Genesis 080 – Kept By GraceGenesis 20:1-13 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 5, 2022 • Genesis
Genesis 080 – Kept by Grace
By Dr Andy Woods – 06/05/2022
Alright! Well, happy June everybody. Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to John, 20. No, not John, 20. Yeah! Do I need coffee? I always need coffee. Give a cup of coffee in Jesus name and you won’t lose your reward, right? Genesis, 20, verse 1 (Gen 20:1). The title of our message this morning is “Kept by Grace” and as you’re turning there, I want to thank Gabe Morris for filling in last week with his wonderful sermon, I trust you were blessed by his message, and as you’re turning there, I noticed that pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, he has a slightly different ministry philosophy than we have, named his new successor, I guess he is retiring, and his successor’s name is Andy Wood. So all week long I’ve been getting emails saying, you know, we always knew you were a sellout, we knew you’re an insider, etc… So I just want to assure you that Andy Wood is not me, it’s a different guy. Can I get an Amen on that? 1:38
So kept by God’s grace. We’re continuing to move through the life of Abraham.
Genesis 12‒20 Abram’s Early Journeys
I. Unconditional promises (Gen. 12:1-3)
II. From Haran to Canaan (Gen. 12:4-5)
III. In Canaan (Gen. 12:6-9)
IV. In Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20)
V. Abram and Lot Separate (Gen. 13:1-13)
VI. Reaffirmation of Abram’s promises (Gen. 13:14-18)
VII. Abram Rescues Lot (Gen 14:1-24)
VIII. Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 15:1-21)
IX. Hagar & Ishmael (Gen 16:1-16)
X. Circumcision (Gen. 17:1-27)
XI. Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen. 18‒19)
XII. Abraham & Abimelech (Gen. 20)
The life of Abraham is so significant because it’s the birth of a nation and through the birth of the nation ultimately is going to come the birth of the Messiah and so Abraham in his life in his early journeys become very important and foundational, ultimately to Christianity and we come today to Genesis chapter 20, which is the story of Abraham and Abimelech.
Genesis 20 Abraham & Abimelech
A. Background (Gen 20:1-2)
B. Abimelech & God (Gen 20:3-8)
C. Abimelech & Abraham (Gen 20:9-15)
D. Abimelech & Sarah (Gen 20:16)
E. Removal of the curse (Gen 20:17-18)
So here is an outline that we’re going to try to work through as we see how far we can progress in this chapter. Notice first of all the background, verses 1 and 2, and in the background we have two things going on:
Abraham’s movement, verse 1 (Gen 20:1) and then Abraham endangers the seed, verse 2 (Gen 20:2). Notice the background, Genesis chapter 20, verse 1 (Gen 20:1) it says: Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar… From there is probably a place that Abraham typically encamped at called the Oaks of Mamre, and he left there to a place called the Negev, the Negev is an area there that’s on the southern end of the nation of Israel and it is very clear here he didn’t just sojourn in the Negev, he settle between Kadesh and Shur.
There’s where Kadish is on the map as you move south down from the north to the south in the land of Israel and there’s the wilderness of Shur, which is more connected with Egypt and so in the land of Israel, somewhere between those two places, Abraham sojourned and he came to this interesting place called Gerar.
So you know, you go over verse 1 and you look at that and just say, well, that’s just a bunch of boring geography who cares. Well, I think things like this are important because they demonstrate that these events actually happened. These are very real places of geography. We’re not reading a fictional account. This is not “Veggietales” or “Jack and the Beanstalk”, these are real people with real circumstances in real history and In fact, Abimelech the king is going to do something and if we get there in our progression of verses I’ll bring that out to you, that is completely consistent with the laws of the Ancient Near East and so, the Bible presents a credible scenario whereby these events actually happened. Real places, real problems, real people, real history. It’s just these things are occurring two thousand years before the time of Christ. But you’ll notice that Abraham does something to endanger the seed promises, you see that there in verse 2 (Gen 20:2), it says: Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.”… Uhm, we’ve heard that somewhere before, haven’t we?… So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah… What is happening here is the seed promises are being endangered. Obviously, this king took Sarah to be in his harem for his own purposes, sexually and that becomes a problem because God specifically predicted, all the way back many places but the most recent is in Genesis chapter 18, verse 10 (Gen 18:10) that Abraham and Sarah would have a son, it’s very clear that this son is to come through Abraham and Sarah, not Abraham and Abimelech or rather misspoke there, Sarah and Abimelech. I know this is the year 2022 but that’s a pretty bad slip there. We don’t have a trans Bible Amen? Alright. So if a son or descendant comes through Sarah and Abimelech, that’s endangering the promise that God made that the son Isaac, who’s going to be born, by the way, in the very next chapter, specifically says he’s going to come from the Abraham-Sarah union and so the reason this is included is this is a threat to that seed promise. 6:54
