Genesis 20 Part 3 What’s the Big Idea?

There are all kinds of details in Genesis 20 that someone can choose to talk about.  You could talk about the difference in the opening verses about where Abraham settled and where he did his shepherding.  You could talk about Abimelech’s jibe at Sarah about paying her brother rather than her husband after the king had been told that Abraham was  really her husband.  You could talk about the probable nature of the disease that affected Abimelech and his household.  However, all these details are merely that – details.  The question remains, “Why was this story written in the first place?”  To understand that, it is important to go back to the ‘first place’ and ask, “Who received this letter?”  Knowing the world of the original audience helps us to limit the possible range of what the passage could mean.  For example, the original recipients were not going to think of the story as directives on how to behave on a holiday/vacation with your spouse.  In this context, the original audience were people getting ready to enter the Promised Land after a long trek through the wilderness.

The original audience would not have looked to Abraham’s behavior as a moral guide.  Too many times we look to biblical characters as the heroes of the narratives and we decide the passages were written to tell us how to act.  However, the human characters are players living out scenes in the larger story.  The whole Bible is the story of God.  He is the hero and the human characters act out his plan.  In Genesis 20 the promise God has made to Abraham is on the line.  Abraham’s poor decision making means that Abimelech might sleep with his wife and become the father of the promised son.  God needs to overcome the obstacles to his plans, and he does.  God reprimands and blesses Abraham in spite of his behaviour.  God reaches graciously into the life of a polytheistic king.  God moves his plans forward.

The big idea of the passage is what must drive our teaching and preaching.  The details can be communicated as support.  In this case the big idea is, “When God’s plans for blessing are thwarted by bad decisions, God will sovereignly intervene to bring his plans to fruition.”  The details inform this idea.  They add colour to the canvas.  However, the forest can not be hidden by the trees.  The lack of a fear of God, the fear of man, God’s miracles – they are all details.  That God intervenes for his people is front and centre.  People about to enter the Promised Land will be encouraged that in spite of their failings God’s sovereign choice of them to be a light to all people will be realised.

What's the big idea? - Grow a Healthy Church

Prayer

Help us to see clearly why a passage is written.  Help us to apply that insight before we get lost in details.

Questions

  1. What do you think the main idea of Genesis 20 is?
  2. How do you arrive at the main idea?
  3. What other main ideas do you think people could gain by looking at the human characters?
  4. Why is it important to remember the biblical truth that the Bible is primarily a story about God?
  5. How well do you do at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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15 Responses to Genesis 20 Part 3 What’s the Big Idea?

  1. I think the main idea of chapter 20 is that God will always intervene in the lives of His people when necessary because we are just a part of the bigger picture, His story. I arrived at this big idea through seeing the way God intervened in Abraham’s situation with Sarah and Abimilech. If looking at the human characters, people might think that a main idea is the lack of fear of God. It’s important to remember that the Bible is a story about God and for God because we can easily live like we are the center of the story and of our lives. When communicating the big points of Scripture to others, I think I do a good job; it’s the details that I often forget or get mixed up.

  2. Christa says:

    1. What do you think the main idea of Genesis 20 is? I think the main idea is the sovereign plan of God that will come to fruition despite man’s faulty decisions
    2. How do you arrive at the main idea? I see the main idea from the various aspects of the story in the text
    3. What other main ideas do you think people could gain by looking at the human characters? People could also see the main ideas of the fear of God, the importance of telling the truth, the need for repentance, the importance of dreams
    4. Why is it important to remember the biblical truth that the Bible is primarily a story about God? When we remember that the Bible is all about God, we do not fall into the trap of thinking it is all about us and depending too much on the decisions of the characters in the biblical narratives
    5. How well do you do at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others? I often see more of the details of a story rather than the overarching theme or main ideas so it can be more difficult for me to communicate the main idea

