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July 24, 2013 Last time we saw Abraham he was watching the smoke rise from what was left of Sodom (19:28). God has called him to live as a stranger in the land of Canaan, but He’s promised to make him the father of many nations. Abraham’s waited for many years, living in tents on someone else’s land, and finally God promises that within the next year he’ll have his first son with his wife, Sarah. This is the son of the promise. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90, so it’s going to take a special act of God. But just as Abraham had to wait, so will we. Let’s look at what we find in chapter 20: And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. So, he’s staying in Canaan, but he moves from the plains of Mamre (18:1) to a place called Gerar about 30 miles southwest. This was a Philistine city, and their king was Abimelech. Now, before we get into the story I want to remind you of the time when Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt during the famine. Just as they were about to enter Abraham asked Sarah to tell everyone they were brother and sister (12:11-13). He figured that since Sarah was so beautiful someone might kill him to marry his widow. But if the Egyptians thought they were brother and sister then they’d show kindness to him so that one of them could marry her. Well, Pharaoh saw her and immediately took her into his house, so the plan sort of backfired. But before he could do anything to her the Lord sent plagues on Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh rebuked Abraham for his dishonesty and returned Sarah to him. They left Egypt after the famine, and surely they’d learned their lesson about how God will always protect them. Surely. Look at verse 2:
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
Ha! This is Egypt all over again. I can’t help but be relieved knowing that I’m not the only one who has a hard time learning lessons and trusting God. Apparently, even at the age of 90, Sarah is still beautiful enough that Abraham’s worried about being killed over her. So, he tells the king of Gerar that they’re not married, and just like Pharaoh, Abimelech takes her.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife. So God speaks to Abimelech in a dream, and notice that He goes straight to the death penalty for taking Sarah. He doesn’t explain the situation and let the king decide what should be done; in fact He doesn’t even give a command. He just says, “You’re a dead man for what you’ve done.” But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, LORD, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? 5Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. Abimelech says, “Surely you won’t punish us for something I didn’t even know I did. I didn’t touch her, and I had no reason to believe she was married.” And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; That is, that “you didn’t know what you were doing when you did it.” for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. “You didn’t touch her, but the reason you didn’t touch her is because I wouldn’t let you.” Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. So Abimelech can give her back and live or he can refuse and die. But isn’t it interesting that even God still calls Abraham His prophet? Isn’t it even more amazing that Abraham will pray for the king? You know, we tend to think that prayer or intercession is something we do when we’re living right. If we’ve just sinned or if we’re struggling, we tend to give it a little time to let the guilt pass away before we talk to God, but here’s Abraham clearly in the wrong and walking in doubt—he wrongs the king, the king is punished for no wrong doing of his own, and Abraham prays for the king! I think this does a couple things: it surely humbles Abraham and it removes all doubt that God is on Abraham’s side. It makes me think of that verse in Romans where he asks, “If God be for us who can
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be against us?” The pagans, Sarah, and Abraham shouldn’t have any reason to doubt that after this. Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. Now think about this: Abimelech is a pagan king, and Abraham is a prophet of God. The pagan rebukes the prophet—“You’ve done things to me that shouldn’t be done.” And he’s right! What a stinging rebuke it must have been. Abraham has this promise from God to be blessed and made great. The only promise Abimelech has is death if he doesn’t comply; Abimelech believes, but Abraham does not:
And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
In other words, “when you came in to our city, what made you think you needed to make up this lie?”
