This message from Genesis 20 might seem like a rerun. Tell me if you have heard this before? Abraham is scared that a foreign king will kill him in order to take his wife. He devises a plan to pretend that she is not his wife, but just his sister so that they will treat him well. Abraham’s plan worked, but now God’s promise of a son is in danger. If this sounds familiar, it is because it also happened in Genesis 12. One would think that Abraham would have learned his lesson the first time, but before we are quick to judge, how many of us learn our lesson the first time? This chapter may be a rerun, but if you are struggling with the same sins over and over, this is the right message for you. Consider:
- The Complication (1-2). Abraham does it again. Abraham made the same foolish, sinful decision he made in Genesis 12. Why did he do it? He revealed his motivation in verse 11, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’” Two important points are revealed in this verse: 1) Abraham’s faith in God is weak and 2) Abraham is operating out of self-preservation. Abraham risked the life of his wife and the promise of a child in order to save himself. God has shown numerous times in the past that He will protect Abraham, so why is Abraham falling into the same sins over and over? That is a good question for us. Why do we continue in the same sins over and over when God has demonstrated His love and protection to us? Why do we make decisions out of self-interest and self-preservation when we have given our lives over to God? How can we be so fearful when God has promised us so much? We need to think long and hard about how the desire for self-preservation is contrary to a life of faith.
- The Intervention (3-7). God’s sovereign restraint. God stopped Abimelech from being sexually immoral with Sarah for two reasons: 1) Abimelech was deceived and 2) God’s promise to Abraham was in peril. If Abimelech is not restrained, Abraham loses Sarah and the promised child. God stepped in because God’s promises must come to pass. Not even our sins will keep God’s promises from coming to fulfillment. We must be careful with this because, while God is able to keep us from sinning, God does not promise to bail us out of every foolish, sinful decision. This teaching is not designed to give us a license to sin, but to comfort us that we cannot thwart God’s promises.
- The Vindication (8-16). Abimelech’s defense. Abimelech quickly sought to correct the problem. Spurred by the fear of the Lord, Abimelech rebuked Abraham for his deception and publically proclaimed his and Sarah’s innocence. After Abraham admitted his selfish reasons for this deception, Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham and made it clear that Sarah was innocent in the eyes of all.
- The Intercession (17-18). Abraham’s restoration. These verses make more sense in the context of verse 7: “Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live.” Abraham may be a flawed man and the worst character in this story, but he is a prophet and man of God. Abraham “prayed to God, and God healed…” Abraham prayed in faith that God would heal Abimelech and God listened to Abraham’s prayer. This prayer not only healed Abimelech and his family, but it also proved to Abraham that God is over all the earth. This is further proof to Abraham to trust God in difficult situations and places and not to fall back into the faithless thinking of self-preservation. Also, consider the mercy of God in lavishing blessings upon Abraham so that he had more when he left than when he arrived. Let us worship our amazing, glorious, gracious God.
Grow Group Guide
“It’s a Rerun” (Genesis 20)
Open with prayer and then have someone volunteer to read Genesis 20. After reading the text, discuss the following questions:
- What does the text say? (What happened? What happened next? What happened after that?) Who did Abraham tell the people of Gerar Sarah was? What was the king of Gerar’s response? Why did Abraham say this? (see vs. 11-13). Who prevented Abimelech from committing adultery with Sarah? What did Abimelech say to Abraham when he found out he was deceived? What had God done to Abimelech and his household? Who prayed for whom and did God hear his prayer?
- What does it tell us about God? (Discuss the nature and character of God.) Why did God stop Abimelech from sinning? If God is able to keep us from sin, why does He allow us to sin? (In other words, why doesn’t He always stop us?) How would Sarah’s involvement in Abimelech’s harem subvert God’s promise to Abraham to have a son? Why did God ask Abraham to pray for Abimelech when Abraham was the one who deceived and acted sinfully?
- What does it tell us about ourselves? (What are the human characters in the story doing or not doing that serve as a warning or encouragement to us?) Abraham devised the plan to call Sarah his sister because he did not want to be killed. How can he be so fearful when God has promised him so much? How is the desire for self-preservation contrary to a life of faith? How does our desire for self-preservation lead us to repeat our past failures and struggle with the same sins over and over? How come we are able to cast aside some sins, but others linger?
- How am I going to think, speak, and live differently because of what I learned? James writes that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22). It is not enough to know what the story says, it is important to apply the truth of the story to our lives. Take some time in prayer and consider some changes that you need to make in the following areas: