Fear: HVP vs. DVP Solutions. Genesis 20
We now come to Abraham's tenth test and it relates to protecting the seed once again. In this chapter the underlying doctrine that is so clear it God's protection of the believer, even when the believer is out of fellowship and in carnality. It is a tremendous doctrinal message of hope that even when we are screwing up God doesn't desert us, He still protects and provides for us in terms of His plan. We may desert Him and we may disobey Him but God never deserts or forgets us in the process, He still keeps things moving along in His plan. Our failures never jeopardize God's plan. His sovereignty is such that in human history He has built in enough flexibility that even when we make bad decisions and disobedient decisions His sovereign control is great enough that it can flex with our chaos and He still is able to produce that which He intended to produce. The only thing is that when we produce disobedience we miss out on the blessing and the spiritual growth that we would have oif we were obedient.
One of the other principles that we see in this chapter, which is one which comes home to every one of us living in our postmodern relativistic world, is one that has to do with rationalizations of sin. What we have here is a problem of security. Abraham is going to go to Gerar and he decided to stay awhile. He is not out of line going to Gerar. In Philistia he is not outside of God's will because according to the parameters of the land that God promised him this is land that is within them. So he is not outside the geographical will of God, so it is valid for him to go there. But when he is there he feels threatened because of security, he thinks somebody is going to steal his wife, that there is a certain amount of criminal violence that may be done to him there, and so out of fear, anxiety, and concern for his own security he decides to solve the problem his own way. So we have Abraham doing a right thing in a wrong way, and this is a typical problem we all run into.
Whenever we get involved with some problem, some difficulty where we feel threatened and it involves some sort of mental attitude sin such as fear, worry, and anxiety, where our security is at risk; or whether it is another type of sin that is motivated by anger or jealousy or bitterness and it is going to overflow into some kind of overt sin, what we are trying to do is protect ourselves, to avoid a loss, to deal with the fear or anxiety, etc. So we develop strategies out of our sin nature to provide security for our own person or whatever it may be. We feel vulnerable to attack or loss and we decide we know how to solve the problem. We decide the easiest and best solution is to do X, whatever X may be. In Abraham's case he didn't learn the lesson from Egypt when he told a half lie and he is going to do the same thing. We see that this is a consistent pattern in his life. Rather than trusting God to protect him in a hostile environment he is going to do it himself and utilize a lie to handle it.
There are three things to remember in application: a) Remember a wrong thing done in a wrong way is wrong; b) A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong; c) Only a right thing done in a right way is right.
What Abraham is going to do is a right thing but in order to protect himself he is going to do it in a wrong way. His methodology really creates a problem is Gerar. Rather than being a source of blessing by association to Abimelech who is the ruler in Gerar, to the royal family there and to others, Abraham creates collateral damage. There are unintended consequences to his little white lie that affect a vast number of people, and it almost brings death upon Abimelech. So that whatever comes out of that has been tainted by a carnal methodology that doesn't honor God at all. Utilizing the principle of a right thing done in a wrong way is the same principle of the end justifying the means, and in that process (and we all do it) a lot of it is just the influence of the cosmic system around us. This is our culture, it has been immersed in rationalization, justification, and situation ethics for years. We constantly think that as long as the end result is honorable and good it doesn't matter how it is done.
Genesis 20:1, "And Abraham journeyed from there toward the south country, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar." We are not certain where Shur was but there was a wilderness of Shur in the northern part of the Sinai peninsular, just to the south west of Kadesh-barnea. So he has gone to the southernmost extremity of the land and is living there. Abraham still seems to be walking throughout the length and breadth of the land that God has promised him and is staking a claim, because this is his. Even though he doesn't own it and will not until the resurrection he is walking throughout that land. The text doesn't tell us why he went to Gerar. Whatever the reason it is okay for him to move because it is within the land.
Notice Genesis 26:1,2, "And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of." Where is Isaac? He is in Gerar, the land of the Philistines. There is a reaffirmation of the Abrahamic covenant to Isaac at that point, the land promise. It is within the will of God for him to be there, it is in the land which was part of the land promise.
But there are problems in Gerar, just as there are always problems that we are going to face in life no matter where we are. There seems to be a cultural or criminal element that is prevalent in the ancient world. Notice that when Abraham went down to visit the Pharaoh in Egypt the first time he was afraid somebody was going to take his wife. Now when he gets into Gerar it is the same kind of thing. He is afraid that somebody is going to kill him and take his wife. Then when we get over to Genesis 26 Isaac has the same fear. We saw a similar kind of thing in Sodom when the visitors came, and there seems to be this cultural thing where the perverts were going to rape some new visitor. So there seems to be some sort of perverted custom at this time in the ancient world where if you showed up with a good-looking woman and she was your sister they would try to buy her, but if she was your wife they would just kill you and steal her. This is just a conclusion from the fact that all throughout this period we see this issue keep raising itself and they keep being afraid that someone is going to kill them and steal their wife.