  3. Maria T. says:

    1. What do you think the main idea of Genesis 20 is? The main idea seems to be that though Abraham was sinful, God’s plan for him remained intact. On an even more general level, we could say that God is able to work out his purposes in spite of people’s sin.
    2. How do you arrive at the main idea? When we consider why it was written and see how it connects to the rest of the narrative, it seems the main thrust is that God’s plan continued because He is faithful regardless of man’s sin.
    3. What other main ideas do you think people could gain by looking at the human characters? We do not have to operate out of fear, God is able to reach people who are different from ourselves, and blessings are undeserved.
    4. Why is it important to remember the biblical truth that the Bible is primarily a story about God? In light of this story, it would be easy to miss the main point of God’s faithfulness if we thought it was a story mainly about Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech. We would miss the main point of the whole Bible if we forgot whose story it is telling.
    5. How well do you do at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others? I am not sure. I think I am good at seeing situations and applying a main idea of Scripture to it, and then bringing up specific passages that match the main idea. However, I don’t know how well I communicate it to others because I don’t have a lot of experience in being the primary communicator of the main ideas. Also, as a detail oriented person, I tend to see the details before the main idea, so I would assume that I am better at communicating the details to others, simply because it is more natural for me to notice the details.

  4. 1. I think the main idea is God’s sovereignty to see His plan through despite mistakes made by the people He has chosen. He does not abandon them because they messed up; He still uses them.
    2. Abraham was still a sinful, messed up guy like the rest of us and throughout his story and Sarah’s as well as tons of other stories like theirs in the Bible God’s plan is still carried out despite sin.
    3. I think other main ideas would be listening to the Lord for His guidance in a situation and trusting Him rather than taking things into our own hands even in the face of unknowns or fears. We can also realize that God does not need us to do anything for Him. He chooses to work through us.
    4. It is His story. It is not ours, but praise God He has chosen to incorporate us into it. Remembering that brings a far greater understanding of the beautiful reality of grace and a realization that God is holy and worthy of fear.
    5. I don’t think I always communicate it well. Sometimes I think I get overwhelmed by being entrusted to communicate that main idea and then I get lost in the details.

  5. Christina W. says:

    1. In His sovereignty, God will bring his plan to fruition even amidst man’s sinfulness.
    2. Knowing the details, the original audience, and the reason that the passage was written are all pieces that help us to arrive at the main idea of a passage.
    3. The need to fear the Lord and to be obedient to him.
    4. When we remember that the Bible is primarily a story about God, we remember his faithfulness to us and his sovereignty and control over all things.
    5. I try to do my best at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others. It is always something that I can continue to grow and improve on though.

  6. Megumi says:

    1.God is faithful to fulfill his promises and his plan even when people fail
    2. This story is in the context of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son to Abraham and the larger plan of God’s redemptive story through a set-apart people fathered by Abraham.
    3. …Don’t lie, don’t use fear of man as an excuse, pay attention to your dreams, don’t take bad advice (even from your husband)…
    4.Remembering that the Bible is the story of God gives big picture context to the stories within it and keeps us from getting caught up in a self-centered metanarrative
    5. “Let another praise you not your own mouth, someone else and not your own lips…” (Proverbs 27:2)

  7. Andrew Moore says:

    1. I think the main idea is that God works in spite of our failures.
    2. By looking at God’s intervention in spite of Abraham’s mistake.
    3. The importance of telling the truth.
    4. Because if you only follow human actions, then you would make a lot of mistakes.
    5. I think that I can do a good job, but anything helpful that I may say comes from God, so it’s not me.

  8. Michael McCardle says:

    What do you think the main idea of Genesis 20 is?
    God looks at the heart’s integrity
    How do you arrive at the main idea?
    God’s dialogue with Abimelech in vv3-6.
    What other main ideas do you think people could gain by looking at the human characters?
    It is natural for people to lie when they are afraid. (Example Abraham).
    Why is it important to remember the biblical truth that the Bible is primarily a story about God?
    Otherwise the people in the stories become the heroine and you would being danger of elevating them over God.
    How well do you do at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others?
    I find that the more I study context, themes and previous passage that I can do a good job at communicating the main ideas. But communicating the correct main idea comes from the Holy Spirit enabling my mind and opening my eyes and ears.

