Were It Not for Grace! (Gen. 20:1-18)

BBBI - OT101.2 - Genesis II  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Guard your testimony before those with whom you sojourn, and when the Holy Spirit reveals your short-comings, stay sensitive, and keep a short account of sin so you can pray and lead others to Jesus. God uses us to further His Kingdom, despite who we are, just dirty, rotten sinners, saved by grace!

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Other Possible Titles: Third Time's a Charm / Three Strikes & You're Out


Genesis 20:6–7 KJV 1900
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
Gen. 20:
Get Attention:
"We make our friends and our enemies,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “but God appoints our next-door neighbor.” Someone has defined a neighbor as “a person who can get into your house in a minute, but it takes two hours to get him out.” Neighbors can be a great source of blessing and even grow closer to us than some of our relatives. “Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off,” counseled Solomon (). However, neighbors can be a problem at times, whether believers or unbelievers. In fact, we can be a problem to our neighbors! [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Obedient, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1991), 84.]
Raise Need:
We need to learn from Abraham here in his moment of weakness, and let his example motivate us afresh and anew to "lay aside...the sin that doth so easily beset us" so that we can run our Christian race unencumbered, pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Orient Theme:
One is often struck with the amazing difference between what God’s people in Christ are in His view and what they are in the world’s view. God sees His own through Christ, although in themselves, they are often feeble and inconsistent. [Summarized Bible]
State Purpose:
My purpose is to get you to examine your own testimony before those with whom you sojourn in the world.
Main Thought:
Sin has many tools but a lie is a handle that fits them all. If the truth is stretched, expect it eventually to fly back and sting you. [Summarized Bible]
After his victory over the kings, Abraham journeyed south, and took up his abode in Gerar. This was the centre of a race of men who in all probability had driven out the original possessors of the land, were becoming more and more warlike, and were afterwards to become known as the Philistines.
As Abraham approached, an old fear recurred, and he practised again that dishonesty with regard to Sarah, which had brought him into trouble in Egypt.
Through the medium of a dream, God warned Abimelech of his peril; and in his plea of integrity and innocency addressed to One Whom he recognized as the supreme Lord, there is an evident revelation of the influence produced by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is clearly manifest in the form of his question “Lord, wilt Thou slay even a righteous nation?” The answer of God recognized the integrity of the man’s heart, and affirmed His care for him, warning him as to what his course of action ought to be.
Again we have the picture of the pagan king, that is, a king outside the covenant of promise and revelation, rebuking this man of faith. The nobility of Abraham is manifest in his open confession of what he had done. The account of the incident closes with the gifts of Abimelech presented to Abraham, and the prayer of Abraham offered for Abimelech.
These deflections from the pathway of a simple and obedient faith in the life of Abraham did not occur in the greater things of his life, but rather in the application of the principle of faith to the smaller details thereof. This was the second time that Abraham attempted in his own wisdom, to steer clear of a danger which he feared; and on each occasion he ran upon the very rocks he dreaded. The results were that the man who stood as a witness for Jehovah, was driven to the practice of deceit, failed in the testimony he ought to have borne, and consequently suffered the degradation of being censured by these men.
Our deflections from faith occur most often through our failure to allow God to undertake in the small matters of life. Some business worry, or home difficulty, or personal danger, drives us to acts that dishonour the Master. That is the man of supreme faith who waits for God in the commonplaces, as well as in the crises. [G. Campbell Morgan, The Analyzed Bible: The Book of Genesis, vol. 9 (New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1911), 131–132.]

I. Abraham's Third Misstep (Gen. 20:1-7)

A. The Deception (Gen. 20:1-2)

1. Gerar - the Place (v. 1)

Genesis 20:1 KJV 1900
And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

2. The Habit of Sin (v. 2)

Genesis 20:2 KJV 1900
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

B. The Dream ()

1. God Informs the Sinner (Gen. 20:3-6)

a. Providential Intervention (v. 3)

Genesis 20:3 KJV 1900
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.
Demonstrates the equity of God's justice when contrasted to the wickedness of Sodom & Gomorrah, as the whole judgment of God hinges on the condition and motive of the human heart regarding morality.

b. Pleading Ignorance (vv. 4-5)

Genesis 20:4–5 KJV 1900
But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.

