Beware of Besetting Sins – Genesis 20

Beware of Besetting Sins
Genesis 20
Hope In Christ Bible Church 3/31/19
I invite you to turn with me in the wonderful O.T. to Genesis 20.
Allow me to share a fictional story to set the stage.
One weekend, four Amish men went away on a retreat. As they sat around the fire talking, one said, “Let’s all share our besetting sins.”
“I’ll go first. My besetting sin is that every so often I slip away from the office to the racetrack and bet on the horses.”
The second man jumped in, “My besetting sin is that I keep a punching bag at home. When I get mad at somebody at work, I go home and think about that person as I hit the punching bag.”
The third man gulped, “My besetting sin is that I keep a bottle of wine down in my basement. When I get really frustrated with life, I sneak down there and have a nip of wine.”
They all turned to the fourth man and asked, “Well, what is your besetting sin?” He hesitated, then finally said, “My besetting sin is gossip. And guys, I can’t wait to get home and tell others about your sin!”
Well, we are all prone to sin. And we all face besetting sins- those areas of evil that we fall back into and repeat.
In fact, speaking of sin, James, Christ’s half-brother declared, “For we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).
Now let’s be clear. The Christian who has repented from sin and anchored his faith in Christ, his sins are forgiven. That means in terms of his position before Christ, he is perfect. For God says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
But in practice, there’s a battle- battle with sin that rages until our final breath.
The apostle Paul, speaking as a Christian exclaims, “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” Rom. 7:19
Friends, there’s no such thing as sinless perfectionism this side of eternity.
A dormmate of mine in college was convinced he had attained a sinless state- well, that sure didn’t match the way he lived!
The reality is that Scripture shows us we not only continue to sin but that we are susceptible to besetting sins. Sins that we repeat again and again.
Let’s face it. Though the battle with stubborn sins sounds bad, here’s the good. It magnifies God’s grace and causes us to walk by greater faith!
That’s what we get to see from the lives of Abraham and Sarah as we follow their inspired life drama.
Now Abraham and Sarah are often considered Bible heroes. And rightly so.
Yet biblical heroes are never superhuman. They are far from perfect (just like us!).
Their faith is hampered by failings, foibles and fears.
Yet here’s the big picture perspective: the failure of God’s people never hampers but highlights God’s sovereign power.
For God’s will and ways can never be thwarted by the blunders of man.
Instead God uses our failures to showcase the greatness of His plan and perfections. And in the process, He grows our trust in Him.
Now as we approach our text, recall the shocking saga we have just witnessed- Sodom which overflowed like a cesspool of repulsive sin, namely homosexuality- God annihilated it by fire from heaven.
And then Lot, after being whisked out of that city before it was destroyed, he gets drunk and debases himself with his daughters.
Abraham, Lot’s uncle, had seen that vileness of sin that God hates. A big lesson that should have made him stay clear of all sin himself.
But that’s not the path he takes. Here are the steps we will retrace with Abraham (and Sarah).
Deception 1-2
Intervention 3-7
Confrontation 8-13
Restoration 14-18
Watch now how Abraham’s awful deception unfolds. Verse 1: “Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and
settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.”
The last we saw Abraham, he was living in his tent with Sarah near Hebron (Oaks of Mamre). As he looked toward Sodom, he sees smoke rising as if from a gigantic furnace.
The sight of that devastation may have motivated Abraham to pull up his tent stakes.
For he and Sarah head 30 miles SW (near the Mediterranean coast) to an area soon to be known as the land of the Philistines (Gen. 26:1). It was called “Gerar.”
Here’s what’s very significant. From when He called him in Ur, God typically showed him where he was to go.
But here, our text offers no hint of Abraham following God’s leading. Instead, he’s trusting his own plan.
Verse 2: “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”
O no! Abraham what are you doing? Have you forgotten what you did in Egypt? Do you amnesia or what?
Remember, he pulled the same stunt when he visited Pharaoh of Egypt during the famine some 25 years before. And it backfired and got him thrown out of the land.
Now there are no Bible critics who say, “O this account here in chapter 20, it’s a duplicate of chp. 12 and Abraham only tried this scheme once.
Friends, even a child who carefully reads the two accounts will quickly see at least a half dozen major differences. That’s because they are two completely different situations.
Clearly, Abraham here repeats his same sin of deception. He has taken another lapse into lying. For he really didn’t learn his lesson the first time. He hadn’t made a clean break with the sin of deception.
This is so instructive for us to see here both the peril of besetting sins and the providence of a gracious God!
Remember, Abraham had shown poor leadership in his marriage. He made a deal with Sarah to go along with the guise that she was his sister.
Why? Abraham figured, that way greedy rulers wouldn’t kill him and take Sarah into their harems.
