From there Abraham traveled to the region of the Negev and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he was staying in Gerar, Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar had Sarah brought to him. (Genesis 20:1-2)
Why would Abraham lie about his wife and willingly allow her to be taken by another man? For the second time? Later on he tells us why: “I thought, ‘There is absolutely no fear of God in this place. They will kill me because of my wife.’” (v 11).
Abraham’s acting out of fear, and fear is a powerful motivator. How many times have you lied, out of fear for what people might think of you? How many times have you fudged your taxes, out of fear that you’ll owe a lot of money? How many times have you tweaked your business reports, out of fear that your boss might be upset?
Fear is a symptom of our failure to trust God, and God uses the pagan Abimelech to confront Abraham about it. But then God does something surprising: he uses Abimelech to bless Abraham with money, livestock, and servants. What’s going on here? God’s not supposed to bless our lack of faith, he’s supposed to curse it! He should be punishing Abraham and taking everything away from him!
Instead, God is fulfilling the promise he made to Abraham many years before: “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Even though Abraham is hugely imperfect, God continues to bless him so he can be a blessing to others. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4, “We have this treasure in clay jars.” We have the treasure of God’s mercy and grace to give to the world, and it’s been entrusted to feeble, weak, sinful jars of clay like us. Why? “To show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” God loves to use imperfect people like us so he shines more brightly!