Some people wish the world were simple. That we could easily divide the world up into good people and bad people, and maybe it would be nice if people of our faith were always good, and people outside the faith were always bad. That would be simple wouldn’t it? And wouldn’t it be great is once a person came to faith, they continually walked forward into greater measures of obedience and maturity and never took a step back or failed or let others down, or struggled. That would be a simple world.
But that’s not the world the Bible describes. That is not the world we live in. We live in a world of moral complexity, a world in which good people do bad things, and bad people surprise us, a world in which people of faith are also people of deep failing, and a world in which our progress toward maturity often takes great detours. this reality underscores the fact that in the Bible, no one is truly good, but God alone. He is the only hero, the only one who does not fail. Our pride does not like to hear that reminder, but the reality is that sin has affected and infect every part of our being, every aspect of our human experience, and therefore the simple work of right and wrong, good and evil, faith and failing becomes infinitely more complex.
Genesis 20 is one of these reminders. Nearly everything in this chapter challenges our desire to keep morally and humanity in simple little boxes.
We don’t know why Abraham leaves Mamre to end up in Gerar. Some think he left out of grief over Lot, whom he assumed was swept away in Sodom. Some think that the destruction of the cities in the valley would have caused environmental damage to the air or soil quality in the region, and so he had to leave for some time for the sake of his herds. Whatever the reason of his departure, we have already observed a pattern in the life of Abraham that is true here as well, Abraham’s proximity to Canaan seems to be tied to Abraham’s spiritual vitality. And we’ll see in this chapter that Abraham is at one of his lowest points spiritually.