It was all about Abraham looking out for whom? For Abraham! But what about his wife Sarah?
He’s totally jeopardizing her purity and safety. He’s playing the part of a cowardly husband.
Now we must cut Abraham a little bit of slack. For he did not yet have the benefit of God’s law nor any of the N.T. like:
Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
I Peter 3:7 “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Well, Abraham doesn’t show love nor sensitivity to Sarah. And he’s definitely not trusting God.
Instead, he is motivated by fear. Just think of it.
Abraham has passed many tests of faith with flying colors. Why, he is the perfect poster child of justification by faith as illustrated by Paul.
In fact, Romans 4:3 ties back to the glorious statement in Genesis 15:6, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’”
While God had already declared Abraham righteous, that does not mean he is sinless nor perfect!
For Abraham now is definitely not walking by faith! He gets a big “F” on his faith report card.
Who then takes advantage of the vulnerable situation? The king of Gerar who is also called Abimelech. Abimelech isn’t his name but is a dynastic title like Pharaoh or Caesar.
So this Abimelech sends his servants to get Sarah who he is told is the sister of the guy with her named Abraham.
They don’t come with a question but a command. “Sarah, you’re coming with us. For the king can’t wait to make you part of his royal harem.”
Now remember, Sarah is old- according to Gen. 17:17 she’s 90 years old!
That raises the question, what made her so attractive to that king of Gerar?
Ladies, what do you think? Did Sarah have special facial treatments, beauty creams or exotic cosmetics that made her striking?
I think not. Some believe that with Isaac’s coming birth, God renewed Sarah’s body and beauty.
In fact, one Bible commentator claimed, “Down there in Gerar, at the age of 90, [Sarah] could compete with any 19-year old in the land!”
Well, all things are possible yet not probable.
For 90-year old skin wrinkles and sags, the hair greys, and with time there’s degeneration.
Years ago a preacher was taken to see the mummified remains of the famous evangelist George Whitfield in Newburyport, Massachusetts
The sight was more gruesome than glorious as the years had taken its toll on the body. The preacher looked at the embalmed body and said, “Well, George, you’re not looking so good. I don’t expect to be back this way, my friend. But you’ll be looking much better when I see you again- in the air!”
In Sarah’s case, if it wasn’t because of her beauty, the king’s interest may have been politically motivated. Taking Sarah as his wife would have given him an alliance with one of the most wealthy and influential individuals in that region- the sheik Abraham!
Well, just imagine Abraham, his heart heaving with pain, as he watches them take Sarah away with them.
For all he knew, that was the last he would ever see her. And what about… the promise?
God had promised Abraham that he would give him and Sarah a boy they would call Isaac. And now they are on the brink of the fulfillment- for
the angel told them he would be born within a year.
I can see Abraham lying in his tent, staring at the sheepskin covering and wondering how God could ever fix his awful situation.
Now, think of the cosmic perspective. This Satan’s last-ditch attempt to block the birth of Isaac. For he knew that was the promised line that would lead to whom? To Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world!
For if Sarah lived in the harem of the king of Gerar and gave birth to a child, that offspring would not belong to Abraham. He would be the son of Abimelech. And God’s promise would be broken.
Now please follow closely. At this very point, some scholars conclude, “The foolish acts of God’s people may jeopardize God’s program.”
In other words, our disobedience can destroy God’s design. Friends, that’s impossible.
For God’s sovereignty rules over all (Ps. 103:19) including over your sin and my sin.
Let it be said loud and clear. God never makes a plan and then hope or wonders if it will work out. Never.
Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.”
Proverbs 19:21 “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.”
Isaiah 46:9–10 “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
So take comfort in the fact that nothing you or anyone else including Satan himself can ever do can derail the plan of God!
Instead, God uses the failings of man to show He rules over all and always accomplishes His purposes. Always.
Watch this in action, for following Abraham’s deception we see God’s 2. Intervention 3-7
Verse 3: But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.”
This is a “as real to life as it gets” dream.
God has Abimelech’s full attention. And that king is scared out of his wits. He knows he has been implicated for taking Sarah into his royal residence though she is married.
And because she already has a husband, God tells that king, “You’re a dead man!”
The idea is, you mess with this married woman and you die!”
Friends, this is God’s first bold statement on adultery. He says here, the perpetrator deserves to die.
In most states in America, adultery is no longer a crime punishable by law. Even when it is, it is rarely enforced. The state law of Maryland reads like this: A person who violates this section (and commits adultery) is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be fined $10. Are you kidding? What a joke! But adultery is no joke in God’s law
The 7th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” shows God requires purity in marriage. And the penalty God stipulates for adultery in Lev. 20:10 was death.
Further, Proverbs 6:29 says, “Whoever touches his neighbor’s wife (the idea being sexually) will not go unpunished.”
