Reading through the Bible together
Abraham, still very human, like ourselves, had not learned the lesson from his mistake in Egypt. He repeats the very same deception now with Abimelech, king of the Philistines. Notice how God works with a pagan king to spare him from unwittingly violating one of God’s commands. Notice also how Abimelech is more “righteous” (v. 4) and has more integrity (vv. 5-6) than God’s prophet (v. 7) and friend (Jas 2:23), the model of righteousness (Gal 3:6-9,29), at this point. He asks God, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? . . . In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this” (Gen 20:4-5). The Philistines were a righteous nation? At that point, they appear to be more righteous than Abraham, the friend of God, prophet, and model of righteousness. What’s going on here? How often do we let God down, when we should be His representatives before the world?
God spared Abimelech from unwittingly committing sin by appearing to him in a dream (v. 6), but God had not cast away His friend either. God instructed Abimelech that the errant prophet would pray for him and he would live (vv. 7,17-18). When confronted by the heathen king regarding his dishonesty, Abraham confessed that he thought (wrongly) that the fear of God was not in that place (vv. 9-11). Still, he attempted to rationalize his lie (vv. 12-13). Are we sometimes put to shame when those we may consider to be unbelievers turn out to be more righteous than ourselves? God is at work even in the lives of the “heathen,” to save them. We must be careful not to judge them, for they too are precious in the sight of God, and they may have more integrity than we, at least at times.
Professor, Southern Adventist University