19 January 2010

Failures of Abraham - Part 4

In considering some of the lesser-known, more infrequently discussed mistakes in the life of Abraham, I hope you don’t think I’ve been too critical of this great man of faith. He was, after all, called the Friend of God (James 2:23). He was, after all, elected by God to be the Father of the Hebrew nation. He was, after all, a man who believed God (Romans 4).

But he was, after all, a man. And all have sinned. We can stand to learn some great lessons from his successes. And there are some very important lessons we can take from his shortcomings.

Before we wrap up this brief study, I’d like to step back and discuss a couple of broader thoughts we ought to consider in relation to Abraham’s failures, in a more general sense.


It’s easy to be critical of the man and to point out his many sins. But the Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8).

When discussing Abraham’s journey in response to the call of Genesis 12, the Holy Spirit seems to leave out the part about taking Lot. Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Genesis 18 says that Sarah laughed when she heard she was to have to a son at the ripe old age of 90. But the NT puts a more positive spin on the story. Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

When James 2 discusses how Abraham’s works made his faith perfect (complete; profitable; see v. 14), it conveniently leaves out the lie he told to Pharaoh (Genesis 12) and repeated to Abimelech (Genesis 20), as well as the whole fiasco with Hagar (Genesis 16).

Aren’t you glad?! I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot of shortcomings. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Too often I’ve staggered at God’s promise and been unfaithful to Him. But it hasn’t kept Him from loving me. It hasn’t kept Him from blessing me. It hasn’t kept Him from seeing me as righteous. Praise the Lord! It’s no excuse to go mess up some more since God’s grace is enough to cover it, but it sure is reason for us to love Him more!


I can see how our wicked and deceitful hearts would be tempted to leave a study of Abraham’s failures thinking, “Wow, everybody makes Abraham out to be such a great guy, but he was really a creep. Maybe I’m not so bad after all.” Obviously, that’s an improper point of view.

What these lessons ought to remind us of is the fact that if Abraham was such a godly man and yet had all these problems, how much more do we need the grace and help of God in order to keep from making a complete and total mess of our lives!

Let’s learn from Abraham’s example, and may it spur us on to follow hard after God, ever pressing toward that mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


  1. The moral of the story is not to be a legalist. Both believers & non-believers alike are blinded by the thought "we must be perfect". Church people usually don't smoke, swear, or drink....but they replace those sins with others. 1 John chapter #1 says you'll never be perfect anyways. Why live the eternal guilt-trip. Just let Jesus take care of the perfection/imperfection.

  2. K-Dog >>> Sorry I'm just getting around to responding to some comments, but maybe the problem here is that what we see as letting Jesus take care of our imperfections is what you call legalism. None of us is sinless, but we are called to perfection (Matthew 5:48; Hebrews 6:1; et al) in the since of complete maturity. That's the goal. And we've all got some growing to do to get there. Some want it. Others don't.