Isn’t awesome how God takes our chief weakness, our biggest flaw, or our greatest struggle and turns it into our chief strength, biggest gift, or greatest blessing? Although Abraham is remembered as a man of great faith, he was far from perfect and one of his reoccurring issues was a lack of faith, a tendency to depend on himself instead of God when he feared something. That was the case when he moved to live for a little while in Gerar. He was faced with a familiar problem, protecting himself and his beautiful wife in a foreign country. And as he had done in Egypt, he did now; he lied and told the people she was his sister. Abraham’s lack of faith was affecting other people. Verses 1-7
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 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.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 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.” 6 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. 7 Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
Abimelech did what was customary for his people, he saw a beautiful woman that he wanted and took her. Whether customary or not, in ignorance or not taking someone against their will is a sin. The king took Sarah but the Lord protected her, her offspring, and Abimelech by warning him what he was about to do and what the consequences of that act would be. The king responded quickly. Verses 8-13 read,
So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”
Abraham may have felt like the excuse that the brother sister thing wasn’t totally a lie made it okay. But the truth is their relationship was husband and wife not brother and sister. It was the hiding of their marital relationship which was the lie and the sin. It was Abraham’s reliance on people and his assessment of their condition which was the sin. Abimelech had a right to know the truth. If he had, he might not have taken Sarah. Abraham should have trusted God enough to protect them regardless of what he thought of the people, especially in the light that God had promised that within the year she would give birth to a son. Imagine if Abimelech had slept with Sarah, Isaac’s paternity might forever be questioned by Abraham and by us. God was not going to allow that to happen. Abraham’s lack of faith put Abimelech and all of Gerar in grave danger. But God chose to show His awesome power to the king, not through his prophet Abraham as it should have been but by speaking to the king. Abimelech was angry as he had every right to be but he heeded the Lord who still protected Abraham regardless of his faith. Verses 14-18 reads,
Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
God’s steadfast love doesn’t depend on our faith, our effort, or our righteousness. We don’t have our own righteousness (Philippians 3:9), so why would we expect our effort to be good are enough? He promised that He is our God and He would always be with us (Deuteronomy 31:8). Even when Abraham sinned, God still loved him and protected him and the promise He had made. That is not an excuse to keep sinning, it is the reason to want to be more righteous. It’s not a defense to forget faith and run around depending on yourself, it is the motivation to be more faithful and depend on God.
Abimelech could have kept blaming Abraham and Sarah but his encounter with the Lord allowed him to take responsibility and make amends for his own sin as well as forgive Abraham. When he did that, Abraham was moved to pray for the king and his household. And in his prayers, Abraham had to see that God had protected Sarah all along and that the entire house had been made barren and impotent over the situation. He also got to demonstrate God’s mercy to Abimelech and restore his health as his sign of forgiveness.
Believer, God promised you salvation. He isn’t going to abandon you because you aren’t doing well enough or making mistakes. He is going to keep working on you and in you as you submit to Him. He is going to turn your greatest struggles into your greatest assets. He is preparing you for the Day of the Lord and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. He is protecting you. Your salvation is promised. 1 Peter 1:3-7 reads,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.