Genesis 20


Genesis 20:  The Old Nature 

The incident recorded in this chapter regarding Abraham’s action is somewhat of a shock. Here is Abraham doing the same thing he did 30 years ago. We would have thought Abraham had reached a point of spiritual maturity that he would not commit such a sin as he had done before. In other words we thought he had learned his lesson. 

But the truth of the matter is when it comes to our ‘old natures’- old natures never die. Have you not noticed in your own life there is a familiar pattern to temptation and sin? I have no doubt that Abraham loves the Lord and wants more than anything to do what is right.   Just like the Apostle Paul who loved the Lord and yet confessed- ‘ I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do- I do not do; but what I hate – I do.’(Romans 7) The Apostle Paul goes on to explain something we need to remember- I know nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature- his old nature. Paul describes how he feels when he gives into his old nature’s demands – wretched.  

It is a constant battle in the Christian life- this internal battle between our new nature and the old nature. Let’s notice and learn from this relapse in Abraham’s life how to better guard against such occurrences.  

Notice first when this ‘relapse’ occurs. Abraham, after 30 years of walking with the Lord, finds himself in a place of favor with God. He is a friend of God. That have enjoyed great fellowship- his prayer life has become effective and fervent, God is now at the point of fulfilling His promise to Abraham and Sarah to have the promised son of their own. God has chosen to share His secrets with Abraham.  You might be thinking- if I were experiencing this kind of closeness with God- there is no way I would commit such a sin, especially since I had done this before and reaped the disappointment and sorrow that came as a result of such behavior.   

That type of thinking is the first warning sign—for if you think you are standing firm- be careful that you do not fall. Pride goes before a fall. 

Genesis 20:1 – We see Abraham traveling toward Egypt- stopping in an area known as Gerar. This is sea coast country on the southwest side of Palestine above the Gulf of Suez. The people who lived there were later known as Philistines- the same people from which Goliath came. The king of this group of people is King Abimelech.  Why is Abraham on the move?  We are not told and can only speculate- but perhaps the destruction of the Sodom and Gomorrah had created some type of financial and economic crisis- those cities were definitely cities with consumer demands which Abraham had probably been providing some of.  

Vs. 2:  Regardless of the reason for his travels, we see Abraham resort to a pattern of lying as he did 30 years before- when he feared for his life. This was a deception that Abraham and Sarah had deployed in Egypt ( see Gen. 12) with disastrous results and now he has resorted to using this lie once again. We often find ourselves drifting into the old patterns of sin- that had made deep ruts of habit in our old lives. Once we enter into the rut- we usually fall into the old behavior patterns. It seems we have vulnerable areas in our spiritual armor. This deception will put Sarah in harm’s way. 

Abraham has drifted into enemy territory. We must remember that good and evil travel on a parallel path. Whenever we want to do good-evil is always present. We can easily get off the way God intended for us to take, quite often by taking what seems to be a better direction- a short cut. By doing so we may drift into enemy territory. It can be any number of shortcuts that seem perfectly reasonable- for there is a way that seems right to man- but it ends in destruction. Caution – you are entering dangerous territory. 

  Abraham had placed himself in a position to be tempted. Listen to what James says: “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one  is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed..Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown give birth to death.”  (James 1: 14-15)   Remember this:  God tests- Satan tempts.  

Our old nature or flesh has a heart that is always bent on doing what it wants to do- it is deceitful above all things. That is why we must guard our hearts with all diligence for out it come the issues of life. We must be diligent and on guard- for our adversary goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy. Watch and pray, said the Lord, lest you fall into temptation.  Your old nature will steer you wrong. Your mind is a steering wheel,and where you aim your thoughts is where you usually end up.  That is why we are instructed to not let our thinking be conformed by the world- but transformed by the Word of God.  

Remember the rules of war – whoever controls the high ground- controls the battle. Our high ground is our mind.  

If we are not careful, we find ourselves in the same situation Abraham found himself. Having reached a point in our spiritual journey- we think we are way past giving into such obvious temptation and sin. The lesson today- is simple- if it can happen to Abraham a friend of God, a man whose faith is spoken of in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, a man that God chose , befriended and shared His secrets with- it can happen to you and me. Then all of a sudden- we find ourselves doing what we thought we would never do again and shocked with our lapse and behavior we say to ourselves, ‘ what was I thinking?’  The problem is we were not thinking- we were not on guard. Thinking we were standing firm- we were headed for a fall. And quite often it can come after a spiritual high point.  

