TOPIC: Abimelech Restores Abraham His Wife
TEXT: Genesis 20:1-18 (KJV)
From the glory sight of the destruction of Sodom and his environs, Abraham decided to relocate down south to the philistine settlement in Gerar. In pursuance of his self-preservation policy, both he and Sarah gave the impression that they were siblings. “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, she is my sister: Abimelech the king sent, and took Sarah” (Gen 20:2). This wrong information misleads the heathen monarch into taking a wrong decision which exposed his entire household to divine wrath. However, the study reveals the consistent faithfulness of God, His avowed aversion to sin, the efficacy of His strong restraining influence, His unchanging stance on restitution, and swift reversal of judgement upon human compliance with divine directives. Though the story ended on a positive note for Abimelech, it would have been much better if Abraham’s role had been positively different. That God can do all things is not a licence for believer’s to abdicate their responsibility or becoming culpable in leading people astray, like Abraham did in the study
1. REFLECTIONS ON ABRAHAM’S SELF-PRESERVATION POLICY
Gen 20:1,2,11-13; 12:10-20; 26:7; Ps 56:3,4; I, cor 10:12.
“And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, she is my sister: and Abi melech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah” (Gen 20:2). Here, the couple manifested one of the traits of old life. Unfortunately, this was not the first time they acted that way. Not long, after God called him, Abraham made a personal but unspiritual policy to enhance his security among their heathen host. “And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is my kindness which thou has shalt shew unto me; at every place wither shall come, say unto me, He is my brother” (Gen 20:13. Sarah’s consent did not justify or mitigate the error. Rather, it risked her virtues, compromised the honour of her family and subsequently exposed them to needless ridicule.
One would have thought that they had learnt lesson after the experience in Egypt in a similar circumstances (Gen 12:11-20). But their fall to the same temptation after about twenty years later is proof that they have not overcome this self- management tendency. Believers must quickly deal with any spiritual problem as soon as it is discovered; otherwise, it can linger, fester and eventually destroy the negligent. Once a believer has fallen into a particular sin, it becomes easier to repeat it except through watchfulness and prayerfulness. Abraham’s self-preservation scheme had been premised on his fear that he could be killed by an enemy who might be interested in his wife (Gen 20:11). However, the turnout of events, both in Egypt and in Gerar, proved that his fear was baseless at all. Walking by sight leads to the “fear of man” which “bringeth a snare: but whose putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Pro 29:25). Christians have comprehensive preservation from God on all sides. Buoyed by living promises of protection, deliverance and divine presence, there is no justification for subjecting ourselves to any that can result in any ungodly disposition. Those who fear what anyone may do against them. (Deu 31:6; ps 5:21; 32:7, 10; Heb 13: 6). Though declaring their identity as such was not completely false, it was not totally true as it is common knowledge that their marital relationship superseded any other. Half-truths are at best lies.
The scriptures forbids lying of any size or form. “Lie mot one to another seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” ( Col 3:9,10). Besides, to abide with God in a blissful eternity requires that one “… walketh uprightly… and speaketh the truth in the heart” (ps15:1,2). The incident warns of the possibility of faith icons doing things that could cause adversariesof the Lord to blaspheme or bring blame to the ministry (Gen 9:20-23; Num 20:7-13; 2 Sam 11:1-4; Matt 26:69-75; Gal 2:11-13). “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Instead of pointing Abimelech and philistines to God, the action of Abraham and Sarah encouraged their propensity to sin. Believers should always be careful not to “put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way”, but rather be mindful to do “things wherewith one may edify another” (Rom 14:13,19; 15:2; 1 Cor 10:31-33; Eph 4:29; 1 Timothy 1:4,5). However, in consonance with His holy nature, God confronted Abimelech in a dream to intimate him of his error, caution and lead him in the right way.
2. REBUKE TO ABIMELECH OF HIS SELF-INDULGENT PRACTICE
Gen 20:3-7; Ps 105:14; Job 33:14-30; Ps 39:11; Eze 18:23,32; Jonah 3:10
“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” (Gen 20:3). God appeared to Abimelech in the best way he could understand and revealed the truth about Sarah to him and warned himof the danger of keeping her. However, it must be stressed that, God does not always have to appear to an adulterer, drunkard or any sinner in a dream before they repent. This encounter was not because Abraham was so righteous or Abimelech so special. It was not even because eitherwas hitherto, ignorant of God’s will in this matter. Even though the law was not yet codified, it had been “written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thought the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”(Rom 2:15).
