Week 5 – Genesis 12:10-20 Grandfathered Mission of Grace

I don’t know if you have noticed or not but I’m not picking out all the usual stories from HIStory as we progress in this 52 Week Challenge.  In fact I’ve already jumped over several prominent passages that we preacher types like to focus on in favour of some stories that we don’t hear much about.  And today is no exception to that rule.

 

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

Slide1

While the natural inclination would have been to focus on Genesis 12:1-2 as the main point of this chapter I chosen to look further along the journey of faith to see how, even with God’s anointed and chosen vessel,  mission can get side tracked.

The call of Abram and his walk of faith in response to that call in verses 1-2 is the very birth point of the Jewish nation and some might say missions in general.  And we may get all excited and think that, because it was so clearly God’s call, this mission should have little or no opposition.  And we couldn’t be more wrong.

Slide2Here’s a man 75 years young setting out on a faith journey after hearing God say, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” Genesis 12:1-2 (NIV).    A magnificent call if there ever was one.  But did you notice the many testing grounds he immediately went through?

Open your Bibles with me to Genesis 12:10-20 and let’s begin with HIStory as we look at their story, and see how it still impacts our story.

“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.  As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”  When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.  And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.  He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. 

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.  So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!”  Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had” (Genesis 12:10-20 (NIV).

This part of Abram’s journey has always been a bizarre story to me.  In fact it seems so… I don’t know just how to put this but…it seems so lacking in faith doesn’t it?

What I mean is, it paints a portrait of a sneaky conniving man who would go to great lengths just to save his skin.  This is not what we would expect from the father of a nation of faith.

So what is it that we are to glean from this story?  Is it that telling lies or as some would argue “half-truths”, that this is somehow applauded or even condoned by God?  Are we to learn that the ends justify the means?  Or is there another explanation?  Another point that we need to understand as Disciples of Christ?

Slide5

Since verse ten continues to set the scene for us (Gen. 12:10) we need to back up a little to grasp the context.  Abram the son of Terah, a citizen of Mesopotamia,  (modern day Syria, Iraq and Iran), has obeyed God’s call and actually leaves his homeland.

Think about that for a moment.  Would you leave your friends, the people you’ve grown accustom to and lived with for the past 75 years?  Now ‘day’s people don’t seem to settle long in a community.  But Abram was born and raised and lived in Mesopotamia for 75 years when he answered God’s call!  Abram left his father’s household, and Sarai left all her relatives behind as well.  They just set out one morning, servants and belongs in tow, and leave.   This was no little undertaking for him.

Slide6Think about that for a moment.  Would you leave your friends, the people you’ve grown accustom to and lived with for the past 75 years?  Now ‘day’s people don’t seem to settle long in a community.  But Abram was born and raised and lived in Mesopotamia for 75 years when he answered God’s call!  Abram left his father’s household, and Sarai left all her relatives behind as well.  They just set out one morning, servants and belongs in tow, and leave.   This was no little undertaking for him.

If you have ever uprooted your family and moved from one community to another you know as do I that it is not easy.

I can well imagine the conversation between him and his wife, their parents, and their siblings.  Each one questioning and commenting on this audacious move.  Some were likely very much against it others quite excited for it.

Now, in this internet age, we can always Skype, or Facebook, and in so many other ways keep in touch, with those we have left behind.  We have ways to soften the blow, a little bit, but even today it is still not easy.

Yet for Abram and Sarai this move literally them cut off from all they held near and dear not knowing if they would ever meet again.  Yet, with mission in mind, away they went expecting to find God’s promise just around the corner and over that next hill.

From the passage it seems like they started off with great gusto.  It’s an adventure…most men love adventures.  It’s in our genes.  Some women do to but often they are more the nesting types. Settle down, build your house, raise us a family.

Slide7

When Abram’s household reached their first recorded stop in the Promise Land, that’s verse 7, God told Abram.  “Look at the land before you…this is for your offspring” (cf. Gen 12:7).    Verse one said what?  “Go to the land I will show you”…right?  And God said what in verse 7?  “Look at this land…”  Abram got excited and built an alter and worshiped and praised there.

