As a member of the human race, I can relate to mankind’s habit of returning to sin with regularity. I’m far from perfect. I fight daily with struggles that have waged war with my heart’s desire to do what is right for years. I could be a poster child for Christ’s incredible and undeserved grace.
But I just read Genesis 20, and I have a sneaking suspicion we’ve been here before.
In a previous blog post, I pondered Abraham’s decision to not trust his God and Friend to protect him and Sarai when they moved to Egypt (Genesis 13). Now, just seven chapters later, Abraham makes the same mistake again, this time to King Abimelech of Gerar (located in what is now south-central Israel). As if once wasn’t enough! As a foreigner to the lands surrounding Gerar, Abraham once again tells Sarai (now called Sarah) to tell the people wherever they went that they’re siblings instead of a married couple. Abimelech sees Sarah’s beauty and sends for her to be brought to him at his palace… I think you can surmise why. (Sarai must have been one “hottie” of a Hebrew woman, especially at her age.) God comes to Abimelech in a dream that night and tells him he’s going to die for taking another man’s wife. Abimelech cries foul and claims his innocence as he was deceived by both Abraham and Sarah, but God still threatens him with death if he does not return Sarah to Abraham.
Abimelech confronts Abraham, and Abraham claims they really are siblings as they have the same father but different mothers. Was he really telling the truth here, or was he claiming God as his father which, while true, seems to be the route Abe took to weasel his way out of trouble again for a very significant mistake he’d made once before with another king? Sounds to me like he was passing the buck again. Abimelech then gives Abraham a slew of gifts! Servants, cattle, sheep, goats, a thousand pieces of silver, and whatever spot of land in Gerar they choose to live.
Do what now?! Abraham brazenly commits a very specific sin of deception, one he’d already been disciplined for years ago, and he gets rewarded?! Abraham, being a prophet, then prays to God, and God heals Abimelech and his family of the condition that fell upon them for Abimelech’s sin of taking Abraham’s wife?
There must be some kind of subtext in this passage, because it seems to me the one at fault really was Abraham. Perhaps the lesson is grace. Abraham sinned against God by not trusting Him and for deceiving another, so God pardons him. But it doesn’t seem right. Heck, even the heading for this passage is “Abraham Deceives Abimelech,” for goodness’ sake! Abraham intentionally disobeyed God.
But how often do I do the same? And how often do I pray for God’s mercy instead of His correcting hand? Quite frequently. My takeaway from this scripture is this: while God’s forgiveness and grace are always offered through Jesus, I can’t always expect to be spared the consequences for what I do. Sometimes it’ll happen, sometimes I’ll be spared the hurt, the rebuke, the shame. But I should always expect the consequences. And to avoid the consequences, I should stay away from sin. Simple enough…
Good thing there’s still grace.