When Abraham showed up in Gerar, he took one look around at the people in the area and made a decision:
He would lie about his marriage with Sarah.
Why? As he states himself, it’s mostly to save his own skin. He fears — as he did in Genesis 12:13 — that the people there will kill him in order to marry Sarah (and probably steal Abraham’s wealth in the process).
Truthfully, he’s probably not wrong. The people in Canaan during that day weren’t particularly Godly, so it stands to reason they had no scruples about murdering a husband in the name of love.
But it was Abraham’s perception that drove this decision-making process. As he looked around, he noticed something: There is no fear of God in this place.
What is the “Fear of God”?
At the beginning of Proverbs, Solomon makes a bold statement.
“The fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
It’s noteworthy that in a book filled to the brim with practical applications and instructions about life, the wisest man that’s ever lived says that all of that begins with a healthy fear of God.
Why is that?
I’m no Solomon, but I would argue that a large percentage of it comes from an understanding of God’s authority and what He’s capable of. That understanding puts guardrails around our thoughts; without that, we’re just kinda wandering around in space, making up our own rules.
A similar type of statement is made in Judges 21:25. There, the writer says that since there was “no king in Israel,” everyone just “did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25).
No rules. No authority. No self-denial. Just pleasure seeking.
If that’s the law of the land in Gerar where Abimelech was king, it makes for a dangerous area indeed.
Do We Have the “Fear of God”?
I’ve never been a big fan of calling America a “Christian nation.” The Founding Fathers were Christians in a sense, but not all of them ascribed to a purely orthodox way of looking at Scripture.
The Jefferson Bible, for example, is a “version” of the Bible that Jefferson diced up because he didn’t like all the mentions about Jesus’ deity. He did this ostensibly to create a type of Christianity that could appeal to everyone, rather than a “constricting” set of beliefs that excluded most of humanity.
So, yeah. Not a lot of “fear of God” there.
However, what I do wish is that our culture would move closer to where God stands on things, such as abortion, homosexuality, and war (among others). I realize that’s probably not a reality though, but a kid can dream.
What it takes for our culture to move that direction is a healthy fear of God. We need to have a set of moral ethics that are based on what God says, with a healthy respect for what happens if we fail to pursue those. That’s where it all begins; eerything else will fall into place.
But that doesn’t begin with my neighbor. Or my coworker. Or my teachers.
It begins with me.