Adventures in Faith - Abraham 2. Famine in the Promised Land
Genesis 12: 10 - 20 "Smart people sometimes do some very stupid things." "When hard times come, we always have two choices. We can be a student or we can be a victim." -A victim says, "Why did this happen to me?" -A student says, "What can I learn from this?" -A victim complains he is being treated unfairly. -A student thanks God that he is not being treated as he really deserves. -A victim tries to get even with those who have hurt him. -A student seeks ways to serve others in the midst of his difficulty. -A victim believes the game of life is stacked against him. -A student believes that God is at work even in the worst situations. In every circumstance each of us has the opportunity to choose how we will respond. Sometimes we will foolishly make the wrong choice and pay a heavy price for our mistake. Often we won't learn the right lessons until we can look back and see how God was at work even in our foolish decisions. Something like that is about to happen to Abraham. Faced with a crisis, he makes a series of bad choices that jeopardize everything he has gained to this point. Acting out of fear, he places his wife in a morally compromised situation. In the end, God rescues him but not before he is thoroughly humiliated in the eyes of the pagans. 4 Lessons About Foolish Choices and the Providence of God -
1. Trouble follows blessing so that God may test our motives v. 10
A. God sent a famine just as Abraham began to settle down. This is not unusual. But the timing of this famine is meant to catch our attention. After all that Abraham has been through you would think that God would give him a period of peace and quiet. Life is rarely that simple for any of us.
B. God sent trouble following a period of prosperity. This is to test our motives. Are we serving God just because things are going well? What if we lose our job? Our reputation? Our health? Will we still serve him then? That is the question that Satan posed to God regarding his servant Job: "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Job 1: 9 He then accuses God of having rigged the game by putting a hedge of comfort and blessing around Job. "Sure, you've blessed him. No wonder he serves you. Who wouldn't? But take everything away and he will curse you to your face." Everything that happens to Job is sent as a test to prove whether or not Satan was right. So why are you serving God? Is it only because things are going well for you? When life tumbles in, what then? Going to Egypt meant leaving the Promised Land for the wicked ways of paganism. Again and again the people of God fled to Egypt for protection, but it always cost them dearly in the end.
2. God's people often respond to danger with clever deception v. 11 - 13 Much of what Abraham said was true. Sarah truly was beautiful. Sarah was his half-sister. They shared the same father but had different mothers. So in a sense Abraham could justify himself by saying that he had told a half-truth. But a half-truth is a whole lie, and it is going to get Abraham in a whole lot of trouble. Abraham was certainly correct in assuming that he would be treated well and that his life would be spared. In all of this Abraham represents the ordinary man of the world who decides to shade the truth a bit in order to get by. He is willing to lie "just a little bit" to save his own skin. Surely we can all understand his reasoning. It made sense on a purely human level.
A. He Left God Out! As long as you leave God out of the picture, what Abraham does seems wrong, but it doesn't seem particularly sinful. That is the problem. Abraham left God out. Compare the 2 halves of Genesis 12. In the 1st half God is the reason for everything Abraham does. God calls and he leaves Ur, God promises and he travels to the Promised Land. God speaks again and he builds an altar. But where is God in the 2nd half of Genesis 12? Abraham journeys to Egypt on his own, he concocts this scheme on his own and he gets rich on his own. Abraham leaves God out, and that's always a mistake. What Abraham did probably didn't seem very wrong to him. But how do you think Sarah felt about all this? His deception meant that she would become part of Pharaoh's harem. Here is a man willing to sacrifice his wife's purity in order to save himself. Not only that, he was also interfering in God's plan to bless the world by giving them a child. Abraham is willing to risk everything God has promised him just to save his own neck. Surely, God would understand, wouldn't he? Abraham was unwilling to trust God in a moment of personal crisis. He refused to wait on the Lord. He devised a scheme to get him out of trouble. But that scheme only got him deeper in trouble.
B. Don't Mock God! "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6: 7 This is the law of the harvest. You can't sow beans and expect to harvest watermelons. What you sow is what you will later reap. But all of that awaits another day. At first Abraham's plans seems to work well.
3. God sometimes allows our deception to gain us a temporary advantage v. 14 - 16 "So far, so good." Everything seems to be working out exactly as Abraham planned. The Egyptians quickly noticed Sarah's beauty. She must have been very beautiful indeed because she was taken into Pharaoh's palace. This had several advantages. It meant that Sarah would be well cared for - the best of food, the finest of wines, the most expensive clothing, jewelry and perfumes. Abraham received a rather large dowry from Pharaoh. All those animals and servants simply add to his wealth so he's come out of this smelling like a rose. In fact, it seems that either God didn't notice his little deception or maybe God just decided to overlook it or perhaps God actually approved of it. Surely, all this prosperity proves that Abraham was right to lie about his wife. We shouldn't be surprised if our deceptive plans seem to prosper at first. After all, sin is fun-at least for a while. If sin weren't fun or at least rewarding, no one would ever sin. "The pleasure of sin for a short time" Hebrews 11: 25 What happened to the Prodigal Son when he left home for the far country? He prospered! As long as he had money, he was living on Easy Street. It seemed as if his plan had succeeded. Every night he went out on the town and spent money like it would never run out. The guys loved him and the women flocked to him. He was the centre of attention wherever he went. Life for him was one big party and he was the guest of honour.
