Abimelech thought Sarah was Abraham’s sister. And she was. They had the same father. But that wasn’t the whole story.
Sarah must have been a stunning mature woman because when Abimelech saw her, he liked what he saw, and took her into his house. (I want to know where she got her face cream) He had every intention of sleeping with this woman.
God appeared to Abimelech in a dream before he did the deed, and told him Sarah was Abraham’s wife. He replied, “I DIDN’T KNOW!”
I read a couple commentaries on this passage and was puzzled at what one of them had to say on the subject. The author said that Abimelech’s heart did not condemn him because he was not “knowingly and wittingly” sinning against God. He goes on to say that God knows the honesty of the heart and will acknowledge it.
So why are we sending missionaries into remote tribes in Africa? If they don’t know they’re sinning and will get a free pass, aren’t we complicating things by telling them about Jesus? And why did Jesus tell us to go tell the world about Him if people who don’t know about Him aren’t condemned when their hearts are honest?
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Does that mean what I think it means?
Here’s what I see in the account of Abimelech and Sarah. Abimelech was sinning. Maybe not physically, but certainly in his mind. God told him to stop. He did acknowledge the fact that Abimelech didn’t know Sarah was a married woman, that he’d been deceived. God got his attention before Abimelech went any further.
Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die. (Gen 20:6-7)
Abimelech listened to God’s warnings. He didn’t go through with his plan to take Sarah as his wife. And that’s how God wants us to respond to His attempts to get us to stop sinning, too.
You’ve heard His warnings. They may have come through the voice of your pastor on a Sunday morning. They may be your mother’s voice in your head, or from the uneasiness you get when reading His Word. His warnings may come when you find it hard to pray because of that sin you are planning, or living with. You may feel guilt, or shame, or sadness, or uneasiness, and those may be God’s way of getting your attention before you go any further in that sin.
The problem comes when we get so used to living with God’s promptings, we become masters in ignoring them. We learn to live with guilt. We stop trying to pray. And we postpone spending any time in His Word.
Hear God say, “Stop.” Consider the truth that every sin comes with a death penalty. And understand that God wants to stop you before you go any further, because He loves you. He wants you to obey Him because He wants to fellowship with you. He wants you to confess your sin and allow His blood to cover that sin.
Maybe you honestly don’t know that what you are doing is a sin. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t trying to get your attention to point that important fact out to you. Ignorance doesn’t get a free pass, and He will stop at nothing to get you to recognize sin so He can forgive you when you ask.
Abimelech did the right thing in response to God’s warnings. I pray we all will do the same.