Genesis 20: Lessons for Avoiding Sin From Abraham’s Lies to Abimelech

Introduction: God tested Abraham’s faith ten times (m. Avot 5:3). The ten tests included: 1. The call from his homeland; 2. The famine in Canaan; 3. The abduction of Sarah in Egypt; 4. The war with the four kings; 5. The long wait for a son and his marriage to Hagar; 6. The exile of Hagar after she gave birth; 7. The commandment of circumcision; 8. The abduction of Sarah by Abimelech; 9. The exile of Ishmael; and 10. The sacrifice of Isaac (Torah Club, Unrolling the Scroll, Book 1 (First Fruits of Zion, 2nd ed. 2014, p. 44)). This chapter recounts Abraham’s failed test of faith when a Philistine king named Abimelech abducted Sarah. Although Abraham’s faith had grown, he failed this test. Even worse, this was a repeat of a prior failure when a Pharaoh abducted Sarah. Abraham showed that he had not learned from his prior mistakes. From his failed eighth test, God reveals seven lessons for protecting yourself from sin. These include: (1) vigilance where your flesh is weak; (2) gratitude for God’s deliverance; (3) honesty; (4) confession of sin; (5) personal responsibility; (6) integrity; and (7) humility.

First, like his prior unsanctioned trip to Egypt, Abraham made an unsanctioned trip to Gerar in southern Israel where a Philistine king lived. In both places, the theft of wives was common. In both places, Abraham had Sarah lie to protect himself. He failed to learn his lesson. From this, God reveals that you need to stay vigilant in avoiding Satan’s strongholds where your flesh is weak. Second, after Abraham lost his wife for the second time, God was forced to intervene to protect Sarah. From this, God reveals that you should be grateful that He is faithful, even when you are not. If you fail to show gratitude for your unearned mercy and grace, you are more likely to misuse His mercy and grace as a license to sin. Third, after God advised Abimelech of the truth, Abimelech confronted Abraham over his lies. From this, God reveals that you can help to stay out of sin by being honest. Lying puts you under the devil’s influence and makes you a false witness for Christ. Fourth, after Abimelech confronted Abraham over lies, Abraham failed to confess his sins. Instead, he sought to justify his deceit. From this, God reveals that you can help to avoid sin by confessing your sins to others. Fifth, to justify his actions, Abraham then blamed God for his wanderings. From this, God reveals that you can help to avoid sin by taking personal responsibility for your mistakes. Sixth, in another moment of weakness, Abraham accepted compensation from the pagan king for his own deceit. From this, God reveals that you can help to avoid sin by having integrity in your walk. Never accept things that you are not entitled to. Finally, God made Abraham pray for the curse that He imposed upon Abimelech to be lifted. This would have been an awkward experience for Abraham. The curse was the result of Abraham’s deceit. From this, God reveals that you must walk in humility to help protect yourself from sin. Every believer in Christ is just as much a sinner as Abraham.

1. Vigilance: Don’t Return to Your Areas of Weakness (Satan’s Strongholds). Gen. 20:1-2.

  • The failure of Abraham’s faith and trust in God when tested in Gerar. Without being prompted by God to move, Abraham traveled to a Philistine territory in southern Canaan where, like Egypt, the murder of men to take their wives was common. Feeling the same fear he felt in Egypt, he again told Sarah to lie about their marriage: “1 Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar. “ Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.” (Gen. 20:1-2). At the time, Sarah was 90 years old. Thus, Abraham’s fears might seem unreasonable. Yet, Abimelech later took Sarah. Many infer that when God restored Sarah’s womb to give birth to Isaac He also restored her youthful beauty. Yet, His purpose in restoring her would have been frustrated if Abimelech (instead of Abraham) got her pregnant. God previously told Abraham that Sarah would give birth within 12 months of their encounter: “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” (Gen. 17:21). He later repeated this promise to Sarah when she doubted it (Gen. 18:9-14). Thus, the encounter would have happened close to Sarah’s appointed time for her conception. Satan would have known this. Thus, he tried to thwart the seed leading to Jesus. Ironically, Abraham found himself in the same place “on the way to Shur” where “the angel of the LORD” met Hagar after Sarah’s mistreatment and Abraham’s neglect (Gen. 16:7). Abraham and Sarah deserved to be mistreated and neglected the same way they mistreated and neglected Hagar. But God is sovereign and will not allow His plans to be thwarted.

