THE SECOND TEST—
PRAYING FOR THE HOUSE OF ABIMELECH
Abraham passed his first test. The bringing forth of Ishmael with his fleshly strength was over. Humanly speaking, he had done everything, and Isaac should have been born. But before the incident in chapter seventeen was barely completed, another came along, and he was tested a second time concerning the matter of his son.
Genesis 20:1 says, "And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar." Abraham committed the same mistake as he did in Egypt when he called Sarah his sister. After he was rebuked by Pharaoh of Egypt, God brought him back. But in chapter twenty he went to Abimelech of Gerar and committed the same mistake. It is difficult for us to understand this. How could he fall to such a low state after he had reached the peak of fellowship in chapter eighteen? Chapter twenty relates something that was not mentioned in chapter twelve. Abimelech rebuked Abraham, saying, "What hast thou done unto us?..What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?" (vv. 9-10). Abraham said, "Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother" (vv. 11-13). Hence, the root of this matter was not in Egypt, but in Mesopotamia. His failure in Egypt only exposed the root. The root of failure was in Mesopotamia. Therefore, when he went to Gerar, the same thing happened again.
God dealt with Abraham in order to show him that he and Sarah could not be separated. In Mesopotamia he thought that he and Sarah could be separated, and that during times of peril the couple could become brother and sister. Abraham was standing on the ground of faith, while Sarah was standing on the ground of grace. On man’s side, it is faith, and on God’s side, it is grace. Faith and grace can never be separated from each other; they must always be together. If grace is taken away, there is no faith, there is no people of God, and Christ cannot be brought forth. But Abraham thought that he could be separated from Sarah. The root was planted in Mesopotamia and exposed in Egypt. Now it was exposed again. God was removing the root that had been planted in Mesopotamia. If this matter had not been taken care of, Isaac could not have been brought forth. In order for God’s people to maintain His testimony, there is the need for faith and grace. It is not enough to have faith alone, and it is not enough to have grace alone. God showed Abraham that he could not sacrifice Sarah and could not be separated from her.
It is interesting that "the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife" (v. 18). After Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham, "Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children" (v. 17). After this incident, Sarah begot Isaac in chapter twenty-one. This is amazing.
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 5, by Watchman Nee)