Genesis 26:6-11 – So Isaac settled in Gerar.  When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife,” thinking, “lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance.  When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife.  So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.’ ”  Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”  So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”
I went to a pastors’ meeting yesterday where some comments were made about the fact that heroes today are not what they used to be. They are neurotic, unsure of themselves, sinful. We need heroes who inspire and exemplify the faithfulness that God calls us to. There is truth to that, but I am so glad that the heroes provided for us in the Scriptures have all their foibles exposed for us to see. We aren’t told a great deal about the life of Isaac. He seems to be more of a connection between Abraham and Jacob than a real patriarch himself. But we are told a little bit. And it’s not all great.
A few points about this less than stellar performance by one of the fathers of the faithful.
1) The sins of the fathers. Isaac learned this sin from his father Abraham. Abraham did this very thing – twice. We teach more by example than be instruction. Rarely will we raise a child above ourselves.
2) Omniscience. Isaac lies because he has taken upon himself the ability to forecast the future. He sees his wife’s beauty. He sees men who like beauty and who are fairly ruthless. He puts a scenario together that he is convinced will happen if he does not come up with a plan. This is where worry and faithlessness and abandonment of God come from. We trust our prognostications more than the power of God.
3) Selective memory. Isaac remembers what his father did in a similar situation but he does not remember that God was not pleased about it – or he just doesn’t care.
4) Selfishness. See verse 9. Isaac was not concerned about his wife. He did not care that he was sinning against her as well as against God. He cares more about his own life.
Ah, the great patriarchs. Isaac is not one of them because of his natural qualities, but because of the grace of God. It would be wrong for us to read the sins of these great men and shake our heads as if we would have done better. We would not. We do not. There is a powerful Scriptural message that if God can fulfil His purposes through the bunch that we read of in Genesis, then He can use us: not because we are better, but because God still is able to fulfil His purposes – even through us. This is not about excusing our sin. But it is about God being able to use ordinary jars of clay to show His glory. What a God!