It is interesting that as we’ve been studying the book of Genesis, that Abraham pulled this same stunt before, by saying, well, just say that you’re my sister and he’ll leave us alone. Genesis, 12, verses 11 through 13 (Gen 12:11-13), then Abraham sojourned into Egypt back in that chapter. It says: It came about, when he was approaching Egypt, that he said to his wife Sarai… At the time… “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well for me because of you, and that I may live on account of you… So this is, as we’re going to see, sort of a half lie that they sort of cooked up there in the ancient Near East, they’re trying to figure out how to survive in the midst of all of these kings that just did whatever they wanted to any woman that they wanted. They would take somebody and kill off the husband in a nanosecond and Abraham sort of thought that if we just spin a tall tale, it’s half true because you are my half-sister, that we’ll be protected. So you’ll notice that in Abraham’s faith, he’s learning a lesson that he has to rely upon the promises of God. He’s not going to become what God wants him to become, he’s not going to get where God wants him to ultimately go in the energy of his own flesh making up things as he goes but he obviously has not learned his lesson. In fact, there’s a lot of ground in between chapter 12 and chapter 20 and he still hasn’t learned his lesson, because he’s fabricating here the same myth and this is interesting because there is a doctrine, that’s very prevalent in Christianity under the Calvinistic rubric, you’ll notice TULIP, it stands for different theological planks within Calvinism and the P stands for the perseverance of the saints, meaning if you’re a Christian, then there ought to be some sort of upward ascent in your obedience and fruitfulness and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ and if that’s not happening in a person’s life, then we have the right to second guess whether you’re Christian at all.
We have a right to second guess whether you’re one of the elect. We have a right to second guess whether or not you are one of the ones that has been given the gift of faith, because if you’ve been given the gift of faith we ought to see greater fruit, greater obedience, etc… So their system has almost no room for a backsliding Christian, a struggling Christian, a wayward Christian, a believer whose spiritual growth is marked by more downs than ups and this is where the Calvinistic system gets into fruit inspecting, very aggressively, as I’ve been in Calvinistic churches that will say, well, so and so missed Bible study Wednesday night, they must not be a believer and it’s all based on this perseverance of the saints mindset. John Murray articulates this doctrine and he says:
John Murray – Redemption Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2015 edition), p. 152, 154-55, 165. pp. 152, 154-55, 165
“The crucial test of true faith is endurance to the end, abiding in Christ, and continuance in the Word…He cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the domination of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness…Let us appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end…The perseverance of the saints reminds us very forcefully that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints.”
So if Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all, is the doctrine and countless Christians are exposed to this over and over and over and over again because for whatever reason the Calvinists seem to have a dominant stranglehold on Christian media, Christian books, Christian schools, many, many churches and one of the greatest counseling issues you face as a pastor in this climate is this glut of people who are second guessing whether they’re saved at all, because all of us have bad thoughts, all of us have ups and downs and we say to ourselves well, maybe I’m not one of the elect after all; and this doctrine robs the Christian of something that God wants to give them at the point of salvation, which is not just eternal security. It’s the assurance of salvation. I can tell you 100% this is not like the weather report, 90% chance of rain. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I’m a Christian and I’m going to heaven and then you say, well, gee and you must live an exemplary life. Well, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But that’s not related to my assurance. My assurance doesn’t come from me. My assurance comes from what Jesus did and the promises that He’s made to me and the fact that the moment I place my faith in Christ is the moment He gave to me ironclad promises. Now, if I was living my life looking at myself, I would think one day I’m saved, one day I’m not. One day I am a Christian, one day I’m not, but I don’t live my life that way. I live my life looking at the promises of God. Well, you might ask well then why live holy? I mean, if this is incorrect, if what John Murray says here is incorrect, why live a holy life? Because if I go back into sin, that’s going to thwart something, it’s not going to thwart my salvation. It’s not going to thwart my ultimate arrival in heaven but it will thwart my growth, my productivity for the Lord here and now. It will thwart my ability to be fully rewarded at the Bema Seat judgment of Christ whereby Christians will be given rewards above and beyond salvation. All of those things are in play, if I go back into sin, but not my initial salvation because I am protected and preserved by Jesus Himself. 14:30
What got me in the door with God was grace. It’s a wonderful word, it’s the Greek word Charis meaning unmerited favor. The moment I exercise faith in Jesus for my salvation is the moment I receive His grace and if that’s true, why would the rest of the story not be true? Which is as follows, what keeps me in the door, is what got me in the door. I got into the door by grace. So I am now kept and preserved by the grace of God. My salvation is not in doubt, contrary to what the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints teaches. Now, my maturity could be in doubt, my discipleship could be in doubt, my usefulness in ministry could be in doubt but not my salvation and you need to understand this because people when they hear this, it does one of two things to them, it frees them and I have many many people who have expressed thanks in our clear teaching on this because it has liberated them in a way that they can never be liberated before as they were laboring under the