But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.
I came across this passage recently and was strangely encouraged. Abraham lies to Abimelech, saying that Sarah is his sister. So the king takes her in to his house. But before he can do anything to Sarah, God appears to him in a dream and reveals to him that Sarah is a married woman. It is easy to get discouraged by your sin, to see the places where you struggle and wonder if God is even changing you at all. In this passage, though, we see a man who is unaware that he is about to sin, and the only thing that keeps him from doing so is God himself intervening in the situation. (Abimelech even tries to appeal to his own innocence and integrity of heart, but God assures him that it was He, in fact, who kept him from sinning.) My tendency in areas of struggle is to focus on how far I fall short. Yet in the story of Abimelech, it is God’s sheer mercy that keeps him from sinning. May I remember Abimilech the next time I begin to think that sanctification is a battle I must fight on my own.