And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
Maybe Gerar was a lot like Sodom—maybe Abraham could just see the wickedness when he walked into town, but it’s no excuse. He thinks they’ll slay him, but you just want to grab him and say, “But they can’t Abraham! Don’t you know what God has promised? They can’t touch you; you’re invincible!” But he’s not thinking like that so he told a lie. And the whole blame, it seems, goes on everyone else. “I wouldn’t have lied if I hadn’t been afraid of you—you don’t fear God like I do, so I felt like I had to lie to you.” What a contradiction. And then he makes it worse:
And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
You know: “it’s a half-truth which isn’t really a lie.” He tries to justify himself, but it is a lie, and it could have cost these men their lives. But Abraham is more worried about himself, and so he blames everyone else:
And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
God’s the one who caused him to wander: “If God hadn’t brought me out here to this strange land away from my family, then I wouldn’t have had to lie.” So in a sense he takes the very blessing of God and uses it to justify his doubt and sin. Well, the prophet, Abraham, might be floundering, but the pagan, Abimelech, is more concerned with doing what’s right:
And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. 15And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
These gifts aren’t a reward obviously; I think they’re more of a compensation to make sure there’s no indebtedness—it’s a way for the king to keep his integrity. Look at the next verses:
And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.
In other words, “this is compensation so that you will stand vindicated before all who are with you” (NET). He gives back Sarah plus what would have been owed in the dowry so that no one can say anything bad about Sarah or the king.
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. 18For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
So this prophet, who struggles with fear and doubt, prays for the king and his family just as God had commanded, and God heals them all. Isn’t it interesting that God knew what He was going to do and even announced it beforehand, but He still waited for Abraham to pray before He did it? I think Abraham learned a lot in this lesson because from here on out he’s a changed man. In just a few short years he’ll be asked to put his son on the altar, and he won’t hesitate to do it because he knows that God gives life and that He can resurrect the dead. His fear of death is overcome. He’s a good example to the rest of us because he was just as weak and doubtful as any of us. I see a lot of myself in Abraham’s weaknesses, and I’m glad to see that God kept working in him. Let’s look at a few of the lessons we can learn through his life:
#1- God is patient with us in our failures. If there’s one thing I know about me it’s that I fail. Often. Sometimes I even struggle with the same old things, and if I’m not careful I’m tempted to start thinking that God can’t do anything with me. But you know what? God didn’t call me to fail me. He didn’t promise to bring me into the promise land to let me fall in the desert, and He didn’t bring me into the world to be overcome by the world. Abraham should have been a witness to God’s glory, but he failed; but God used him anyway to pray for those people. Don’t beat yourself up or get down in the dumps over sin. Don’t give into it either, but don’t feel like you’ve got to wait until tomorrow or that you’ve got to walk in timidity because of failure. Get up; repent; follow God. You might as well learn to live like that because you’ll struggle until death, but we look forward to the day when this old flesh is put off and we walk in holiness because of Him! In the meantime we know “the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Ps. 145:8). #2- God is the only real hero in the Bible; the rest of us are failures. The Jews really thought a lot of Abraham. In fact, they thought his righteousness was something he attained and they thought that being a part of his line caused them to be righteous too. But Jesus told them that He could raise up children to Abraham from the stones of the ground (Mt. 3:9). Everything Abraham ever had was given to him by God—even his righteousness was a credit God gave as a gift. But I think we can see from stories like this one that he didn’t deserve any of it. He was an idolater who struggled to accept the promises of God for a long time, but God didn’t call him because he was good. We’re no different. God hasn’t called any of us because we’re heroes. Our righteousness comes the same way as Abraham’s. God was pleased to call us sons, and He gave us life through His Son. We don’t deserve it…but that’s what makes God’s grace so amazing—it saved a wretch like me. #3- If God be for us, no one can be against us! Abraham had no reason to fear the Philistines or anyone else. God had made him a promise, and He swore it with an oath when He walked the blood path. By reason alone Abraham could have known that he was basically invincible at the very least until his son was born. Likewise, we know that God has promised us eternal life and that we overcome because of Him. We’re more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37). So we don’t need to worry about death or failure. We’re like Abraham waiting to go into the Promised Land. It’s not something we dread: we look for it and wait on it. My prayer we’ll learn to wait like Abraham knowing that God gives life to the dead and that He’s in complete control—He has overcome the world, and He’ll see us safely through in order to fulfill His promise. newgracebaptistchurch.wordpress.com
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