One of the surprising discoveries in the Bible is that people are not always painted in a positive light. One such example is Abraham. He is the person with whom God made a covenant and the person he protected and prospered. It was from the lineage of Abraham that the promised Messiah would come (Gen. 12:1-3).
In the immediate context of Gen 20 we see that God had just rescued Lot and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. After this great miracle, Abraham fails to trust God. God had also just promised that Sarah would have a son and now we see what happens in Gen 20:2 which says, “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”
What? How could this happen? What was he thinking? His defense of his actions is found in verse 12 which says, “She is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.” This means that Abraham told a partial truth to protect himself.
Here we see the clear failure of Abraham’s faith in God to protect him and to fulfill the promises made to him. But, why is this story even in the text? What is the significance of this event that God made sure it was recorded for our instruction? I think Helyer has some insightful words when he says,
“Apparently, shortly after the announcement of a birth one year hence, Sarah is again taken into another man’s harem. The reader is to infer that if there is an heir, he is in danger of being reckoned as Abimelech’s not Abraham’s. But Yahweh intervenes once again and preserves Sarah (20.6b) and restores her to Abraham.”
God had just told Sarah that she would have a child. From this child the promised seed, would be provided. Abraham in his foolishness and fear had given his wife to a pagan king and if she now were to give birth, how could we know who the father was? What would happen to the promise of a Savior?
This story is very significant in the history of our salvation. Again, God had to intervene to ensure that Sarah remained pure and had her brought back to Abraham so that the promised seed would come as foretold by God.
Once again, our salvation story is not dependent on us! God had to work everything out and at times, in spite of us! As Kidner notes,
“… the episode is chiefly one of suspense: on the brink of Isaac’s birth-story here is the very Promise put in jeopardy, traded away for personal safety. If it is ever to be fulfilled, it will owe very little to man. Morally as well as physically, it will clearly have to be achieved by the grace of God.”
Father, thank you for another example of your grace and protection in making the way for our salvation. Through Abraham, we almost messed up your plan! Wow! You did not let his foolish decision thwart your plan for our salvation. Thank you for your sovereign control of all things to work out the details necessary to provide our Messiah, Jesus!
Following Jesu with you,