Abraham falsely presents his wife to Abimelech as his sister1

  • The failure of Abraham’s faith and trust in God when tested in Egypt. God previously tested Abraham’s faith with a severe drought. Abraham failed that test by fleeing to Egypt. He then committed the exact same sin by lying to a Pharaoh about his marriage to Sarah: “10 Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.’ 14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.” (Gen. 12:10-15). It was sadly common at that time for foreign women to be abducted. The Jews also married women that they captured in warfare (Dt. 21:10-14). The context of these accounts suggest that it was also common for foreign men to be killed outside of warfare so that powerful men could take their wives as concubines. During both of these journeys, Abraham’s faith failed him. He failed to ask for God’s guidance, and he failed to trust in His promises. Abraham placed at risk God’s plan to have the promised line leading to Jesus run through both of them.

  • Be vigilant to avoid Satan’s strongholds where your flesh is weak. Abraham clearly feared for his life in places like Egypt and the Philistine lands where men were murdered for their wives. These were Satan’s strongholds. They were also places where Abraham’s flesh was weak. Thus, Abraham should have learned from his first failure with Pharaoh not to return to a similar place. Although God has given you a mind to overcome temptation, you are not to reason with something that tempts you. Instead, just must flee any temptation that might cause you to sin: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14). “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:22). You must also be vigilant at all times for things that might cause you to sin: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11). A recovering alcoholic should not hang out in a bar if his or her flesh is weak there. Likewise, a recovering drug addict should not hang out with drug-using friends. A pornography addict must also guard his eyes. If you resist the devil, he will flee from you: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). Are you avoiding Satan’s strongholds in your life where your flesh is weak and you are prone to sin?

  • Don’t travel to places where you might place your marriage at risk. By traveling to this Philistine territory, Abraham not only put himself in a place where his flesh was weak, he also placed himself in an area where he put his marriage at risk. Without God’s intervention, Abimelech would have raped Sarah and made her his concubine. Believers today may not face the same peril. Yet, you can place your marriage in peril by being in the wrong place or by hanging out with members of the opposite sex. Are you placing your marriage at risk?

  • Abraham’s failure to teach his son from his mistakes. Abraham compounded his sin by failing to teach his son Isaac from his mistakes. Isaac would later find himself in this same desert place before a different Abimelech king during a later drought (Gen. 26:1). While living in Philistine territory, he also feared that a different Abimelech would kill him to take his wife Rebekah. Thus, like his father, he instructed Rebekah to also lie and claim that she was his sister: “When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ for he was afraid to say, ‘my wife,’ thinking, ‘the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.’” (Gen. 26:7). Abraham should have taught Isaac to avoid those places where his flesh was weak. Are you teaching your children from your mistakes?

  • God tests you to show you where your faith is lacking or where your heart is evil. When God tests you, rejoice that He does so to build up your faith instead of ripping you down: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Jam. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). While Satan’s temptations are meant to cause you to sin, God’s tests are meant to build your faith. He also tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). David committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder. But he later invited God to expose his hidden sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you allowing God to show you your hidden sins? When He does, do you repent of them?

  • God molds your faith with similar trials. Just as He molded Abraham into a man of faith through trials in the world, God also molds your faith through trials in the world: “But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” (Dt. 4:20). “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10). Are you letting God mold you?

  • Never fear evil people. Like Abraham, believers will do foolish things when they let their fear of other people control their actions: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). The Lord is the only thing that you are to fear (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). The last time you felt fear, had you taken your eyes off Jesus?

  • God’s Word – the antidote to fear and lacking faith. If your faith is lacking, God calls upon you to build it up reading the Word: “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). The next time you fear, recite His promises: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Faith is like a muscle. It can atrophy if you don’t read the Word or pray. Are you reading the Word and praying to build up your faith?

