Genesis 20 has the story of Abraham and Sarah on the move. He came into the territory of Abimelech and “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” Abraham was afraid that the king would take his bride and kill him – so he tells a lie. Abimelech did take Sarah and bring her to his palace, but God gets involved. He comes to Abimelech in a dream and tells him that he is a dead man for taking another man’s wife. Abimelech cries foul – he had no idea that Sarah was married. After all Abraham and Sarah had lied to him. Fortunately for Abimelech he had not so much as approached her.
“In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” That is Abimelech’s plea to God. He had no idea. He was deceived. He didn’t do anything intentionally. But God already knows it and says “it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her”. What a mess. You have a husband a wife who have lied about their relationship and a king who took her to be part of his harem. And then God gets into the picture. Definitely soap opera material.
God tells Abimelech to return Sarah and he gets with it. He “rose early in the morning” to tell his servants the story and make sure that Sarah gets back to Abraham. He has no interest in messing with God on this one. When he confronts Abraham about the lie – of course Abraham justifies himself. “She is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife”. Technically she is a sister in the Lord is his excuse. Weak, Abraham, at the very least. His decision to be deceitful almost cost Sarah her purity and it also could easily have cost Abimelech and his family their lives.
God makes it clear that had Abimelech violated Sarah – he and his would have been dead. Not fair is it? Sin is sin whether we know it and do it consciously or unconsciously. God’s standards are not based on our knowledge. God did take action against Abimelech already – “the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife”. Even though nothing had happened there was punishment in motion. And part of fixing this was that Abraham had to intercede for the king and his folks. “Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children”. God does work in mysterious ways. A king does what he always did – deceived along the path – and now the deceiver has to pray to restore things to the way they were prior to the deceit. God used it and Abraham and Sarah were given free reign of some land there. The mysteries of God never cease to amaze…..