c. Getting to First Base - Significant Firsts

Integrity (vv. 5-6) - innocence, simplicity, uprightness
Prophet (v. 7) - here in the sense of how Balak would have thought of Balaam (magician?)
Sin (v. 6)
The basic meaning of this verb is illustrated in : There were 700 left-handed Benjamite soldiers who “could sling stones at a hair breadth, and not miss.” The meaning is extended in : “He who makes haste with his feet misses the way” (rsv, niv, kjv nasb, “sinneth”). The intensive form is used in : “That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it.…”
From this basic meaning comes the word’s chief usage to indicate moral failure toward both God and men, and certain results of such wrongs. The first occurrence of the verb is in , God’s word to Abimelech after he had taken Sarah: “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and also I have kept you from sinning against Me” (nasb; cf. ).
Sin against God is defined in : “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them.…” Also note : “And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty.” The verb may also refer to the result of wrongdoing, as in : “… Then let me bear the blame for ever.” , after forbidding adulterous marriage practices, concludes: “… For that is abomination before the Lord: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin …” (kjv); the rsv renders this passage: “You shall not bring guilt upon the land.” Similarly, those who pervert justice are described as “those who by a word make a man out to be guilty” (, niv). This leads to the meaning in : “And he … took the goat … and slew it, and offered it for sin.…” The effect of the offerings for sin is described in : “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean …” (cf. ). Another effect is seen in the word of the prophet to evil Babylon: “You have forfeited your life” ( rsv, niv; kjv, nasb, “sinned against”).
The word is used concerning acts committed against men, as in : “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child …?” and : “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you …” (nasb; niv, “wrong, wronged”).
The Septuagint translates the group of words with the verb hamartano and derived nouns 540 times. They occur 265 times in the New Testament. The fact that all “have sinned” continues to be emphasized in the New Testament (, ; cf. ; ; ). The New Testament development is that Christ, “having made one sacrifice for sins for all time sat down at the right hand of God.… For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (, nasb). [W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 233–234.]
Kindness/Mercy [2nd time - (first was Lot, )] (v. 13)
Cause to Wander - never used positively, but stumbling, to err, etc. (v. 13)

d. Lead us not into temptation...deliver us from evil (v. 6)

Genesis 20:6 KJV 1900
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.

2. God Instructs the Sinner (Gen. 20:7)

a. The wages of sin is death (v. 7)

Genesis 20:7 KJV 1900
Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
Herein is the first time in the Bible where the word “prophet” appears. Now, if there was ever a time God wouldn’t want to introduce Abraham as a prophet, I would think it would be right here. I would think God would be embarrassed by, upset with, and ashamed of Abraham. But such is not the case, for God says to Abimelech, “That man who told a lie, who misled you, who jeopardized his wife and your nation—he’s My man; he’s My spokesman; he’s My prophet.”
tells us that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This means when God gives a spiritual gift, a calling, a ministry to a man, woman, or church, He doesn’t change His mind. He doesn’t take it back. If God has given you a gift, be it ministry, music, prophecy, teaching, or evangelism—if He’s given you a skill, be it carpentry, mechanic ability, athletic ability, it’s yours to keep.
Perhaps you’ve seen people stumble, fall, drop the ball, and you wonder how God could still use him, her, or them. The answer is that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Sin will always bring about its own sadness, depression, defeat, and despair, for the way of the transgressor is hard (). The fact remains, however, that because the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, God will still use sinners.
I say this because I have found that the thing which hobbles so many people in their service for the Lord is thinking, “God can’t use me. God wouldn’t use me. God won’t use me because I’ve failed so miserably; I’ve botched it so badly.” That’s the voice of the enemy, for the voice of the Lord says, “Because you didn’t earn the gifts I gave you or the calling I sovereignly placed upon you, there’s no way you can lose them either.”
If you’ve been on the sidelines because you think you’ve messed up once too often, remember this story and the mercy of our Master, the grace of our God, the kindness of our King. Truly, there’s no one like Him. [Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume One: Genesis–Job (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 84–85.]
God gives Abimelech notice of his danger of sin, and his danger of death for his sin. Every wilful sinner is a dead man, but Abimelech pleads ignorance. [Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), .]

b. Leave thy gift...be reconciled...Our Great High Priest (v. 7)

II. Abraham's Mistaken Perceptions (Gen. 20:8-13)

A. Painful Questions (Gen. 20:8-10)

1. Moved by the Fear of God to get right and stay right (v. 8)

Genesis 20:8 KJV 1900
Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.