2. Gratitude: Give Thanks that God is Faithful, Even When You are Not. Gen. 20:3-8.

  • God’s mercy and grace in protecting Abraham after he failed to trust God. Abraham did not deserve to be rescued from his deceit. But God showed mercy and grace by inflicting a plague on Abimelech’s house to protect Sarah: “But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, ‘Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.’ Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.’ Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.’ So Abimelech arose early in the morning and called all his servants and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were greatly frightened.” (Gen. 20:3-8). God also protected Abraham from his deceit before Pharaoh: “17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” (Gen. 12:17). He also used a dream to prevent Laban from hurting Jacob after Rachel stole his idol: “God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, ‘Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.’” (Gen. 31:24). He also gave Pilot’s wife a dream to warn Pilot against harming Jesus: “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.’” (Matt. 27:9). If God is warning you through your dreams, are you listening to His warnings?

  • God is faithful, even when you are not. Through these many examples, God showed that He is faithful even when His people were not. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks for His faithfulness?

  • God protects His anointed ones. God called Abraham a “prophet” (Gen. 20:7). This was an honor that he did not deserve after his deceit. Again, God was faithful even when Abraham was not: “He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes:” (Ps. 105:14). “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” (1 Chr. 16:22). When you speak God’s Word, He will also protect you. “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22, Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). Are you speaking His prophetic Word to receive His protection?

  • The importance of praise and gratitude in avoiding sin. Having gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice for you on the cross is an important way to keep yourself free from sin. If you don’t care about His sacrifice or if you don’t internalize the price He paid for you, you are more likely to sin. One way to remain grateful is to constantly thank Christ for His sacrifice: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). As an example to follow, David regularly thanked God through songs of praise. (e.g., Ps. 18:49; 26:7; 30:4, 12; 50:14; 69:30; 75:1; 79:13; 92:1; 95:2; 97:12; 100:4; 106:1; 107:1, 8; 116:17; 118:1; 119:62; 140:13; 147:7). Another way to be thankful is to offer your life as a living sacrifice of gratitude: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:1-2). Do you regularly arrive on time to church to sing songs of gratitude? Or, do you skip the worship and attend just the message? Is your life a living sacrifice of gratitude?

3. Honesty: Don’t Lie and Become a False Witness When Your Faith Falters. Gen. 20:9-11.

  • Abimelech’s confrontation with Abraham over his false witness. In a moment that would have been humbling for Abraham, God used Abimelech to confront him over his lie: “Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.’ 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What have you encountered, that you have done this thing?’ 11 Abraham said, ‘Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.” (Gen. 20:9-11). Abraham alleged that there was no fear of God in Abimelech’s house. But it was Abraham who failed to fear God with his lies. Moreover, if he really believed that Abimelech’s house did not fear God, why did he put Sarah at risk by taking her there?

Abimelech restores Sarah2

  • Pharaoh’s prior confrontation with Abraham over his false witness. This was not the first time that God used a pagan king to rebuke Abraham. A Pharaoh previously confronted Abraham after he employed the exact same form of deceit with him: “18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.’ 20 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.” (Gen. 12:18-20). Again, Abraham failed to learn from God’s instruction. If God has disciplined you in the past through an employer, friend, or spouse, have you ignored His instruction?

  • Abimelech’s confrontation with Isaac over his deceit. God later used a different Abimelech to rebuke Isaac for his similar lies and deceit about his wife: “Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, ‘Behold, certainly she is your wife! How then did you say, ‘She is my sister?’ And Isaac said to him, ‘Because I said, ‘I might die on account of her.’ Abimelech said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.’” (Gen. 26:9-10). This also highlights how a parent’s sins can be passed down to their children. If Abraham had repented and then instructed his son Isaac on the lessons from his sins, Isaac might not have committed this exact same sin.

  • Satan’s manipulation of God’s Word to deceive you. Just as Abraham deceived others by speaking a half truth, Satan uses lies and half-truths to deceive you. He twisted God’s Word to deceive Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1). After Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness without food, Satan sought to tempt Him by saying that Jesus could end His hunger by turning the rocks into bread (Matt. 4:3). Just as Satan twisted the Word with Eve and Jesus, he will try to do the same with you. Satan acts like a lion (1 Pet. 5:8). Like a lion, he attacks the members of the herd who are weak or who have strayed from the flock. Thus, you are warned not to forsake the fellowship (Heb. 10:25). Jesus also warns that He is sending you as a “sheep” amongst the wolves (Matt. 10:16). You have no natural defenses outside of the flock. When you ignore these warnings, you allow Satan to control your actions. Jesus warns that Satan becomes your “father” (Jo. 8:44). Are you keeping yourself in fellowship, reading the Word and praying to protect yourself from Satan’s lies?