And in verse 32, “The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; He who would destroy himself does it.”
And don’t forget what our Lord Jesus says of this in Matthew 5:27–28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So it is, God calls husbands and wives to absolute fidelity in mind and in body.
Well, watch what happens. The sovereignty of God shines bright like the noonday sun.
Verse 4: “Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless?’”
We will see that God intervened and kept the king from touching Sarah.
And so amazingly, this pagan king appeals to God as Adonai- as Lord of all.
He appeals to God based on 2 counts. First, God’s justice.
“God, you won’t wipe out a nation that is blameless, will you?” Just like Abraham’s plea to God over Sodom (18:23), “Will you sweep way the righteous with the wicked?
Here’s what’s amazing. Somehow this king knows the God talking to him in that dream is different than any of he tribal, Canaanite gods. He fears God, he’s talking to God. In fact to some degree this Abimelech king of Gerar is a believer in the true God!
I love how he dialogues with God. He asks Him about Abraham, there in verse 5, “Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’”
In other words, “God, I just went off what they BOTH told me that they were brother and sister not husband and wife. I didn’t know they were married!”
Then this terrified king makes a stunning claim: “In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”
In other words, “I have no evil motive in this.”
Was Abimelech telling the truth? No need to guess, for we are told in verse 6:
“Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that 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.”
Don’t you love the fact that God doesn’t say, “I think that in integrity of your heart you have done this” but “I know?”
For God always knows everything. His omniscient eye pierces our hearts like a laser beam and exposes all.
God affirms the king did not have adulterous motives AND that He, God, intervened and stopped Abimelech from laying a hand on Sarah.
Did you catch whom God says He kept the king from sinning against? He doesn’t say against Sarah nor Abraham but from sinning against Me!
Christian, that’s the ultimate issue of all sin. It’s not merely against someone else or even against our own bodies but against God!
That’s how Joseph could refuse the aggressive advances of Potiphar’s wife. For he exclaims, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Gen. 39:9
And King David, after committing adultery and murder says to God, “Against You and You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”
So it was God who restrained the king. Yet God demanded restoration. Verse 7: “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
God makes it clear: “Abimelech, if you want to live, then give Sarah back to her husband. If you keep her, you will die- not just you as king but all your family and servants, I will kill every one of you!”
For then, the king’s sin would be intentional. And the penalty would be death.
Here’s what so surprising. It’s at this point that God tells this king that Abraham is a prophet!
The king must have thought, “What kind of prophet is this guy?” “Lying, deceiving me? Huh!”
Well, prophets interceded for others. And Abimelech will be glad when Abraham does that for him.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind about God’s intervention. He showed grace to Abimelech and kept him from a deadly sin.
So too, God continues to show grace and keep those He chooses from the fatal sin of unbelief.
Remember the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
That’s the great exchange, God stopping us in our tracks when we were hell-bound and giving us faith to believe.
Now God’s ways are far beyond our ways. That’s why he chooses to intervene for Abimelech and has Abimelech then confront Abraham.
3. Confrontation 8-13
Notice the king’s response to the dream. Verse 8: “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.”
Now you would be scared stiff too if you knew God was about to kill you if something didn’t change. That’s why Abimelech gets up at the crack of dawn to obey- he’s terrified!
By the way, that was the same reaction of the sailors aboard the ship with disobedient Jonah- absolutely frightened! Jonah 1:10
Now watch how the king confronts Abraham. He nails him with 3 rapid-fire questions:
Verse 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.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What have you encountered, that you have done this thing?”
Now, Abraham is called on the carpet. He’s on the hot seat and has to answer for his escapade.
“Answer me Abraham, what have I ever done to you that would make you hurt me so deeply? Where did you come up with such a devious plan as this?”
The stinging rebuke here may be from the king’s mouth, but it’s from God who controls his heart!
For he tells us through Solomon, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of
the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Prov. 21:1
Look at Abraham’s lame excuse to the king. First, he says, (v. 11), “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”
So ironic. Abraham is afraid they didn’t fear God, but it’s Abraham who isn’t fearing God!
He assumes the worst, gives in to his fears, and just tries to protect himself. Further he adds,
V. 12: “Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.”
Friends, this is a half-truth masquerading as a whole truth. And that makes it a lie.
Be reminded. God hates ALL lying and deception. And it’s never OK in God’s book in any situation to lie. Never. Here’s why: every form of lying goes against God who can never lie.
And when we lie and deceive, we trust ourselves and not in God.
It gets worse in verse 13. Abraham’s final excuse to the king: “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.’ ”
That deceptive plan is what Abraham talked Sarah into when they left Ur for the land of Canaan 25 years before!
You see, Abraham sugar coats sin and tells Sarah that her lying would show kindness to him.
But lying is never the kind thing to do; it always brings pain. For lying is always sin and always dishonors God.
