A few things stood out for me in today's passage.
This is the first time that I really noticed that Sarah also deceived Abimelech, at the instruction of her husband. Though the Bible is clear that wives are to submit to their husbands, it is also clear that we are not to do so above the command to obey God. Sarah should not have submitted to Abraham's request that she lie about their relationship. Thankfully, God protected her despite her disobedience (this time He likely did so, at least partly, so there would be no doubt as to Isaac's parentage).
What is disappointing is Abraham's response to being caught in his lie. We never see him repent for this sin, but we do see him making excuses. In fact, in this passage, as well as the one later on in today's reading, Abimelech makes far more God honouring choices than does Abraham. A reminder that even though Abraham was chosen by God, and even though we too have been chosen by Him, we have not "arrived" in our spiritual lives. We always need to be on guard in the fight against sin.
We also see the continuing consequences to Abraham and Sarah's sin of becoming impatient with God's timing, as the relationship triangle with Hagar (and Ishmael) continues to disintegrate. Once again a reminder that God's way is always better than our way. In God's protection of Hagar and Ishmael, we are also reminded of God's mercy.
In the last chapter of our readings we come to, what has previously been my "least favourite" Bible passage - God's command that Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac. I don't like this passage as the command itself seems completely out of God's character, it seems morally wrong. However, this is always a good reminder to me that I definitely do not always see things clearly or correctly, and that when my opinion and God's differ, His is always right and mine is always wrong.
My ESV study Bible says...
The outcome of the incident makes it clear that God never intended the directive to be fulfilled. Thus, taken as a whole (in terms of both the command and the outcome), the incident cannot be seen to conflict with God's moral law.
Even if there was not a human explanation that made sense to me, it is irrelevant. God is good and everything He does is good, always.
It does seem to be an absolutely perfect test for Abraham - family has always been his "weakness". Yes, we are to love our families, but we are not to put them above God. Abraham did that consistently in his lifetime. He didn't leave Haran at God's command, but because his father chose to. He kept Lot with him until they had no choice but to separate. He lied because he was afraid of what would happen to him and his beautiful wife. He grew too attached to Ishmael and was content to have him be the fulfillment of God's promise, until finally God had to send him away. It really should come as no surprise that giving up his only remaining son, the son of the promise, would be the ultimate test of Abraham's faith.
But this is one test that Abraham passes with flying colours! He doesn't know for sure how God is going to work around this, but He believes God, He believes that Isaac is the child in whom God's prophecies will be fulfilled, He believes that God could resurrect Isaac from the dead without ever seeing or hearing of such a thing before. Amazing faith!
And, of course, when God supplies the ram as a substitute for Isaac's death, we see a foreshadowing of Christ who is our substitute sacrifice. God was willing, not only to give up His only Son, but to pour out His wrath on His only son, in order to provide us a way back to relationship with Him. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 23-24, Romans 8:22-39