Faith Applied (Genesis 20:1-21:7)
Faithless Deception (Genesis 20:1-2)
In contrast to Lot, who settled down for a life of compromise in Sodom, Abraham is sojourning to the promised land (v. 1). However, he soon relapses into faithless scheming, falling back on yet another wife-sister deception plan (c.f. Gen 12:20ff). Not surprisingly, like we often do, Abraham foolishly commits the same sin twice. In Abraham, there is a recurring inconsistency in his life, a failure of faith. He had the guarantee from God that he would be blessed, but he failed to apply the truth of the promise to all the issues of his life. Abraham says, by his decisions, that personal safety is more important than trust in and obedience to God.
- Do you fail to trust the promises of God? Not necessarily in that you doubt His existence or the Bible, but in the ordinary, day to day—when the medical tests come back, when your grand plans fall through, etc.—do you fail to trust in the promises of God? There is a danger in trusting God with your eternal salvation, but not with the complexity of Tuesday mornings or the confusion of Thursday afternoons?
For Sure a Dead Man (Genesis 20:3-7)
After hearing God’s emphatic statement that Abimelech was a dead man, Abimelech makes a two-fold argument for his innocence—he was innocent in thought and deed, in the integrity of his heart and innocence of his hands. The Lord explains that it was His own protection and plan that kept Abimelech from sinning against Him.
- The fact that the Lord says his sin would have been “against Me” is a good reminder that sin—your sin, all sin—is against God. The only reason you have not sinned worse than you have against God is because He has shown you abundant mercy. If you say, “I would never do this or that,” it is evidence that you have no idea what you are capable of, and you should be very careful to not presume on God’s mercy that keeps you from sinning.
Fearful Decision (Genesis 20:8-13)
Abraham, in his haughty self-promotion and self-preservation, asked only the question, “What will this do for me?” He makes three excuses for the sinful decision he had made. First, he blames it on the fact that there is no fear of God there (v. 11). Second, his lie was actually only a half-truth, since Sarah is his half-sister (v. 12). Third, he blames it on God, saying, “God caused me to wander” (v. 13). Playing the blame game with both Abimelech and God, Abraham makes clear that planned deception is his modus operandi. When sinning is your set policy for dealing with difficulty, it makes perfect sense that repeated offenses, like Abraham’s, will happen.
Fearlessly Defended (Genesis 20:14-18)
Abimelech is eager to make right the wrong he had done. He offers Abraham any portion of the land that he desires. In response, Abraham prays for the household of Abimelech, even while Sarah’s womb has yet to be opened. As the one who was wronged, Abraham shows true forgiveness by praying for the infertility issue of Abimelech’s household.
Finally Delivered (Genesis 21:1-7)
The suspense ends! After having Ishmael through Hagar, after suggesting Eliezar as an option, after disappointments, diversions, and delays, the promise is finally fulfilled, God has delivered on His promise! “The Lord took note of Sarah.” God always does what He says He will do. He is not like us, forgetting or overlooking others or unable to do what He has said. If God began His people in the world with such an impossible feat, we can be confident that no one and nothing will ever overthrow or annihilate His people! The miraculous beginning guarantees eternal preservation (John 6:39).
We also see in the birth of Isaac a picture of the ultimate promised Seed. Like Isaac, Jesus’ birth was the result of divine activity. As Isaac was born according to the promise, so Christ was born exactly as promised in the prophets. Isaac was born at the appointed time, and so was Christ. Happiness resulted at Isaac’s birth—i.e. “the Lord has made laughter for me”—and upon the arrival of Jesus, there were “good tidings of great joy.” God’s covenant command was obeyed when Isaac was circumcised, and in the same way Christ too was circumcised according to the Law on the eighth day. The once shadowy type and picture is now substantial reality for us. The promised Seed has been delivered, salvation has come!
- Are you trusting the Lord’s promises to you through Christ? Does your treatment of others prove this? Do your financial priorities prove this? Does your schedule prove this? Are you waiting on Him, or taking matters into your own hands?