perseverance of the saints or if they already have their theology constructed in their head, it makes them very, very angry, because nobody likes their file drawers rearranged. Nobody likes to be told something that they believed and have been taught by the so-called heroes of the faith for ages, but you need to understand this, at Sugar Land Bible Church we do not teach the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We teach eternal security, absolutely. We teach the assurance of salvation, absolutely. We teach the necessity of growing up into Christ-likeness, absolutely, but we do not hold hell over people’s heads constantly getting them to perpetually doubt whether they’re saved at all, because we are not under this Calvinistic influence other pastors and preachers are. Then what do we teach? We do not teach the perseverance of the saints, we teach the preservation of the saints. Do you see the difference? Perseverance of the saints puts all the pressure on me. Preservation of the saints puts the pressure on who? On God. It comes right out of 1st Peter chapter 1, verse 5 (1 Pet 1:5), this preservation of the saints: To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away reserved in heaven for you… Why? Verse 5… who… that’s us… are protected… Do you realize that? That as I speak today you’re protected? If you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Who are protected by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Your arrival in glory is a done deal. In fact, it’s such a done deal that Romans chapter 8, verse 29 (Rom 8:29), I believe it is, presents our glorification as if it’s already happened. How can the Bible do that? When we’re so up and down many times. Well, because God designed it in a way where the pressure never was put on our shoulders to begin with. Man, human beings through their man made theological systems, will put the pressure on you, but God never did. The fact of the matter is when Peter wrote this, do you realize who he was writing to? He was writing to an audience most of whom were about to be martyred at the hands of Nero. He wrote about AD 64 and the Neronian persecution was just sort of coming into existence at that time. Nero was a man who burned Rome and blamed it on the Christians. Nero was a man who would take Christians and light them on fire to eliminate his garden parties and would ride through Rome with his under aged pedophile, homosexual lover, laughing at the Christians saying, they claim they are the light of the world, well, let’s see how they feel about it now as they’re burning. That is Peter’s audience. That is what they’re about to experience and Peter says, before you move off into all of that, I want you to understand something, that absent from the body is to be what? Present with the Lord. Whether you stand for Christ or don’t stand for Christ in this ordeal, I want you to understand that your ultimate arrival in heaven is guaranteed because Peter is not preaching the perseverance of the saints, he’s preaching the preservation of the saints. Of course you should stand as a Christian, but if you don’t and sometimes we don’t, you know, Peter himself would know something about that, wouldn’t he? Having denied the Lord publicly three times. I mean, if we stand or if we don’t stand you’re still going to heaven, because what got you in the door is the grace of God and what keeps you in the door is the grace of God and you’ll notice this in Abraham’s life. There are times when he is persevering in the faith, other times he is not. I mean, he’s going to reach a real high point in chapter 22 and he’s going to fall flat on his face in chapter 23. He reaches a lot of high points in the ground that we’ve covered, but here again in chapter 20, falls flat on his face and he goes back to the same fib, the same half-truth, the same fabrication that he tried to get across in chapter 12 and Genesis chapter 15, verse 6 (Gen 15:6) says the man is saved. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. God never said, okay, it’s credit to you for righteousness as long as you get rid of this pattern of half-truths. Then you’re going to get to heaven, that’s not what the Bible says. That’s not what a verse by verse chronological chapter by chapter understanding of the Bible communicates. Now, that may sound good in a theological system created by man but it is not what God says in His word. That’s why we at Sugar Land Bible Church are not interested in teaching the theological systems of man. We’re interested in teaching the Bible to God’s people and if that happens to unearth a theological point or two, rather getting upset about it because my file drawers are being rearranged, maybe, I’ll just say, well, praise the Lord. I mean, what did Jesus say? You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free. Don’t you want to be free? Don’t you want to be liberated from a belief that every time you make a wrong move that somehow God is going to rip the carpet out from under you? I don’t want to live my life as a Christian that way. Especially if that’s not biblical teaching. 22:40
So Abraham is not persevering here in good works. But he’s still saved. We know he’s saved because we have chapter 15 before chapter 20. Do you guys all agree with me on that? That chapter 15 comes before chapter 20? Says, Abraham, in chapter 15, believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. Period. God when He said that, knew chapter 20 would come and he would mess up again. Now, when we do mess up, not if, do not overly flagellate yourself and act like, I guess I’m out of the Christian family cause God never said that. Whom the Lord loves, the Lord disciplines, he chastens. There are different things that we forfeit when we move back into sin but ultimate salvation is not one of them, if a person has truly trusted in Christ for salvation. This word Abimelech is interesting, it’s not a proper name the way many understand it, it’s probably a title. Like Pharaoh of Egypt.
