Abraham did it — again.
You’d think that after all he went through after insisting to Pharaoh that Sarah — his wife — was his sister in Genesis 12, Abraham lies about the very same thing to King Abimelech in Genesis 20. It was over fear that the pagan people of Gerar would kill him otherwise.
Lying often follows fear, doesn’t it? And even Abraham — a man of great faith in God, the father of Israel, and the Lord’s favored son — seems to be very slow to learn in this area.
But as God is so adept at doing, he provides a way through this sticky situation. Not only does he prevent Abimelech from sinning with Sarah, God also speaks to this pagan king in a dream and tells him to give Sarah back to Abraham — and Abimelech does so.
Still, there’s much more happening under the surface in this chapter. As Pastor Scott noted Sunday, this biblical account very much mirrors the idea of believers going to work in a non-believing environment — a challenge most Christians face daily. Abraham’s work — tending his animals in a nomadic situation — leads him into a pagan land, and then fear sets in. Then Abraham lies about Sarah, and his lack of integrity got Abimelech’s people in a lot of trouble. Abraham finally explains to the king in verse 11 that he said Sarah was his sister “because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’”
And this brings up an interesting notion: Just because people you work with aren’t Christians doesn’t mean that they aren’t upstanding people with integrity. King Abimelech had a great deal of integrity and wanted to do what was right. God recognized this, too. And just because your coworkers aren’t believers doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t working in their hearts — indeed, he is! And therefore, it’s important to learn from Abraham’s sin that non-Christians are watching you — and in fact you have the opportunity to be a signpost for Jesus so that others who God may be drawing to himself will be able to see their savior a little more clearly.
Also, did you catch the intellectual contortions Abraham goes through with the king, even after the truth is revealed, explaining to him that Sarah is technically his sister since she’s “the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife”? Wow. So, out of fear and self-protection, Abraham can call Sarah his sister when it suits him? The jury may be out as to whether Abraham has a handle on this integrity thing by this point in Genesis.
It also shows that sin often is no accident; it’s not usually something we simply wander into. That’s true in life, and that’s true in our work, too. And it appears Abraham was basically saying, “There are not godly people at my job, so I don’t have to play by the same rules I play by when I go to church.” But as we all know, God responds with a big NO to that. Even when we’re afraid, even when we’re stressed and under pressure, and most importantly, even when no other human is watching, we must do right as Christians at all times.
But even if you’ve sinned and messed up and blew it on the integrity question, the Lord can still heal you and forgive you — all you have to do is confess, repent, and move forward. And keep planting your flag for Jesus in your pagan land.