The story at the end of chapter 12 shows a picture of Abraham as either a coward or a greedy person, maybe both. A famine drives him from the land of Canaan into Egypt where he lies about his wife for two reasons. Verse 13 says, “Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” He’s afraid for his life because Sarah is very beautiful and he knows the men of the land will want to take her but if she’s Abraham’s wife they will kill him in order to take her. But also he says that he wants things in Egypt to go “well with him.” Indeed it does. He gets more wealthy than when he arrived. According to verse 16, “And for her sake he (Pharaoh) dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.” Abraham ended up leaving Egypt with all that wealth. But he left in shame. In verses 18:20 Pharaoh shames Abraham, “So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.”  And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.” He kept the wealth he acquired in Egypt, but he lost something much more important, his dignity and self-respect. The text goes on to tell us that he made his way back to the place where he had first worshipped God at Bethel. It’s like he went back with his tail between his legs trying to put things right with his God and with his family and with himself. Chapter 13 picks up the story for us and informs us in verses 3-4, “And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.”

Our God is not the God of the “second chance.” I really don’t like that. Boice says this: “Someone has said that he is the God of the second chance. But he is even more gracious than this. He is the God, not merely of the second chance, but of the seventy-second chance or the hundred and seventy-second chance or whatever.”1 I think that even this doesn’t go far enough to clearly grasp the meaning of the gospel in all it’s glory. The idea of a second chance just presents us with another chance to fail! And we will. Abraham did! The very same sin he committed in Egypt he committed with the prince of the Canaanites! Second chances don’t help us. Aaron Wilson explains the problem of the “second chance” theology very well on his internet blog. He says, “Think of it as a kindergartner taking a calculus test. Because he’s only 5, the little tyke bombs the test and receives a bright red “F” atop his page.

Now, according to a second-chance gospel, the teacher might show mercy, tear up the child’s exam, and forgive his failure. But the same lad will not rejoice when a fresh, identical test is placed in front of him for a second attempt. While some Mensa-in-waiting kindergartner might pass calculus, there’s zero chance a fallen human can pass the test of God’s law (Romans 3:10). And since there’s zero chance humans will obey God perfectly, why would Christians spread news of a God of second chances? Is it really good news to get a second chance at the impossible? What sinners need—and what Christ provides—is Someone who can take the test on their behalf, once-and-for-all, and pass with flying colors. This is where a second-chance gospel misses the mark. It points people to a false hope in works-based religion where they can get their life in order if they only receive enough time and enough chances. But Christians don’t have to earn redemption through a series of righteous reboots. Jesus secured our redemption through His life, death, and resurrection. And His perfection is forever credited to the believer’s account.”2

1 James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 480.