Genesis 20 Abraham & Abimelech
A. Background (Gen 20:1-2)
B. Abimelech & God (Gen 20:3-8)
C. Abimelech & Abraham (Gen 20:9-15)
D. Abimelech & Sarah (Gen 20:16)
E. Removal of the curse (Gen 20:17-18)
He is Abimelech of this place called Gerar and as the king, a king can do what he wants, and so he sent and took Sarah into his harem jeopardizing the seed promise which must come from Abraham and Sarah. So that’s the background of what we’re going to begin to read which obviously we can’t get through all these verses today. But let’s see how far we can get. Notice, if you will, verses 3 through 8 where God shows up. I mean, this is what these ancient near eastern kings with all their power never contemplate, that the God of heaven could actually show up and intervene, which God does. So as we look at verses 3 through 8, you’ll see God’s warning. Look at verse 3 (Gen 20:3): But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, Behold… Notice how non seeker friendly this is… Behold, you are a dead man… I mean, think of God showing up in a dream at night and told you that, would that be something? And said to him, Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married… It is interesting in the Bible that God will reveal Himself in dreams many times to pagans, people that have no relationship to Him at all. Is that not what happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, 2?
Where Nebuchadnezzar saw this statue and he called upon Daniel ultimately to interpret that vision for him but that was God showing up into the dream of a pagan king. The same sort of thing happens in Daniel, 4 where God manifests Himself again to Nebuchadnezzar through a vision of a tree being cut down. The same kind of thing, although not a dream, happens and Daniel, 5, where Belshazar’s son is partying as if there’s no tomorrow, partying as if God doesn’t exist and a hand starts to write on the wall:
Mene, Mene Tekel Ufarsin… I’m reminded of Pilate’s wife. Pontius Pilate who presided over the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It says in Matthew, 27, verse 19 (Matt 27:19): While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message… that’s Pilate’s wife… saying, see that you have nothing to do with that righteous man… Jesus in other words… for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of him… In fact, as you go through the book of Genesis, there are actually four other times where God manifests Himself in a dream to a pagan king. 27:21
Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes:
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum – The Book of Genesis, 330
“In Genesis and elsewhere, God more than once appeared to pagans by means of a dream. In Genesis, Abimelech is the first of five pagans to receive a divine revelation of things by a dream, and all were warnings. The other four were Laban (31:24), the butler and the baker (40:5), and Pharaoh (41:1).”
So what is being said here is in keeping with how God deals many times with pagan kings. I mean, they’re not going to read his words so let’s give them a direct dream and a direct vision. You’ll notice this expression “dead man”. You’re dead, it’s what it says in verse 3. Why would He say that? He says that because you’re coming against what I promised to Abraham in Genesis, 12. When God began His work with Abraham beginning in Genesis, 12, He gave to him unconditional promises and one of those promises is, the one who curses you, I will curse. You came against his marriage. You came against the seed promises. So if things don’t change, I’m going to come against you. It’s an outworking of Genesis, 12, that’s why Genesis, 12, comes before Genesis, 20, Amen? So if you’re starting your Bible study in Genesis, 20 but you have no foundation in Genesis, 12, you really have no understanding as to exactly why God is doing it. The things of the Bible that are revealed early on become explained in greater detail as you move into the pages of God’s word. God never changes what He originally said. What He does is He adds greater amplification. What He does is He adds greater clarity and that’s the kind of thing that we see happening here in Genesis, 12 and 20 and one of the things that we have emphasized as we’ve moved through Genesis is the fact that the covenant that God made with Abraham is unconditional. There are no strings attached.
