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GEN. 20:1-18 - USED BY GOD, REGARDLESS - Part 1
How many of us have had some pretty low points in our life, things that happened that may have taken us further away from the Lord? Or we did something that was sinful and may have seemed to hurt our testimony, and felt like ya let God down? BUT GOD used those situations to glorify and bring about some pretty amazing things, and even, through that situation, ended up bringing others to know the Lord.
Even at very low points in our Christian experience, God can use His saints to draw others to Himself. Such was the case in the life of Abraham as described in Chapter 20.
We start in a fairly short chapter checking back in with Abraham after the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah, and apparently he’s not doing much better than Lot!
Vs. 1-2 - “Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For awhile he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife, Sarah, ‘she is my sister.’ Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.”
Abraham “sojourned in Gerar.” He had “dwelt in the plain of Mamre,” near Hebron, even before he delivered Lot after the kings looted Sodom and took Lot captive. Now after fifteen or twenty years he goes away south “between Kadesh and Shur,” the very southern part of occupied Canaan.
We must remember that Abraham was a stranger, living in tents. He owned no property in the land of Canaan, “no, not so much as to set his foot on.” (Acts 7: 5).
We are not told why he decided to leave. But wherever Abraham dwelt in the land he was more or less a “sojourner.” The land was promised to him, but he had not yet possession of any of it as his own.
But camping in a new area meant new associations and new dangers. Before, when he “sojourned” in Egypt, he had been fearful about his beautiful wife, and he and Sarah both said that she was his sister, and Pharaoh took her, and God had to deliver him there. Now again, in the country of a king he did not know or trust, he felt desperately fearful about his wife.
We might wonder how the king could find an old woman attractive enough for his harem. But somehow Sarah must still be beautiful. Maybe in the process of the Lord making her able to have child at such an age there could have been some youth restored to her.
Charles R. Erdman says: “That at her age she could have been attractive to the king seems incredible, yet it must be remembered that her physical vigor had been so preserved or restored that within a year she bore a child, and further that Abimelech may have wished merely to form an alliance with such a rich and powerful chieftain as Abraham seemed to be.”
Abraham knows she will be attractive to any lustful king, and he fears for his life. Before, he had told a half lie, “She is my sister;” now he tells it again and instructs Sarah to say the same!
A second lie comes easier after a first. The second drink comes easier after the first drink. A man who had cursed and sworn before he was saved, in great temptation, may fall to cursing again as did Peter at the campfire of the soldiers who crucified Jesus (Matt. 26: 74-75).
We may frown upon what Abraham did here in falling into the same sin again, and may ask: “Why did he do that?” But we know the answer from our own hearts. There are certain “OLD SINS” to which each of us easily fall into. As Hebrews 12:1 says, “...sin which clings so closely.” We each have our unique susceptibilities., sins that may not appeal to others, but have a deadly hold on us and could possibly be our downfall.
Abraham had taken up a strategy of lying about her identity. As vs. 13 makes clear, this wasn’t just a lapse under pressure; it had become his go to scheme. Abraham had told Sarah, “Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”
Abraham’s clinging when pressured was to trust himself rather than God. Abraham believed the divine promise, and it was credited to him as righteousness. But sometimes when pushed, he decided to give God a little help with a “little” lie.
Basically what we end up doing is saying, “Lord, I trust you, but I want to make sure things work out right.”
An article in ‘Missionary Crusader’ magazine states: “God can achieve His purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because of their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose to use somebody's only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.”
So fearful Abraham takes up the same scheme he had used before in Gen. 12. And once again we do not read that Abraham made an altar at Gerar or gave any witness.
He seems to have thought that King Abimelech was a heathen and his people were heathen, wicked and dangerous. Remember just last week we talked about compromise with Lot, and here we are reminded again that we ought to take a plain stand anywhere we go so that people may know the Lord, know that we are Christians, and know that we have strict standards of godliness.
We have an enormous impact on those around us, for good or evil. We can make it easier for them to live out their faith or we can make it harder. We can pass onto them an attitude of expectation and faith or an attitude of unbelief. Which of these describes us? Within the family circle, are you the one who guides others towards God? Are you a positive influence on your friends, or are you just “One of the gang?”
And what is our influence on unbelievers? Abraham had a great opportunity to have an impact on the lives of those whom he met. Remember, it was his calling to bless those around him (Gen. 12:3). Instead, Abraham thought the worst of those around him, and responded by acting in a self-protecting way.
He said: “There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.” Abraham’s mistake was not that he was talking to himself. But instead of the self-talk it should have been the God-talk. He should have been saying: “God has promised me a child through Sarah. Even though these people may be godless, God can still protect me. And if not, what is more important than obedience?” In other words, he should have reminded himself of the promises of God, the power of God, and his own commitment to God.
No doubt Abraham would have had more confidence and would have been less fearful had he boldly said that the beautiful woman was his wife. There ought to have been a proud and joyful faith in Abraham.
Sarah had already conceived, or would soon conceive, the child for whom he had prayed these many, many years! But doubting and fearing and without a clear witness, we suppose, Abraham told the half-truth-half-lie; and Sarah was taken to the king’s palace.
In this world, we as Christians have to face contact with the ungodly about us. So we are commanded to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (I Pet. 3: 15).
Join us next week for part 2 in this chapter. Blessings to you all.