When a Nonbeliever Forgives You

Have you ever been caught lying?

Maybe it was when you were still a child, or perhaps it was just last week!

What prompted you to lie?

How did the lie get discovered?

How does God use our moments of failure to bring not only correction but healing?

Consider with me the story of Isaac in Genesis 26.

Genesis 26 details the troubled relationship between Isaac, Abraham’s promised son, and Abimelech, the King of Gerar, a Philistine territory.

Abraham and Sarah had relations with a King of Gerar, also called Abimelech. Scholars believe Abimelech is a title rather than a person’s actual name and that Isaac was interacting with a different Abimelech than his father.

Both Abraham and Isaac lied about their wives to the Abimelech of their day.

God gave the Abimelech of Abraham’s day a dream revealing the truth about Sarah, that God had prevented Abimelech from touching Sarah, that Abimelech’s conscience was clear, that Abimelech should return Sarah to Abraham, and that Abraham was a prophet who could pray for Abimelech to live. God also gave a warning that Abimelech would die if he did not obey God’s instructions in this matter. (See Gen 20:1-7)

Isaac’s situation differed from Abraham’s in that the discovery of Isaac’s lie did not involve messages from God via a revelatory dream to Abimelech or comments about God by Isaac when explaining why he lied. Instead, Abimelech observed Isaac interacting with Rebekah in a way only a husband would. Once confronted, Isaac admitted his lie was driven by fear that the Philistines would kill him on account of his wife’s beauty. Isaac never mentions God in his defense, unlike his father, Abraham. (See Gen 26:7-9)

Abraham’s lie also involved a partial truth, unlike Isaac’s. Sarah was, in fact, Abraham’s half-sister. Rebekah, though, was Isaac’s cousin. (See Gen 20:12-13 and Gen 24:47-48)

Take a moment to ponder these two stories from God’s perspective. 

Why did God intervene with the revelatory dream to Abimelech to protect Sarah? (See Gen 20:17-21:2).

How does God intervene to provide offspring for Isaac and Rebekah? (See Gen 25:19-24)

Did you notice that the story of Isaac and Rebekah’s offspring occurs in scripture before we are told Isaac moves to Gerar in Gen 26:1? What does this detail reveal when comparing Abraham and Isaac’s interactions with the Philistines in Gerar?

How difficult would it have been to hide from the men of Gerar that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife when they already had twin boys to raise?

Consider the following requests:

Abimelech and Phicol to Abraham:

At that time, Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 23 Now, therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” (Gen 21:22-23 ESV)

Abimelech, Phicol and Ahuzzah to Isaac:

They said, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD.” (Gen 26:28-29 ESV)

Describe how these requests are similar.

What is the difference between these requests?

Consider the following responses:

Abraham to Abimelech and Phicol:

And Abraham said, “I will swear.” (Gen 21:24 ESV)

Isaac to Abimelech, Phicol and Ahuzzah:

So [Isaac] made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 In the morning, they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. (Gen 26:30 ESV)

Describe the differences between these two treaties.

What is the same between these two treaties?

Given the treaty between Isaac’s father Abraham with the Gerar Philistines, it makes sense that Isaac traveled there in Genesis 26:1. But Isaac failed to honor that treaty when he lied to the men of Gerar. Genesis 26:8 further reveals that Isaac maintained this lie for a long time before Abimelech discovered it. 

But Abimelech had treated Isaac with mercy and even protection. (See Gen 26:11) And when Abimelech asked Isaac to move away from Gerar, he acknowledged Isaac had become more powerful than the Philistines in that area. (See Gen 26:16

Yes, the herdsmen of Gerar had quarreled with and filled up water wells out of envy of Isaac’s prosperity (See Gen 26:14-15, 20-21). But Abimelech, a Philistine king who had not been called or given promises by God the way Isaac and Abraham had, responded to Isaac’s accusation with an acknowledgment that the Lord was with Isaac and expressed a desire for a renewed treaty between the people groups. Further, Abimelech had brought along his highest-ranked officials most likely to witness this request for a treaty. (See Gen 26:28-29

Did God hold Isaac accountable for his lie to the men of Gerar? How?

What did Isaac learn about God through this experience with Abimelech?

Has someone outside your own faith caught you in a lie but showed you grace and protection? If so, how did you feel and respond to their kindness towards you?

Has anyone outside your own faith acknowledged they see the Lord is with and blessing you? If so, what type of relationship did they want with you after this acknowledgment? 

Why does God continue to bless and protect His believers even when we mess up as Isaac did? (See Gen 26:5 and 24)

Do you struggle with living an authentically truthful life? Why or why not? 

Heavenly Father we seek your deliverance today from the temptation of lying in any of the following ways: spinning events and experiences to impress others, cheating, failing to keep our promises, sharing rumors, gossip, or slander, and any other ways of lying. Provide for us each day a prompting by the Holy Spirit to be people of integrity, free from rationalization, denial, and blame. Amen.

How do you live out God’s reality about the goodness of telling the truth? (See Mat 5:37) Share your comments below!


Barbara Lynn


2 Replies to “When a Nonbeliever Forgives You

  1. I fail miserably .. hard to lead a life of integrity.

    There seem to be times when it is impossible to be totally honest.. mostly like not telling the whole truth or obmitting things 🙁

    1. Honesty and integrity also involve tact meaning sometimes it is best to remain silent. The Holy Spirit will provide discernment of what to say and what not to say.

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