Evidence of Abrahamic Covenant’s Unconditional Nature
ANE covenant ratification ceremony (Gen 15)
Lack of stated conditions for Israel’s obedience (Gen 15)
Covenant’s eternality (Gen 17:7, 13, 19; Ps. 90:2)
Covenant’s immutability (Heb 6:13-18; Mal. 3:6)
Trans-generational reaffirmation despite perpetual national disobedience (Jer 31:35-37)
We went through in Genesis, 15 all of the different arguments why the covenant is unconditional. If you need to review that, just go back and review the material from Genesis, 15. An unconditional promise is a promise coming from God to man that rests completely and totally on God’s shoulders. God never said to Abraham, Hey! I’m going to fulfill this covenant as long as you’re a good boy. As long as you don’t tell half lies, because he’s not a good boy here and he’s telling half lies and yet the covenant is still in force upon this man Abimelech despite Abraham’s lying state. How could God keep that kind of covenant because the covenant from its foundation is not conditional. It’s unconditional. Gee pastor, I wish you would preach on things that pertain to our lives. This pertains exactly to your life, because you may not have the identical promise but you have promises. In fact, the last time I checked, there are probably about seven thousand promises that you have, do you know that? And nowhere in the Bible are those promises predicated on behavior. They’re predicated on the grace of God. That’s why you can read in 2nd Timothy chapter 2, verse 13 (2 Tim 2:13): If we… Now, that would be the Christians, right? That would even be Paul himself who wrote this… If we are faithless, He remains… what?… faithful for He cannot deny Himself… I’m not trying to say that God doesn’t chasten, God doesn’t discipline, God doesn’t deal with us in His timing. What I’m saying is there are certain promises that He’s given to you of an unconditional nature that cannot be superseded, that cannot be uprooted, that cannot be canceled because of human misbehavior. So this type of structure that Abraham had is the same thing that you have in another sense. Abraham could lie, which he does here. Abraham could be immature, which he is here. Abraham could put the fear of man over the fear of God, which he does here, but that never cancels the covenant, because the covenant is unconditional. So God is enforcing this covenant on Abimelech regardless of what Abraham says or does and you see Abimelech, once he has the dream, he starts defending himself as you might imagine. 33:04
His defense is right there in verses 4 and 5 it says (Gen 20:4-5): Now Abimelech had not come near her… In other words, he had had no sexual contact with Sarah even though he took her into his harem there in Gerar… Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless?… Verse 5: Did he… That’s Abraham… Did he not himself say to me, She is my sister? And she herself said, He is my brother. In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this… So apparently God was still providentially working and any attempted sexual relations between Abimelech and Sarah, God thwarted and Abimelech says to God, are you going to sweep away an entire city? An entire family? When I myself was deceived by both of them? He is my brother, she’s my sister and then Abimelech says, my heart, that’s the insides, and my hands, that’s external, are innocent. So God I had no idea. Don’t impose judgment on me, I had no idea what I was doing and if I’d known better, I wouldn’t have taken her into my harem and verses 6 and 7 is God’s response. You’ll see here God’s acknowledgement, verse 6; and God says to Abimelech, all right, you want to get yourself out of harm’s way? Here’s what you need to do and He gives him instructions there in verse 7. Notice verse 6 (Gen 20:6): Then God said to him in the dream, Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart… If you are an underliner you should underline the word heart there… Yes, I know in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her… It’s interesting how God looked at his heart. When He gave him grace here. God is one that looks at the hearts of people. Tries to, as only an omniscient God can do, ascertain their internal motivations. 1st Samuel chapter 16, and verse 7 (1 Sam 16:7), it says: But the Lord said to Samuel… When Samuel came to anoint the next king of Israel who happened to be this little kid in the back there, that the father Jesse was even embarrassed to take out to Samuel… But the LORD said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him… That would be Saul… for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance… That’s why Israel loves Saul, cause he was tall, rugged and handsome, he looked the part. For God does not see as man sees man looks at the outer appearance but the Lord looks at the heart… How important it is in life to have a heart that’s right with God. I mean, what did God say of David? After David’s sins related to adultery and murder David showed true contrition and the Lord said this man David he’s a man after my own heart. That’s how God looks at things. Keep your heart right before God, don’t get focused on these outer extremities, all the things that man looks at, because God looks at the heart. God looked at the heart of Abimelech and he saw a man in his incomplete knowledge of God, actually trying to do the right thing and God honored it. In fact, that might be the reason why Abimelech was prevented by God from having sexual contact with Sarah, even though he took Sarah into his harem, that’s the grace of God. Why would God do that? Why would God put up whatever barrier existed between Abimelech and Sarah? Because God loves Abimelech, loves everybody and He’s giving Abimelech an opportunity to repent. There is an implied length of time here. 38:31
It’s interesting what Jesus says to the church of Thyatira about the woman Jezebel in Thyatira teaching false doctrine. When Jezebel or a Jezebel like entity or person is in Thyatira teaching false doctrine in the book of Revelation chapter 2, verse 21 (Rev 2:21) God doesn’t say, okay, in ten seconds I’m going to nuke Jezebel, it’s not what He says. What He says concerning Jezebel in Revelation 2:21 is this: I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality… That’s how God works; He doesn’t just pull the curtains down on somebody. He gives them an opportunity to get the situation right before judgment or discipline comes. That’s what He’s doing here with Abimelech, by the way, that’s what He’s doing in your life, if there’s some sort of habitual sins, it’s what He’s doing in my life. That’s the deceitfulness of sin. We think, well, we sin, there is no consequence, I guess I’m getting away with it. Well, the reason there’s no consequences is God is giving you grace to get it right under His power, because God at the end of the day is very reluctant to impose discipline. Just like any parent. When a child is wayward the parent will try to get the child to correct themselves through warnings. So the discipline, whatever form it takes, time out, privileges taken away, whatever, can be postponed because no parent, unless they are a child abuser, wants to impose discipline on a child. You know, if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does our father in heaven want to give us good gifts? How much is He postpone discipline in our lives because He’s giving us an opportunity to right the ship? This is the kind of thing that’s happening here with this man Abimelech; and God looks at his heart and sees that his heart is right and so he starts to give Abimelech instructions.