In fact, the last time we saw Abraham with the Lord they were together on a high point overlooking the valley of the Dead Sea and the cities, Sodom and Gomorrah on the plain.  

This is not all that is going on in this  passage. Things are not what they seem. We are in a spiritual battle and we must remember that. The enemy is at work here trying to prevent the birth of the promised seed to Sarah and Abraham. But God acted in the way He did, as we will see as the story unfolds, in order to protect Sarah.  

When Abraham lied and told the king Sarah was his sister, the king took Sarah into his harem.  

In verse 3- God appears to Abimelech in a dream- and tells him he is a dead man because the woman he has taken (Sarah) is a married woman.  

In verses 4-5 : Abimelech who has not gone near Sarah yet, protests to the Lord that he is innocent and would the Lord destroy an innocent nation?  Abimelech tells the Lord, Abraham told me she was his sister.  I have a clear conscience and clean hands.  

In verse 6– God says I know you have a clear conscience – for I have kept you from sinning against me.  NOTE: God restrains evil. He, through His Holy Spirit, restrains evil and is at work in the world restraining human evil. But there is a day coming when the One who restrains evil will be taken out of the way. ( II Thess. 2:7)   That is why, God explains, I have kept you from sinning against me and did not let you touch her. But, God says, if you do not return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her- you may be sure that you and all of yours will die.  God does not make idle threats. We will never know this side of heaven how many times God has intervened on our behalf to restrain evil.  

Verses 8-10:  Abimelech calls in Abraham the next morning and asked him; What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you would have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done. What were you thinking? ( what were your reasons?)  

Verses 11-13:  we get an insight into Abraham’s thinking:  I said to myself (not  to the Lord) there is no fear of  God in this place-they will kill me because of my wife…Here what we see is this man of faith has an area where he leans to his own understanding and does not trust the Lord with all his heart. It is an area of weakness- an area of vulnerability . We all have one of those areas, you know.  An area we cannot seem to trust the Lord in. For Abraham this has been a habit and an action that he has taken in certain situations. Notice :  first of all the half-truth that she is his half-sister. Abraham had convinced himself this deception was not really a complete lie- but what Abraham must realize is- he has not trusted the Lord to keep His promises in the area of protecting Sarah and him. . Verse 13 reveals this has long been the deception that Abraham and Sarah had used when in areas of danger.  

This chapter ends with King Abimlech looking the more noble and honest of the two.

Notice the sarcasm in verse 16  where he says to Sarah – I am giving your BROTHER a thousand shekels.  

Abraham, the prophet, prays for God to heal Abimlech and his household and so ends a chapter in the life of the man of faith- Abraham.  

The story of Abraham is a story of faith. Of a man like us- with fears and doubts who is learning to walk by faith and trust the Lord. Like us- sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he gets it wrong.  

Was God pleased with Abraham’s actions? No. Without faith it is impossible to please God.  

Let’s close today’s lesson by considering what we have learned about faith and what we know about faith.  

Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 “ Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  

Faith is being sure of something and certain of something- but what is the ‘something’? What is the object of their faith?

When we read Hebrews 11- we see the faith of men and women spoken of in this chapter is in the ‘ promises of God.” Remember the story in Luke 8- storm on the sea and Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat?  He had one question to the disciples after He stilled the storm- where is your faith? Jesus was asking what is your confidence in? 

Faith is confidence in the promises of God; confidence that God will do what He has promised. ( I John 5:14- “ This is the confidence we have IN HIM..”) 

To live by faith is to live as if we believe,(trust in- have confidence) that God will keep His Promises. Do you not believe the Lord is a Promise Keeper? 

The starting point is found in Hebrews 11: 6: “ Without faith it is impossible to please God and those who come to Him must believe that He is and a rewarder of those  who diligently seek Him.”   

Do you see the starting point of faith?  It is believing that God is who He says He is and the ending point is believing He can do what He says He will do. In between those two points- starting and ending points we are instructed to diligently seek Him.  

So you know what we should be doing? Diligently Seeking Him!!  Becoming so familiar with God’s promises to us, as believers, that we can review those promises on a daily basis and renew our faith. 

“ For faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14