The very quotable Yogi Berra once remarked: “It was like deja vu all over again!” That quote comes to mind as we tackle this week’s passage. Didn’t the events of chapter 20 just happen in chapter 12? The fact that Abraham was traveling is similar (though this does take place within the land, chapter 12 did not); the fact that Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife is familiar; and the ultimate result of the encounter (Abraham being blessed anyway) is equally remarkable.
But chapter 20 is a shocker to me. I can’t understand why Abraham continues his pattern of lying about Sarah… particularly with such disastrous results experienced before. Isn’t the patriarch further along in his journey with the Lord by now? Since chapter 12 Abraham has repeatedly heard God speak to him. (Gen. 15 & 17) He has experienced the thrill of victory with the Lord in battle. (Gen. 14 see verse 20)). He has wrestled with God in prayer (Gen. 18) and witnessed the power of God come down in judgment (Gen. 19). So with such powerful moments in his life… why don’t they keep Abraham from repeating this past mistake? Does it stop you?
And there is a major difference in this story compared to the former one: there is so much more at stake now! In chapter 12, Sarah wasn’t fertile. But now the angels have declared to Abraham that Sarah in a year’s time she will deliver the child of the promise. So, think about it a minute, if she spends even one night wrapped in the embrace of Abimelech… the paternity of Isaac would be forever be in question.
God ultimately delivers Abraham through a dream to Abimelech… but there are some important lessons for all of us here.
#1 – A long walk with God in obedience doesn’t mean we are safe from revisiting past sins committed in disobedience. We must be on guard for this!
#2 – We might get a green light from God after so many years of waiting… and then mess things up right on the thresh hold of receiving the blessing. At a graduation ceremonies for my son, Justin, he and the rest of the soldiers were allowed to go to lunch with their families before the final ceremony later that day. Some of those that were on the thresh hold of completing boot camp, got drunk during the brief time with their family and ended up “washing out” before the evening. They would have to repeat boat camp all over again. When success is on the way… one needs to be even more diligent about staying on the path of obedience.
#3 – Stick to the plan. God knows what he is doing. If at all possible, unless you hear a clear calling from God (as Abraham did at the beginning of Genesis 12) stay put and let God unfold his plan for your life. It may have been a famine that caused Abraham’s migration in chapter 12… it is Abraham’s restlessness that gets him in chapter 20.
It takes a special grace to stay the course before the blessings commence. May you receive His grace in abundance as you persevere in Christ today!