"There was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt." There is no indication here that Abram (Abraham) sought the Lord's help or guidance in this trial but stumbled in trusting God and looked to Egypt and the godless world system for his needs. Note the play on words "went down" (12:10- in unbelief and sin) and later "went up" (13:1- in faith and obedience) as Abraham later returned to the land and to worshiping and proclaiming the Lord. (13:4)
"Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you." (12:13) Faithlessness leads to scheming, lying and selfishness. Actually Sarai (Sarah) was Abraham's half sister but a half truth is a whole lie. And Abraham was blatantly clear about his motive for lying: "so I will be treated well; so my life will be spared." Here Abraham jeopardized Sarah's welfare and God's plan for a child to be born to them out of fear and self-preservation. As was the custom, if Sarah were truly his sister, he would have the opportunity to negotiate with suitors but Pharaoh and kings don't negotiate they just take what they want.
"He (Pharaoh) treated Abram well for her (Sarah's) sake. (12:16) Abraham was made wealthy by Pharaoh with livestock and servants (most likely this is where Hagar comes on the scene). We will look at the many consequences from this later. "But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh." The Lord at times must intervene to protect His plan and purposes in our lives. The text does not explain how Pharaoh knew these plagues were sent by God but out of fear for his life he gave Sarah back to Abraham and sent them away. In spite of Abraham's sin and unbelief, God in His mercy intervened on his behalf and worked to bring about His plan for Abraham and Sarah and ultimately for the nations (us) that would be blessed through them and their descendent – the Lord Jesus Christ. We can never presume on God's mercy and grace to deliver us from our sin and unbelief but we can look back over our life and testify to the many times He has done just that. Romans 8:28 says it well: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." As we love God and seek to serve His purposes for our lives He forgives our great sinfulness and unbelief and uses us for His plan and glory as He promises to do even for the unbelieving nation of Israel that He began through Abraham over four thousand years ago: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name."(Ezek. 36:22) "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:3) "So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, (back to the land of Canaan) with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. He came to Bethel…There Abram called on (or proclaimed) the name of the LORD." (13:1, 4) Through God's mercy and intervention Abraham returns to the land and to his faith and witness to the Lord. Abraham's renewed faith and trust in God's provision is seen in his generosity to Lot in giving him first choice of the land when they had to split up. "So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right." (13.8-9) Here Abraham models unselfishness and humility (Phil. 2:3-4) and a desire to be a peacemaker even at his own risk of loss because of his confidence in God's continuing provision for him. "Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered. Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD."(13:10, 12-13) Lot models greed, selfishness and worldliness that stems from living by sight versus faith. He chose the best land but got the worst friends (13:13), a tormented life (2 Peter 2:8) and a poor end (Gen. 19:30-38). He moved near Sodom (13:12) then moved into Sodom (14:12).
"The LORD said to Abram… "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever" (See 13:14-17) "Seeing" by faith that inspires obedience leads to a greater revelation of God's will and of Himself. "If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free." "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 8:31-32 Amp. 14:21 NIV) Whereas putting money above God, as Lot did, restricts spiritual knowledge and growth. "So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches (spiritual truths)?" (Luke 16:11) A "paradise" now (Lot's choice) is inferior to God's reward both now and for all eternity. We see from Abraham's faltering faith that we never sin in a vacuum. Look at some of the consequences that may have come about through Abraham's journey down to Egypt: 1) Wealth may cause strife in relationships. The accumulation of wealth, i.e., sheep, cattle, donkeys and camels, could not be supported by the land because "The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time."(13:7) The bulk of the land was not available to Abraham. (Heed 1 Tim. 6:5-19 regarding pursuing riches versus righteousness.) 2) This is possibly when Hagar was given to Abraham. Later, through Sarah's unbelief and scheming, she bore Ishmael whose descendents became enemies of Israel. (Gen. 16:12) The unbelief of others (Sarah) may tempt us to sin and Hagar was there due to Abraham's faltering faith. 3) When Lot followed Uncle Abraham down to Egypt he got a taste of the world and began to live by sight versus by faith. His story ends with an incestuous relationship with his daughters by whom he fathered children who became bitter enemies of Israel, the Moabites and Ammonites. (Gen 19:30-38)
We see here that faith which leads to obedience is what pleases God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Heb.11:6) We must believe that God exists and that He is more REAL than the "real" we can see with our eyes. And that God rewards those who seek hard after Him either in this life or for certain in heaven. So Biblical faith must, by definition, have an eternal perspective as Abraham's did or we will lose heart and shrink back in unbelief. "The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. But they were after a far better country than that-heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City (heaven) waiting for them." (Heb.11: 1; 8-9; 16 – The Message)
Questions for reflection/application
"There was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt." In what areas of your life might you be tempted to "go down to Egypt" out of fear and unbelief and begin scheming to take care of yourself? What in your life right now requires you to exercise your faith in God?
Lot chose the best land but got the worst friends (13:13), a tormented life (2 Peter 2:8) and a poor end (Gen. 19:30-38). There is a story about a ringtail monkey that was particularly difficult to catch but the natives outsmarted him because they knew his weakness. The monkey loved the seeds of a certain large melon so the natives would place one near his habitat and cut a hole in it just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand in it and grab the seeds. But once he grabbed them and clutched them in his fist his hand was too large to go back through the hole. Yet, he wouldn't let go of the seeds and the melon held him captive for the natives to simply take him. So the question for us is what do I want or trust in more than God? What am I holding on to in this world that keeps me captive to its false promises? May we like Abraham learn to let go and trust God to meet our needs.
Until He comes,
Len and Kristen