Summary: God is always what we need when we need Him. He always restores and he always provides.
Restoring a relationship can be a very difficult thing. Whether it be a completely severed relationship, restoring a marriage after infidelity or an affair with pornography, or even just after a regular argument.
If you can boil it down to three things that need to happen to restore a relationship after any kind of disruption, I think it would be these, and I think they’re supported by Scripture in how God restores us to himself. First there has to be a mutual desire for the relationship to be restored. God always desires this with us, but we may not always be willing. It takes both parties.
Second, there has to be a truthful acknowledgement or confession of our part in the disruption even if we are only 1% to blame. And both people have to agree about each other’s part. Of course with this also comes real forgiveness where we’re not going to hold this over the other person even if they are mostly to blame.
And finally, and probably most importantly, there needs to be an ongoing change in behaviour. If a person tells me they’re sorry, and continues to do the same things, a continued relationship is very difficult and I lose faith in their apology, as they would if I did the same thing. Trust is vital in a relationship.
If a person doesn’t change, or live up to their end of the “restoration” clause that has been at least unspokenly agreed upon, it doesn’t matter how much confession and desire there is, the relationship will fall apart again at some point. Unresolved issues don’t go away, they just go underground.
So today we’re going to examine God’s method of restoration with us starting with the fact that:
I. God Always Restores (vv 22-24)
After Isaac is born and the king has been restored through Abraham’s intercession, Abimelech and his army commander tell Abraham that obviously God is with you in all that you do. God is now blessing Abraham and Sarah again after they restored their fellowship with the Lord.
This is true for us as believers as well. Though there may be times when blessings are withheld, and we are disciplined, the purpose is always to restore, to draw us back to him. And the purpose of restoration is fruitful ministry and blessing to others.
Listen to Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus”. Do people recognize that we have been with Jesus, that God is with us in all that we do? Often it’s truthful boldness where Jesus shines through us.
However, Abraham’s relationship with Abimelech still needs to be restored, because it’s clear that he doesn’t fully trust Abraham after the deception of chapter 20. The king and his commander acknowledge that God is with Abraham and Sarah, and they want assurance that Abraham would play fair because he was so powerful. So they strike up a treaty that Abraham swears to.
Now I think it’s important to look at how God restores people to a relationship with him. First of all we must notice that it’s never God who breaks fellowship with us, it’s always us who abandons God by disobeying His will. He loves us so much that he will not lock us up in order to keep us with Him. He gives us freedom to be with Him or not. But it’s always His desire to have us.
Another thing to notice is that God wants all his children to be blessings to others. When we’re not, we’re also out of fellowship with him. Abraham was out of fellowship with God and he became a curse rather than a blessing - here with Abimelech, when he had a child with Hagar, and when he lied in Egypt twenty years earlier.
This is a critical point for us today. When we are children of God, and we choose not to be in God’s will, we become a curse to the church, and to those outside the church, because of our negative witness. Curse here is really just meaning a stumbling block to others coming to a saving knowledge of Christ, or growing in Christ. This happens in the church as we stir up distractions from the true mission of the church because we are not in fellowship with him, and thus out of touch with his will.
Now Abraham makes up for his previous sin by becoming a peacemaker with Abimelech and bringing blessings again to him and his people. Then what is the next thing we see God do after restoring the relationship and making Abe a blessing again? He tests him, and we will see this famous test in the next chapter with his son Isaac.