Genesis 2011 - Lesson 12C

Chapter 12:10-20

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  • Abram is a man of complexity

    • The Father of faith, Paul says in Rom 4:16

    • A man called a friend of God, according to James 2:23

    • The patriarch of the patriarchs

    • But he is also a man who, as Scripture records, makes serious errors and shows weaknesses in faith at times

      • As I mentioned before, this man came to called Abraham, a friend of God

      • But he began his walk with God as Abram…a man new to faith and unfamiliar to depending upon God

        • And like anyone new to faith, Abram must progress through trials and challenges if he is to grow spiritually

        • So he can learn how to depend on God rather than upon his own fleshly nature

    • Last week Moses taught us how this new man of faith heard God’s call, responded and received God’s promises of blessing

      • Abram’s receiving of God’s promises began the fourth period of God’s rule over His creation

        • We refer to this period as the dispensation of promise or patriarachs, which is distinguished from the dispensation of government by God’s selection of one family

        • While government still operates, God’s purposes will be uniquely fulfilled through the line of one family – Abram’s family

      • And in the second half of Chapter 12, Moses relates one of Abram’s early missteps after arriving in the land

      • Beginning today in v.10

Gen. 12:10  Now there was  a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 
  • Abram has been wandering through the land to take in all that God had given him and his descendants

    • His wanderings brought him into the southern most part of Canaan, into the Negev desert

    • The Negev is the final wilderness before you reach the border of Egypt

      • So as we enter v.10, Abram is living near Egypt’s border making his new life in Canaan

    • Now Moses says there was a famine in the land

      • This statement holds great intrigue for us because we know that famines are not events of chance or luck

        • We know God has brought this famine about

        • Therefore we must conclude it is a test, not only on Canaan as a whole but upon Abram in particular

      • So this begs a big question: why would God bring such a test upon Abram so soon after leading him into the promised land?

    • History tells us that the city of Ur was a very prosperous city

      • Ur was located in fertile Mesopotamia where crops and herds were plentiful

      • And archeologists have found evidence that the city traded for exotic goods from around Asia and Africa

      • So Abram’s family was probably accustomed to having plenty

    • So then the living God revealed Himself to Abram and called him to a better place, a place God had prepared for Abram’s inheritance

      • What do you suppose Abram expected to find in Canaan?

      • If pagan Ur was a prosperous place to live, surely God’s promised land would be far better, offering a far easier life

  • With the onset of this famine, Abram must have been scratching his head and wondering about what went wrong?

    • Did he do something wrong? Did God forget His promises?

      • Whatever the cause, Abram knew he needed to take matters into his own hands

      • If following God and depending on God for his needs and his inheritance was Plan A, then perhaps it was time for Plan B

        • Because Plan A didn’t seem to provide for Abram in the manner to which he was accustomed 

    • And as we heard, Abram’s Plan B was to follow the world’s lead and head to Egypt

      • Ancient historical records confirm what we see Abram doing here

      • When famine would hit Palestine hard, many would migrate into Egypt seeking greener pastures

        • Even when Egypt experienced drought, the Nile river would bring enough flood waters to ensure a good grain harvest

        • So while the rest of the known world was suffering, Egypt would often become the world’s destination for survival

      • Egypt plays a prominent role in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and in the New

        • At times it becomes a place of protection for Israel

        • And at other times it serves as Israel’s oppressor

        • After Jesus was born, Egypt becomes a place for the Messiah to hide as a child

        • And in the coming Kingdom, Isaiah tells us that Egypt will remain an empty wasteland as a testimony against Israel’s enemies

      • By all these examples, Egypt becomes a picture in Scripture of the Gentile unbelieving world

        • Egypt pictures the unbelieving Gentile world both giving Israel sanctuary at times while persecuting them at other times

        • Egypt pictures the way the world becomes a place for the Messiah to dwell before he comes into His Kingdom in the form of His Church

        • And Egypt will one day picture the judgment that comes upon the world that rejects the Messiah

      • So Egypt pictures the sinful, unbelieving world

    • Abram responds to his time of trial by retreating to the world

      • He goes to Egypt looking for the provision he expected to find in God’s land

  • Personally, I take a small measure of encouragement in watching Abram making this mistake

    • And yes, this was a mistake

      • Abram receives no instruction to leave the land of Canaan

      • And his time in Egypt just leads to more stumbles and compromises

    • Abram may be a man of faith, but at this early point, he’s a man unaccustomed to living by that faith

      • Here he faces his first test as a man following God, and he concludes that reliance on God isn’t sufficient under the circumstances

      • When we’re new in our walk of faith – or when we are untested – we have little personal experience in depending upon the Lord

