If ever anyone lived (apart from Jesus Christ) who should be admired and emulated, that someone would be Abraham. His journey with God is one that borders on the exemplary—I say, “borders,” deliberately. Abraham, like any human idol, had his “clay foot” moments. Genesis 20 describes one of those moments.
Biblical history overwhelmingly supports Abraham as an example of faith worthy to be followed. But God never minimizes the frailties of even those of His “nearest and dearest.” It’s one of His ways of reminding us that in our weakest moments, His grace is still, and will always be, sufficient.
Genesis 20 is a story similar to one recorded for us in Genesis 12:10-12—same problem, different location.
Abraham fears for his life while under the eye of Abimelech king of Gerar.
Sarah is old by today’s standards, but still beautiful enough to attract the attention of the king. Abraham, fearful that his life is at risk if Ablimelech views a husband as an impediment to what he wants—Sarah—has instructed her to say that she is his sister. It’s not a lie‚ Sarah is Abraham’s half sister. But it’s not the truth either.
But God… Don’t you just love the “but God’s” of the Scripture?
Abraham has just put the promise of a great and godly nation, which is to grow out of the union of Abraham and Sarah, at risk. And God will not allow that.
In the story, Abimelech, the pagan king, comes out as a better man than Abraham. God appears to the king and explains what has happened, and why no one in his household has been able to have children since he took Sarah into that household. (It would appear that she was there at least long enough for it to be obvious that something was seriously amiss when it came to procreation in Abimelech’s palace.)
The king pleads his case: “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands” (20:4, 5).
God agrees, and Abraham has to “‘fess up.”
But despite Abraham’s weak faith, his half-truths, his treatment of his wife, and his disrespect towards the covenant God had made with him, it is Abraham who prays to the Lord that the wombs of Abimelech’s household be opened again (20:17). It is to his prayer that God responds, and heals the king and his household.
God’s grace is sufficient to cover man’s weakness.
This does not excuse the sin, but demonstrates once more that the Almighty is more than capable of making sure that man’s sin, while it might result in a detour or a roadblock, will never thwart God’s arrival at the destination He has planned.
The Scriptures remind us of this truth:
Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
Today, the 45th President of the United States was sworn in. No matter where any of us fall when it comes to our opinions of what kind of president he will be, no matter what kind of man he is, or isn’t, whether he be pagan or believer, there is above him a Sovereign God with a plan.
The grace of that Sovereign Lord is still sufficient today to cover the weakness of even the man who some might claim has now become the most powerful man on earth.
And even that man cannot thwart the plans of God. Nor can any other. Nor can you or I. We are the clay and He is the molder of that clay.