2. Discerning Offenses (vv. 9-10)

Sins of Omission & Commission (v. 9)
Genesis 20:9 KJV 1900
Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.
Why did you lie to me? (v. 10)
Genesis 20:10 KJV 1900
And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?

B. A Pitiful Answer (Gen. 20:11-13)

...the best of men are men at the best; and God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, remembers that we are dust. [F. B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day by Day: A Devotional Commentary, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1914–1918), 29.]

1. The fear of man (v. 11)

Genesis 20:11 KJV 1900
And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.
Fear of man and faith in God cannot dwell together in the same heart. [Wiersbe, 87.]
Sink in thou blessed sign! Pass all my spirit through And sever with thy sacred touch The hollow from the true.
Through my heart’s very ground Thy ploughshare must be driven, Till all are better loved than self, And yet less loved than heaven.
And Abraham said, Because . . .
Humiliation and humility must not be confounded. Humility can never be humiliated. To be humiliated means to be lowered in condition. The word as applied to our Lord has no reference whatever to His personal calibre, but to the lowering of His external form from to Humiliation as applied to us means a lowering of condition in the sense of being mortified. Whenever we pride ourselves on anything as being of real acceptance to God and realise that He absolutely ignores that thing, we will experience the ghastly humbling of humiliation. [Oswald Chambers, Not Knowing Where (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1996).]

2. Stretching the truth (v. 12)

Genesis 20:12 KJV 1900
And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
Abraham and Sarah had convinced themselves that they were not telling a lie at all. It was only a “half-truth” (), and half-truths are not supposed to be as wicked as outright lies. They are worse! “A lie consists in the motive quite as much as in the actual words,” wrote F.B. Meyer. A half-truth has just enough fact in it to make it plausible and just enough deception to make it dangerous. [Wiersbe, 88.]

3. Blaming God and Bringing Others into Our Sins (v. 13)

Genesis 20:13 KJV 1900
And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
This is moving us in the narrative to fully understand why Jehovah is about to test Abraham's faithfulness concerning Isaac.
It is the language and wry attitude of the pagan; one man of the world might be speaking to another. [Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 149.]
When believers sin, they suffer. Charles Spurgeon said, “God does not allow His children to sin successfully.” When we deliberately disobey God, we suffer both from the consequences of our sins and from the chastening hand of God, unless we repent and submit (). God in His grace will forgive our sins (), but God in His sovereignty must allow sin to produce a sad harvest (). Read and to see what happened to David physically and spiritually because he would not repent and confess his sins to the Lord....When believers sin, they are disciplined by God until they come to a place of repentance and confession. This discipline is not enjoyable, but it is profitable; and in the end, it produces happiness and holiness to the glory of God. Sinning believers can be forgiven and restored....The important thing is that we deal with our sins humbly and honestly, confess them to God, judge them and forsake them, and claim His promises of forgiveness (; ; ). Abraham and Sarah made a new beginning, and so can you....The purpose of discipline is restoration, and the purpose of restoration is ministry and blessing. [Wiersbe, 89, 91-92.]

III. Abraham's Mediating Prayer (Gen. 20:14-18)

A. Restitution (v. 14)

Genesis 20:14 KJV 1900
And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
He that does wrong, whoever he is, prince or peasant, shall certainly receive for the wrong which he has done, unless he repent, and, if possible, make restitution. [Henry and Scott, Ge 20:1.]

B. Release (v. 15)

Genesis 20:15 KJV 1900
And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.

C. Reproof (v. 16)

Genesis 20:16 KJV 1900
And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.

D. Revival (vv. 17-18)

Genesis 20:17–18 KJV 1900
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.


Abraham, "3 Strikes! You're Out!" This might be how men would look at old Abraham, but thank God for mercy. God's not finished with Abraham yet, He's still going to test His faith and use him to point the world to Jesus! Yes, he made some missteps along the way. Yes, he gave into weakness through misperception and the fear of man. But God still used that old sinner to get a pagan ruler right with Him!
God Wants You To:
Friend, God's not through with you yet. Guard your testimony before those with whom you sojourn, and when the Holy Spirit reveals your short-comings, stay sensitive, and keep a short account of sin so you can pray and lead others to Jesus. God uses us to further His Kingdom, despite who we are, just dirty, rotten sinners, saved by grace!
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