Abraham, friend and prophet of God, was apparently a slow learner. It hadn’t been that long since he and Sarah lived in Egypt, and here he is, once again, telling the same lies to Abimelech, king of Gerar!
I was genuinely puzzled by this chapter of the Bible. I mean, Abraham already went through this in Egypt with Pharaoh. He told the lie about Sarah because he was afraid of what would happen to him, and it ended up looking like God dealt more severely with Pharaoh instead of dealing with Abraham, who told the lies in the first place.
Okay, so maybe we can give Abraham the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Egypt. The first one’s a freebie, right? But here he is, doing the same exact thing again! And what I want to know is why God says this to Abimelech: "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman."
Abimelech doesn’t know he has done anything wrong. It’s Abraham who lied. Why isn’t God visiting him in the middle of the night with some warnings about what he has done?!
It is clear from this story that Abraham has a problem with honesty, and he also apparently has a problem with judgment: "Abraham replied, 'I said to myself, "There is surely no fear of God in this place..."'" (vs 11)
Boy, was he wrong about that one! Abimelech was revealed to have more "fear of God" than Abraham! I mean, Abimelech believed God and responded immediately to Him. What about Abraham? Where was his "fear of God"? How come he didn’t respect God enough to believe that God was going to take care of him? Maybe it’s part of the condition of the human heart that we think we "see" in others what is really in our own hearts.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this, but here’s one thing we can learn for sure about God: He definitely doesn’t demand perfection when it comes to His prophets and friends! He definitely allows us to make mistakes, and apparently, the same ones over and over.
Maybe this is even more startling than the fact that God appears to be getting all uppity with the wrong person in the story. He allows Abraham to bear His name, to be His ambassador on the earth, even though Abraham is seriously flawed. (Granted, finding a not-seriously-flawed person on the face of the earth by this time would have been a challenge. But still...) God doesn't appear to be very squeamish about claiming us as His friends, even when He's still got a lot left to do to us on the inside!
God doesn’t have a checklist of requirements we must attain to before He will be friends with us. All He needs is a willing and teachable heart. All He needs is a person who will allow themselves to be humbled by God and redirected, when necessary, to a new path. Apparently, even for all his flaws, Abraham had that kind of heart.
I hope I do, too.