The Lord did it because of His sovereign resolve to give Isaac as a child of promise to Abraham through Sarah. Like in Egypt, He wanted to preserve the integrity of Sarah for the promise seed and lineage of the Messiah. Two, because God is not interested in the destruction of anyone, He wanted to give Abimelech opportunity to escape the dire consequences of his ill-advised move. He still does so in contemporary times especially through the agency of gospel preachers, spiritual counsellors and soul-winners. As it was then, God can still communicate His will to humans through dreams. But dreams are not the only means through which God can reveal His will to mortal men. Other common avenues include the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, divine agitation on the human conscience, divine impression upon the heart, prophetic utterance, and His directly spoken word. However, the most reliable and easily discernible means is the written word of God – the Bible. All other sources of revelation must be tested and found to agree with it before they can be trusted or acted upon.
Therefore, no one would be justified to limit divine communication to dreams. Indeed, anyone who continues in sin on the pretext of an absence of a personal dream encounter will have themselves to blame when God’s judgement suddenly comes (Ps 19:7-11; 119:98; Pro 6:23; Eccl 11:9; Isaiah 8:20; Mic 6:8). “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 said, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my handshave I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy hearts; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife…” (Gen 20:4-7). This was the first and only time a Philistine would talk about righteousness and integrity in the Bible. But his claim was a result of a divinely– imposed hindrance. His lust that culminated in his taking Sarah as an extra wife already had condemned him. Guilt on an account of sin is condemned right from its conception before its consummation (Exo 20:17; Job 31:1; Pro 6:25; 1 Jn 2:16).
The encounter further indicates that fatalism is not in tandem with faith. One can plead his case with his creator and influence Him to change his mind on an unpleasant matter. God Himself encourages it. He also respects genuine and reasonable intercessions (Exo 32:7-14; Job 23:6,7; Isa 1:18; Jer 18:7-10; 26:13; Joel 2:13). Three, God listened to Abimelech’s submission, accepted his defence, dealt mercifully with him on the basis of his limited understanding of spiritual matters and showed him steps he must take to escape the consequences of his action. Millions of sinners and backsliders are guilty on account of their snubbing the remedy of God has graciously given in Christ (Jh 3:18). Abimelech was much better than such people in that he agreed with God and followed through His recommended remedy. Four, the fact that God seemed to not say anything about the matter to Abraham does not imply that he condoned a lie. A crime remains so whether the perpetrator is arraigned and interrogated or not. However, the resultant rebuke from repentant Abimelech should be so humiliating as to ultimately provoke the ageing couple to be more earnest and forthright in their relationship with God.
3. RESTITUTION BY ABIMELECH IN RESPONSE TO GOD’S CORRECTION
Gen 20:8-18; Exo 22:17; Eze 33:14-16; Matt 5:23,24; Lk 19:8,9
Early the next morning, Abimelech recounted his experience to warn all his servants. Then, he called Abraham and reprimanded him. Worthy of note is that despite the leanness of Abraham’s excuse, Abimelech still went ahead to practice restitution as he “took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, andwomenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife” (Gen 20:14). This is proof of the genuineness of his experience and encounter with God. Restitution, as practiced here by Abimelech, is a cardinal trans-dispensation doctrine. It implies making amends for wrong done, restoring things unlawfully acquired, making preparation for things carelessly handled or wickedly damaged, confessing offences so as to have a clear conscience before God and humans (Exo 22:1-7; Lev 6:1-7; Num 5:6-8; Lk 19:8,9; Acts 23:1-5; 24:16).
Restitution is still required today. It proves the authenticity of one’s reconciliation with God. There are some lessons from Abimelech’s restitution model. One, though he gave an open rebuke to erring Abraham, he quickly accepted his explanation and implemented God’s instruction on the matter. Regardless of whatever anyone does, a true child of God must never lose focus of what is required in any situation. We must not displease God on account of someone else displeasing us. Two, he freely forgave the couple and allowed them residence anywhere within his realm (Gen 20:15). Three, he recognised their lower level relationship as siblings without condemning or mocking them (Gen 20:16). Four, he respected Abraham and submitted to his prayer which proved effective for his benefit (Gen 20:17,18). For God who is no respecter of persons to have referred Abraham as a prophet and recommended that Abimelech seek his prayers and suggests that Abraham must have realised his error, repented of his falsehood and renewed his spiritual relationship with God. Believers who are overtaken in a fault should not linger in their sin but quickly return to God. Likewise, those who are spiritual should readily receive them into the fellowship as soon as they fully return from backsliding.
As the study concludes, a sinner must realise the fact that God’s non-negotiable hatred for sin and His unchanging demand for repentance. Secondly, there is risk of unpleasant natural, diabolic or divinely inflicted consequences of sin even here on earth. Thirdly, there is possibility of freedom upon repentance and faith in Christ, restitution and a resolve of unflinching commitment to God’s will as revealed in His word. On the other hand, a believer must be conscious that Satan does not respect the length or height of one’s relationship with God: he can tempt anyone, anyhow. Therefore, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour”. Every believer must resist all satanic suggestions and manipulations and he will be flee (1 pet 5:8; Jam 4:7).