Over the last couple of weeks we looked at the first part of this chapter and we saw an illustration of the ups and downs of a believer's walk with God. We considered Abraham on the mountain top with the birth of Isaac, and we saw him in the valley of conflict at home. All of us would like to stay on the mountain tops and avoid the valleys, but that is not realistic. The truth that should sustain us is that God is the same no matter what our circumstance! Tonight we are re-introduced to an individual by the name of Abimelech the king of Gerar. In chapter twenty he found out the hard way, that Abraham's God was very powerful and would protect Abraham. Now that Abraham is dwelling in the area of Beersheba, he gets a visit from Abimelech.
I. Abimelech's Plea. v22-23
A. The background of his plea.
1. When God previously spoke to Abimelech in a dream, He told him several things about Abraham:
(Genesis 20:7) 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.
a. He had told him that Abraham was a prophet.
b. Also that he would pray for him and that he would live.
c. He then told him of the consequences of disobedience: "…Know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine."
2. The passage implies that God had stricken Abimelech's health…he was in need of prayer!
3. Abimelech's choices were simple: he could choose to disobey God and die or he could obey God and live.
4. This sounds like a 'no-brainer', but many folks today are choosing to go their own way and reject the Word of God.
(Proverbs 14:12) There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
5. Abimelech believed God's message and did what God had instructed him to do.
6. The result?
(Genesis 20:17) So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
B. The basis for his plea.
1. Abimelech was more powerful than Abraham in military strength.
2. But, he feared Abraham because of Abraham's God.
3. He asks for Abraham to deal with him and his children in honesty and with kindness.
4. He reminds Abraham that he had dealt kindly with him…but
5. Remember he didn't treat Abraham with kindness out of the goodness of his heart, but out of fear because God said he was a dead man if he didn't obey Him!
II. Abimelech's Pledge. v24-31
A. Abraham's reproof.
1. Abraham agreed to Abimelech's requests, but not without clearing the air.
2. Abraham had previously dug a well in the area, which was a valuable possession in such a dry and thirsty land.
3. Abimelech's servants had taken the well by force and Abraham had backed off from the confrontation.
4. Since Abimelech wants to be treated kindly and honestly, here is a way to start.
5. Abimelech denies any previous knowledge of this incident.
B. Abraham's covenant.
1. Abraham gave him sheep and oxen as a show of friendship.
2. This is exactly what Abimelech had done for him earlier.
(Genesis 20:14) And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
3. They covenant together on how they will treat one another in the future.
4. Then he set aside seven lambs over and above the previous gift.
5. Abimelech questioned the purpose of these additional lambs, and Abraham explains their significance.
6. Abimelech's acceptance indicated that he was acknowledging the fact that the well did belong to Abraham.
7. They called the place Beer-sheba which means "well of the oath".
III. Abimelech's Parting. v32-34
A. Abimelech and his military advisor returned to the land of the Philistines.
1. They had accomplished their goals.
2. They had a covenant with Abraham which would protect them from any possible future attacks.
3. They surrendered a well that wasn't theirs in the first place and received Abraham's gifts as well.
B. Abraham worshipped the Lord at Beersheba.
1. He planted a grove as a memorial to what had taken place there.
a. The word 'grove' often is used to describe a grouping of idols, but here it refers to a tree.
b. Why a tree? It would be there a long time; as would Abraham and his descendents.
2. Abraham worships the everlasting God.
a. This indicates to me that Abraham knew that what just happened was God's work.
b. Abimelech did the unthinkable; he came to Abraham to plea for protection.
c. That is contrary to how he would treat any other individual or nation…as he had shown earlier by taking the well by force…he had not acknowledged Abraham's right to even be in the land.
d. Now he is coming 'hat in hand' and asking for Abraham's blessing.
3. Abraham lives in the land many days.
a. We are not told how long, but they were peaceful days.
b. During this time Isaac would grow to a young man.
c. And God was preparing Abraham for, without a doubt, the greatest test of his life of faith.
IV. The Application for Us
A. The previous events of this chapter are not unrelated to what took place with Abimelech.
1. God had commanded Abraham to do what was necessary with Hagar and Ishmael.
2. Abraham obeyed the Lord…even though it wasn't easy for him to do so.
3. God blesses our obedience!
(Proverbs 16:7) When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
B. Here again is a reminder of the influence of our lives upon those around us.
1. We are in the world, but we are not of the world.
2. God expects us to have an impact on those around us.
(Matthew 5:16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
C. Also we are reminded that we need not fear man, when God is our strength.
1. When Abraham first met Abimelech he feared what he might do.
2. But God taught him and us an important lesson.
(Psalms 4:5) Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.
(Psalms 27:1) The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Where are we in our walk of faith? On the mountain or in the valley. Are we seeing the victory or are we in the midst of conflict. Either way, we must place our trust…our faith…in the Lord. What kind of a relationship to those around us do we have? How is our testimony? Listen to what Abimelech had to say:
(Genesis 21:22) And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest: