Alright, so Abram has left everything in order to serve the one true God. He has been shown the Promised Land, and experienced God’s promise of an heir. He has “called on the name of the Lord.” But now his faith is going to be tested. Isn’t that how faith is though? You feel the tug of the gospel- the conviction of the Holy Spirit. You fall on your face before Holy God, acknowledging your sinfulness in comparison with His perfection. You place your trust completely in the finished work of Christ. You are riding a spiritual high. But then comes the first major hurdle. Maybe it’s a health issue, death in the family, loss of a job, or just an emotional downturn. Whatever it is, you find yourself in the crucible, with extreme pressure being exerted on your young faith. One of the greatest truths we can learn as Christians is that God’s faithfulness to us does not hinge on our faithfulness to him. Let’s see how it played out in Abram’s life.
Even God’s people can have lapses in faith. When we decide to follow God, we don’t get the “super Christian” cape. We get a new identity, but the super powers will have to wait until glory. In verse 10, we read that a famine arises in the land. Abram does what is natural- he heads somewhere to find food. In this case it is Egypt. Scripture is silent on whether this was a wise decision or not. That’s not the point. The problem arises when Abram takes his focus off of the promise of God and places it on a perceived danger. Abram sees the potential for a life threatening situation once his family arrives in Egypt. Verses 11-13 reflect a solution rooted in a lapsed faith. Abram falls into pragmatism and in the process takes his wife down with him. Right at this point in the account we are given a serious warning. We must never compromise God’s Word (or the standards found in it) when faced with tough circumstances. I believe the world is desperately looking for people of faith who are genuine and whose faith holds up under pressure. They may hate us for it, but I believe that in a world filled with wishy-washy politicians, shallow celebrities, and a self-centered general population, a genuine, firm, rock-solid biblical faith is needed. We need to reflect to the pagans around us (just like Abram should have) an uncompromising faith in the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
Our lapses in faith can jeopardize God’s blessings in our lives. In verses 14-16 we see such a different Abram than we did in verses 1-9. Because of a perceived threat, Abram faces a predicament. God’s promises to him can’t be fulfilled if Abram is dead. So, either Abram must trust that God cannot lie and will protect him, or he must do whatever he feels he must do to stay alive. But now the whole “promise” thing is about to fall apart. While Abram was busy scheming to protect himself, he neglected to think about the other half of the equation. Suddenly, Sarai is taken into Pharoah’s harem. This is a problem! Abram gets rich as part of the deal as Pharoah deals very generously with Sarai’s “brother,” but Abram’s wife (as required part of gaining a legitimate heir) is in someone else’s house.
God will show Himself faithful in order to protect His people and His plan. Sometimes God intervenes when His people lapse in their faith, and sometimes He doesn’t. It is important to remember that even when God does step in, He often leaves the consequences in place. Here, in verses 17-20, God will protect His servant even in the midst of his sin. God sends plagues on the house of Pharaoh in judgment on him for taking Sarai. It’s important to see some of the subtleties in the text. In verses 18-19 Pharaoh exhibits a higher degree of moral sensitivity than the patriarch of the eventual people of God does. He is a man who is deeply grieved and angered. He is a pagan who has come in contact with a man who walks with God and his experience has been utterly disappointing. Who is this Yahweh? Who is this God whose followers have to lie and deceive in order to help Him in the protection of His people? Obviously He is not a very strong, reliable, or powerful deity. Definitely not one that this ruler of men should be interested in following! And yet before we judge Abram too harshly, let’s turn our gaze inward. How often do our own actions or attitudes betray a lack of confidence in the power and reliability of our God? What kind of God would our neighbors imagine we serve simply by watching us and listening to us? What about our coworkers, family, friends, etc? Abram packs up and heads out of Egypt, wife returned and wealthier for the experience. But even those riches are going to come back to haunt him…but that comes later.
A few things to meditate on:
- God can and will protect His plan even when people complicate it because of sin
- Suffering and hardships should develop faith, hope, patience, and character as they refine, mold, and purify our faith (Romans 5).
- If we are going to handle difficult moral choices when they arise, we must develop a biblical worldview. Our minds must be renewed and changed by the Word of God so that when challenges arise our response is rooted in the text and not in deceptive schemes or compromise.
- When we do blow it, God’s grace can overflow into our lives. This should serve as a reminder that the means of living righteously by faith (and not blowing it) comes only through the empowering of Christ.