  • Be honest with others so that you do not misrepresent Christ. Some nonbelievers will sadly reject Christ because of a believer’s sins. Thus, you must always conduct yourself as an ambassador for Christ: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20). This includes being honest with others: “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.” (Zech. 8:16). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25). “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Prov. 12:17). “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11). ‘“They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:3). Are your words both honest and a witness to Jesus’ light inside you? If you lie or act with deceit, what kind of an ambassador are you for Christ?

  • Lean not on your own understanding. Abraham felt the need to lie because he believed that there was no fear of God with Abimelech (Gen. 20:11). Yet, he was wrong in trusting upon his own understanding. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). Are you praying for the Spirit to guide you?

  • Don’t write off other people. Like Abraham, many believers look at nonbelievers and assume that they will never know God. Abimelech was different from Pharaoh in that he did fear God. Abraham was wrong to judge him. He also had shown a lack of fear in God by repeatedly sinning and refusing to fully trust God’s Word. You too were once caught in the bondage of sin. “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” (Eph. 5:8). You may be the person God sent to rescue the nonbeliever. Have you written off co-workers or family members as being beyond change?

  • Don’t put your own needs above your spouse. Abraham lied and put Sarah at risk because he feared for his life more than he feared for his wife’s purity. “they will kill me because of my wife.” (Gen. 20:11). Each spouse in a marriage is called upon to trust God by putting their own needs second to the needs of his or her spouse. Christ loved the Church (His future bride) so much that He gave up His own life for it: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” (Eph. 5:25). Thus, a husband should submit his needs to the needs of his wife: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;” (Eph. 5:28). Likewise, a wife should submit her needs to her husband: “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:24). Are you placing the needs of your spouse before your own needs? Or, do you act selfishly?

4. Confession: Don’t be a False Witness by Refusing to Admit to Your Sin. Gen. 20:12.

  • Abraham’s failure to confess his deceit. Abraham compounded his sin by failing to repent. Instead, he tried to justify his lies: “12 Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife;” (Gen. 20:12). While under Satan’s influence, Abraham revealed one of Satan’s common schemes for deceit. Satan frequently mixes a lie with the truth or uses a true fact out of context to deceive. Thus, believers must test everything they hear to avoid being deceived (1 Thess. 5:21).

  • Confess your sins to God. After David’s sins of adultery and murder were exposed, he showed that he was a man of God by confessing his sins: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”’ (2 Sam. 12:13; 1 Chr. 21:8). “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” (Ps. 51:4). “We know our wickedness, O LORD, The iniquity of our fathers, for we have sinned against You.” (Jer. 14:20). Do you have sins to confess?

  • Also confess your sins to those who you have harmed. It is not enough to confess your sins just to God. You are also called upon to confess your sins to those whom you have wronged: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Jam. 5:16). If you have hurt a brother or sister in Christ or a nonbeliever, have you apologized to that person?

  • Confessing and forsaking your sins brings God’s compassion and forgiveness. Solomon advised that: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Prov. 28:13). David knew that he had been forgiven after he repented: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.” (Ps. 32:5). God also promises you forgiveness when you repent: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). If you have confessed your sins, do you trust in God to fully forgive you?

5. Responsibility: Don’t Blame God or Others For Your Mistakes. Gen. 20:13.

  • Abraham’s attempt to blame God over his deceit. While attempting to justify his deceit, Abraham blamed God for his trip: “13 and it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’” (Gen. 20:13). God never told Abraham to travel to this Philistinian territory. Abraham did this on his own. By exposing this sin, God was teaching Abraham to learn to take personal responsibility for his own mistakes.

  • Blaming others for your mistakes shows that your flesh is in control of you. When you walk in the flesh, your first instinct is to blame others for your actions. For example, Adam blamed Eve for disobeying God, and Eve blamed the serpent (Gen. 3:12-13). Neither took responsibility for their own actions. Cain also never took responsibility for murdering his brother. As another example, the nation of Israel blamed both Moses and then God for their wanderings in the wilderness (Nu. 20:5; 21:5). Do you blame others for your mistakes?

