Genesis – First, God.
“What were you thinking?” How many times has this question been asked of us when we were kids right after doing foolish things? For example, going down a steep driveway with bulky tar strips dividing it in two places while barefoot on an old skateboard with actual skate wheels, not the kind we have today, was a bit challenging for me.
I concentrated so hard on how I would jump those tar strips that I didn’t see the oncoming car on the road. I made it over the strips but crashed at the end to avoid the car. I would have been fine had the car’s owner decided to honk his horn! “What were you thinking?”, yelled my parents. I wasn’t thinking of all the consequences. I was a kid.
How many times have you asked this of your own kids and even your spouse? It seems we leave all wisdom behind to do things out of fear and thrills, without thinking of the consequences for ourselves and others.
When anyone hastily says, “here, hold my coat (or beer)” or “step aside and let me…” these are pretty good clues that trouble might happen. Funniest Home Videos have made millions on our “what were you thinking” acts of foolish behavior.
AND, It’s really foolish to the SAME thing again!
Abraham, what were you thinking?
Genesis 20, The Message
1-2 Abraham traveled from there south to the Negev and settled down between Kadesh and Shur. While he was camping in Gerar, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She’s my sister.”
2-3 So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelech in a dream that night and told him, “You’re as good as dead—that woman you took, she’s a married woman.”
4-5 Now Abimelech had not yet slept with her, hadn’t so much as touched her. He said, “Master, would you kill an innocent man? Didn’t he tell me, ‘She’s my sister’? And didn’t she herself say, ‘He’s my brother’? I had no idea I was doing anything wrong when I did this.”
6-7 God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know your intentions were pure, that’s why I kept you from sinning against me; I was the one who kept you from going to bed with her. So now give the man’s wife back to him. He’s a prophet and will pray for you—pray for your life. If you don’t give her back, know that it’s certain death both for you and everyone in your family.”
8-9 Abimelech was up first thing in the morning. He called all his house servants together and told them the whole story. They were shocked. Then Abimelech called in Abraham and said, “What have you done to us? What have I ever done to you that you would bring on me and my kingdom this huge offense? What you’ve done to me ought never to have been done.”
10 Abimelech went on to Abraham, “Whatever were you thinking of when you did this thing?”
11-13 Abraham said, “I just assumed that there was no fear of God in this place and that they’d kill me to get my wife. Besides, the truth is that she is my half sister; she’s my father’s daughter but not my mother’s. When God sent me out as a wanderer from my father’s home, I told her, ‘Do me a favor; wherever we go, tell people that I’m your brother.’”
14-15 Then Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and along with her sent sheep and cattle and servants, both male and female. He said, “My land is open to you; live wherever you wish.”
16 And to Sarah he said, “I’ve given your brother a thousand pieces of silver—that clears you of even a shadow of suspicion before the eyes of the world. You’re vindicated.”
17-18 Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his maidservants, and they started having babies again. For God had shut down every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
WHAT WE NEED TO LEARN
If you did not know who Abraham was and you read this chapter for the first time, which of the two men would you say was the believer? Surely not Abraham, the liar! It was not Abraham who showed integrity, and it was not Abraham whom God kept from sinning. What Abraham did was selfish, but Abimelech responded with generosity. If anybody reveals excellent character, it is Abimelech and not Abraham, “the friend of God.”
But before you draw some unwarranted conclusions, take time to consider the facts revealed in this event. Abraham’s failures were tragic, but from them we learn some valuable lessons to help us in our walk of faith.
Believers do sin. This chapter would be an embarrassment to us except for one thing: The Bible tells the truth about all people, and that includes God’s people. These things are recorded, not to encourage us to sin, but to warn us to beware of sin. After all, if these great men of faith disobeyed the Lord, then we “ordinary saints” had better be very careful!
WHAT THEY WERE THINKING…Abraham and Sarah had convinced themselves that they were not telling a lie at all. It was only a “half-truth” (Gen. 20:12), and half-truths are not supposed to be as wicked as outright lies. They are worse! “A lie consists in the motive quite as much as in the actual words,” wrote F. B. Meyer. A half-truth has just enough fact in it to make it plausible and just enough deception to make it dangerous.
So, believers do sin, but that does not disannul their faith or destroy their salvation, though it may discredit their testimony. Abraham was still a child of God, even though his witness for the Lord had been greatly weakened. However, Abimelech was in a more dangerous position than Abraham, for Abimelech was under a sentence of death (vv. 3, 7).
Charles Spurgeon said, “God does not allow His children to sin successfully.” When we deliberately disobey God, we suffer both from the consequences of our sins and from the chastening hand of God, unless we repent and submit (Heb. 12:5-11). God in His grace will forgive our sins (1 John 1:5-10), but God in His sovereignty must allow sin to produce a sad harvest (Gal. 6:7). Read Psalms 32 and 51 to see what happened to David physically and spiritually because he would not repent and confess his sins to the Lord.
What did this one lie cost Abraham? To begin with, it cost him character. Phillips Brooks said, “The purpose of life is the building of character through truth.” God is not just “saving souls” and taking people to heaven. Through the trials and testing of life, He is making saved people more like Jesus Christ and thereby glorifying Himself.
Abraham stopped asking, “What is right?” and began asking, “What is safe?” and this led to his downfall. Once the salt has lost its taste, how do you restore it? He also lost his testimony. How could Abraham talk to his pagan neighbors about the God of truth when he himself had told a lie?
Perhaps one of the saddest consequences of Abraham’s sin was Isaac’s repetition of it years later (Gen. 26:7-11). It is sad when our sins affect outsiders, but it is sadder still when our sins are duplicated in our own families. In fact, Isaac’s lie was worse than his father’s because Sarah really was Abraham’s half sister, while Rebekah was only Isaac’s cousin.
What are you thinking now?
What sin needs to be brought into the open and confessed to God? (He knows.)
WHAT IS GOOD TO KNOW…
God does not reject His children when they sin any more than a parent rejects a disobedient son or daughter. Abraham was justified by faith and had a righteous standing before God (Rom. 4:1-5).
Justification does not change; we are accepted in Jesus Christ no matter what we are in ourselves (2 Cor. 5:17, 21). Of course, the fact that we are justified before God means there will be a change in our lives, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). But our position in Christ (justification) is not altered by our practice on earth (sanctification).
The important thing is that we deal with our sins humbly and honestly, confess them to God, judge them and forsake them, and claim His promises of forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Mic. 7:18-19; Isa. 55:6-13).
Abraham and Sarah made a new beginning, and so can you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you in humble adoration and grateful hearts for justification, “just as if” we had never sinned. We come in repentance and you meet us with forgiveness. You are mercy. You are Love and Light. You are grace beyond our thinking. You are God and we are not. Change our minds. Change the way we think to be more like you so we will behave more like you taught us.
In Jesus Name, Amen