When Abraham and Sarah enter the Negev region, Abraham becomes fearful of the people. Instead of trusting God, Abraham takes matters into his own hands. The result of his lack of faith brings judgement on the King and requires God’s mercy for all…
1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 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.”
4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 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.”
6 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. 7 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.”
8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 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.” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 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.’
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
Genesis 20:1-11, 17-18
This is the second time that Abraham has committed this act of deceit – he did it with Pharaoh when he and Sarah went to Egypt. Now again, Abraham is afraid as he enters a region and uses the attractiveness of his wife to earn favour with a local King. The King took Sarah to add to his wives or concubines and then God’s judgement comes down on the King.
I view this as a lack of trust in God by Abraham. If he believed God without doubt, he would enter the land and rely on God to protect him. Instead, Abraham takes matters into his own hands.
How often do we do this? When God promises his hand of protection, shelter, and rest, how often do we substitute our own plan to make sure we’re okay?
Granted, we all have brains and wisdom from God to make decisions and take responsibility for ourselves. That’s not what this is about. Abraham told a lie to protect himself instead of relying on God. When we sin to compensate for a lack of faith, we take the place of God in our lives. Another name for that is idolatry.
We need to guard against this so that we keep God in the position of sovereign Lord and ourselves in the position of humble servants to our King. He will guide and guard, and when he gives us a promise (like he did with Abraham and Sarah), he will be faithful to complete it. Trust God.
As an interesting aside, God used Abraham’s situation to bring glory to himself. In a land in which no one feared God, the Lord established his name as great in power and in mercy through this story.