        • On the other hand, we do have experience in depending upon ourselves

      • Trials are a God-provided opportunity for us to learn what depending on God looks like

    • Early in our walk, we’re likely to revert under pressure to what we know best – depending upon ourselves

      • Which is actually a lie anyway

        • Even when we were living apart from the promises of God, dead in our sins, we were still dependent upon God for every breath

        • We just didn’t recognize and acknowledge His role

    • So I’m encouraged when I read that Abram, the Father of Faith, had days when his faith didn’t drive his decision-making

      • Instead, his doubts and fears and sinful nature drove his decision-making

        • And his mistakes certainly don’t justify our mistakes

        • But they remind us that walking in faith is a progression in maturity, not an instantaneous achievement

      • And the engine driving our maturity is the Spirit of God bringing the truth of God’s word to our hearts

        • And the fuel for that engine of maturity are trials and tests brought by the Lord

    • James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote this to the church:

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various  trials, 
James 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 
James 1:4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 
  • We are to face our trials joyfully, in the sense that we recognize their potential to achieve a good purpose

    • Because by these trials we learn to endure in our faith, to rely on the Lord

    • So that we might attain to the perfect or complete work in Christ

  • Isn’t this Abram’s shortcoming here?

    • He didn’t understand that he could be complete in the Lord

      • He has found the Lord’s provision lacking

      • It wasn’t as satisfying as what Egypt held for him

  • This is the early experience I believe the Lord gives every new believer, to understand that walking in faith isn’t a recipe for more of what the world offers

    • Sadly, many believers were taught that their entrance into the faith meant they had arrived on Easy Street

      • They will be rich, popular and thin

      • They will find life’s problems disappearing and all their dreams coming true

    • None of this is true, none of it

      • God’s word teaches that just as the prophets were persecuted and as our Lord was crucified, so will God’s children be mistreated

      • The Lord said that we should expect to be hated by the world for Christ’s name’s sake

      • The reality is that the world appeals to our flesh, but a walk of faith appeals to our spirit

        • And as Paul taught in Galatians 5, we are either led by our flesh or we are being led by God’s Spirit – but we cannot follow both

  • I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Abram had ventured close to the Egyptian border by the time of the famine

    • Knowing that Egypt is a picture of worldliness, then we might see Abram’s choice to live in the Negev as a picture of trying to hold onto the world while walking with God

      • And then when the trial came, it was that much easier for Abram to step across the border and enter Egypt

    • Christians repeat this error when we entertain thoughts of remaining married to the world

      • We’re talking about the Christian who lives with one foot still in the world, still clinging to the life the Lord calls them to leave behind

      • When Jesus prayed to the Father before His death on the cross, listen to what He says concerning God’s children – those who have faith

John 17:14 “I have given them Your word; and  the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:15 “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.
John 17:16 “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
John 17:18 “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
John 17:19 “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be  sanctified in truth.
John 17:20  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;
John 17:21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
  • Jesus says that God’s children are like Christ in that we are spiritually different than the world

    • And that difference will cause the world to disapprove and distance themselves from us in various ways

      • And yet Jesus says He would not ask the Father to remove us from the world, not until the time God has appointed

    • Instead, Jesus asked the Father to keep us from the enemy and sanctify us in the truth of God’s word

      • Just as the Father sent the Son into the world, we are sent in Christ’s place until His return to rule

      • And that we might act and think as one with God, living a sanctified, godly life

    • But if we live with one foot in the world, longing for what the world offers us, we retreat from sanctification and holiness

      • We cross the border into Egypt, seeking association with the world again, seeking the world’s approval

      • Instead of relying on the blessings that come exclusively by faith

  • Our faith does bring great blessings, but like Abram’s inheritance, those blessings await the appearance of the kingdom upon the return of the Messiah

    • So in the meantime, we live in the enemy’s world, but we are told by our Lord that we are no longer to live as if we are still part of it

      • We aren’t to think like the world, seek for what the world seeks, love like the world loves, live like the world lives

    • Abram failed this second test of his faith, and he stumbled because he was still clinging to the false security of the world

      • Rather than remaining where God had delivered him, trusting in God to provide despite the famine

      • Abraham walked according to his own counsel

  • In v.10 Moses says Abram sojourned in Egypt

    • The Hebrew word for sojourned (gur) means a temporary dwelling

      • Abram knew the trip was temporary

        • He would venture into Egypt for a little while, just long enough to get past the rough patch

      • Like we might say to ourselves during a trial

        • We might know the Lord is asking us to wait on Him, to rely on Him, but we tell ourselves we know how to solve the problem

        • We’ll just step outside the Lord’s will for a short time, seek the worldly options for a little while

    • But when we begin to play by the world’s rules it’s hard to know where to draw the line

      • And Abram experiences this slippery slope firsthand while in Egypt

Gen. 12:11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 
Gen. 12:12  and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 
Gen. 12:13 “Please say that you are  my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.” 
  • Abram makes this bold request of Sarai

    • Abram begins the way every smart husband begins when he wants something

      • He says, “Have I told you recently how nice you’re looking these days?”

