Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the south country and dwelt between Kadash and Shur, and lived for a time in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah, his wife, “She is my sister”; and Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah into his harem.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said,”Behold you are a dead man, because of the woman you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” But Abimelech had not come near her; so he said, “Lord, will you slay a people who are just and innocent? Did not the man tell me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of heart and innocence of hands I have done this.”
Then God said to him in the dream,”Yes, I know you did this in the integrity of your heart, for it was I who kept you back and spared you from sinning against me; therefore I did not give you occasion to touch her. So now restore to the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her to him, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”
So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called his servants, and told them all these things; and the men were exceedingly filled with reverence and fear.
Then Abimelech Called Abraham and said to him,”What have you done to us? How have I offended you that you should bring on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me what ought not be done to anyone.”
And Abimelech said to Abraham,”What did you see in us, that justified you in doing such a thing as this?”
And Abraham said,”Because I thought, surely there is no reverence or fear of God in all this place ; and they will slay me because of my wife.” (Genesis 20:1-11 AMP)
As a child, the last family with whom I lived was an aunt and uncle. I would lie out of fear, because if I told the truth I could guarantee that I would get punished somehow. When I came to Jesus as a 13 year old, it got worse. My aunt was down on the church and was determined to “put the fear of God in me” by what she said and did. I equated fear of the person I could see with being afraid of God who I couldn’t see. It took a long time for me to learn that fearing God also meant loving him with all my heart, soul, and mind because he loves me.
So in a way, I can understand why Abraham deceived Abimelech about Sarah. Abraham had gone out in faith in answer to God’s call and he had received an amazing promise, but the road was long, the years passed and there was much to learn in the waiting. Abraham heard God, but couldn’t see him, while the possibility of danger from men was all too visible.
Abimelech was able to hear God in his dream, defend himself to God, recognize how he had been protected from sinning against God, find out Abraham’s motives, and promptly obey God’s order to return Sarah.
It seems to me Abraham and Abimelech needed each other: Abimelech’s reverence for and obedience to God, as a reminder to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience to God in praying for Abimelech.
Right now I’m overwhelmed with all the stories of people in the Bible. I’m hanging on tight to how God searches and knows me, how he knows each of us (Psalm 139), how Jesus prayed for us (John 17), and how Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 5: 9-13). Join me in praying for each other these days before Easter.