For my personal devotional time I have been taking a close look at Abraham’s life as it is recorded in Genesis. Although the Bible calls him the father of believers and holds him up as an example of faith, the truly remarkable element running through his story is how God loved him so unconditionally. This is seen right in the beginning of his story (Genesis 12:1-3) as God promises him tremendous blessing without once ever mentioning anything that Abraham had to do to merit those blessings. God was going to bless him. Period.
As I said, this runs throughout Abraham’s story. This morning I spent time in Genesis 20. This is a remarkable chapter for a number of different reasons but one reason is not because it is a shining example of Abraham’s faith! On the contrary, here we see a glaring example of how sometimes Abraham was very weak in his faith. There we see Abraham telling Sarah, his wife, to pass herself off as his sister because he was afraid that the Philistine king, Abimelech, would kill him if he knew that she was his wife. If that wasn’t bad enough, this is not the first time Abraham had tried that. He did the same thing years ago with Pharaoh. See Genesis 12. But even though the Lord had stepped in and proven to Abraham that he would protect them, Abraham now does the same thing again! Obviously, he didn’t learn from his previous sin.
But to make matters even worse, the incident recorded in chapter 20 happens shortly after the Lord had told both Abraham and Sarah that she would give birth to a son in the coming year – the son who would be the ancestor of the Savior. Therefore, by allowing Abimelech to take Sarah as his wife, Abraham was actively putting this promise at great risk. If there was any time Abraham should have been careful with Sarah, it should have been then! It’s an understatement to say that Abraham doesn’t come off very well in this chapter.
But the Lord surely does. Not only does he again get actively involved and protect both Abraham and Sarah, but he also continues to honor Abraham as a prophet! He tells Abimelech that Abraham will pray for him and because of that, he will not die. In this whole incident, the pagan Abimelech comes off better than Abraham, the father of believers. But Abraham is the one who is still blessed by God. This story becomes a wonderful illustration of how God often blesses his believing children in spite of themselves – how his blessings are often totally unconditioned on what we do.
What a comfort that is. I hate to admit it, but I often find that I can identify more easily with Abraham when he shows weakness of faith than when he is strong in his faith. It doesn’t take me too long to see instances in my own life where I repeated a sin –even after I learned how foolish it was to do that the first time. If always receiving a blessing from God depended on my worthiness, I would be far less blessed. Thank God, therefore, that he loves us, not because we are always loveable, but just because he is love. Thank God that he didn’t wait to save us until we were worthy of being saved. Thank God that, “when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Thank God that he doesn’t treat us as we deserve, but rather loves us even though we don’t deserve it. Thank God that he loves unconditionally!