Instructions to avoid destruction, because He told him earlier if all things continue as they are, you’re dead. You’re going against the Abrahamic Covenant and Abrahamic promises, which by the way, Abraham doesn’t deserve because it’s his lying that got him into this mess. That doesn’t matter, the covenant is unconditional. 41:33
So what are some positive instructions that God gave to Abimelech so as to avoid disaster?: Now therefore, restore… God’s speaking to Abimelech… restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet… and look at this… and he will pray for you… I mean, the liar is going to pray for the king? That wants to do the right thing? If that’s not an outworking of an unconditional promise, I don’t know what is… Restore the man’s wife, leave Sarah alone, return Sarah to Abraham that way the seed promise won’t be jeopardized. By the way, you ought to do that cause, Abraham, it says right here in verse 7 (Gen 20:7) is a prophet. To my knowledge, this is the first time the word prophet is ever used in the Bible. A prophet among many other functions is the ability to predict the future. Why would God call Abraham a prophet? Because God revealed to Abraham the future concerning Sodom and Gomorrah, which was just destroyed in chapter 19 and before God destroyed the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, He told Abraham exactly what He’s going to do. Genesis, 18, verse 17 (Gen 18:17) it says: The Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham what I’m about to do? In other words, I’m going to reveal to him the future. Abraham was a man blessed by God in many ways, not the least of which in terms of blessings would include, when God allowed it, when God showed it to him, the ability to predict the future. So return his wife, the man has a covenant with Me, after all he’s a prophet of God and the liar is going to pray for you so that the curse, which we haven’t seen yet, but you’ll see it in verses 17 and 18, which is over your whole household, can be reversed. You’re a dead man and you’re under a curse and the only way out is if I show you grace and you have to do exactly what I said and then the liar who got us all into the mess is going to pray for you. This has to be from God, who could make up a storyline like this? So that that curse can be reversed. Abraham had standing before God, even in spite of his sin, because he had an unconditional covenant coming from God. You have the same thing. You have standing with God despite your sin. Sin has temporal consequences but that never altered your standing, because God has made to you promises, that aren’t conditional either. This is so contrary to the way the world works, because in the world system you get ahead by doing the right thing. You want to get a good grade in school, then work hard as a student. You want to get promoted on the job? Well, then please your boss. I mean, the whole world system is set up on merit and God comes along and He gives us standing and merit regardless of performance. What got you in the door was grace, what keeps you in the door is grace, unmerited favor and we just have a very difficult time understanding this because God’s dealings with men is based on grace not merit. That’s why Jesus said all these kinds of things that just stunned the religious leaders. I mean, He would say things like, the harlots and the tax gatherers, who were thieves, you know, if you were a tax gatherer, you were a Jew that went to work for Rome, so you were a traitor, number 1, and you could extract after taxation from Rome, whatever you wanted for yourself. That’s why Zacchaeus says, I gave back what I stole times four, in Luke, 19. If you were a tax gatherer, you were a thief and you were a political traitor and a prostitute, we all know what that is. Jesus said to the Pharisees, who were the people in the nation that had kept the law of Moses the best, to their own abilities. He said the harlots and the hookers and the prostitutes and the thieves and the traders are entering the kingdom before you. What? How can you say something like that? Because it’s a very simple yet profound concept called grace. It is foreign to how we think. It’s foreign to how we operate. It’s foreign to the way the world system works and that’s what you see all over this chapter, is the grace of God. The grace to Abimelech, the grace to Abraham is going to pray for Abimelech even though Abraham is a liar. These people that say, oh! The Old Testament, that’s a book of judgment and the New Testament that’s a book of grace. Are they reading the same Bible I’m reading? cause I’m seeing grace everywhere. In fact, I’m graced out. I’ve got so much grace in my life, I don’t even know what to do with myself half the time other than just to say, praise the Lord. 48:12
So He gives positive instructions, return Sarah and He gives negative instructions. Here’s what’s going to happen if you don’t (Gen 20:7): …But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours… Why does God say something like that? Because of what Genesis, 12, verse 3 (Gen 12:3) says: I will curse those who curse you. The one who curses you I will curse… That’s something that God said it’s an immutable law, know it, learn it, live it, you can’t erase it, it’s what God said, it’s a protective promise He gave to the nation of Israel because He knew that the moment He put His hand of blessing on the nation of Israel, Satan would do everything within his power to destroy Israel, so God gave all the way back in Genesis, 12 promises that the one who curses Israel will be cursed and the curse here is not just going to fall on Abimelech individually, it’s going to fall on the city state of Gerar, verse 4 (Gen 20:4) and most likely his whole family, verse 7 (Gen 20:7) and look at Abimelech’s response. He has a town hall meeting. It says in verse 8 (Gen 20:8): So Abimelech arose early in the morning… Cause the dream is over, it’s daytime… So Abimelech arose early in the morning and called all his servants and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were greatly frightened… I can imagine that they were frightened. So he rises early in the morning, he summons his servants, he reports to his servants all these things that he had seen in this dream and they understand that they are in violation of the Abrahamic Covenant as a nation, verse 4 and as a family, verse 7, because God said the one who curses you I will curse. So you notice that God has dealt with Abimelech first, now he’s going to deal with Abraham, who put everybody into this mess here, beginning with verses 9 through 15.
