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Jul 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 28, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 20

“Dare I presume . . .?” “No.”

Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar. Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.Genesis 20:1-2

INTRO: We’ve already encountered a story like this (Gen. 12:10-20)

At first, I considered skipping or just skimming, because it’s not the most flattering picture of Abraham
– but more closely I looked, the more interesting it became
• remember, people first heard these events in Genesis from storytellers
• when two episodes share identical plot and details, the audience would recognize them
○ they would think, “I know this story! I know what happens”
– these episodes that share identical plot lines have been referred as “type-scenes”
• the type-scene connects the experiences of individuals to a larger history — God’s program

Vv. 1-2, Abraham is moving around

It doesn’t look like he has a travel plan or itinerary
– he was probably moving to wherever he could find pasture for his livestock
– in verse 13, he’ll say, “when God caused me to wander” — that’s what he’s doing, he’s wandering
• we wouldn’t be able to locate his destination on map
• but God knew where he was taking Abraham
○ not to a place on a map, but to a place in history

We need to find peace with the fact that God’s Spirit directs our spiritual journey
– until we discern God’s purpose for “event,” we trust Him
• and if we never discern a purpose, then all we need to discern is what we’re supposed to do next

Meanwhile, Abraham’s wanderings at times puts God’s promise at risk
– that Sarah would give him a son
• this is the risk they face in Gerar

Vv. 3-7, God’s nighttime dialogue with Abimelech

As I said, in a type-scene, each story closely follows the same pattern
– if the storyteller wants to make a specific point – he will do it by deviating from the pattern
• the deviation here comes when God personally confronts King Abimelech
• God’s subtle approach: “Behold, you are a dead man”
– the storyteller doesn’t treat this as if it were extraordinary
• he takes for granted, God can speak to whomever he wants
○ that everyone belongs to God — even “heathen” kings

Footnote: “Now Abimelech had not come near her” — Sarah’s purity is protected

God allowed Abimelech to speak in his own defense
– very same argument Abraham had made for Sodom: a “just” God wouldn’t punish a righteous person
• he was righteous, because he was told Sarah was Abraham’s “sister” (they both said so)
• he acted with “integrity of heart” – wholeness
○ he had been true to himself, to others, and to the situation

God’s response, “Yes, I know” – he knew the whole story
– again, this is not treated as extraordinary – he knows all about the heathen king, inside and out
– it’s because he knew that he intervened – “and I also . . .”
• now we come to an intriguing statement
“kept you from sinning against Me”
○ it was Abraham and Sarah’s deception
○ and it was their marriage that would have been violated
○ but if Abimelech had touched her, his “sin” would have been against God
• Hebrew word for sin here means “to miss,” as in, “I missed the turn-off, so now I’m headed in the wrong direction”
○ God has a design for every human life and he desires to see his design fulfilled
○ if we miss his design, we add to what’s wrong with world and we diminish ourselves

Vv. 8-13, Abimelech’s daytime dialogue with Abraham

It takes the form of an interrogation:

  • “What have you done to us?”
    – “You put us at great risk. I almost died last night!”
  • “How have I sinned against you?”
    – that is, “Do I deserve this?”
    – “What did we ever do to you,  that you would do something like this to us? You walked us into a great sin”
  • Then, Abimelech made a formal accusation:
    “You have done to me things that ought not to be done”
    – I imagine this would really sting Abraham’s conscience
    – he adopted a lower moral standard than Abimelech

When in scripture a person speaking finishes a sentence and then begins a new sentence, it suggests a pause
– Abraham was speechless – he could not defend himself (as Abimelech did when confronted by God)
– so Abimelech resumed, “What did you see . . .?”
• he’s assuming that Abraham created this problem for him on purpose

Abraham then tried to explain
– he made an assumption about Abimelech and his people and he was afraid
– he also tries to wriggle out of doing anything wrong, “I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell the whole truth”
• it’s like he’s arguing that what he said was okay
– until now, I don’t think Abraham considered his plan to present Sarah as his sister a wrong thing to do
• it was merely a survival strategy

Vv. 14-16, Abimelech’s dialogues with Abraham and Sarah

He compensated Abraham and made restitution for Sarah
– it’s like he was paying a fine for having done wrong
– he was also concerned to restore Sarah’s honor publicly, “before all men you are cleared”

Vv. 17-18, Epilogue – everything is resolved

For the first and only time in this chapter, the name of God appears in the last verse– “Yahweh”

I grew up in a Christian subculture, believing we were unique
– different from non-Christians who didn’t know God
– different from most Christians who didn’t have the truth or the full experience of God
• all the good people belonged to our denomination
○ everyone outside of it was bad
○ we had a very strong “we” versus “they” mentality

Verse 11, “Because I thought, surely, there is no fear of God in this place”
Abraham was certain, no one there reverenced God
– and by implication, no one could be trusted or would behave in a morally acceptable way
• after all, look at what (almost) happened to the strangers in Sodom!
• like them, Abraham assumed, “they will kill me” – do violence to me
– to Abraham, all cities were Sodom
– in churches like my youth, everything that was not us was the “world” (Sodom)
• we were dogmatic in our belief — no one else had reverence for God or his truth
• we were conditioned to be afraid of the world, which caused some of us to act in very strange ways
○ paranoia creates illusions of conspiracies
• it was never explicit, but there was also this subtle idea it was okay to mistreat, criticize, and ridicule “them”
○ or to blame everyone else for society’s problems
• we were certain, no one else knew God
○ he didn’t speak to anyone else outside our circle
○ having this assumption caused us to act with less moral integrity than people outside our church

CONC: Abraham’s wrong assumption teaches us:

  • No church or religion has God all to themselves
  • We do not take God to others–he’s there before we get there–he takes us to them
  • God’s grace spreads further than we know
    there’s more hope for world than we assumed
    all we can’t do, God does–he reaches places we can’t (like into human hearts)
  • God speaks to whomever he wants to speak to speak

God listens to everyone, he loves everyone, he wants to help everyone and bring them to himself

This is God’s project on earth, and he asks us to join him

One Comment

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  1. Pamela Cutrone / Aug 7 2013

    Hi Chuck…. I really really enjoyed this, thank you! I love to reason through God’s Word. I think I just found a new devotional web page! (truly resonated with your conclusions.)

    Blessings always, Pam Cutrone

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