"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Saturday, August 17, 2019

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter TWENTY

Contributing commentaries by Sonny Islas and James Fire

Studies by Ray Steadman: Old Natures Never Die GEN 20  

GENESIS 20 – by James Fire

Introduction: Our walk with the LORD is a process, one step at a time – and at times it’s three steps forward and two steps back, or four steps forward and one step back. There are times when, after experiencing a victory over sin, that we re-visit the temptation and fall back into what we were delivered from previously.

We see this in the ‘repeat performance’ of Abraham in this chapter, and how he somewhat blundered it. But we also witness the grace and tender mercies of GOD, being patient with his – and our own – repeat performances in failing to resist sin and temptations.

GENESIS 20:1-18
 1 ¶ And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar.  2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, "Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife."  4 But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, "Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also?  5 "Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she, even she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this."  6 And God said to him in a dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.  7 "Now therefore, restore the man's wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours."  

8 ¶ So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid.
 9 And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, "What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done."  10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, "What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?"  11 And Abraham said, "Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.  12 "But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.  13 "And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said to her, 'This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, "He is my brother."'"

 14 ¶ Then Abimelech took sheep, oxen, and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham; and he restored Sarah his wife to him. 
 15 And Abimelech said, "See, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you."  16 Then to Sarah he said, "Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody." Thus she was rebuked.  17 So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; 18 for the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

GENESIS 20:1-2
And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah

Abraham previously dwelt in Mamre, north of and close by to Hebron, and he journeyed from there to this city of Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. We have here a few different cities mentioned by name. 

As we study Scripture, and names of people or places are mentioned, it’s useful many times to research and find the meanings of these names: they will often shed light on the text and bring understanding.

Commentary on GEN 20 from the website Beth Melekh.

In this case, Mamre means “fatness/healthy or strength”, and we learned previously that Hebron means “association, league, or fellowship”; that was the place where Abraham built an altar to the LORD and communed with his Maker. What does Kadesh, Shur and Gerar mean?

Kadesh – sanctified, holiness, set apart.
Shur – simply means ‘wall’.
Gerar – to drag away roughly; also, to ruminate (think intently upon), chew, to continue in an action.

So Abraham did indeed go from the place of strength (Mamre) and fellowship (Hebron), and proceeded through sanctification and holiness, being set apart for the LORD (Kadesh), but as he ends up in Gerar, he hits the proverbial wall (Shur) and he’s stuck in a place where his wife is dragged away (Gerar) by those who would make her a concubine of the king of Gerar. 

Abraham once again, resorts to coaching his wife to tell the people of Gerar that she is his sister (not his wife), fearing for his life if they ever learned the truth (to acquire women for concubines, the husbands were either sold into slavery or killed outright).
Ray Stedman comments,

These are the people among whom Abraham goes. He is evidently upset by what had happened in the destruction of the cities of the plains, and perhaps longs to get away from that infamy and terror. So, he moves down into the south country and comes among these people. The first thing he does there is to tell a lie about his wife. He says she is his sister, exactly as he did thirty years ago. This woman Sarah is still such a lovely creature that she is a lure to all the wolves that are around, and Abraham feels the only way to protect himself is to say that she is his sister. Just as before, the king comes and takes her as his own and gets into trouble.
GENESIS 20:3-5
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. 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

Yet, despite Abraham’s failing here, GOD comes into the picture and defends both Abraham and Sarah by appearing to Abimelech, the king. Hear what the LORD tells him, “You’re a dead man Abimelech!”

The LORD intervenes in the lives of His saints, and protects His own; we see this happen throughout Scripture; I think about PSALM 18:

PSALM 18:6-19
In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. 10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. 12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. 13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. 14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. 15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. 17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. 18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. 19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me
The LORD informs the king that this woman that they abducted (a wrongful act in any circumstance!) is the wife of another man, the wife of Abraham!
Abimelech pleads innocence, making the claim that he is the leader of a “righteous nation” – not true, for it was a routine practice in Gerar to abduct women for concubines and young men and boys for slaves. 

