Abraham – The Backslider

There are times it seems we never learn from previous mistakes, or previous sins. We must remember that earlier in Abraham’s journey of faith, and after arriving in the Land of Promise there was a famine which came into the land, and Abraham doubted and went down into Egypt. We read in the twelfth chapter of Genesis that it was in Egypt he conspired with Sarah to deceive the king of Egypt into believing that Sarah was a half sister, which was a half truth.

Why the deception? Because of fear of his life. Why was there fear in his heart? He was out of the place of God’s blessing, though still in the borders of the Promised Land.

“And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and 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, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said 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. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. 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.” Genesis 20:1-7 (KJV)

There seems to be no apparent reason for Abrahams journeying to the “south country”, and Gerar. The man of faith has had a great experience with the LORD. He and Sarah have received a renewed promise of a soon to be born son. He has prayed and his nephew Lot has been delivered from destruction, though by coercion. In their first moving away event it was due to a trial of drought and no food, but what is it now? Could it be that the patriarch has grown comfortable, and at ease and just desires to get away. We have nothing of him building an altar, or anything concerning his worship of God, but of the deceiving of a ruler.

Whatever Abraham’s reason for the move he was putting himself into a dangerous position. He had not moved from the land of promise; he was still within its borders, but near the edge. He was placing himself in Philistine territory. We need to remember Abraham was born a sinner just as we all were, and though he had been justified by faith [15:6], he, as do we, still struggled with the old flesh. When Abraham arrived in Gerar he began walking by sight, and fear set in. Warren W. Wiersbe wrote, “Fear of man and faith in God cannot dwell together in the same heart. ‘The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trust in the LORD shall be safe.’ (Proverbs 29:25 NKJV). Abraham forgot that his God was ‘the Almighty God’ (Gen. 17:1) who could do anything (18:14) and who had covenanted to bless Abraham and Sarah” From BE OBEDIENT by Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 87.

The reason sins are usually committed over again, and sometimes again and again is probably due to the fact of not forsaking that sin. Abraham and Sarah had confessed their sin, maybe even asked forgiveness from Pharoah of Egypt, and from God; but they were still clinging to it; they had not rid their lives of it. For nearly twenty five years they had clung to this deception, and now they use it again.

At this deception Abraham is certainly not a good example of faith. For Abimelech or for believers of all ages his faith stinks at this stage. A man who has for twenty five years awaited the promised son, and has just recently received renewed promise that the birth is going to take place. He jeopardizes the purity of a son. He jeopardizes the life of his wife and her purity too. This king of Gerar has more integrity at this point in Abraham’s life. This king is more honest, and certainly is more forthright, and generous than Abraham. Who appears to be the best neighbor? Who would be the better witness for the power and glory of God at this point? It certainly was not Abraham.

Why does God not come to Abraham and convict him of his wrongdoing? That is something which puzzles me. Could it be because Abraham had convinced himself, and Sarah had convinced herself that they had not lied; that what they had told was the truth; thus, they had not deceived anyone? When we get into that state of mind even the Spirit of God cannot bring us to the truth. At such times God will use the unusual to get our attention. God can use the ungodly to rebuke us, and correct us just as he did with Abraham, here in Gerar.

God appears to Abimelech in a dream by night, and condemns him for taking Sarah from Abraham. Abimelech pleads with the Lord, and reminds the Lord that Abraham has deceived him and the people by claiming Sarah as his sister. For some time Sarah had been in his “harem”, but he had never touched her, and that was God’s doing we see from the words, “I also withheld thee from sinning against Me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her”. When the sins of God’s people forsake His holiness and purity, He does not, nor will He.

Abimelech is to restore Sarah to Abraham, and in doing so God will spare the king and the people he rules. Over and over again through the Bible we see that our sins are never just personal; but they will affect every life we touch.

“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. Then 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. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? 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. 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. 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. And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.” Genesis 20:8-14 (KJV)

There is a confrontation which takes place. Can you imagine, to Abraham’s horror, as the king summons Abraham to come to him, and then he finds out that God has revealed to this man the secret he and Sarah have been concealing? God has revealed to Abraham secrets; such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a prophet; but now the prophet has his secret revealed to the king by God. God is a revealer of secrets. Every secret of men will be shouted from the roof tops. Read Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17. Oh, how embarrassing it can be for the child of God to be found out, and chastised rightly by the ungodly.

When Abraham expresses his fear (v. 11) to the king what does that say of his faith? It says to the king that his faith still needs to grow, or this God of his can’t be much. Anytime we allow the appearances of men, and their power or perceived power, prestige or influence to cause us to fear we are poor witnesses of the power of Almighty God.

Abimelech shows great generosity, and gives back Sarah to Abraham, and also gives him sheep, oxen, and male and female servants. Blessings come from God. Even when Abraham has schemed and deceived, and would have ruined the purity of his own lineage, and the purity of his wife God preserves them, delivers them, and does so with blessing.

“And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. 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. So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.” Genesis 20:15-18 (KJV)

As Abraham journeyed around the borders of the Promised Land he would encounter various “kings” and rulers of the various nations within. Some were friendly, as was Abimelec and he was extended the welcome of dwelling where he would choose. When such and invitation or welcome is extended there are some who might take great advantage of that and move right in to one’s own abode. Abraham was a courteous man, and excepted the invitation in the manner in which it was meant, I am sure. As Christians in our neighborhoods, and places we live, we too are to be good neighbors, and not to take advantage of our neighbors, or our friends, and if there is to be anyone having advantage taken of them, then, let it be us.

The rebuke which Abimelech gives to Sarah shows that he knew she had part in the deceptive lie she and Abraham had both concocted many years ago. There has been “a thousand pieces of silver” given to Abraham somehow connected to Sarah’s release to him. It seems to be connected to this rebuke of her by the king. One commentator said that it could be the means of purchasing material for the making of veils to cover the faces of Sarah and her servant girls. John Gill commenting on the following verse writes,

but it seems best to refer this to the gift of the thousand pieces of silver, and read the words, “behold, this is to thee a covering of the eyes”; so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; for the words are a continued biting sarcasm on Sarah; as Abimelech twits her with calling Abraham her brother in the preceding clause, so in this he tells her that he had given him so much money to buy her a veil with, and to supply her with veils from time to time to cover her eyes, that nobody might be tempted to lust after her, and that it might be known she was a married woman; for in these countries…” From e-Sword.

It does seem that Abraham and Sarah have gone all these years with the lie in tact and able to use it on a whim. O, how foolish we human beings can be when it comes to covering our fears; especially when we have God defending us, and caring for our every need.

Even at Sarah’s age she is evidently still a “Knock out” in appearance. She is around 89 years of age at this point of her life. What 89 year old woman would be expecting to have a child, but Sarah had God’s promise of it. By the word of Abimelech Abraham “thy brother” [using their lie], is the covering of the eyes. Could it be that because of Abraham being her half brother this could mean that Abraham would protect her and her maids as though a brother. Men would think twice before looking upon Sarah with evil intent.

Finally we have Abraham praying for Abimelech. It would appear that because of Abimelech’s taking of Sarah that God has caused all the women of the kings household to have no children. Abraham’s relationship with God is seen in that the women began to bear children shortly thereafter. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). By the answering of Abraham’s prayer we see that there was a wonderful testimony of faith left, and that God cares, gives mercy and grace to all.

Even though we sin, and at times offend others with our sin, we can still seek their forgiveness, receive their rebuke, and pray for them. God can bless despite our sin; when we have sought His forgiveness and grace.

-Tim A. Blankenship

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