There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.
Just when God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah is about to reach fulfillment, we encounter a nail-bitting setback. Abraham reverts to an old habit. This man was brave and victorious when he set out to war against four king. Yet when he looks at the continued sexual attractiveness of his wife, even in her maturity, he has a fearful fantasy of assassination. Once again he involves Sarah in a lie, and she is abducted by a king. There are similarities with the incident involving Egypt’s Pharaoh, but there are marked contrasts. Abimelek of Gerar proves to be a conscientious, God-fearing ruler. His good behavior shows up Abraham’s failures. If Abraham rose in our estimation when we compared him with Lot, he comes down to size again.
The real hero of this story is God. His grace and blessing are not conditional on Abraham’s merits. Despite his failures, Abraham has been chosen to be a prophet with access to the heavenly council. He is to exercise his ministry by praying for Abimelek and his women fold. They are in real physical danger and distress, and God heals them. This sequence mass it clear that Abraham’s God is Lord of all the nations on the earth. As his chosen servant and prophet, Abraham’s role to bless reaches well beyond his own community. With this prayer the women of the household become fruitful again. We shall soon see his personal prayer for Sarah answered. She also conceives, and we are firmly assured that Abimelek had nothing to do with that. Out of the incident comes mutual respect between Abraham and Abimelek, and this opens an area of the Negev to Abraham’s household. It will be very important territory for Isaac in the years to come.
It can be painful to face up to our failures, especially when they have very public effects, but the results can often be used by God to advance his plans.