Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Genesis 20:2-7 -- On Living in the Present

"And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.
But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine."
Genesis 20:2-7

This is an interesting story that is hard to understand in the modern day.  Abraham said that Sarah was his sister (half-truth... she was his half-sister, but also his wife), and needed to do that because it was common in those days for men to be killed in order to make taking their wives okay.  In this case, the king didn't know that Abraham was Sarah's husband, and just kidnapped her, without killing him.  This was apparently normal.  There is nothing said about the kidnapping, just the potential adultery.

I like how God talked to Abimelech the king, and helped him to not sin as well. It seems like it was his plan to have things happen this way so that these two powerful people wouldn't destroy each other.  Although, of course, God felt it necessary to threaten Abimelech with destruction to make sure that he would do the right thing, so it is likely that if Abraham had said he was the husband at first, he would have been murdered before there was time for a dream and any reflection about what God wanted.

There are some good lessons here.  Don't sleep with married people.  Don't go against what God says.  Don't mess with prophets.  All good lessons.  What I was thinking about when I read it though is how many times I have seen things in the Old Testament used to justify actions in the modern day.  Abraham married his half-sister, Abimelech treated women as property... murder, incest, rape, promiscuity, prostitution.  All of these, and much more, happen in the Old Testament.  Does that make them okay?  No.  No, it doesn't.  Why not?

This is one of those huge reasons that it is important to stay up to date with God's word.  His gospel doesn't change, but our society does, with different norms and different things that God needs to teach us to get us to the right place.  This is one of the reasons that Christ brought us a new law and the New Testament.  He saw that we as a society were ready for the next step.  In these verses clearly the entire group knew that adultery was wrong.  When Christ came he told us that it was clear that adultery was wrong, but he wanted us to understand that on a deeper level even looking at a woman to lust after her is wrong.  Which is why the prophets today counsel us against looking at pornography, and so many sins that are around adultery... that can lead to it.

The Old Testament isn't a book that we should shun or toss in the dustbin... I'm not saying that at all.  There is a lot of truth and evidence of God's dealings with man that we can learn *so* much from.  But like everything else, we shouldn't twist it and use it to justify sin.  To truly understand it, we have to have the spirit, which will help us fit it into the entirety of God's word, so that we can see it in the proper context... how God brought his people and the whole world more and more truth and helped us get to where we are today... and will continue to help us move past this level into greater things.  Reading about Christ in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon, and reading and listening to the words of modern prophets help us to understand today's truth today, including obeying laws like no kidnapping.

Today, let's pray and listen to God, and let's not try to justify sin because of things that people did so long ago.  We're here, now, for a reason.  We have work to do in God's service.  Let's find it, and repent, and live in the present, listening to what God has to tell us and continuing to make the world a better place.

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