Genesis 20:3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
This whole story seems very weird to us today, but it actually gives us some real cultural insight into what things were like 4000 years ago. In the first place, Sarah was evidently a very good-looking woman, or this would never have come up. In the second place, the idea that a man of power could indicate a woman and say, “I’ll have that one,” seems very offensive to us today, but it was obviously a social norm back then. (Incidentally, I was very struck by the fact that the Japanese language has a specific phrase to indicate this sort of thing, which I had not been aware of before now. It must have been common in Japan much more recently than 4000 years ago!) The second thing that strikes me is that regardless of their specific religion, people were very aware of the spirit world. That Abimelech would have responded so strongly to a dream seems odd to most people today. It must have been a very clear dream! Another thing that is shocking to us today is that our great ancestor in faith was involved in incest! That Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister makes it genetically a little better, but not much. Actually, it was a legal requirement for Egyptian Pharaohs to marry their sister, to “maintain the purity of the line.” The resulting genetic inbreeding created a real mess over time! And finally, that Abraham would have asked such a thing of Sarah so as to save his own skin seems rather despicable to us today. God works with imperfect, fallible people. It actually strikes me as odd that God allowed Abraham to profit so handsomely from his ploy! (verses 14-16) We aren’t to presume that God will always do that sort of thing for us. However, we do need to remember that God heard the prayers of even such an imperfect man as Abraham, and not hesitate to pray.
I can think of a few instances in my life when sin has produced blessing, but not many. I can think of many more when God has blessed me in spite of my sin. It’s like Paul wrote: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2) He said that because he had just noted that “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20) It is dangerous to look at anyone, in the Bible or out of it, and say, “They got away with it, so I don’t have to worry.” Each of us is personally accountable to God, and He knows the details of our hearts. James’ statement is actually pretty scary: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17) I am to walk in full obedience to all that God shows me, and not worry about anything else.
Father, thank You for this story to remind me that even in this mixed-up world we live in, You are still working. Help me be quick to repent of anything You show me I’ve failed to do or have done wrong, but not be neurotic about it. Help me rejoice in Your grace and extend it to those around me, so that all the lies of the devil may be defeated, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!