Take to heart 3 key texts on lying: Prov. 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”
Eph. 4:15 instructs us that we are to be “speaking the truth in love.”
And Colossians 3:9 “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.”
Last month during his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, attorney Michael Cohen admitted he had lied to congress.
In the middle of the hearing, one frustrated congressman points to a big sign in the back of the room with the lawyer’s picture on it and read aloud the words: “Liar, liar pants on fire.” Then he went on to call him a pathological liar.
Well, all that’s an embroiled political mess, with lying everywhere. It’s hard to expect much else from those who belong to Satan the father of lies.
But God expects truth from His children.
Puritan Phillips Brooks went to far as to say, “The purpose of life is the building of character through truth.”
Christian, you and I have at one time or another deceived with our words and given false impressions.
Well, with God’s Spirit of truth in us, and God’s Word of truth with us, there’s no excuse to repeat such lying.
Instead, God who hears all and sees all calls you and me to speak the truth and nothing but the truth! For that’s the path of blessing that pleases God.
Abraham’s deception brought divine intervention. Then came Abimelech’s confrontation which results in Sarah’s
4. Restoration 14-18 The king shows an incredible response to Abraham. Look what he does:
V. 14: “Abimelech then took sheep and oxen and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him.”
He gives back to Abraham the most important gift- his wife Sarah!
And with that he so graciously gives him many animals and servants. On top of that he tells Abraham, “Behold, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.”
That wise and humble king does something else no doubt prompted by the Spirit of God. V. 16:
“To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who
are with you, and before all men you are cleared.”
Now the original Hebrew says that the silver would be for a “covering of the eyes.”
Contrary to what some think, the point here is not that the king wants Abraham to use the money and buy a veil for Sarah to show that she is married.
For it’s a huge amount. A Babylonian labor would bring home a half shekel per month. So, it would take him 167 years to earn 1,000 shekels!
Here’s what the king is doing. He is giving a magnanimous gift to restore the reputation of Sarah in the eyes of others. It’s to honor her.
Now watch how God uses Abraham.
Verse 17: Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children. 18 For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Wow! God used Abraham’s prayer to reverse his curse on Abimelech, his wife and maids. And by the way, this may have gone on for weeks or months.
You see, as soon as Sarah entered that king’s palace, God made it impossible for those women to conceive.
God just shut down the whole process. And had that continued, that would have spelled the doom of that king’s line.
But what changed that? One thing- God worked through Abraham’s prayer!
His prayer may have gone something like this. “Lord, I haven’t been a good testimony at all. I’ve caused this big mess. So, I ask you to show mercy to Abimelech and those in his house. Show him Lord Your goodness and bless him….”
Well, God answered Abraham’s prayer. And He opened their wombs. And so providentially, He would do the same for Sarah his wife later that year!
Friends, this shows us, God loves to hear the prayers of those who call on His name.
He loves to meet us at our point of need when we turn to Him in prayer.
Some of you have never called on the Lord to save you. You have never turned from your life of sin- trusting in yourself, your goodness, your religious background, and your pride.
The good news is that God calls you to repentance, to abandon your life of sin and trust in Christ’s death to save you.
And for those of you who belong to the Lord, maybe you doubt God can really change your life and use you.
Well, just as God worked in spite Abraham’s weakness, so He desires to do in you.
Well, God got great victory there in Gerar. He safeguarded Sarah, guarded a king from death, undeservedly blessed and used Abraham, and foiled Abraham’s attack!
Now that’s the great God that has given Himself to us. In response, He calls us to trust and obey.
O God, thank you that our perfect track record is not the ground of our acceptance with you. But rather it is the perfect track record of Jesus Christ! Thank you, Lord, that no sin can ever overcome your grace. That nothing can stop Your perfect plan. Father, may we not minimize or excuse our sin but yield in full obedience to You.
Cause us we pray to love and trust you for all that you are and all that you do on behalf of those who seek you.
We pray this for your honor and our joy in Christ, amen.
Beware of Besetting Sins
Genesis 20
Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/31/19
Intro.
James 3:2; Rom. 7:19
1. Deception 1-2 Eph. 5:25;I Peter 3:7; Rom. 4:3 (Gen.15:6); Ps. 103:19; Psalm 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 46:9–10
2. Intervention 3-7 Lev. 20:10; Prov. 6:29; Mat. 5:27–28; Gen. 39:9; Psalm 51:4; Rom. 6:23
3. Confrontation 8-13 Jonah 1:10; Prov. 21:1; Prov. 12:22; Eph. 4:15
Col. 3:9
4. Restoration 14-18 Job 42:10; I Sam. 12:19
God, in what specific areas of my life would you have me beware of besetting sins?Beware of Besetting Sins
Genesis 20
Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/31/19
I invite you to turn with me in the wonderful O.T. to Genesis 20.