Genesis 20 Abraham & Abimelech
A. Background (Gen 20:1-2)
B. Abimelech & God (Gen 20:3-8)
C. Abimelech & Abraham (Gen 20:9-15)
D. Abimelech & Sarah (Gen 20:16)
E. Removal of the curse (Gen 20:17-18)
So we have Abimelech and Abraham. Abimelech is going to confront Abraham, verses 9 and 10, why did you do this? Abraham is going to give a justification, a really lame set of excuses, verses 11 through 13, and then Abimelech is going to respond, verses 14 and 15.
Notice if you will Genesis chapter 20, look at verse 9 (Gen 20:9): Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done… So a series of confrontations and charges masked as questions as now Abraham and Abimelech are conversing. Why did you do this to us? That’s question number one. What did I ever do to you? That’s question number two. Notice in question number two, it’s me, why did you do this to me? It’s personal, in other words. Why did you put me in this situation and you’ve also jeopardized my kingdom, you’ll see that in verse 9 and then Abimelech makes an accusation, verse 9, you have done unto me what ought not to be done and here’s the irony of the situation.
Is that a pagan king is condemning the patriarch for his sin. The king has more common sense than the patriarch, who’s a prophet of God, and the one that received the unconditional covenant. You know, sometimes when an unbeliever talks to us we just write it off. I wouldn’t do that. If you’re being criticized by an unbeliever, you better ask yourself, Lord is this legitimate? I mean, is this something that I’m supposed to adjust to, based on a criticism of this guy who doesn’t go to church? Never opens his Bible, probably doesn’t even know Jesus? It’s so easy to just dismiss comments from people. But I don’t think that’s what the Bible teaches. I think we need to be aware, there’s a lot of unfair criticism out there but there’s also a lot of tools that God has in getting our attention, have you noticed that? And it could be a rebuke from an unbeliever, which is what is happening here. Verse 10 (Gen 20:10), then becomes an Abimelech charge against Abraham: And Abimelech said to Abraham, What have you encountered, that you have done this thing?… What did you see here to do such a terrible thing? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you bring me under the curses of the Abrahamic Covenant? And here comes Abraham’s excuses, are you ready? This is the same excuses we give when we are in disobedience.
Number one is fear. I’m afraid. It’s right there in verse 11 (Gen 20:11): Abraham said, Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife… I was afraid. I’m out here in the ancient Near East, I’m fearing for my own life. So I had to do something. Proverbs, 29, verse 25 (Prov 29:25) says: The fear of man brings a snare… We get ourselves into dangerous ground when we’re more afraid of people then we are God. If you’re more afraid of your boss than God and you’re willing to make a compromise for your boss that God would not authorize, those are priorities that are out of order. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28-31: Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul… What are you afraid of your boss for? He can’t send you into hell, that’s what Jesus is saying… But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell… Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet none of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father but the very hairs of your head are still numbered…. I love that promise because even as my hair is getting greyer, they’re still numbered by God. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. What are you so afraid of? Are you afraid to die? If they kill you, which is probably one of the worst things they could do to you in the eyes of man, they’re just doing you a favor. Absent from the body is to be what? Present with the Lord. Abraham is just afraid, he’s making bad choices because he was afraid. Proverbs, 28, verse 1 (Prov 28:1) says: The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion… Paul, writing to Timothy in 2nd Timothy chapter 1, verse 7 (2 Tim 1:7) says: For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline… You are afraid of Abimelech when I gave you a covenant? That’s not an excuse. Do you realize that the Bible 365 times says, do not fear to the believer? 365, that’s an interesting number that’s like one for every day of the year. So every day you wake up God says, don’t be afraid. The next day you wake up, do not fear. Says it over and over again, says it to you every single day and yet when we’re afraid and we’re more afraid of human consequences than we are divine consequences, we do stupid things, let’s be honest. 57:43
What’s his second justification, it’s his fabrication or his fib, we might call it. Verse 12 (Gen 20:12): Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father.. This guy sounds like an attorney to be honest with you… the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife… Well, it’s just a little lie, it’s not a complete lie. I mean, she is my half-sister after all. How could Abraham, by the way, marry his half-sister?
