Oh if I had only known!
How many times have I said those words? How many times have you uttered them? Our decisions, founded on good intentions based on the full knowledge available, seemed perfect. Now they seem disastrous. If I had only known…
An Old Testament king knew those same thoughts and feelings.
Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar. Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.” Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though blameless? 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.” Genesis 20:1-5
Now I don’t know if I would truly call Abimelech “innocent.” He obviously lives according to the morality of his culture, not according to God’s standards. After all, he has no qualms about taking a new woman for his harem, and he probably has more fear of deity in general than of the one true God.
God does not call Abimelech innocent, either, but He does reveal something else as He says, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this.” He reminds the king that He knows the very intentions of our hearts, and he knew Abimelech had no malicious intent.
Can you feel that? Do you see what it means for you and me? On our own, we have no greater integrity than Abimelech. We compromise our innocence and purity by making decisions based on our knowledge, our vision, and even the morality of our culture. Through it all, God looks straight into our hearts and understands our motives! He knows the difference between blatant disobedience and foolish, ignorant choices. Just like with Abimelech, He covers our poor choices, grounded in “innocence,” with His mercy!
How, then, should we respond?
First, we must take comfort in God’s mercy and protection. Look at God’s full response to Abimelech:
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.” Genesis 20:6
Oh, how amazing! God sees our hearts. He knows our intentions. He not only takes those faulty hearts and blemished intentions and sees integrity in them, He also prevents us from sinning against Him, heaping more trouble on top of an already difficult situation. What hope! What comfort! What protection! What love!
Secondly, we must seek forgiveness. In verse seven, God commands Abimelech to acknowledge that his actions were wrong, regardless of his intentions. We also must be willing to confess our wrongdoing and correct our actions, even when our intentions were “innocent.”
Finally, we must grow in reliance with every show of mercy. The knowledge that He will protect must never give us license to simply remain where we are, making decisions based on our vision. We must begin to seek Him with increasing diligence. We can take comfort in knowing He will protect us as we grow, but we still must grow.
What “If I had only known…” situation is facing you? Take comfort in God’s mercy, seek His forgiveness, and grow in your reliance on Him. He loves you!