Allow me to share a fictional story to set the stage.
One weekend, four Amish men went away on a retreat. As they sat around the fire talking, one said, “Let’s all share our besetting sins.”
“I’ll go first. My besetting sin is that every so often I slip away from the office to the racetrack and bet on the horses.”
The second man jumped in, “My besetting sin is that I keep a punching bag at home. When I get mad at somebody at work, I go home and think about that person as I hit the punching bag.”
The third man gulped, “My besetting sin is that I keep a bottle of wine down in my basement. When I get really frustrated with life, I sneak down there and have a nip of wine.”
They all turned to the fourth man and asked, “Well, what is your besetting sin?” He hesitated, then finally said, “My besetting sin is gossip. And guys, I can’t wait to get home and tell others about your sin!”
Well, we are all prone to sin. And we all face besetting sins- those areas of evil that we fall back into and repeat.
In fact, speaking of sin, James, Christ’s half-brother declared, “For we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).
Now let’s be clear. The Christian who has repented from sin and anchored his faith in Christ, his sins are forgiven. That means in terms of his position before Christ, he is perfect. For God says, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12).
But in practice, there’s a battle- battle with sin that rages until our final breath.
The apostle Paul, speaking as a Christian exclaims, “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish.” Rom. 7:19
Friends, there’s no such thing as sinless perfectionism this side of eternity.
A dormmate of mine in college was convinced he had attained a sinless state- well, that sure didn’t match the way he lived!
The reality is that Scripture shows us we not only continue to sin but that we are susceptible to besetting sins. Sins that we repeat again and again.
Let’s face it. Though the battle with stubborn sins sounds bad, here’s the good. It magnifies God’s grace and causes us to walk by greater faith!
That’s what we get to see from the lives of Abraham and Sarah as we follow their inspired life drama.
Now Abraham and Sarah are often considered Bible heroes. And rightly so.
Yet biblical heroes are never superhuman. They are far from perfect (just like us!).
Their faith is hampered by failings, foibles and fears.
Yet here’s the big picture perspective: the failure of God’s people never hampers but highlights God’s sovereign power.
For God’s will and ways can never be thwarted by the blunders of man.
Instead God uses our failures to showcase the greatness of His plan and perfections. And in the process, He grows our trust in Him.
Now as we approach our text, recall the shocking saga we have just witnessed- Sodom which overflowed like a cesspool of repulsive sin, namely homosexuality- God annihilated it by fire from heaven.
And then Lot, after being whisked out of that city before it was destroyed, he gets drunk and debases himself with his daughters.
Abraham, Lot’s uncle, had seen that vileness of sin that God hates. A big lesson that should have made him stay clear of all sin himself.
But that’s not the path he takes. Here are the steps we will retrace with Abraham (and Sarah).
Deception 1-2
Intervention 3-7
Confrontation 8-13
Restoration 14-18
Watch now how Abraham’s awful deception unfolds. Verse 1: Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and
settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.
The last we saw Abraham, he was living in his tent with Sarah near Hebron (Oaks of Mamre). As he looked toward Sodom, he sees smoke rising as if from a gigantic furnace.
The sight of that devastation may have motivated Abraham to pull up his tent stakes.
For he and Sarah head 30 miles SW (near the Mediterranean coast) to an area soon to be known as the land of the Philistines (Gen. 26:1). It was called “Gerar.”
Here’s what’s very significant. From when He called him in Ur, God typically showed him where he was to go.
But here, our text offers no hint of Abraham following God’s leading. Instead, he’s trusting his own plan.
Verse 2: “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”
O no! Abraham what are you doing? Have you forgotten what you did in Egypt? Do you amnesia or what?
Remember, he pulled the same stunt when he visited Pharaoh of Egypt during the famine some 25 years before. And it backfired and got him thrown out of the land.
Now there are no Bible critics who say, “O this account here in chapter 20, it’s a duplicate of chp. 12 and Abraham only tried this scheme once.
Friends, even a child who carefully reads the two accounts will quickly see at least a half dozen major differences. That’s because they are two completely different situations.
Clearly, Abraham here repeats his same sin of deception. He has taken another lapse into lying. For he really didn’t learn his lesson the first time. He hadn’t made a clean break with the sin of deception.
This is so instructive for us to see here both the peril of besetting sins and the providence of a gracious God!
Remember, Abraham had shown poor leadership in his marriage. He made a deal with Sarah to go along with the guise that she was his sister.
Why? Abraham figured, that way greedy rulers wouldn’t kill him and take Sarah into their harems.
It was all about Abraham looking out for whom? For Abraham! But what about his wife Sarah?
He’s totally jeopardizing her purity and safety. He’s playing the part of a cowardly husband.
