The Gospel for the City in Genesis 20

In Genesis 20 the promise of God to bless the nations through the seed of Abraham appears to be threatened due to the chicanery of Abraham and Sarah. In a faithless effort to preserve his life by hiding his marriage and telling a half-truth about Sarah his step-sister/wife, Abraham supposed he was preventing his death at the hands of a pagan king whom he assumed would have killed him for his wife.

Behind the scenes, the God of promise is faithfully at work bringing His promise to fruition. God is already at work in the hearts of nations whom the promise intends to include. Abimelech fears the Lord and upholds a moral standard that appears to be higher than Abraham’s at this point.  Furthermore, God in his sovereignty prevents Abimelech from taking Sarah as his wife and temporarily closes the wombs of Abimelech’s harem as a warning.

Abraham is rightly rebuked for his lack of faith; yet despite his faithlessness, God preserves him and even blesses him through the generous gifts of Abimelech.  His failure in faith does not detract from his responsibility as the heir of the promise to be a blessing to the nations, so in obedience to God, Abraham prays for the healing of Abimelech’s harem.  Abraham is somewhat embarrassingly forced into an uncomfortable act of intercession. One must wonder what kind of impact Abraham might have had at the outset had he been a man of faith.

Similar misconceptions and disbelief about the absence of God’s work in pagan hearts often exist in the minds of Christians who see the evil and fear the evil of densely and diversely populated cities. Perhaps this explains the departure of evangelicals and churches to the ‘safer’ suburbs.  Urban ministry cries out for men and women of faith and faithfulness. Cities need men and women who believe that God is at work in pagan hearts. Cities need men and women who trust that the God of promise still seeks to bring the blessing of Abraham to the nations through the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Cities need men and women who believe that their God can protect them in the midst of the apparent dangers of urban life.

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On September 10, 1970 I came to understand the great love of God for me, a sinner and a rebel. That evening I received God’s forgiveness and a new life through Jesus Christ, who died in my place and rose again to offer forgiveness and new life. I have been senior pastor for over 30 years planting two churches in Buckingham, PA and Queens, NY and serving two other churches in Brooklyn, NY and Roslyn, PA. I am currently the lead pastor at Grace Church of Philly.

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