Lies, Dreams and Healing Prayers
Text: Genesis 20
Proposition: When we resort to deception and half truths we give up the opportunity to trust God.
Introduction: I heard a story once about a stable that caught on fire. As the smoke began to build and the flames gained strength the owner of a horse still in the stable grabbed a blanket and ran in. He folded the blanket in half and then put it over the horses eyes and with a calm voice led the animal right past the flames and fear that were all about them. The horse trusted, partly because of what he couldn’t see and partly because of who it was that led him. That picture of trust is how God seeks to lead us, inviting us always to choose to trust Him. (run You Tube)
In Genesis 20 Abraham is in a trust test with God. He’s just seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he may even have heard about the mess Lot was now in with his two daughters. For whatever reason he leaves this place of oaks and pasture near Hebron where he’s lived for nearly 20 years and heads to the south. He goes to Gerar, a large city occupying more than 40 acres in that day, just due east of modern day Gaza. God had visibly spoken with Abraham, God promised that within the year he and Sara would have a child. But despite this very real experience with God, Abraham struggled to trust God, to let God be his protector and Lord… Genesis 20.
I. Trust… a Heart Over Head Approach to God.
You remember Proverbs 3:5, 6, “Trust in the Lord…lean not upon your own understanding…”, a great Proverb but not an easy task. Abraham was a survivor, the mistake he had made continually was in believing that he was the only one who could save himself. He tells Sarah to pose as his sister so that people more powerful than he wouldn’t kill him in order to take her for themselves. If this sounds familiar it’s because Abraham used exactly that same strategy when he was in Egypt, Genesis 12:12, 13. Turns out that was a disaster then too, it ensured his survival for the moment but it wasn’t what God had in mind in terms of trust. This second time is even worse, Sarah is soon to be pregnant, her child is to be Abrahams offspring, from this child would come not only the nation of Israel but even the very Messiah, Jesus Christ. For Abraham to take things into his own hands is not only refusing to trust but refusing to believe what God had said. So Abraham lied to protect himself. To lie is to deceive, to offer something deceitful in order to gain something valuable. A lie always has that in view, it is an effort to get something that we believe God won’t provide. In fact this was a premeditated strategy for Abraham. Even though he knew the truth about who God is, he still wasn’t willing to throw away his old strategies. Perhaps the key to trust is found in those first words of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding…”. Trust requires a whole hearted belief from us. Trust can’t be half hearted. Perhaps that was Abrahams problem, his understanding, his reason, his intellect, which was a strength of character for him became a weakness when he trusted in it more than he trusted in God.
II. Trust…a Call to Action That Acknowledges God’s Person, Presence, Plan.
It says that God came to Abimilech in a dream by night. I’m amazed at the way we are designed, it’s so complex that scientists today still don’t know how dreams occur. What they know is that 20% of all oxygen and blood are directed to the brain, that brain activity increases, not decreases, when we go to sleep, that the brain generates electrical energy the equivalent of about 10watts. In this amazing area of our being, in a dream, God speaks to Abimilech. In this place there is no unbelief. In this place Abimilech hears the charge laid against him, that he has taken another man’s wife, that he will die if he does not restore Sarah to Abraham. It is almost like a scene in a court room, Abimilech defends his actions, proclaims his innocence, points to the deception of Sarah herself saying she was Abrahams sister. Not for a moment does Abimilech challenge the existence of the Lord who is speaking to him, he doesn’t for a second question the truth of what will occur if he resists. He proclaims the integrity of God who will not slay a righteous nation. The Lord’s person, presence and plan are very real to him. He understands that not only is his life at risk but so are the very lives of all who are with him. The sovereignty of God to do so is not questioned by Abimilech. God is asking Abimilech to take action, an action that acknowledges the person, presence and plan of God. In a very real sense Abimilech trusted God, trusted that what He said He would do was absolutely going to happen. His belief is a stark contrast to Abrahams. As soon as Abimilech wakes up, early in the morning, he calls his servants and tells them what has just happened and the fear of the Lord’s hand shook them all. To trust God isn’t just about relaxing in His love for you, it also has the element of being called to action. Think again about Proverbs 3:5,6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not upon your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him…”. Sometimes our ways have to be reversed, (set Sarah free) if we are truly going to acknowledge Him. Trust calls for action.
III. Trust…Recognizing the Sovereign Correction, Blessing of God.
The last part of Proverbs 3:5,6 says, “and He shall direct your paths.” He shall direct…that sounds like the sovereign action of God in a person’s life. How does He do that, what does it look like? It’s right here in our passage. Abimilech, the person of power, calls Abraham before him and rebukes him. He asks Abraham three questions:
1. What have you done to us? Have you any idea of how dangerous your actions, your deceit are to us? Your fake politeness just about caused our deaths!
2. How have I offended you? The consequence of not knowing the truth about God and you is so great that surely it must mean that you really hate me. Why do you hate with such silence and deceit?
3. What did you have in view or what were you hoping to accomplish? Surely such deceit that would have brought judgment on scores of people must have been done for a great reason. It couldn’t have been something so small as selfishness.
Abrahams response to these questions, sovereign questions from God through Abimilech, Abrahams response is to blame shift. “I didn’t think you feared God. She really is my sister, I only half lied. God caused me to wander.” That word wander literally means, “to err, to stagger like being drunk, to be led astray ethically”. You, Sarah, God…it wasn’t my fault! When God corrects you be quick to agree with the truth of your sin, seek forgiveness, humble yourself. Abraham was still learning this truth. God directs our paths through correction, even by the correction of non-Christains sometimes.
Then God heaps burning coals as it were on Abrahams head, He has Abimilech the godless enemy bless Abraham. Sheep, oxen, servants, silver…do you think that Abraham was not a man of integrity? The unworthiness of Abraham to be blessed and yet is blessed is what God uses to direct Abrahams paths. He humbles Abraham. The land is opened up before him, dwell wherever you wish. To Sarah comes the bitter chastisement to not be complicit in deceit. She is restored publicly, before all with a thousand pieces of silver which, says Abimilech, I have given to your ‘brother’. Thus she was rebuked or set right before everyone. Be sure your sin will be exposed. With blessing God directs our steps.
In a peculiar step of irony that proclaims restoration, God directs Abraham to pray for Abimilech. Not only is the death sentence repealed because of Abrahams prayer and Abimilechs obedience to believe and restore Sarah, but now God heals Abimilech, his wife and all the female servants of infertility through the prayer of Abraham. Healing prayer, it seems, is not based on the worthiness of the one who prays. It is based on the worthiness of God who directs our lives by pure grace, absolutely undeserved favor. Healing prayer seeks forgiveness, seeks restoration, seeks life. Healing prayer points to the glory of the Lord who is faithful.
So Proverbs 3:5,6 are for us today, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not upon your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” This week…embrace Proverbs 3:5,6.