Now we must cut Abraham a little bit of slack. For he did not yet have the benefit of God’s law nor any of the N.T. like:
Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
I Peter 3:7 “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Well, Abraham doesn’t show love nor sensitivity to Sarah. And he’s definitely not trusting God.
Instead, he is motivated by fear. Just think of it.
Abraham has passed many tests of faith with flying colors. Why, he is the perfect poster child of justification by faith as illustrated by Paul.
In fact, Romans 4:3 ties back to the glorious statement in Genesis 15:6, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’”
While God had already declared Abraham righteous, that does not mean he is sinless nor perfect!
For Abraham now is definitely not walking by faith! He gets a big “F” on his faith report card.
Who then takes advantage of the vulnerable situation? The king of Gerar who is also called Abimelech. Abimelech isn’t his name but is a dynastic title like Pharaoh or Caesar.
So this Abimelech sends his servants to get Sarah who he is told is the sister of the guy with her named Abraham.
They don’t come with a question but a command. “Sarah, you’re coming with us. For the king can’t wait to make you part of his royal harem.”
Now remember, Sarah is old- according to Gen. 17:17 she’s 90 years old!
That raises the question, what made her so attractive to that king of Gerar?
Ladies, what do you think? Did Sarah have special facial treatments, beauty creams or exotic cosmetics that made her striking?
I think not. Some believe that with Isaac’s coming birth, God renewed Sarah’s body and beauty.
In fact, one Bible commentator claimed, “Down there in Gerar, at the age of 90, [Sarah] could compete with any 19-year old in the land!”
Well, all things are possible yet not probable.
For 90-year old skin wrinkles and sags, the hair greys, and with time there’s degeneration.
Years ago a preacher was taken to see the mummified remains of the famous evangelist George Whitfield in Newburyport, Massachusetts
The sight was more gruesome than glorious as the years had taken its toll on the body. The preacher looked at the embalmed body and said, “Well, George, you’re not looking so good. I don’t expect to be back this way, my friend. But you’ll be looking much better when I see you again- in the air!”
In Sarah’s case, if it wasn’t because of her beauty, the king’s interest may have been politically motivated. Taking Sarah as his wife would have given him an alliance with one of the most wealthy and influential individuals in that region- the sheik Abraham!
Well, just imagine Abraham, his heart heaving with pain, as he watches them take Sarah away with them.
For all he knew, that was the last he would ever see her. And what about… the promise?
God had promised Abraham that he would give him and Sarah a boy they would call Isaac. And now they are on the brink of the fulfillment- for
the angel told them he would be born within a year.
I can see Abraham lying in his tent, staring at the sheepskin covering and wondering how God could ever fix his awful situation.
Now, think of the cosmic perspective. This Satan’s last-ditch attempt to block the birth of Isaac. For he knew that was the promised line that would lead to whom? To Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world!
For if Sarah lived in the harem of the king of Gerar and gave birth to a child, that offspring would not belong to Abraham. He would be the son of Abimelech. And God’s promise would be broken.
Now please follow closely. At this very point, some scholars conclude, “The foolish acts of God’s people may jeopardize God’s program.”
In other words, our disobedience can destroy God’s design. Friends, that’s impossible.
For God’s sovereignty rules over all (Ps. 103:19) including over your sin and my sin.
Let it be said loud and clear. God never makes a plan and then hope or wonders if it will work out. Never.
Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.”
Proverbs 19:21 “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.”
Isaiah 46:9–10 “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
So take comfort in the fact that nothing you or anyone else including Satan himself can ever do can derail the plan of God!
Instead, God uses the failings of man to show He rules over all and always accomplishes His purposes. Always.
Watch this in action, for following Abraham’s deception we see God’s 2. Intervention 3-7
Verse 3: But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.”
This is a “as real to life as it gets” dream.
God has Abimelech’s full attention. And that king is scared out of his wits. He knows he has been implicated for taking Sarah into his royal residence though she is married.
And because she already has a husband, God tells that king, “You’re a dead man!”
The idea is, you mess with this married woman and you die!”
Friends, this is God’s first bold statement on adultery. He says here, the perpetrator deserves to die.
In most states in America, adultery is no longer a crime punishable by law. Even when it is, it is rarely enforced. The state law of Maryland reads like this: A person who violates this section (and commits adultery) is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be fined $10. Are you kidding? What a joke! But adultery is no joke in God’s law
The 7th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” shows God requires purity in marriage. And the penalty God stipulates for adultery in Lev. 20:10 was death.
Further, Proverbs 6:29 says, “Whoever touches his neighbor’s wife (the idea being sexually) will not go unpunished.”
And in verse 32, “The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; He who would destroy himself does it.”
And don’t forget what our Lord Jesus says of this in Matthew 5:27–28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So it is, God calls husbands and wives to absolute fidelity in mind and in body.