While it’s true that Abimelech was deceived by Abraham, he is not a man of integrity or innocence as we are about to read. This king may have truly believed these things about himself, but GOD knows better: He is the discerner of men’s hearts and knows us far more intimately than we even know ourselves.

Consider Peter’s protest when the LORD told him that he would betray Him, the One that this apostle swore he would never betray. Yet he did, not once, not twice, but three times. And when he discovered that the LORD was right about him, what did he do? He fled the scene and went out and wept bitterly (LUKE 22:55-62).
What I find greatly encouraging is that long before Peter denied Jesus, long before the apostle was even born, the LORD foreknew Peter and he was among the elect of the saved! And all the while Saul of Tarsus was busy persecuting the church, the LORD intended on saving this man, and making him an apostle to the Gentiles.
What have you done recently in a failure to walk uprightly before the LORD? How disappointed did you feel when you realized your failure?

But know this: every temptation we ever fall into, any sin we ever commit, the LORD knew about it since before He said, “Let there be light” – and He saved you anyway.
It’s vital that we not allow the enemy to condemn us and keep us down and out of fellowship with the LORD, but to allow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to convict us, and prompt us to get it right with GOD by repenting and confessing our sin, and washed in the blood of the Lamb!

GENESIS 20:6-7
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

Now we know the truth – it wasn’t the integrity of Abimelech that kept him from touching Sarah, not at all! We hear GOD’s own words, that it was He Himself that kept the king away from sinning against his Maker, restraining him of this evil.

Again, from Ray Stedman,

I wonder sometimes if many of the events that appear to be tragedy are not the kind-heartedness of God restraining people for the sake of those who know him, who love him, keeping them from evil. Paul writes of one who restrains the full manifestation of human sin. Even in his day, "This mystery of lawlessness is already at work." (2 THESS 2:7), but he says there is one "who now restrains it", keeping it in bounds. In other words, if God was not at work restraining human evil, man would have long since blown himself off the face of the earth.”
Furthermore, GOD informs the king that this man Abraham, is His own prophet! A prophet that tells fibs?! Was Abraham, the prophet of GOD a man of like passions, susceptible to the same sort of failings as you and I?

Elijah was!
We are all flawed people to one degree or another – we are therefore to humble ourselves before one another and confess our faults to each other, and pray for one another:

JAMES 5:16-18
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit

The LORD made Abraham a prophet and gifted him for that office by providing insight and ability that are only GOD given, even though he, like Elijah, and we ourselves are people of like passions/weaknesses/flaws. Nevertheless, His calling and gifts upon us are irrevocable as it states in ROMANS 11:29.

Old natures never die; they only smell that way. We’re still capable of the worst sin that you have ever committed -- and more. Abraham has been cowardly for thirty years and he is still capable of being the same thing, hiding behind his wife, subjecting her to dishonor and disgrace, in order to protect himself. He had made a pact with her thirty years before and he had never gotten around to giving her any new instructions, in spite of how much he had grown in grace.

This old Adamic nature with which we are born, which is perverted and twisted so that it never operates as God intended it to, is totally depraved

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

One has to wonder, had not GOD spoken to the king, and informed him who this Abraham was, that he is a prophet of GOD, would they be “very afraid”? Perhaps this jogged their memories concerning Abraham – ‘Oh, this was the man who took on four armies and won (by the grace of GOD! GEN 14). I’ll bet they suspected that since this Abraham is a prophet of GOD that he was somehow involved with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra! And as surely as Sodom lay in ashes – I’m sure the smoke was still ascending into the skies – this same GOD could and would be destruction to Gerar just as He said:

“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”

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

King Abimelech was right, Abraham as a prophet of GOD shouldn’t have led the king astray by this deception; but on the other hand – the king and his men offended greatly by taking this man’s wife away from him: even if she was truly only his sister, how could such an abduction be justified, taking a person that belonged to another?

We see here the hypocrisy of human nature; when caught in sin, we try to distract attention away from ourselves and point out the sin of someone else, often times a sin that is not as grievous as our own. What sin would have been committed had the king and his men simply left Abraham and Sarah alone? None!

