A few weeks ago we talked about how Abraham has a problem with trying to lie his way out of a tight spot. We saw how it got him into trouble with King Abimelech and how God had to come in and save the day.
In the passage we’ll be in tonight a few years have passed since then and King Abimelech is still a powerful leader in the region. He and Abraham cross paths again, but this time they talk about land and water supply instead of who Sarah’s related to. And we’ll see that Abraham and Abimelech actually come to an agreement over these things and make a covenant together. Abraham, God’s friend, making an accord with Abimelech, a pagan king.
Now when you read about something like this it calls into question - Just how much should we unite with the unsaved of the world? Now, it’s obvious we shouldn’t unite with the unsaved world when it comes to matters of religion or faith. And it’s obvious we shouldn’t unite with the world with an ungodly lifestyle or even philosophy. But what about in matters of government or business or law?
We can and should do our best to live peaceably with our neighbors even if they aren’t of the faith as long as we don’t compromise our integrity or our faith. This is what we see in Genesis 21 between Abraham and Abimelech. We see some unity amongst these two men even though they are incredibly different.
Now Abimelech is the one who initiated these talks. But you can tell that amongst Abimelech’s people Abraham had created quite a reputation for himself. And that’s the first thing we see here is:
I. Abraham’s reputation amongst his pagan neighbors
[Read Genesis 21:22-23.]
Three very distinct things come to the surface here in relation to Abraham’s reputation.
1. God was with him
It was evident to Abimelech and all his people that Abraham’s God was real and that He
really took care of him. They knew how God had stepped in and saved Sarah from becoming Abimelech’s wife.
And I’ll bet they knew that it was Abraham’s God that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He was a very real God who didn’t play around when it came to righteousness and judgment. So they knew God was with Abraham and it scared them.
2. Abraham was dishonest
[Read Genesis 21:23.]
Abraham’s testimony in this area of his life was shot and he was considered a man that couldn’t be trusted. What a shame.
You know it only takes a minute to ruin your testimony for a lifetime.
[Me buying beer story.]
Unfortunately, Abraham’s reputation was of a man who couldn’t be trusted. But also, Abimelech implies that:
3. Abraham owed Abimelech
[Read Genesis 21:23b.]
Abimelech was letting Abraham know that he owed him something and it was now time to collect. I scratched your back now its time for you to scratch mine.
I tell you what, the world should never look at us Christians and feel like we owe them something because of the way we are. We should be the giving ones in this world. We should be the ones who are always there to help whenever anyone has a need – and not expecting anything in return.
[Friend using “we’re pastors” excuse to get me out of a speeding ticket story.]
Our testimony in the community is extremely important and we should do everything we can to present ourselves and the church in God’s light and God’s ways.
So with all these things in mind, the negotiations start. Obviously there was some potential trouble in paradise that needed to be addressed before things escalated.
II. Abraham’s negotiations with his pagan neighbors
[Read Genesis 21:23-30.]
It seems like there’s an undercurrent of fear between these men that a clash could be coming between them and their nations. But they seemed to be able to settle their differences.
- Abimelech didn’t want Abraham to start up any conflict with him.
- Abraham wanted his well back that some of Abimelech’s men had taken control of.
Reasonable request that they both came together on. But isn’t it ironic as to how this
covenant was sealed? Abraham gives Abimelech some livestock to show his fidelity to the covenant and also to be a visible witness to the deal. Just like Abimelech did for Abraham in chapter 20 when he was giving Abraham back his wife.
[Read Genesis 20:14-16.]
Abimelech wanted everyone to know that he was giving Sarah back to Abraham. But here, Abraham wants everyone to know that the well is his, yet he’s the one giving Abimelech the extra livestock. Even Abimelech was surprised at this. The deal seems to have already been made. Maybe Abraham just wanted to make sure of his claim by a good and visible gesture. Anyway, the negotiations went well.