In Genesis 20, we find a story about Abraham lying to Abimelech about Sarah. Abimelech acted on the information given, taking Sarah with the intent of her becoming a wife. Having been visited by God in a dream in which God revealed the truth, Abimelech confronted Abraham about the lie and his motive for the trickery. Abraham gave three reasons for his actions in response: 1. He assumed that Abimelech and the others in the area had no fear of God and would kill him, 2. He only told half a lie since Sarah was his half-sister, and 3. He had done it before (see Gen. 12).
Abraham’s responses revealed his view of people he perceived to be far from God. His first mistake was viewing them as having no fear of God. Abimelech’s response to the dream indicates otherwise. Abimelech wasted no time when it came to responding, returning Sarah the next morning. He even notified his inner circle himself, giving further evidence of His understanding of God. He clearly did not act like a person with no fear of God.
Abraham’s second mistake was justifying his treatment of Abimelech and his kingdom based on how he labeled them. Mistreatment might be a better choice of words here. He stooped to the perceived level of those he was addressing. Abraham was the one deceiving and he justified it with ease in his own mind. Abraham had an attitude that these people did not fear God anyway so why should he treat them like they did.
Now turn your attention to how God interacted with Abimelech.
Showed him grace. God did not allow Abimelech to violate Sarah and commit adultery. Even though Abimelech did not know Sarah’s marital status, God kept him from a greater consequence. God acting here demonstrated His mercy as well, protecting a person about to act out of ignorance.
Defined reality. God clearly told Abimelech the consequences of taking Sarah. God did not waste words or time in telling him the position in which he now sat. Failing to do so would have been unloving and unjust.
Gave a path to restoration. God also shared with Abimelech that there was a way to move forward but it required humility, asking Abraham to pray for him. God left it to Abimelech to decide his fate; accept the provision and live or reject the provision and die.
Accepted his repentance. We are told that after Abraham prayed that God healed Abimelech, his wife, and everyone in his household. In short, God accepted the repentance of Abimelech. Abimelech went beyond what God had required giving further evidence of his repentance. God accepts repentant people.
God saw Abimelech differently than Abraham and we can see it in how the two treated and interacted with Abimelech. How we view others makes a difference especially when it comes to reaching people who are far from God. We need to make sure to avoid the trap of seeing others as less than us. “They” are created in the image of God but have sinned and in need of the same Savior we follow.
Review pages 22-24 of Farsighted to examine more ideas about how our view of people far from God impacts how we interact with others. Download a free copy here (lifeway.com/teachingresources).