Gary was a high school friend of mine. Within days of my arrival in Tidewater, Virginia in 1970 I met him. He was the son of the minister of the church my family had started attending. He was a blond-haired, guitar-playing track guy who looked as Californian as anyone I knew in Virginia.
It was Gary and I who conceived the idea of starting a coffeehouse ministry in the barn of a friend. It was Gary who put together a band that played every night we were open. It was Gary who was the first songwriter I ever met whose music touched the heart and soul of most who listened. It was Gary with whom I spent the most time during those final two years of high school.
Whenever I think of Gary though, there’s one thing that always comes to mind first. His father’s lie. Now fathers are no different from anyone else. I’m sure that there have been plenty of promises that have escaped my lips that I have failed to honor. But this one was a big one. In fact, it was this broken promise that had a clear, deleterious effect on Gary throughout the balance of his life.
The promise was this: “If you keep your grades up, score well on your SATs, and get accepted to a school anywhere in the country, your mother and I will see that you go there.” Now that was a big promise for a former Navy man who had used his government stipend to pay for a Bible school education. Gary’s sister had gone to a community college. If Gary succeeded with his end of the bargain he’d be the first in his family to attend a university.
From the time I met him Gary had his heart set on attending the University of Michigan. For some reason attending Big Blue was his dream. When he finished high school with a top five percent GPA and over 1400 on his SATs he immediately filed his application for admission and within weeks he received his letter of admission.
Now none of this was done in secret. Gary was as transparent as he could be with family and friends. The day the letter came in the mail he was at my house with the widest of smiles. “What did your dad say?” I asked. “I haven’t told him yet. You are the first to know.” “That’s terrific Gary! Let me know as soon as the deal is inked.”
I didn’t hear from him for two days. I thought I’d see him in school, but he was missing. No one knew where he was until the afternoon he showed up at the track. It was after practice and I was sitting by one of the hurdles when he appeared. “Where have you been?” I asked. “I just had to get away, so I’ve just been driving around.” “For 3 days?” “Yep.” “But why?” “Because my father lied to me. He said I could go anywhere I wanted, but now he just laughed at me and said he couldn’t afford it.”
Within two years Gary was dead. I always wondered if he’d still be alive if his dad had made good on that promise.
We hear a lot these days about promises. In fact, if you google the promises of God you’ll find that there’s a debate as to how many there are in Scripture. The range is anywhere from hundreds to thirty-one thousand.
But of all the promises of God there is one that is far and away greater than any other. And it’s one of the first God ever utters. It’s that promise that’s at the heart of Genesis 20, this Sunday’s text. In a message entitled, “Keeping His Promise,” we are going to dig into this promise and see the lengths to which God is willing to go to keep it. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1. Why does Abraham leave the hill country of Hebron and head to Gerar?
2. What’s the meaning of the name Gerar?
3. The name Abimelech is also a title like Pharaoh. Who is this man king over?
4. What are the similarities and differences between this account and the one in Genesis 12?
5. Why does Abraham want Sarah to be known as his sister?
6. What does verse 3 tell us about God’s relationship to all men and women?
7. Why does God threaten Abimelech?
8. What’s God saying about His sovereignty in verses 6 and 7?
9. Why had God closed all of the wombs in the house of Abimelech?
10. What is the significance of this story?
See you Sunday!