From faith to fear and scheming – the hero of faith stumbles but returns to faith
"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 the world (Egypt) and the godless world system for his needs. Note the play on words "went down" (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 will; 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 sake. 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 (or the gods) 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." Through God's mercy and intervention Abraham returns to the land and to his faith and witness to the Lord. Abraham's faith and trust in God's provision is shown in his generosity to Lot in giving him first choice of the land when they had to split up. (13:8-9)
But 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.
3) Lot got a taste of the world in Egypt and began to live by sight versus by faith. "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." Later in his incestuous relationships with his daughters he fathered children who became bitter enemies of Israel, the Moabites and Ammonites. (Gen 19:30-38)
"Remember your leaders, (Abraham, others in Scripture and people of faith) who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Heb. 13:7) We are to remember and imitate Abraham's great faith (which we will see over the weeks ahead) and also learn from his mistakes. "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come."(1 Cor.10:11 ) We must fight for our faith against the pull of the world, the devil and the flesh. "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor.10:3-5)
And Biblical faith must by definition have an eternal perspective as Abraham's did or we will lose heart and shrink back in unbelief. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of thing snot seen. By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city (heaven) which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Heb 11:1; 8-10)
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
"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?
Where have you seen the Lord intervene in your life to rescue you out of sin and call you back to His purposes in your life?
Have you experienced any of the 3 negative consequences from Abraham's sin in your life?
What can you learn from Abraham's bad example and from his good example?
Scripture memory verse: "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." (Heb. 13:7)