Summary: Abraham gets reprimanded by a Cannanite king - what happens when we don’t learn the lessons God is trying to teach?
There are times to stay and face situations and times to leave. Hagar gets to leave (after the first time when God told her to go back), and Abraham must face his mistakes (after getting to leave without rebuke the first time).
We all like to think that we learn from our mistakes. Truth is it often takes several errors before we really realize we aren’t doing the right thing. God often has to pound stuff through our thick skulls before we really give it to Him. Such is the case with Abraham. Remember just a few chapters ago, Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt and Abraham had Sarah pose as his sister because he was afraid that the king of Egypt would kill him and take her as his wife.
In that case God inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh - and he sent Abraham packing. You’d think that would be enough - but now, in Chapter 20 and 21 we see the same thing happen all over again:
Verses 1 - 2
The area where Abraham went was in the Philistine country - to the southwest of Jerusalem on the way to Egypt.
Sarah is 90 years old and still beautiful! What spa did she go to anyway?
These kings could do whatever they wanted - they could have taken Sarah if they wanted. It could have also been a strong political connection if he married Sarah.
Abraham was faithful in the big test of faith (believing when God said He would bless Abraham, and then also with the king of Sodom) - but falters in the small things. Doesn’t his happen to us as well?
We get all fired up for the big tests, but when the little every day decisions come about we don’t think they are of any importance. But God truly wants us to be holy through and through - and in fact uses the small things to build big faith.
Jesus said in the parable of the talents:
So don’t let the little things trip you up - things like honesty, integrity, obeying the laws - dare I mention speeding?
So look how God handles this Philistine king:
It doesn’t mean Abimelech is sinless - he just hadn’t had relations with her. Why didn’t God come to Abraham and say "why did you do this, Abe?" Well, he is going to use this pagan king to teach Abraham a lesson - and really it was protection.
God wants the world to know that they can’t mess with His people.
Psalms 91:11-16 (quickview)  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike our foot against a stone. 13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation."
God protected Abraham - in great measure to show the world "my salvation" which would come through Abraham’s descendents. See it wasn’t that Abraham was special - it’s the covenant that’s special.