Read Genesis 20
Abraham and Abimelek
1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”
8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”
14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”
16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
Genesis 20 leaves us with one predominant thought: “Again, Abraham?”
Twenty-five years have passed since Abraham first lied about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. It didn’t work out so well the first time Abraham used that lie, but we are a forgetful bunch, we humans. We tend to romanticize our past and diminish the pain of familiar sin. Familiarity often breeds comfort. However, comfort is never promised as a follower of Jesus.
We often make the mistake in thinking that we’ll age out of sin. We’ll simply grow old and grow out of giving in to temptation, but age doesn’t automatically sanctify us. We never grow too old to sin, especially if it’s a familiar sin, a default sin. If God were finished changing and conforming us to the image of Christ, we’d be face to face with Him right now.
So far in our study of Genesis, it appears that honesty is not Abraham’s star quality. Neither is boldness or courage. However, one might say he excels at self-sufficiency and trying to control. It would make sense to all of us if someone called Abraham a “liar” or “failure” or “control freak.” It seems like he earned those names.
But God, rich in mercy and faithful to the faithless, gives him a name never before mentioned in scripture—God names him “Prophet.”
It makes no sense, this mercy and grace. This good, perfect God who loves not-so-great, imperfect people. It makes no sense that God doesn’t abandon or disqualify Abraham; but rather, He empowers Abraham with a new name, a new identity. Reminding Abraham that what Abraham has done is not who Abraham is.
What makes sense to us is that, like Abraham, we often default to a familiar sin, an old way of handling a crisis situation. What causes us the most pain is repeated folly. We KNEW better and didn’t act on that belief. We fail. We control. We think we can handle it.
He breaks through.
He doesn’t abandon us.
He reminds us who we are.
Failure doesn’t disqualify us.
We are not what we’ve done, we are who Christ says we are.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Let’s throw off the sin that easily entangles us and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Is there a familiar sin you keep running back to? Why? What is one thing you can do to “throw it off” today?
Contrast Abraham and Abimelech. What do you learn from each of them?
If you believed, truly believed, that God calls you righteous, holy, and blameless, how would that change the way you lived?
Did You Know?
In this story we see God warn Abimelech, a pagan king, against sleeping with Sarah, a married woman. While God wanted to protect Abimelech from sleeping with a married woman, he also wanted to protect His covenant with Abraham. God had told Abraham that within that year Sarah would become pregnant. If she had become pregnant with Abimelech’s child, instead of Abraham’s, the promise wouldn’t have been fulfilled the way God intended it to. God allows sin in this world, but His plans cannot be thwarted by it.