Sunday, June 25, 2017

Propitiation in Genesis 20

Genesis 20:16-18
To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.” Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

Here is another unusual story from Abraham's life recorded in Genesis.
As Abraham moved from place to place, he seemed to have a particular weakness which made him a likely target from those in power; his wife Sarah.
It is not clearly stated, but Sarah must have been unusually attractive, so much so, that people may have killed Abraham to get to her.
This is a little hard to imagine, knowing that Sarah was in her 90's. However, my only resolution of this seeming incongruous situation, is that in those relatively early days of creation, not only did people live longer, they aged more slowly. Somehow, maybe less UV rays, less chemicals, cleaner food etc,  a woman of 90 then, was able to retain much more  of the beauty of youth.
So for what seems to be self preservation, Abraham and Sarah had a pre-arranged agreement to refer to each other as brother and sister rather than husband and wife. This implied that Sarah was available for marriage, and as had happened earlier in Genesis, the ruler of that region, Abimelek immediately detained Sarah with a view to marriage.
But God visited Abimilek, and strictly warned him that he was on the verge of disaster, as Sarah was in fact, Abraham's wife.
In his defence, Abimilek stated that he was ignorant of this fact, and that he had not "touched" Sarah.
There are a number of implications which can be derived from this passage that surprisingly must hve applied at that time.
Firstly, marriage was honored strictly, even by "relative non-believers" (my terminology).
God was feared by relative non-believers.
God visited and spoke to relative non-believers.
God punished sin.
Ignorance of sin does not clear away guilt. Abimilek was not cleared of his guilt simply by declaring his ignorance.

So Abimilek was given clear instructions on how to clear himself of guilt.
Firstly he was to return Sarah to her husband, Abraham.
Secondly he was to ask Abraham, the great prophet, to pray on his behalf.

But without instruction, so it seems, Abimilek went further. Above and beyond seeking mercy and restoring his mistake, Abimilek gave gifts.

To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

When we commit sin, apart from the economic cost, the physical damage (and some things can never be replaced), there is also the offense of that sin.

God is offended by our sin. even if we could make right what we have done wrong, that does not clear the offense of our rebellion, and restore a right relationship.

Propitiation is a gift that removes anger or offense.

Abimilek gave beyond the actual cost of his sin. This was propitiation.

Zaccheus promised to repay fourfold anyone he had wronged, once he had been befriended by Jesus.

Jesus suffering and death was not just a payment for our sin, his provision of a pure life given freely was a beautiful propitiation for our sins.
Our sins were not just paid for, the offense was also completely cleared.

We have true and lasting peace with God, through the precious propitiating  blood of Jesus.