Now Abraham is pulling the same strategy he has pulled before, he hadn't learned his lesson, and Sarah just goes along with this; she is a picture of the obedient wife in Peter—"Sarah obeyed Abraham, her lord." Even when Abraham is doing the wrong thing Sarah is praised because she recognize her authority and she is not going to step out from under her authority, even if he is not doing the right thing. But God is going to protect here. God protects us even when we are wrong; He protects us despite our stupidity.
Genesis 20:3, "But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, you are but a dead man, for the woman which you have taken; for she is a man's wife." This is interesting. There are only a few examples in Scripture where God speaks in a dream. Most of the examples of God speaking in a dream are in Genesis before there is a written canon of any kind. God also appeared in a dream to Nebuchadnezzar, and this is another unique time period in Israel's history. From the Pharaoh of Exodus there are no more dreams until Daniel when God appears to Nebuchadnezzar. So this is an unusual form of special revelation. "You are a dead man" is very emphatic in the Hebrew. This is an unintended consequence. Here is Abraham just trying top protect himself, protect his wife, make sure they are safe and secure, and he is just going to tell this little white lie. When we are out of fellowship, just as there is blessing by association there is also discipline and cursing by association. We don't realize what the unintended consequences may be from our own carnality and how that affects the people around us.
The next verse gives us Abimelech's response. Genesis 20:4, "But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, will you slay also a righteous nation?" Where does that come from? Notice what was going on back in chapter nineteen? Abraham comes to God and asks what makes a righteous nation, and how many people in a nation needed to be righteous before judgment would be averted. So it is picking up the same theme as chapter nineteen. The nation is righteous, it hasn't violated God's standard in this area, they are not guilty. But what we have on Abraham's part is not a sin of commission but a sin of ignorance or omission, and even though it is not any grievous sin of action but a sin of omission there are serious consequences. When we come to the Mosaic law God is going to make an issue of intentional and unintentional sins, but they both need to have a sacrifice and there needs to be cleansing even if it is an unintentional sin.
Genesis 20:5, "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 innocence of my hands have I done this." So Sarah went along with Abraham's white lie and deception. We must assume that Abimelech is an unbeliever because there is no evidence to the contrary, but even as an unbeliever he recognizes that he is faultless, and that is what he is saying.
Genesis 20:6, "And God said unto him in a dream, Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; for I also withheld you from sinning against me: therefore suffered I you not to touch her." Apparently time has gone by. This didn't just happen in a couple of days, there have been some other things that have happened. All the women in the land are barren. Several months have to go by before people catch on to the fact that no women are getting pregnant. So obviously Abraham and Sarah had to be there for a while before they would begin to recognize this, and during that time God prevented Abimelech from going into the harem and having any sexual relations with Sarah. "I also withheld you from sinning against me." Principle: All sinning is against God. Sin is a violation of God's standard, therefore whenever we sin, no matter who is hurts in terms of human consequences, it is not a violation of human law, it is a violation of God's character. So all sin is against God.
Genesis 20:7, "Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for you, and you shall live: and if you restore her not, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours." This is the first time the word "prophet" is used in the Old Testament. "He shall pray for you" indicates that intercessory prayer is one of the functions of a prophet. "You shall live." That would be evidence to those around that Abimelech had not had any sexual contact with Sarah, because once he restored Sarah to Abraham and Abraham prayed for him, the fact that he did not die would be a sign of his fidelity. The warning is serious and it demonstrates that God is going to protect the seed.
Genesis 20:9, "Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What have you done unto us? and in what have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? you have done deeds to me that ought not to be done." Abraham is supposed to be the path of blessing but he has become the source of cursing.
Genesis 20:10, "And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?" In other words, "Weren't you thinking?"
Genesis 20:11, "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." That is the problem. He is trying to generate his own security and protect himself his own way rather than trusting in God.
Genesis 20:12, 13, Abraham's anemic explanation: "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 your kindness which you shall show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother."
Abimelech is going to make things right, and it shows that he is a man of integrity. He does the same thing that Pharaoh did. He is going to make restitution and vindicate the whole situation. "And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before you: dwell where it pleases you." He is very generous. Unbelievers can be very generous and have tremendous integrity as well. "And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to you a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with you, and with all other: thus she was reproved." In other words, by paying this he was demonstrating that he had not had any physical contact with her whatsoever. The word translated "rebuke" is a word that means she was vindicated, proven right. It is not the idea of rebuke in the sense of correction, it is the idea that she has been demonstrated to be right.
Genesis 20:17, 18, "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."
When we make bad decisions we never know what the unintended consequences are going to be. And yet in grace God will discipline us, but on the same hand God often protects us from our own bad decisions. Even when we are our own worst enemy God is still watching over us and in His providential care He is taking care of us.