Summary: God shows outrageous grace to sinners who continually mess up. His blessings are so undeserved.
At first glance Chapter 20 of Genesis seems about as useful as a snowmobile in the jungle. It’s pretty much an instant replay of what happened in Egypt in chapter 12. But this relatively short chapter is put here for a reason. Abraham and Sarah are going to have to deal with this repetitive sin before they can have the promised son, Isaac.
I think it’s safe to say that until you and I are willing to really deal with sin in our lives, there will be little blessing for us, especially corporately as the church.
Vernon McGee puts it this way, “How many Christians will not seriously judge sin in their lives, and as a result, there is little blessing or answered prayer in their lives? If those who are in leadership in our churches would confess their sins and deal with the sins in their lives, I frankly believe we could have revival. I don’t believe there will be any blessing until sin is dealt with.”
Paul in 1Corinthians 11 says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
In 2 Corinthians he says that he rejoices that his harsh letter caused them godly grief because it led to repentance, and that he did it because he loves them so much. Again he says “examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith, test yourselves. Or do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you – unless of course you fail to meet the test.”
It never says in the Bible that it’s impossible to stop sinning. It’s us who say, “He forgives our sin, that’s why Jesus went to the cross, so I don’t really have to work that hard at being sin free”. Very difficult to stop sinning, yes, in our nature to sin, yes. But we have been given a new nature and the power of the Holy Spirit, the full Spirit of God, if we have truly been born again. And if we take that seriously we do have the power to be slaves of the Spirit rather than slaves of the flesh.
It is not an issue of being able to stop sinning or not, it is an issue of desire as to whether we choose to follow the Spirit or the flesh.
It’s very possible that blessing (and I’m talking here about really seeing God working, bringing people to him through the church), that that kind of blessing is being withheld from the church and from the lives of many believers because we will not seriously deal with our sin. We don’t have this godly grief about our sin.
So this book is really important in terms of Abraham and Sarah dealing with their sin and finally receiving their promise in the next chapter. Sin is deadly serious to God even though he has forgiven it if we have placed our lives in the hands of his son.
So why don’t we begin by looking at:
I. The Repetition of a Failure (vv 1-7)
A. The Deception by Abraham (vv 1-2)
We read that Abraham is on the move again. Not sure why. Maybe the memories of what happened in the valley were too difficult. Maybe he thought more problems were coming, I don’t know. But he journeys toward the land of the Philistines, and much like when he went to Egypt, this was a potentially dangerous land that did not know God. Of course that may be the very reason he’s going there without knowing it himself.
And lo and behold it’s pretty much an instant replay of what happened in Egypt. Abe and Sarah have been doing this for about twenty years now and I guess though he confessed this sin after the Egypt episode, he has not really judged it and dealt with it. Admitting a sin is not the same as agreeing with God and repenting. True broken repentance begins with an attitude of hating our sin and loathing ourselves for having sinned, as God states in Ezekiel a couple of times.
Otherwise we’re no different from unbelievers without the Holy Spirit, who have a natural conscience and admit their mistakes when they get caught. But don’t really repent.
So instead of learning from his mistake in Egypt, he walks by fear instead of faith again, and this time it’s even worse because Sarah also lies. Fear of man and faith in God cannot dwell together in the same heart at the same time. Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”