Painful Sanctification

Having our sinfulness revealed is never fun.

Genesis 20:8-18 (ESV)

So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

Abimelech should have used the comeback line, “If you keep on prejudging people like this, some dang fool just might mistake that for prejudice.”

Abraham’s bigoted assumptions wouldn’t justify his actions, even if they were true – which they aren’t. He’s completely outclassed and schooled by Abimelech.

The schooled bit is, as usual, the point. Once again, God is embarrassing, even mocking Abraham to remind him of what a sinner he is.

By protecting Sarah in the outrageous situation Abraham put her into, God is displaying his power and his faithfulness.


This is the road of sanctification that we all walk. God hammers into us who we are and who he is.

Usually, the lesson isn’t a twofer though. God will normally either display who He is, or He will expose our depravity. Both at the same time would be too painful.

And that’s the takeaway here. Sanctification is one place where the slogan, “No pain, no gain,” is apt. Remember that the next time you’re suffering. Look for the lesson.

Your prayers at times like these can be some of the most productive prayers you will ever make. As always, one of the keys is to just be yourself.

It’s OK to look heavenward and scream, “And your point would be?”


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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