Here is the first point of a sermon I recently preached on Genesis 13. The context is that Abram just failed a test of adversity in Genesis 12 when he forgot God’s promises and walked by sight instead of by faith. That got him into a worse situation but God came to his rescue and demonstrated his unchanging faithfulness to his promises. Here then is how Abram responded after that failure, a lesson that we all need to learn:
As Chapter 13 begins, we see how Abram dealt with his failure. And what’s the first thing that he did? He went back to square one. He didn’t mope around in Egypt or look for somewhere else to dwell. Rather, he returned to the Lord and retraced his steps. And so, we read in v. 1ff: Gen. 13:1 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. . .3 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, 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD. So Abram returns to the promised land and calls upon the name of the LORD.
Beloved, what kind of faith do you have? Does failure lead you away from the Lord or does it cause you to return to the Lord in repentance and faith? Trust me, I know that after some moral failure it is easy to just spiral downwards, where you’ve sinned in some way and you are acutely aware of that fact and so it leads you to perhaps become depressed and to sulk, or it leads you to sin even more in the same way or in some other way. Either way, you feel so terrible that you avoid God altogether, as if that’s going to help. How many of you have ever been there?
I believe that David understood this feeling when he said in Ps. 32: 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. You see, when we are aware of our sins and failures we sometimes feel sick within and we just turn inward and avoid God which only makes it worse. But then David goes on to say: 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; You see, now is the day when we find God in forgiveness and grace in Christ. The opening of the Psalm says: 1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity.
Our God is a gracious God. As we sang earlier the words of Psalm 103, “Good is the Lord and full of kind compassion, most slow to anger, plenteous in love; rich is his grace to all that humbly seek him, boundless and endless as the heavn’s above.” Beloved when you sin and fail like Abram did when he didn’t trust God’s promises, you need to remember that God is merciful and gracious. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). It would be unjust for him not to forgive us in Christ, because Christ is our advocate and the propitiation for all of our sins (1 Jn. 2:1-2). And so, return to God in Christ without delay. He is like the prodigal son’s Father to us. He runs to us in forgiveness in Christ. Nothing will separate us from his love for us in Christ, even our own failures (Rom. 8:37-39).
And so, that’s the first thing that we learn from our text, that the life of faith after failure returns to the Lord to seek His forgiveness and to worship Him once again as our Lord. A genuine sign of maturity in the faith is how quickly you return to the Lord in repentance and faith after you have failed.
(If you’d like, you can listen to the rest of this sermon on Gen. 13, entitled “The Life of Faith After Failure,” here under “morning sermons”).