A. Sin only works if there is no tomorrow Don't miss the larger lesson. Sin brings plenty of short-term rewards. If that's where you are right now, you might as well enjoy it because that's all you're going to get.
B. But tomorrow always comes sooner or later
4. God disciplines His disobedient children by humiliating them in front of unbelievers v. 17 - 20 For the first time the Lord appears. Up until now Abraham has been riding the crest of a wave created by his own clever plans. Perhaps he even thought that God was pleased with what he had done. But he is now in for a rude awakening. The Lord sent "serious diseases" on Pharaoh. The Lord sent these diseases "because of" Sarah. Pharaoh somehow connected the disease with Sarah. I believe that God wanted to protect Sarah, so he sent some kind of sexually-transmitted disease to Pharaoh that would have prevented any immoral act with Sarah. It's possible that he sent it intermittently so that whenever he called for Sarah, he became violently ill. That would have tipped him off that something strange was happening. What follows is one of the most humiliating episodes in Abraham's life. God is using a pagan to chasten his own man. Abraham is the one man God chose from all the men of the world to be the father of the nation of Israel. But because of Abraham's disobedience, he is now humiliated in front of a pagan ruler. The easy way of deception ends up being the hard road of humiliation. So off Abraham goes, back toward the Promised Land, back to the land he should never have left. His head is bowed, his shoulders slumped. I wonder what Sarah said to him as they made the long trek across the Sinai Desert. I don't think he got any sympathy from her. She didn't need to say anything, and her silence spoke louder than words. Everything Abraham gained in Egypt cost him later. Because of their great wealth, Abraham and Lot had to separate when they got back to Canaan. That caused Lot to desire the riches of Sodom. Among the servants was a young girl named Hagar who would be the source of much heartache and pain. "There are no benefits from disobedience." Though it may seem painful at the time, chastening is meant to save us from our own stupidity and bring us to the place where our trust will be in God alone. We always learn more from defeat than we do from victory. That is why this story is in the Bible. Important lessons about spiritual life-
1. The danger of compromise. What seemed so innocent almost cost Abraham everything. Compromise starts with a small step in the wrong direction, followed by another and another. Soon we're off the trail - easier to just continue in the same direction. 2. The deceitfulness of sin. No one ever "gets away" with sin. Though the wheels of God's justice grind slowly, they grind with perfect precision. Nothing is missed. Every sin seems fun or reasonable or justified in the beginning. But in the end, we are the ones who pay the price. 3. The dance of circumstance. Who sent the famine? God did. Who sent the plague to Pharaoh? God did. Who stepped in to protect Sarah's purity at just the right moment? Who caused Abraham to be humiliated so that he would return to the Promised Land? God did. As far as we know, God never speaks directly to Abraham, yet he is moving behind the events. Whatever else you can say about your life, don't ever forget that God is in charge of even the tiniest details. Nothing escapes his notice and even the most unlikely events are part of his plan for you. 4. The grace of God. Strange because this story ends with Abraham's humiliation. But where does that humiliation lead? Back to the Promised Land where he should have been all along. How many of us can testify that through God's judgment on sin we learned how great is his grace in forgiveness and restoration. That's what happened to Abraham. It is the grace of God that intervenes to bring us back to where we used to be before we messed up. As Abraham slowly trudges across the hot sand, he's aware that his reputation is ruined. His own servants are laughing behind his back. It will be a long time before he can even speak of this humiliating event. But if you look closely, there is contentment in his eyes. Egypt is behind him. He's going back home. Back to the Promised Land. Back to God. Back where he belongs. This is the grace of God at work. Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come 'Tis Grace hath brought we safe thus far And grace will lead me home. Every event in life either draws us to God or leads us away from him. If Abraham had stayed in Canaan during the famine, he would have learned to trust God in a new way. If he hadn't lied to the Egyptians, he would have given God a chance to meet his needs without resorting to deception. But because he didn't do those things, that same famine led him away from God. How much better it would be if we would learn this lesson. Instead of complaining at every trial and saying "Why me?" we would be better off to say, "Lord, what are you trying to teach me through this?" Every difficult situation gives the opportunity to become a student of God's grace or a victim of negative circumstances. When the famine comes, remember that God has not abandoned you. He sends the famines of life in order to see if you will trust him even in the most difficult moments. We should say, "Here is another opportunity for me to trust God." It's not easy to say that. Sometimes it takes more grace to stay in the Promised Land than it does to get there in the first place. God never intended that that Christian life should be easy. If it were easy, none of us would ever grow spiritually. He arranges the steps of life so that as we climb higher, we also grow stronger. In the end we will discover heights of blessing that God reserves for those who just keep climbing.