3 ¶ But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. 4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? 5 Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. 6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. 7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
There are other times that God speaks to men in dreams as to Jacob, Laban the Syrian, to Joseph, etc.
Abimelech is not the sort of man that the previous Pharaoh that Abram and Sarai encountered was. God dealt with that Pharaoh by visiting sickness on his house to cause him to bring no shame on Sarai/Sarah while God kept Abimelech’s household from conceiving as revealed later in verse 18. But, Abraham has misjudged Abimelech. God reveals to us that this king has integrity and wants to do right. He had not touched Sarah and truly thought she was Abraham’s sister. So, God moved in him to prevent him from having any relations with her. It was God who prevented this sin of ignorance that was possible but not completed.
God made provision for dealing with sins of ignorance, just not realizing what you were doing, in the Law given to Moses. You can read examples of this in the context of Leviticus, chapter 4, for example. But God does restrain us from following our “natural” impulses at times, our desires, as He did when he kept David and his men from killing, as Abigail believed, even though David considered it and felt justified by Nabal’s treatment of him and his men.
1Samuel 25:26 Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.
God has restrained you from doing things that you thought were the right thing to do because you didn’t have all of the facts. How often have you thanked Him for that mercy? You have held your tongue when you really wanted to blast someone with your words only to find out that you were operating off incomplete understanding. We should always be careful and not to repeat the errors of Job’s friends in assuming we have knowledge we do not. A friend may get a serious illness, lose their job, have marital difficulties, or have a rebellious child and you assume there must be some secret sin in their life that they are being judged for but, if God is merciful to you, you managed to refrain from the evil of misrepresenting God and telling your friend what you think before you have all the facts. Of course, you may never have all of the facts so it is a good idea just to shut up and minister to your friend in their grief.
But, remember, as here, you may have some difficulty related to your intention to shoot your mouth off and hurt your friend. Think about what God is telling you. Abimelech’s household were having some problems with Sarah around. Something wasn’t right. Before God’s dream came to the king came the problem with conceiving. As you were intending to speak out of turn someone was saying things about you they had no knowledge of and this should have been a warning as God eventually prevented you from damaging your relationship with your friend. To see how God works in our lives we have to be sensitive to His guidance. This is very hard for you if you have adopted the modern sense of God not participating in your life on a moment by moment basis.
My problem has always been about assuming I knew someone’s intentions and motives when I did not. If that is your problem have you found yourself on the receiving end of someone accusing you of motives that you did not have as you contemplated the same error on someone else, even the same person? Did God prevent you from speaking your mind or, perhaps, did you not speak your mind in this instance and not realize that God had prevented you?
Think about when you don’t say something, did you really prevent yourself?
In God’s warning to Abimelech He refers to Abraham as a prophet. As Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the 12 heads of the tribes of Israel, and Israel itself went about doing God’s will, even if they had to be steered by God because of their stubbornness in not completely trusting and doing things their own way they received God’s protection.
Psalm 105:8 ¶ He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. 9 Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; 10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: 11 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance: 12 When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. 13 When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; 14 He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; 15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.