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GEN. 20:1-18 - USED BY GOD, REGARDLESS - Part 2
Last week we looked at how we tend to not trust God to do things right, so we try to help Him out a little and end up really messing things up. We now continue with the rest of chapter 20.
Vs. 3-7 - “But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, ‘You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.’
Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother?’ I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.’
Then God said to him in the dream, 'Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.’”
Vs. 8-13 - “Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, ‘What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.’ And Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What was your reason for doing this?’
Abraham replied, ‘I said to myself, There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’
Vs. 14-18 - “hen Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, ‘My land is before you; live wherever you like.’
To Sarah he said, ‘I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.
Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham's wife Sarah.”
This is the first use of the term “Prophet” in Scripture, and surprisingly it applies to Abraham, who had just reverted to his old sin!
We are imperfect, many times overtaken by old temptations and all too frequently guilty of faithlessness, but we serve a faithful God. Despite our weakness and our faults, He will accomplish His purposes. He’ll even use our failures as opportunities to involve us in His plans.
The Lord acknowledged Abraham’s sin yet called him a prophet - a divine spokesperson between God and His people! We as Christians sometimes fail to rely on our new nature. Instead, we fall back on our old nature, and that’s exactly what Abraham did. Yet his failure didn’t make him any less God’s man or any less a prophet.
Abraham will pray for him and his nation, and they will be healed. We remember that Pharaoh had “treated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels” (Gen. 12:16).
That was when Pharaoh first took Sarah, thinking he was rewarding the brother for the beautiful sister he had taken.
But here Abimelech gives these gifts when he restores Sarah. They are a token of Abimelech’s penitence, of his respect for Abraham as a prophet of God, and of his trying honestly someway to atone for the mistake he had made.
Abimelech told Abraham, “My land is before you: live wherever you like.” He would not offend Abraham. Doubtless he was glad to have a prophet, a man of God, nearby.
There is a rebuke for Sarah too. “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you.” Sarah was reproved.
Abimelech said to Sarah, “ your brother.” It is a mocking reference to her lie. He is to be to her “a covering of the eyes.” She was married and not free to look with desire on other men, as he was not free to desire other women.
Now Abraham prayed; “and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his female slaves so they could have children again; for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving.”
Had the matter continued some time? Were the household conscious that God’s curse was upon them? Had it become obvious that now these women could not bear children until the curse was removed? That seems possible.
But Abraham prayed for Abimelech, and the curse was removed, and the king’s wives and maidservants bare children.
We remember that Moses prayed for Miriam when she had opposed him and become a leper (Num. 12: 13). Job’s friends grieved him and charged him, and God had Job pray for them to (Job 42: 8-10). Let us understand how serious and important are the prayers of godly men for those who sin!
God continued to be gracious to Abraham! He didn’t come down with a big stick and beat him up for failing yet again! He didn’t say: “Dude, that’s it! I’ve had it with you and I’m going to find someone else to fulfill my promises through! I gave you enough chances and you blew it!”
No! God convicted him of his sin - but gently. He showed him in a tender way just how wrong he had been about God, and also how he had been wrong about Abimelek.
Originally Abraham thought to himself: “There is no fear of God at all in this place.” But, as we can see, it turned out that Abimelek, the pagan king, did fear God! When God appeared to him in a dream and revealed to him that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, he acted IMMEDIATELY to set things right!
And on top of that, he summoned Abraham to explain his behavior. How humbling that must have been to Abraham!
Yet even Abraham’s failures were used by God. This should be a comforting truth to all of us who have ever made a mess of a witnessing opportunity!
Maybe someone gave us the perfect opportunity to share the Gospel with them, but we were afraid to say anything! Later on we felt bad about it. Or maybe someone we’ve been witnessing to for months catches us in a lie or some other sin. We feel horrible about it. Yet God is still able to use us incompetent missionaries!
Even while Abraham was behaving irresponsibly, putting Abimelek at risk of committing a grave sin unknowingly, God was in control of the entire situation! He kept Abilelek from touching Sarah, preserving both her purity and his.
After Abraham was confronted by Abilelek, he finally became what he should have been all along, a blessing to the nations (vs. 17). Abimelek was rewarded for his favor shown to Abraham; he and his household were healed! Sarah was returned safely to her husband, and Abraham was given even greater wealth than he had before.
But notice how God answered Abraham’s prayers! After one simple prayer by Abraham, he opened the wombs of Amimelek’s wife and slave girls so that they could have children again. Yet after years of praying for a child of their own, Abraham and Sarah we're still without one. Must have been pretty frustrating for them to see fertility return to Abimelek's household!
But ironically, how encouraging it must also have been to see that happen, for the God who opened one closed womb could just as easily open another, even that of Sarah herself. God’s ability to use even our sins for His own purposes shows that He doesn’t love us simply for all the great things we can do for Him.
All too often we think that in order for God to really love us, we must live some kind of epic life full of spectacular achievements. We think we should go out as missionaries and convert whole nations and plant new churches amongst those who have never heard the Gospel. Or, in the very least, we should win ALL our friends and neighbors to Christ!
I think we focus on all the external achievements as the ways to win God’s approval; we ant to attempt great things for Him. The Bible, however, focuses on the internals: God’s work of creating a great heart in us characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, and love.
Only this explains why God’s plan so often seems at odds with our plan for our lives, not just at our worst moments, but also at our best. It’s not just when we are planning to go out and commit a crime that our car won’t start. It’s when we are minding our own business and living life normally.
Or it may even be when we are trying to do kingdom work. You finally muster up the courage to share the gospel with a friend or relative in the hospital, and it’s then that your car won’t start! That opportunity may be lost, but that doesn’t mean it was wrong for you to want to share the gospel with them.
Likewise, when my computer raptures the message I’m preparing, its not necessarily a sign that what I wrote must have been really bad! Sometimes when we attempt to serve the Lord, it doesn’t work out at all. And sometimes the examples are far from trivial.
People go to another country desiring to be faithful missionaries, and they are kidnapped and killed. How can God allow that to happen? Is God asleep at the wheel? No, He just has a different agenda than ours. You wanted to do great things for Him in the world, but He wanted to make some small progress on His plan to do something great in your heart.
One of the ways He does that is by showing us our sin. Many times that is embarrassing or humiliating, especially if we are in positions of Christian leadership. But in that way He gives us an opportunity to repent publicly, to speak plainly about the Gospel that is the only hope for sinners like us.
Jesus loves us when we are bad, as well as when we are good, and our public sins give us a great opportunity to reflect on and to testify to that amazing fact. We will never grow beyond our need of the Gospel, and our remaining sins make that reality abundantly clear.
The story of Abraham and Abimelech showcases the grace and goodness of God to His sinful children as God works to develop great hearts. Let us offer deep praise to our God!
Blessings to you all.