  • Recognize your sinful nature. Part of taking personal responsibility comes with recognizing your sinful nature. You should be like the tax collector who took full responsibility for his own sins: “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (Lk. 18:13). “and [Ezra] said, ‘O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to You, my God, for our iniquities have risen above our heads and our guilt has grown even to the heavens.’” (Ezra 9:6). When you sin, do you recognize the source of your mistakes?

6. Integrity: Don’t Take Things that Don’t Belong to You. Gen. 20:14-16.

  • Abraham’s willingness to accept compensation from a pagan king for his own deceit. Having brought a curse upon Abimelech’s household, it was Abraham’s duty to set right the situation by offering restitution to the Philistine king. Instead, Abimelech shamed Abraham by offering him restitution: “14 Abimelech then took sheep and oxen and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15 Abimelech said, ‘Behold, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.’ 16 To Sarah he said, ‘Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who are with you, and before all men you are cleared.’” (Gen. 20:14-16). Abraham also accepted money from Pharaoh when he lied about his wife: “16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.” (Gen. 12:16). In both circumstances, Abraham profited from his own deceit. He also accepted things that did not belong to him.

  • Abraham’s refusal to become indebted to the King of Sodom. Abraham’s willingness to accept Abimelech’s gift contradicted what he said when the King of Sodom offered Abraham a similar gift. At a point of high integrity, Abraham refused to enrich himself with the wealth of the pagan king: “21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.’ 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.” (Gen. 14:21-24). Abraham had become guilty of hypocrisy. He accepted the pagan money he swore he would never take.

  • God will bless you when you walk with integrity. Joseph later turned down the offers of Potiphar’s wife because he knew not to take the things which did not belong to him: ‘“There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”’ (Gen. 39:9). David also promised to walk with integrity: “I will give heed to the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.” (Ps. 101:2). God later offered to bless Solomon if he walked with integrity: “As for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.”’ (1 Kgs. 9:5). “I shall wash my hands in innocence, and I will go about Your altar, O LORD,” (Ps. 26:6). “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” (Prov. 11:3). “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless, but wickedness subverts the sinner.” (Prov. 13:6). True integrity is when you are righteous when no one is watching. Do you walk with integrity when no one else can see it?

7. Humility: Don’t Be Prideful in Your Walk with Jesus. Gen. 20:17-18.

  • Abraham’s restoration of Abimelech’s household for the pain he inflicted. Finally, in what must have been a humbling experience for Abraham, God had him pray to restore Abimelech from the plague that Abraham forced God to create: “17 Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” (Gen. 20:17-18). Abraham would have prayed with humility. He knew that he had no right to appear before God and ask for anything. He also knew that he had no right to be the father of many nations as God promised. And that is what God wanted him to realize.

  • Humility will help to keep you from sin. Pride will ultimately lead to your destruction: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). Pride is one of the few things that God “hates.” (Prov. 8:13). God showed Abraham wisdom through his humbled position: “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” (Prov. 11:2). Are you prideful about your accomplishments?

  • Anyone can be an intercessor. A final important lesson from this account is that anyone can be an intercessor. There are many examples in the Old Testament where God spared others from judgment after a person’s intercessory prayer (e.g., Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 11:2; 14:18-22; 16:21-24). Many might protest that these were prayers from Moses, God’s appointed law giver. But Moses murdered an Egyptian (Ex. 2:12). Abraham’s example shows that you don’t need to be on a spiritual mountain top with 40 days of purity and fasting before God will listen to your prayers. You do need to confess your sins. Sin that you fail to confess will “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Once you have done that and humbled yourself, He will listen to your intercessory prayers. Are you praying as an intercessor for others in need?

  • God sees you for the person of faith that you will become. Abraham eventually showed incredible trust in God by his willingness to sacrifice his son. Yet, it took time for him to develop that faith. Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter denied Jesus three times (Matt. 26:34; Mk. 14:72). But Jesus saw him for the man of faith that he would become. God also sees you for the person of faith that you will become. If your faith is lacking, do you trust in Him to transform you? Likewise, have you written off a sinner because you think he cannot change?