Conflict is inevitable. You can try hard to avoid it, but the Bible says that “all have sinned” (Rom 3:23); therefore, the potential for conflict is always present. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Even though sin is unavoidable, a sure sign of spiritual maturity is not how well we avoid conflict, but how we respond to it. In our sermon today we will study about a covenant between Abraham and Abimelech and learn 4 helpful reminders for living peaceably with others. Consider:
- Avoid Unnecessary Conflict (22-24). After Abimelech and Abraham’s previous encounter (see Genesis 20), Abimelech knew two things about Abraham: 1) God was with him and prospered him and 2) Abraham could not always be trusted. For this reason, Abimelech came to Abraham and said “God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants.” Abraham, desiring to avoid unnecessary conflict, said, “I will swear.” Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
- Address issues of Contention (25-26). With the alliance formed, Abraham realized that it must be based on truth and trust. It is for this reason that Abraham brought up an issue of contention. Abraham told Abimelech that some of his servants had previously seized a well of water that Abraham had dug. Abraham realized that this issue needed to be addressed. Abimelech said he was unaware of this and was willing to resolve it peacefully. It is important to recognize if an incident can be overlooked or if it needs to be addressed. A good rule of thumb is that if the incident is causing bitterness or resentment, it needs to be addressed.
- Strive to put an end to Strife (27-31). Abimelech was willing to resolve the issue so Abraham took it upon himself to prove to Abimelech that he dug the well by giving Abimelech sheep and oxen. These animals would bind the two parties to the covenant and thus remind them of the peace they had brokered. Abraham also signified the oath the two men made by giving Abimelech seven ewe lambs. This act surprised Abimelech and he asked, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” Abraham said. “These animals were witness for me that I dug this well.” This place, because of this, was named Beersheba. This is because Beersheba can mean either “well of oath” or “well of seven”. The lambs were no doubt selected because both meanings are applicable.
- Devote yourself to Perpetuating Peace (32-34). The conflict was resolved well because the result was peace. Abimelech and Philcol were satisfied and thus returned to their land. Abraham was satisfied and remained in Beersheba. The next two actions Abraham undertook were significant to record. First, he planted a tree that would provide shade for the well so that those who came would be refreshed. Then, Abraham called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. The significance of these two events are that they indicate that Abraham is establishing himself in the land God promised to him. Abraham realizes that his life is in God’s hands, not his own. Abraham also understands that his peace is on account of God’s grace. Therefore, he calls upon God, the Everlasting, because God is faithful forever.
What about you? Are you seeking to avoid unnecessary conflict? If an issue arises, do you seek to resolve it peaceably? Do you acknowledge that true peace comes through faith in Jesus Christ? Finally, do you acknowledge that real peace with others is only possible through Christ?
Grow Group Guide
4 Helpful Reminders for Living Peaceably (Genesis 21:22-34)
Open with prayer and then have someone volunteer to read Genesis 21. After reading the text, discuss the following questions:
- What does the text say? (What happened? What happened next? What happened after that?) What did Abimelech want Abraham to do and what reason did he give for asking? What was Abraham’s response? Why did Abraham reprove Abimelech? What was Abimelech’s response? How did Abraham and Abimelech resolve this conflict? What did Abraham give Abimelech? What did Abraham do after making the covenant with Abimelech?
- What does it tell us about God? (Discuss the nature and character of God.) Abimelech said that God is with Abraham in all that he does. Does this mean that God always keeps Abraham out of trouble and always gives him what he wants? If not, what does this mean about God? Do you believe, from the text, that God was pleased with this covenant between Abraham and Abimelech? If so, why? If not, why not? Does God want us to live at peace with non-believers?
- 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?) How did Abraham and Abimelech’s previous encounter lead to Abimelech’s request for a covenant? Why did Abimelech appeal to God in convincing Abraham to make a covenant? Why was it important for Abraham to go to Abimelech directly when there was an issue with the well?
- 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: