It’s easy to point our fingers at Lot. After all, we had an entire chapter to watch his near demise from hot sulfur and fire raining down where he lived the night before. In looking at chapter nineteen, it was obvious that there are times when God saves us from ourselves. God’s grace seemed pretty overwhelming with Lot, but in chapter twenty, today’s reading, he’s going to do the same thing all over again—without the fire and sulfur.
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.Genesis 20:1-6 ESV (Emphasis mine)
Genesis just blows me away with God’s grace. You would think that Abraham had learned his lesson, but twenty-five years after calling Sarah his sister in Egypt, he does it again among another pagan people. Apparently, Sarah ages well, because Abimelech helped himself to her, just as Pharoah had done. That’s twice, yes, twice, that Abraham lets his wife get taken into the haram of a king!
Abraham risked defiling Sarah’s womb, even when God had promised that within a year she would give birth to the promised son. What message does Abraham’s deception give to his own servants? This chapter leaves us with so many questions about Abraham but with none about God.
God saves us from ourselves.
Abraham messes up—“But God,” it says in verse three. God appears to Abimelech, the pagan king, in a dream. This is the first time in Scripture that we see God appear in a dream to anyone, and he’s doing it to a pagan. Wow, what an honor that was. God didn’t just save Abraham’s neck, he also intervened to save Abimelech’s integrity and life. It was clear that had he defiled Sarah, God would have killed him: “Behold, you are a dead man…” Can’t get much clearer than that. Yet, God didn’t kill him. He saved him for the sake of his promise.
God kept him from sinning out of ignorance. What grace! How many times has God kept us from sinning because we acted in ignorance? I don’t know about you, but I can think of quite a few in my stupid years.
Abraham needed distance from that which might tempt him.
Just like Lot had gotten into trouble by moving too close to Sodom, Abraham didn’t need to hang around Gerar. I asked back in chapter twelve, if Abraham would have moved out of Egypt had the troubles with Pharoah not occurred. Now, I ask the same here. Would he have stayed too near Abimelech, if the troubles over Sarah had not encouraged the king to nudge Abraham further away?
God wanted a people set apart for his purposes. It was only after Abraham moved on that the earlier promise would be fulfilled. None of it was Abraham’s doing—This was ALL GOD.
Who said grace is only a New Testament concept? Not our God!
Grace and Peace