Well, watch what happens. The sovereignty of God shines bright like the noonday sun.
Verse 4: “Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless?’”
We will see that God intervened and kept the king from touching Sarah.
And so amazingly, this pagan king appeals to God as Adonai- as Lord of all.
He appeals to God based on 2 counts. First, God’s justice.
“God, you won’t wipe out a nation that is blameless, will you?” Just like Abraham’s plea to God over Sodom (18:23), “Will you sweep way the righteous with the wicked?
Here’s what’s amazing. Somehow this king knows the God talking to him in that dream is different than any of he tribal, Canaanite gods. He fears God, he’s talking to God. In fact to some degree this Abimelech king of Gerar is a believer in the true God!
I love how he dialogues with God. He asks Him about Abraham, there in verse 5, “Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’”
In other words, “God, I just went off what they BOTH told me that they were brother and sister not husband and wife. I didn’t know they were married!”
Then this terrified king makes a stunning claim: “In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”
In other words, “I have no evil motive in this.”
Was Abimelech telling the truth? No need to guess, for we are told in verse 6:
“Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that 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.”
Don’t you love the fact that God doesn’t say, “I think that in integrity of your heart you have done this” but “I know?”
For God always knows everything. His omniscient eye pierces our hearts like a laser beam and exposes all.
God affirms the king did not have adulterous motives AND that He, God, intervened and stopped Abimelech from laying a hand on Sarah.
Did you catch whom God says He kept the king from sinning against? He doesn’t say against Sarah nor Abraham but from sinning against Me!
Christian, that’s the ultimate issue of all sin. It’s not merely against someone else or even against our own bodies but against God!
That’s how Joseph could refuse the aggressive advances of Potiphar’s wife. For he exclaims, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Gen. 39:9
And King David, after committing adultery and murder says to God, “Against You and You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”
So it was God who restrained the king. Yet God demanded restoration. Verse 7: “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
God makes it clear: “Abimelech, if you want to live, then give Sarah back to her husband. If you keep her, you will die- not just you as king but all your family and servants, I will kill every one of you!”
For then, the king’s sin would be intentional. And the penalty would be death.
Here’s what so surprising. It’s at this point that God tells this king that Abraham is a prophet!
The king must have thought, “What kind of prophet is this guy?” “Lying, deceiving me? Huh!”
Well, prophets interceded for others. And Abimelech will be glad when Abraham does that for him.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind about God’s intervention. He showed grace to Abimelech and kept him from a deadly sin.
So too, God continues to show grace and keep those He chooses from the fatal sin of unbelief.
Remember the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
That’s the great exchange, God stopping us in our tracks when we were hell-bound and giving us faith to believe.
Now God’s ways are far beyond our ways. That’s why he chooses to intervene for Abimelech and has Abimelech then confront Abraham.

  1. Confrontation 8-13
    Notice the king’s response to the dream. Verse 8: “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.”
    Now you would be scared stiff too if you knew God was about to kill you if something didn’t change. That’s why Abimelech gets up at the crack of dawn to obey- he’s terrified!
    By the way, that was the same reaction of the sailors aboard the ship with disobedient Jonah- absolutely frightened! Jonah 1:10
    Now watch how the king confronts Abraham. He nails him with 3 rapid-fire questions:
    Verse 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.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What have you encountered, that you have done this thing?”
    Now, Abraham is called on the carpet. He’s on the hot seat and has to answer for his escapade.
    “Answer me Abraham, what have I ever done to you that would make you hurt me so deeply? Where did you come up with such a devious plan as this?”
    The stinging rebuke here may be from the king’s mouth, but it’s from God who controls his heart!
    For he tells us through Solomon, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of
    the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Prov. 21:1
    Look at Abraham’s lame excuse to the king. First, he says, (v. 11), “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”
    So ironic. Abraham is afraid they didn’t fear God, but it’s Abraham who isn’t fearing God!
    He assumes the worst, gives in to his fears, and just tries to protect himself. Further he adds,
    V. 12: “Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.”
    Friends, this is a half-truth masquerading as a whole truth. And that makes it a lie.
    Be reminded. God hates ALL lying and deception. And it’s never OK in God’s book in any situation to lie. Never. Here’s why: every form of lying goes against God who can never lie.
    And when we lie and deceive, we trust ourselves and not in God.
    It gets worse in verse 13. Abraham’s final excuse to the king: “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.’ ”
    That deceptive plan is what Abraham talked Sarah into when they left Ur for the land of Canaan 25 years before!
    You see, Abraham sugar coats sin and tells Sarah that her lying would show kindness to him.
    But lying is never the kind thing to do; it always brings pain. For lying is always sin and always dishonors God.
    Take to heart 3 key texts on lying: Prov. 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”
    Eph. 4:15 instructs us that we are to be “speaking the truth in love.”
