The great theologian John Gill, in an exposition of this passage wrote…
Good men not only fall into sin, but have their relapses.
It is more than interesting to see how God uses our mistakes and misfortunes to achieve his divine purposes. What his purposes might have been in this story I doubt we can ever say for sure, as they could have far reaching consequences beyond what is even recorded in the Bible.
The question that I’d like to pose an answer to is this: When we are instructed to do something by God and we go our own way, what effect does that have on the purposes of God? The answer is, none.
Let me affirm that God gives us our own minds and we have the ability to make right and wrong decisions based on our moral consciences. However, God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 53:9), and not just in turns of importance, but in terms of supremacy. The little bubble of freedom that we have operates only inside of the larger sphere that is God’s will.
God has a plan and a purpose for everyone and everything. When we sin, we stand in opposition to his plan and when we do his will, we join him in accomplishing it. The book of Proverbs uses nice alliteration to put it this way…
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21
So now we finally take a look at the story of Abraham attempting to get along in society by telling everyone that Sarah is his sister…again. I believe that while God’s disapproval is not so specifically implied in the text, we can still assume its existence. He obviously does not approve in a very general sense, as he inflicts punishment on the man who takes Sarah for his own, both here and with Pharoah in Genesis 12.
In a specific sense though, I do not believe that God told Abraham to perpetuate this lie, which we find out here he has been telling everywhere he has been. I believe that God could have protected him against any unruly man, the way he protected Lot and his family the night they left their home. I believe that if Abraham would have trusted in God, God’s purposes could still have been accomplished and no harm would necessarily come to him. However, the fact that Abraham fails under pressure does not mean that God will. Rather, he uses the failure of Abraham to bring about his plan, thereby redeeming Abraham’s actions. In fact, he uses the situation to bring about his purposes in King Abimelech’s life as well.
When we decide not to follow God, it is not God’s will that suffers but rather our own happiness. When we sin, we stand in opposition to God and his laws and fall out of sync with our Creator. We find our life is abundant and fulfilling, however, when we align our heart and our way of life to God’s ultimate purpose in redeeming mankind.