      • Or as the King James version says, “I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon”

    • In truth Abram’s concern wasn’t driven by Sarai’s beauty, though I’m sure she was a beautiful woman

      • Abram’s fear was driven by a well known cultural practice common among the Egyptian noblemen

      • Egyptians during this period of history were famous for wife abduction

        • Ancient records discovered written in the Nuzi tablets record this practice

        • When Egyptians came upon a husband with a desirable wife, the husband might be killed and the woman stolen and sold as a wife to someone else

        • And the prettier the woman, the more likely the theft became

      • On the other hand, if the woman was unmarried, it was more likely that those wishing to take her would barter for her instead of stealing

        • So Abram asks that Sarai lie and say he was her brother rather than husband

          • Even though Sarai was Abram’s half sister, this was only a half truth

          • And half a truth is a whole lie

        • Abram was likely thinking that he might survive long enough to escape during negotiations and avoid death

    • Where was Sarai in all this?

      • Why did she agree to play this game?

      • The only answer is that she trusted God more than she trusted Abram

        • While Abram might – and does – fail her

        • God won’t fail her, so Sarai remains true to her role to respect and obey her husband

        • And in this case, she acts according to his direction even though he is sinning

        • Will God come to her rescue when Abram lets her down?

  • Abram’s fear of death and dependency on the world caused him to live a lie

    • And to bring his wife down with him

    • This is the inevitable course when we try to live with one foot in the world

      • First living near Egypt, then crossing into Egypt, and now living a lie to save himself

      • Paul tells us that when we seek unity with the world, we won’t find common ground nor should we expect to

Gen. 12:14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 
Gen. 12:15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 
Gen. 12:16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels. 
  • In short, Abram’s plan didn’t work exactly as he intended

    • Though his lie did save his life, it produced a new outcome Abram didn’t anticipate

      • The Egyptians had taken notice of Sarai and her beauty was such that it made its way to Pharoah

      • And before Abram knew it, Sarai was sitting in Pharaoh's house

    • And because they thought Abram was just Sarai’s brother, they ensured he was treated well because of her

      • Did you notice the irony?

      • Abram tells Sarai to lie so that he would be treated well because of her

        • He meant that he would be able to live and escape with her

        • Yet in the end, Scripture records the same phrase in describing how Abram collects this wealth from the sale of his sister

      • There are seven categories of material that Abram receives, suggesting that the Lord was at work in blessing Abram despite his sin

        • And yet we’ll learn later that one of the female servants Abram receives from Pharaoh was a woman called Hagar

        • Abram’s sin in Egypt sows the seed of his own future turmoil 

Gen. 12:17 But the LORD  struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 
Gen. 12:18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 
Gen. 12:19 “Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.” 
Gen. 12:20 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him. 
  • Pharaoh’s struck in defense of Sarai

    • The Pharaoh seems to be a victim here in light of the fact that he knew nothing of the deception

      • He paid for his bride

      • But God has made promises to Abram that depend on Sarai remaining Abram’s wife

        • And as Paul says, the gifts and call of God are irrevocable

      • And so God acts to preserve His promise

        • Since God has said that those who are against Abram would be cursed, here we see that statement proving true 

        • God working to defend Abram from his enemies 

    • And we also notice God acts to protect Sarai as she obediently obeys and respects her husband even as he makes serious mistakes

      • The Jewish Rabbi Rashi declared that the plague was a skin disease that made sexual contact impossible, thus protecting Sarai

      • And yet the disease didn’t affect Sarai, thus leading Pharaoh to discern that Sarai was the key

    • This led to the conversation with Abram

      • The Pharaoh chastises Abram for lying and causing this trouble

        • Of course the Pharaoh doesn’t say that had Abram told the truth, they would have abducted his wife and killed him

      • Still, that doesn’t justify Abram’s lie

        • He stepped into the ungodly world and had to play by their rules

        • Bringing one compromise after another

      • And yet even though Abram was unfaithful, God remains faithful to His promises

        • Clearly the covenant is working and is in force

        • Clearly the covenant is unconditional, without dependence on Abram’s behavior