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum – The Book of Genesis, 337
“Then in verse 12, he explained his relationship with Sarah: And moreover she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. Therefore, Sarah was Abraham’s wife, but she was also his half-sister, having the same father, but a different mother. This was later forbidden by the Law of Moses (Lev. 18:9, 18:11, 20:17; Deut. 27:22; Ezek. 22:11), but this law was not in force in Abraham’s day.”
Well, that practice wasn’t condemned until, roughly six centuries later at the Mosaic Covenant, we’re dealing with humanity at an earlier time of history when I think the bloodline and the genetic issues that happen because of incest weren’t yet infiltrated into the human race and so marrying your half-sister apparently was still appropriate but it would be condemned in the Mosaic Law six centuries later. Leviticus 18:20-27, etc… etc… But a white lie is still a lie, isn’t it? I did not have sex with that woman. Well, I guess it’s true. I mean, if you define sex a certain way. But I still think it’s a lie, amen? Exodus, 20, verse 16 (Exo 20:16) says: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor… Ephesians 4:25: Therefore ridding yourselves of falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor. We shouldn’t be people of deception. With everything that we’ve been given, why would we go around following Abraham’s negative example and just weaving tall tales? His third justification is its standing policy. I mean, I’ve been doing this since the beginning so it must be right.
You see that in verse 13 (Gen 20:13): and it came about, when God caused me… See? It’s God’s fault. It’s a lot like, who was it? Aaron. Moses is away at Mount Sinai and when the cat’s away, you know the story, the mouse will play and there’s the nation of Israel building a golden calf at Mount Sinai while Moses is on the mountain receiving the law of God. Made a golden calf, you can’t get more directly in violation of God’s principle of building a golden calf. You can take the nation out of Israel out of Egypt but it’s difficult taking Egypt out of the nation of Israel. So there they are constructing this golden calf, Hey! let’s all chip in and let’s, you know, put the metal and cause it to melt through a fire. We’ll just create this golden calf and Moses comes down and says, what the world y’all doing? That’s a loose translation and he speaks to Aaron. Aaron is leading the charge when Aaron is supposed to be the high priest of the nation and you studied in the book of Exodus and Aaron says, well, you know, we threw our metal into the fire and this calf just popped out. I mean, it’s amazing the abilities that we have to remove personal responsibility for bad choices. Verse 13 (Gen 20:13): and it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, He is my brother…
So Lord, as Abraham’s speaking to Abimelech, we’ve been doing this a long time. I mean, this is not the first time we’ve told this tall tale, we told it back in chapter 12 and in fact, ever since God called me out of the Ur of the Chaldeans, this’s been our standing practice. In fact, biblically if I’m understanding my Bible chronology right, we’ve been doing this for twenty-five years. So length of time makes it right, I guess. I mean, if I sin over a long period of time, I guess that’s okay as long as that’s my standing policy, that’s the logic that they’re using. By the way, who came up with this idea? It was the head of the household, because it says right there in verse 13, I… that’s Abraham… said to her… Sarah… Here’s what we’re going to do… So he’s not living by God’s promises, he’s living by human manipulation and scheming and he’s the one that negatively influenced his wife. That’s why the Bible places a premium on male headship within marriage. People may not like that doctrine but it’s a biblical fact, the man is the head of the marriage, Ephesians 5:22-33, just as Christ is the head of the church and if the man is going to allow sin and deception into his own life, it’s going to affect everybody else. That’s why when Eve sinned, Genesis, 3, who did God call out to? The man. Genesis, 3, verse 9 (Gen 3:9): The Lord called to the man and said to him where are you?… Why would God call out to the man when it’s the woman that sinned? Cause you’re the head of the household. You may not want to be as a man the head of the household, but God never asked your opinion. You’re the head of the household so whatever you’re doing is going to influence your household. I mean, when Enron goes belly up, they don’t look for the janitor, right? They look for the CEO. That’s how God works, because God has set up an authority structure and then you see Abimelech’s response which I can’t give you cause we’re out of time. 1:04
But we’ll pick it up with verse 14 next week. We’re grateful for God’s work in grace and we also want to get across very aggressively that if you’re here today and you never received the grace of God, you can do it right now by believing the gospel. The gospel is what we celebrated this morning at the Lord’s table, that Jesus two thousand years ago stepped out of eternity into time to pay a price for us that we could never pay and what He asks us to do is to trust not in ourselves but what He has done. Don’t trust in your good works to fix this issue, trust in His good work and you can do that now in the privacy of your own thoughts and mind as the Holy Spirit places you under conviction. If it’s something you need more explanation on, I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray? Father, we’re grateful for these just naked and blatant accounts of your workings. Thank you for the truth that you give us in Your word. I do pray, Lord, that as we go through the book of Genesis that we would not go through the book of Genesis but the book of Genesis would go through us. Change us as your people, we ask. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.