Text: Genesis 20:1-18
Do you ever feel like you haven’t made any progress in your walk with Christ? Like you’re still struggling with sins that you should have defeated and left behind years ago?
In Genesis chapter 20 we discover that even Abraham, the father of the faithful, was similarly feeble. In fact, Genesis 20 feels like deja vu as we read an almost identical account to Abraham’s interaction with Pharaoh from earlier in Genesis 12—at the beginning of Abraham’s faith-walk, 25 years before!
However, Genesis 20 is not just the story of Abraham and his struggles; it is a story of suspense regarding the Promised Seed. God has promised a child to Abraham, through whom God will bless the nations and produce offspring more numerous than the stars! Yet there is one more great test for Abraham still before his son can be born. And he fails it!
What will happen to the Promised Seed, to God’s plan of redemption? If the promised son, and eventual promised Savior, is ever to be born, it will plainly not be because of the faithfulness of any man or woman. It will be due completely to the sovereign goodness and mercy of God to intervene and overrule on behalf of his people.
I. Abraham Gives in to an Old Temptation (vv.1-7)
- v.1 Abraham sojourned in Gerar—though this account sounds so similar to the situation that occurred in Ge 12, there are also important differences: unlike in Ge 12, where Abraham wound up in Egypt in through fear and failing to trust God – fleeing the Promised Land because of famine—this time we are specifically reminded from the outset that this temptation comes because Abraham is faithfully obeying God.
- Being called to leave all that is familiar, Abraham obeyed: and he went out, not knowing where he was going (He 11:8).
- Now Abraham is still, decades later, wandering around in strange lands. And it is the direct result of this wandering, in obedience to the Lord’s leading, that Abraham goes through this test to his faith!
- The fact is, sometimes believers face temptations, not because they are doing something wrong, but because they are doing their best to follow Christ.
- v.2 Abraham, as he did years ago with Pharaoh, claims that Sarah is his sister. And so king Abimelech takes Sarah into his own harem.
- Husbands, our instinct to save ourselves trouble or heartache, even at the expense of our wives, is one of the most anti-Christ elements in our lives!
- And so, Abraham falls into the same old sin he committed as a new believer.
- vv.3-7 God himself intervenes to protect Sarah (and thus the promised seed also!).
- The ‘innocence’ which Abimelech pleads before God is only in relation to this specific incident, of course. He is not a righteous person in general, but it is true that he has acted ignorantly in taking Abraham’s wife for himself, being deceived.
- v.7 Abraham is the first person in the Bible to be called ‘a prophet’, and in context the emphasis of that role is his intercessory prayer role because God and others. This we will see as one of the prophet’s major roles in OT.
- God tells Abimelech that, unless he relinquishes Sarah from his harem, he is a dead man, along with his entire family. God will stop at nothing to deliver his people, even when they find themselves in distress as a result of their own sinful decisions.
- God tells ‘innocent’ Abimelech to have guilty Abraham pray for him!
- We are reminded that salvation is not because one person is naturally better than another. As Paul reminds us in Romans, the reason Abraham was ultimately innocent before God is not because he was such a good person, but he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness!
II. Abraham Answers for His Sin (vv.8-13)
- vv.8-10 Abimelech confronts Abraham. Abraham is again being rebuked by an unbeliever for the ‘great sin’/adultery which he has almost brought about by his deceit.
- vv.11-13 Abraham gives an explanation (attempted justification) for his actions.
- v.11 What an ironic statement! Abraham, who was supposed to fear God himself, is sinning and leading others to sin because he doesn’t think anyone else fears God.
- vv.12-13 Abraham’s additional explanation, which involves a half-truth regarding his half-sister, of course does not excuse/explain his sin.
- Then Abraham may be trying to pass the buck, Adam-like, when he refers to how ‘God caused me leave my father’s house’.
- So it seems sadly that Abraham blames everyone here but himself. Yet it may seem at first glance as though Abraham made a big mistake, then even excused it, but everything worked out fine because God gets him out of this scrape.
- However, one overall lesson we learn from Abraham’s life, including this episode in Gen 20, is the lesson that there are consequences for our decisions, good or bad! However, we certainly do also see…
III. God Is Merciful to Abraham, and to Us (vv.14-18)
- vv.14-16 Abimelech, under threat of death, is generous to them; but more he importantly gives public testimony of the fact that he had not been intimate with Sarah.
- The baby who will be born to Sarah in the next chapter Ge 21 is not Abimelech’s!
- If things had gone otherwise, we could not have been saved! God is not only merciful to Abraham here, but to us and every believer in Christ.
- As we’ve tried to point out all along, this book is about more than just the characters in Genesis; this is the story of how God is bringing the Promised Seed/Savior!
- vv.17-18 God’s sudden closing, then healing, of the wombs in Abimelech’s family is a glaring reminder that God has complete power over human fertility.
- The fact that God heals Abimelech’s family as Abraham prays for him is a reminder of why God employs human means as instruments of his blessing. It is as God’s ambassadors go in God’s name, that God receives the glory when God’s power goes with them.
- Now, as Abraham rightly fulfills his role of prophet/intercessor, he again becomes a blessing to the nations, as he is meant to be. Likewise, this is the only way you or I will ever be blessing to those around us: by faithfully obeying and following God as the source of all grace/healing.
- Yet, what a great irony/agony for Abraham! While Abraham’s prayer heals Abimelech’s family, Abraham’s own wife is still barren! The very blessing that is even now being poured out on a pagan king and his family has still not come on Abraham.
- What a lie is the prosperity gospel! The fact is, God may very well allow those who follow him to actually suffer more than unbelievers. God is not concerned merely with relieving our temporary discomforts, but of glorifying his name by bringing about his eternal and perfect plan of redemption for all who trust in him alone for their salvation!
We noticed how the sowing/reaping principle that Paul affirms in Gal. 6:7 played out in Abraham’s life. But it is crucial not to take that principle out of context. As Paul is constantly reminding us in Galatians, the Christian gospel is this: God was not mocked by Jesus’ work at the cross! Christ sowed and reaped in your place. Christ’s taking your place means that you reap what Christ sowed, and Christ reaped what you have sown!
- Yet, reaping what Christ has sown means the Spirit sets up abiding residence in your heart and leads you to bear fruit of the Spirit by his strength.
- Thus, the faithfulness we see characterizing Abraham’s life is, like all true faith, produced by the Spirit and rooted in Christ. Ge 18:19; Jn 8:39; Php 3:3
- May we be true children of Abraham ourselves! May you not grow weary, but rather trust that your sacrifice and labor and sowing will bear much fruit, by the power of the Spirit, to the glory of Jesus Christ unto life everlasting.
- We will fail along the way, as did Abraham our spiritual father, and these failures have serious consequences; but Jesus did not fail, Jesus never faltered in his obedience.
- And, like with Abraham, Jesus’ perfect obedience is counted to us for righteousness when we trust in Christ alone for our salvation.