quite a portfolio in his home country. After he arrived, he built a couple of altars to God and things appeared to be going well.

Until the famine. [you can read the story for yourself here]

Then without asking God, Abram left Canaan and traveled to Egypt. This was the first domino to be knocked down. The rest that fell were the unintended consequences of this single decision.

Abram lied to the Egyptians about his wife, telling them that she was his sister. As a result, she was taken into Pharaoh’s harem. Did Pharaoh sleep with her? The Bible doesn’t say for sure. Was Sarai mad at Abram? The Bible doesn’t answer this one either, but I think we all know the answer to this question!

Abram got richer. Because Pharaoh was so happy with Sarai, Pharaoh gave him sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and servants.

But this newly acquired wealth caused yet another domino to fall.

Abram and his nephew Lot began to have arguments about their large herds of animals. To settle their dispute, they split up.

Another domino fell.

Lot, without Abram’s mentorship, moved near Sodom. He got caught up in its sinful lifestyle and lost everything he owned. All he had left were two daughters, who were wicked, manipulative young ladies.

And yet another domino.

Abram and Sarai couldn’t have children. So Sarai suggested that Abram sleep with Hagar, their Egyptian maid. Would Sarai have suggested this if Abram hadn’t abandoned her to Pharaoh? If they hadn’t gone to Egypt, Hagar wouldn’t even have been there!

And the final domino.

Hagar did get pregnant. But her son Ishmael became the father of the Arabic people. A race of people that is openly hostile to the Jewish people to this day.

So many unintended consequences. So many dominos knocked down because of just one decision.

I’m grateful that God made something good out of this, but what incredible pain and hardship exist to this day because of one decision 4000 years ago.

My takeaway: I need to lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all my heart and mind and do not rely on my own insight or understanding.

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