God told Abimelech, “You are a dead man” (Gen. 20:3). This was not for stealing money, murder, or blasphemy. It was because he innocently took another man’s wife (Gen. 20:5).
The fact is, whenever we sin, we are dead men. This includes “innocent” sin or sins of ignorance. Sin is sin and it separates us from God (1 Jn. 1:5-10; 3:4).
Abimelech was a “dead man walking” and his story can teach us a few lessons.
God Sees All
The Creator of the universe is aware of what is happening in it (Psa. 33:13; 139:7-12). He sees the wicked and their evil deeds (Job 34:21, 22). He is angry at them and will judge them for their sins (Psa. 7:11; 37:12-15).
God also sees the righteous and their ways (Psa. 34:15). He knows when they suffer and He cares (Ex. 3:9). He hears the prayers of His saints and thoughtfully considers them (1 Kgs. 8:27-30). God also takes account of their deeds as they work to advance His kingdom (Phil. 4:15-17).
He sees you and me right now (Heb. 4:13).
Great Men Have Faults
Abimelech took Abraham’s wife innocently, so to speak, because Abraham lied and said Sarah was his sister (Gen. 20:2). This wasn’t the first time Abraham lied about his wife (Gen. 12:10-13). Yet, we see he was considered a friend of God (Jas. 2:23). This means there is hope for us. We have our faults and failings, our sins and transgressions, but these are not the sum total of us. As we submit to God and seek His mercy, He forgives us (Mk. 16:15, 16; 1 Jn. 1:5-10).
Our faults, however, can lead others to sin. Sarah agreed in the lie (Gen. 20:2, 5). Our sins might ensnare our loved ones, our spouse or children. They may also get others into trouble, as Abimelech did with Sarah (Gen. 20:3, 6, 7). In other words, we might know it is wrong, but the other person doesn’t realize it.
Peter’s bad example drew away Barnabas and others (Gal. 2:11-14). Our actions might cause brethren to depart from the faith either in doctrine or practice. Thus, not only must we take great care for our sake, but also for the sake of others.
Another point to add here is fear often leads to sin. Abraham feared what would happen if people knew Sarah was his wife (Gen. 20:11). It was an unfounded fear, not that others might be angry or envious or plot something against him, but that God was with him. He had no need to fear.
The blind man’s parents feared being outcasts, so they denied knowing anything about the miraculous power of Jesus (Jn. 9:19-23). Peter feared the Judaizing teachers and shunned the Gentiles (Gal. 2:12). Jeroboam feared losing the people and introduced idolatry into the northern kingdom (1 Kgs. 12:25-33).
The only fear a Christian is to have is a fear of God (Matt. 10:28). All else is irrelevant.
Repentance Requires Remorse and Restoration
Sorrow for sin can take one of two forms (2 Cor. 7:8-11). There is worldly sorrow that leads to death. This is the type of sorrow Judas had and he ended up killing himself (Matt. 27:3-10). The rich young ruler also displayed worldly sorrow when he turned away from Christ (Matt. 19:21, 22).
Godly sorrow brings repentance (Gen. 20:4-10). We see this in the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost as they were cut to the heart and sought to make things right (Acts 2:37-41). Peter had godly sorrow after denying the Lord (Matt. 26:75).
The former is hopeless, the latter hope-filled.
Repentance requires at least an attempt to make things right (Gen. 20:7, 10). We have to change in mind and manifest it in actions. This is what happened with the man of 1 Corinthians 5, he had sorrow for sin and quit it (2 Cor. 2:6-8).
If we steal our neighbor’s car, we must stop stealing and give the car back. If we take our neighbor’s wife, we must severe the relationship and give her back. Why? Because godly sorrow leads to repentance that results in changed actions.
Do not be a “dead man walking.” Examine your life before God and correct any sin. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up—to life.