  9. Nate Silvieus says:

    1. God is gracious and good and works out his will even in poor human decision making.
    2. Understanding the story as a whole, in context and with prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
    3. The importance of telling the truth, men are stupid, God will still bless us when we sin. These are not correct big ideas, but a naive person could possibly come away with those.
    4. God is the creator and sustainer of all things. If we take our focus off of him, we could get drawn to praise the people in the story and not the author of the story.
    5. Hard to say- I think sometimes very well, but I have caught myself numerous times making scripture mean what I want it to mean, and not actually what God intended it to mean.

  10. Maelynn says:

    1. I think it the main idea of the passage is God’s soveriegnty and the necessity of obedience to Him.
    2. By looking at the whole story and observing how it ends.
    3. God speaks to those who aren’t necessarily seeking after him.
    4. If we fail to remember what the Bible is really about then it is just a book with meaningless stories.
    5. Well, that is part of the reason why I came to Moody. I am learning and getting practice here.

  11. Molly says:

    1. What do you think the main idea of Genesis 20 is? I think it the main idea of the passage is God’s faithfulness.
    2. How do you arrive at the main idea? It’s a main theme of the entire Bible, but also you can read on to see how it ends and all connects.
    3. What other main ideas do you think people could gain by looking at the human characters? Obedience to the Lord and keeping his commandments.
    4. Why is it important to remember the biblical truth that the Bible is primarily a story about God? If we don’t believe that these stories are about the one true living God than all of these stories are meaningless and have no connection to our lives.
    5. How well do you do at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others? I often notice little details of stories, my husband is great at seeing the main idea and themes. We work well together in ministry.

  12. Jung Kim says:

    1.What do you think the main idea of Genesis 20 is? The main idea is that God’s relational, merciful, and all-powerful characters are revealed in the passage.
    2.How do you arrive at the main idea? By understanding the context as a whole, and verse by verse.
    3.What other main ideas do you think people could gain by looking at the human characters? God is insightful, commanding, and all-knowing. Most importantly, God comes down to listen to us.
    4.Why is it important to remember the biblical truth that the Bible is primarily a story about God?
    God is the Ultimate Source and the Author of the Bible. The Bible becomes void and meaningless if we do not know this truth,
    5.How well do you do at communicating the main ideas of scripture to others? I think it depends how well I understand the context as a whole.

  13. Emmy R says:

    1. God has a plan despite our mistakes.
    2. Through reading, and weighing others opinions.
    3. Characteristics about God, humans natural sinful tendencies, etc,
    4. Because the Bible is GOD’s Words.
    5. It depends on my confidence with the text.

  14. 1. The main idea I see in Genesis 20 is that we might have a plan or path of our own, and we think its the best thing to do in a situation but we are sinful people and we always need to understand what God would have us do and be wise about doing it. But God is there and he intervenes in our lives because we need a savior to save us from ourselves.
    2. Despite Abraham’s shortcomings, and sinful decisions, God is still faithful to complete his word and his promises that he had made to Abraham. Just because we mess up doesn’t mean God is not going to be faithful in what he has said to us. He is gracious and loving like that.
    3. People might take it the moral road and talk about lying, and talking about how fearing God is the only way to live.
    4. Reading many stories about people throughout the whole Bible can easily distract us form the main idea/Person/reason the Bible was written in the first place. We focus on the characters in Sunday School, in Christian Schools, and in our families because they are “good examples” to live by and thats what Christianity has become for children. Jesus might as well just be a “good example”.But, isn’t that what everyone believes, even the Muslim?
    5. Quite honestly, not very well do I communicate the big truth, I’m like many others who look at the details and think they are everything. I strive to see the bigger picture more often than not.

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