    And Colossians 3:9 “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices.”
    Last month during his testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, attorney Michael Cohen admitted he had lied to congress.
    In the middle of the hearing, one frustrated congressman points to a big sign in the back of the room with the lawyer’s picture on it and read aloud the words: “Liar, liar pants on fire.” Then he went on to call him a pathological liar.
    Well, all that’s an embroiled political mess, with lying everywhere. It’s hard to expect much else from those who belong to Satan the father of lies.
    But God expects truth from His children.
    Puritan Phillips Brooks went to far as to say, “The purpose of life is the building of character through truth.”
    Christian, you and I have at one time or another deceived with our words and given false impressions.
    Well, with God’s Spirit of truth in us, and God’s Word of truth with us, there’s no excuse to repeat such lying.
    Instead, God who hears all and sees all calls you and me to speak the truth and nothing but the truth! For that’s the path of blessing that pleases God.
    Abraham’s deception brought divine intervention. Then came Abimelech’s confrontation which results in Sarah’s
  2. Restoration 14-18 The king shows an incredible response to Abraham. Look what he does:
    V. 14: “Abimelech then took sheep and oxen and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him.”
    He gives back to Abraham the most important gift- his wife Sarah!
    And with that he so graciously gives him many animals and servants. On top of that he tells Abraham, “Behold, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.”
    That wise and humble king does something else no doubt prompted by the Spirit of God. V. 16:
    “To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who
    are with you, and before all men you are cleared.”
    Now the original Hebrew says that the silver would be for a “covering of the eyes.”
    Contrary to what some think, the point here is not that the king wants Abraham to use the money and buy a veil for Sarah to show that she is married.
    For it’s a huge amount. A Babylonian labor would bring home a half shekel per month. So, it would take him 167 years to earn 1,000 shekels!
    Here’s what the king is doing. He is giving a magnanimous gift to restore the reputation of Sarah in the eyes of others. It’s to honor her.
    Now watch how God uses Abraham.
    Verse 17: Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children. 18 For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
    Wow! God used Abraham’s prayer to reverse his curse on Abimelech, his wife and maids. And by the way, this may have gone on for weeks or months.
    You see, as soon as Sarah entered that king’s palace, God made it impossible for those women to conceive.
    God just shut down the whole process. And had that continued, that would have spelled the doom of that king’s line.
    But what changed that? One thing- God worked through Abraham’s prayer!
    His prayer may have gone something like this. “Lord, I haven’t been a good testimony at all. I’ve caused this big mess. So, I ask you to show mercy to Abimelech and those in his house. Show him Lord Your goodness and bless him….”
    Well, God answered Abraham’s prayer. And He opened their wombs. And so providentially, He would do the same for Sarah his wife later that year!
    Friends, this shows us, God loves to hear the prayers of those who call on His name.
    He loves to meet us at our point of need when we turn to Him in prayer.
    Some of you have never called on the Lord to save you. You have never turned from your life of sin- trusting in yourself, your goodness, your religious background, and your pride.
    The good news is that God calls you to repentance, to abandon your life of sin and trust in Christ’s death to save you.
    And for those of you who belong to the Lord, maybe you doubt God can really change your life and use you.
    Well, just as God worked in spite Abraham’s weakness, so He desires to do in you.
    Well, God got great victory there in Gerar. He safeguarded Sarah, guarded a king from death, undeservedly blessed and used Abraham, and foiled Abraham’s attack!
    Now that’s the great God that has given Himself to us. In response, He calls us to trust and obey.
    O God, thank you that our perfect track record is not the ground of our acceptance with you. But rather it is the perfect track record of Jesus Christ! Thank you, Lord, that no sin can ever overcome your grace. That nothing can stop Your perfect plan. Father, may we not minimize or excuse our sin but yield in full obedience to You.
    Cause us we pray to love and trust you for all that you are and all that you do on behalf of those who seek you.
    We pray this for your honor and our joy in Christ, amen.
    Beware of Besetting Sins
    Genesis 20
    Hope In Christ Bible Church 4/31/19
    Intro.
    James 3:2; Rom. 7:19
  3. Deception 1-2 Eph. 5:25;I Peter 3:7; Rom. 4:3 (Gen.15:6); Ps. 103:19; Psalm 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 46:9–10
  4. Intervention 3-7 Lev. 20:10; Prov. 6:29; Mat. 5:27–28; Gen. 39:9; Psalm 51:4; Rom. 6:23
  5. Confrontation 8-13 Jonah 1:10; Prov. 21:1; Prov. 12:22; Eph. 4:15
    Col. 3:9
  6. Restoration 14-18 Job 42:10; I Sam. 12:19
    God, in what specific areas of my life would you have me beware of besetting sins?