A Not-So-Amazing Marriage

May 24, 2013 at 9:51 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Peter | 7 Comments
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An important though often overlooked principle in Christian marriage is the concept of “fear.” It is a concept addressed in I Peter Chapter 3, which also highlights some of the duties of Christian marriage.

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

I Peter 3:1-7 (emphasis added)

Verse 6 seems contradictory at first blush. What does it mean to not be afraid with any amazement? Apparently I am not alone in finding this phrase hard to grasp. I couldn’t find any real consistency among well-known Bible commentators, but the key seems to be in looking at the lives of Sarah and Abraham. The Greek word translated “amazement” has a connotation of birds fluttering away in startled terror, and it is clear from the Genesis account that Sarah was not the type to run away from a scary situation.

In Genesis 18 the Lord and two angels show up at Abraham’s tent unannounced in the hot part of the day.

And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.

Genesis 18:6

Sarah may have been afraid because of Abraham’s frantic instructions, but she was not afraid “with any amazement.”

And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.

Genesis 18:7-9

Notice that Sarah was in a tent, not in a palace, not in a mansion, not even in a house, but obediently, faithfully dwelling with her husband, Abraham, in a tent. Were there times when Sarah was afraid of the tent-and-altar, place-to-place, lifestyle of her husband? Probably so – but “not with any amazement.”

And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

Genesis 18:10-11

Was she afraid when she heard this startling news? Maybe. Maybe even skeptical. But “not afraid with any amazement.”

Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

Genesis 18:12

Sarah called her husband her “lord,” an expression of respect and reverence, even though her response indicates that she wondered which was more unlikely: a woman of her age being fertile, or a man of Abraham’s age being able to impregnate her!

And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Genesis 18:13-15

The Bible specifically tells us she was afraid, although we know from I Peter 3 that it was a fear without “amazement.” She was not punished for her laughter, nor even scolded, because God understands the difference between “fear” and “fear with amazement.” Sarah was courageous and confident in the face of her fear. In fact, fear is the sine qua non of courage. Satan would like us to hear God’s seemingly-incredible promises and respond with a “fright, flight, or fight” response. In other words, he would like us to reject God’s call upon our lives by giving in to terrified paralysis, running away, or obstinate refusal and rebellion. Sarah was shocked, but she stood her ground.

And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Genesis 18:16-19

The Lord said “I know Abraham and I know that his children and his household – including his wife – will keep the way of the Lord.” Sarah was trustworthy, and she was not “amazed into unfaithfulness” by fearful circumstances.

Let us husbands be bold – not fearful – to lead in faith, trusting God’s Word. Wives, do not expect to avoid fearful circumstances, but determine to stand at your husband’s side come what may. It is fearful to trust a man because men are fallen sinners, but you should not be afraid with any amazement to throw yourself on the faithfulness of God.

Spiritual Lessons Found in Historical Accounts

April 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Posted in Genesis | 7 Comments
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Genesis is a book of “firsts.” Genesis 23 contains the first mention of tears in the Bible.

And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

Genesis 23:2

Abraham had grown greatly in faith. His internal faith had been there already, but by this time it had also transformed him on the outside.

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

Genesis 23:4

Abraham was a pilgrim. He did not take Sarah’s body back to Ur of the Chaldees because by faith he knew that the land of Canaan was to be the inheritance of his descendants.

That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

Genesis 23:9

He didn’t haggle over the exorbitant price, or give offense, or try a scheme.

Genesis 24 gives us the account of the mission to find a bride for Isaac.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Romans 15:4

The New Testament clarifies that the accounts of the Old Testament patriarchs are given to us for good and bad examples. But even in the bad examples we see the difference between believers and unbelievers – saved and lost. Abraham and Isaac both had an Abimelech to deal with – and they both tried to deceive him by pretending their wives were their sisters (Genesis 20 and 26). Abimelech showed integrity; Abraham and Isaac didn’t. The Bible does not hide the faults of its heroes. However, Abimelech was lost and Abraham and Isaac were saved. We should remember this when we start reading about Isaac and Jacob and some of their shenanigans, so that we are not tempted to try to find an excuse for everything they did.

As Good as Dead

March 31, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Genesis | 14 Comments
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In Genesis 20 Abraham’s fault is not so much a failure of faith as it is the sin of a believer. Believers do still sin.

And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

Genesis 20:1

Abraham didn’t go all the way back down into Egypt, but he did go into enemy territory.

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

Genesis 20:2

Why didn’t he tell the whole truth? (Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister). The answer is because:

And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.

Genesis 20:11

He was more afraid of men than he was of God. He lost his testimony before an unbeliever. The lost Abimelech acted with more integrity than the saved Abraham. As Christians, unbelievers are going to call us hypocrites anyway, just because they are looking for an excuse. We must not give them good reason to do it.

Look at Abraham’s age when Isaac was born:

And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

Genesis 21:5

You may have heard the common expression, “as good as dead.” God was waiting for Abraham and Sarah to be as “good as dead,” because when the flesh is dead the Spirit gives new birth.

And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Genesis 21:8-9

Ishmael was probably about 17 – why was a 17 year old mocking a 3 year old? Ishmael is a picture of the first birth – born of flesh. Hagar is a picture of the Law. Sarah is a picture of grace. Abraham is a picture of faith. The flesh (disciplined and corrected by the Law) hates the Spirit-nature (born by grace through faith) because it is free.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

Genesis 21:14

Grace came first; then the Law came. The Law can only give birth to slaves. Slaves to the Law can never be free. Grace makes slaves to Christ truly free.

And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

Genesis 21:8

Even the Spirit-man must be weaned, and must grow up. Babies hate their mothers as they are being weaned, but weaning is for their good – they must grow.

The Internal War

March 15, 2010 at 9:20 am | Posted in Genesis, Luke | 10 Comments
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Abraham was 85 years old. He had been walking with the Lord for 10 years. Abraham had not been perfect. He was still learning about faith, but he was in an unbreakable covenant with God.

God’s promise that Abraham and Sarah would have a child began to seem too long in its fulfillment. So, they did the opposite of exercising faith: they schemed (Genesis 16:1-4). This scheme involved Abraham conceiving a child with Sarah’s slave, Hagar, and it was a sinful scheme. Why was it sinful? Because whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

The child which Hagar conceived was named Ishmael. He was Abraham’s only child for 13 years, until God fulfilled His covenant promise with Abraham, and gave him a child by Sarah. This child was named Isaac (Genesis 21:1-3). Ishmael and Isaac could never co-exist peacefully, for God preordained them to be forerunners of the two types of men who can never get along, and are always at war with each other, even unto this day. Ishmael represents the man of flesh, born of faithlessness and sin, who can never change. Isaac represents the second birth – the spiritual “rebirth,” which is born of faith. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6; Galatians 4:29).

These two “men,” or “natures,” are at war with each other within each and every man, woman, and child who has trusted Jesus Christ as his/her Savior. The descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Isaac are at war with each other in the Middle East today, and they will continue until Christ Himself puts a stop to it. In the mortal bodies of Christians, the flesh-man and the Spirit-man war, as well. The flesh may be, to some extent, disciplined, controlled, and even mortified (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5), but it will never be changed. If you are a Christian, which man will win the war in your body – the flesh-man or the Spirit-man? The obvious answer is: whichever is stronger. But, which is the stronger? The answer to that is: the one which you feed the most. Make sure you are feasting daily on the spirit-strengthening, life-giving bread of the Word of God.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Luke 4:4


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