Consider the prophet Nathan, when he presented an allegory before King David of a man with one ewe lamb, which was like a daughter to him, and the rich neighbor of his who had an unexpected guest from out of town. The rich man ordered his men to get the neighbor’s ewe lamb instead of one of the hundreds he owned, from his own flocks.
When David heard this, he became unglued and demanded two things: that the rich man would repay his poor neighbor four-fold (which was according to the Law) and that the rich man should be put to death!? That definitely was not the Law!
Yet Nathan declared that he himself, the King, was ‘the rich man’ who had many wives and even more concubines, but he took Uriah’s one and only wife, Bathsheba (2 SAM 12:1-7).
GENESIS 20:10-11
10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? 11 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

Abraham’s assessment was correct; as mentioned previously, when a beautiful woman came into the city (and apparently, even as old as Sarah was, she was still a beauty!), she would run the risk of being snatched and brought to the king as a concubine and as these were ungodly men, with no principles, he more or less knew what was a likely outcome. Which makes one wonder, why did Abraham go into Gerar to begin with? Why didn’t he avoid this place? Was that another misstep on this man’s part?

One thing is certain: that while Abraham was in Gerar, he wasn’t of Gerar – likewise we are in this world, but we are not of this world. The LORD Jesus in His prayer to the Father said as much in JOHN 17:

JOHN 17:16
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

We are pilgrims, strangers – aliens in this world, and as such we are not to adopt into our lives the culture of this fallen world; the culture of sin and covetousness and lust and self-centeredness. We are to abstain from these things and live in holiness:

1 PETER 2:9-12
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation

GENESIS 20:12-13
12 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. 13 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

So, Abraham didn’t tell a complete lie; Sarah was his half-sister. Yet how can we justify a half-lie and claim it isn’t as bad as a complete lie (we sometimes refer to them as white lies and black lies)?

People will often cite the occasion where Rahab intentionally misled her own people, deceiving them by saying that the two Hebrew spies ran away, “but if you hurry,” she said, “you can catch them”; when all along, they were hiding in her house, and once her fellow citizens left to chase after the spies, Rahab led them to the roof of her house to escape. Was she wrong to lie, even though it was to protect the Hebrew spies? It’s interesting to note that God neither commends nor condemns her actions in this matter. Would it have been more righteous to tell the truth and trust that God would defend His own? These are very deep questions regarding the ends justifying the means.
GENESIS 20:14-15
14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and men servants, and women servants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. 15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee

Here we see that Abimelech brought livestock and servants as compensation for Abraham and offers the prophet of GOD to abide anywhere he likes in all the land. He then brings Sarah out to her husband, and the offense is reversed. Then the king says something interesting to Sarah:

16 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

A thousand pieces of silver – that is a substantial price, one that a person might expect to receive for a dowry, but in this case, I believe the king was offering this as a way of recognizing the legitimacy of the marriage of Abraham, so that no other in Gerar would be tempted to snatch Sarah. He then tells her that he has given this great sum “to your brother” he says; interesting he doesn’t say ‘husband’ but ‘brother’. I sense something of a rebuke there in Abimelech’s voice, and this seems verified when he further states that Abraham will be “a covering of [her] eyes”. There are different views on what this statement means:

Some suggest that Abraham would (or should) provide a veil for his wife so that no one would see her and be tempted to take her for their own. Or possibly he meant it as a rebuke – that if only Abraham did provide a veil for her, none of this would have happened (which is doubtful, considering they were accustomed to taking women, married or not).

On the other hand, some say that because Abraham was a prophet, that this would keep Sarah protected, as no one would want to offend any god of a prophet by snatching his wife!

17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children

Now here is something that we learn just now – it wasn’t mentioned before, but it seems that GOD had inflicted the people of Gerar with infertility, because for as long as Abimelech held Sarah hostage, none of the women would conceive. This tells me that this king had a hold of Sarah for quite some time, at least a month or two, otherwise, how would they know they weren’t conceiving?

18 For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife

What lengths will GOD go to protect His own? We see here that He afflicted an entire city for the sake of Abraham and Sarah. Imagine if all of Tucson was afflicted by something from GOD because they intended harm upon one of you?

PSALM 36:6-8 
6 Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast. 7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

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