So why did Abram set out again?

It doesn’t say right?  It just says they kept going, the adventure continues.

This time it’s to a place called Bethel which means “house of God” (BBC) and there too Abram built another alter.  Seems to me that they had arrived in the Promised Land. Abram was excited!  His faith was growing.  He called on the name of the LORD.

And then they kept going.  What were they looking for?  Were they hoping for greener pastures? What made him decide that this too wasn’t the Promised Land God mentioned in verse one? Why didn’t Abram settle right there and raise his family?

Was it perhaps because, the promise of verse 7 was for his offspring and he didn’t have children of his own yet?  So why stop now?

Unlike the first stop and first alter where God shows up and blesses Abram this second Alter found silence from God.  Hind sight always seems better than being in the midst of things.  But do you suppose Abram later realized he wandered past the goal unawares?

Anyway they continued on.  But when they went around the corner they ran into the Negev.

As I was researching for this morning I found out that: “In October 2012, global travel guide publisher Lonely Planet rated the Negev second on a list of the world’s top ten regional travel destinations for 2013” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negev).   Why’s that?

Slide8

Looks to me like it’s a dessert!  Seriously!  Look at this picture.  In its best regions it is semi-arid lands where the temperatures sore past 45 degree Celsius on a regular basis.  Why do people want to travel to the dessert?

That’s kind of what the Hebrew name “Negev” means; “dry place”.   Different strokes for different folks. But did you know this place also covers more than half of modern day Israel making it a good chunk of the Promised Land?

Anyway, Abram wasn’t about to settle in that part of the Promised Land either and who can blame him?  Verse 10 says there was a severe famine in the land.  It’s a dessert! What was he expecting?  Shady green pastures?

It was a severe famine so Abram did what he thought was necessary.

He packed up moved from Alberta to BC.  Ok so Alberta isn’t a dessert.  But it sure being deserted these days!  People moving because of the major downturn in the economy.  Estimates I’ve heard have it that more than 100,000 people have packed up their families and moved in the last year.

And no Karemi & Zac didn’t move here because of the downturn they moved because they believed God directed their steps here.  They both left good jobs on their faith journey.  And they too have run into some faith testing times.  You can hear about it on our Youtube channel under Hosea 1 @ One Direction.

Anyway, Abram wasn’t taking any chances.  There could be food down in Egypt for his household.  So off he went, seemly completely forgetting about God’s promise both at the start of the journey and again at his first alter along the way.

Slide9

Here’s what I see this far from HIStory.  1. Every faith journey has its testing points along the way.  Expect them.  2.  When God is silent; remember to wait upon the Lord for clear directions before moving on.  Unless of course His last word to you was move on.  3. If you don’t wait things get worse before they get better.

Beginning in verse eleven the story goes from a faith journey and it takes a bizarre twist. Some might applaud Abram for his clever escape from the famine in the Negev.  Ah yes… the Negev?  The dry place, right?  His faith journey went from experiencing God’s blessings and relationship before Bethel to silence as they continued on and then Abram hit a dry place.

Do you ever feel like that?  Your faith has hit a dry spell?  A famine of severe testing?   What should you do when this happens?

Do you do as Abram and Sarai decided to do… to head for what appears greener pastures.  Do you abandon what you know God had called you to?  That’s what it appears Abram and Sarai did… and who can blame them?  Certainly not me.

I believe that in the absence of clarity from God, Abram did what we all tend to do, he resorted to survival instincts.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I applaud Abram, as should we all, for stepping out in faith.  He actually listened to God and began the journey.  I sometimes wonder how many people God asked before finding one that actually did as He was told.  But then again I fully accept that God knew perfectly well who to ask, “flaws and all”.

And contrary to the many myths that float around, Abram clearly had some flaws to deal with at this point in the journey.  But one wasn’t in knowing beauty when he saw it.

His wife, Sarai, was a knock out! That’s what verses 11 and 14-15 tell us.  Verse 11 says, “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are” (Genesis 12:11 (NIV)).   And was he right?  I mean she’s like over 60 at this point.  Or was Abraham, at 75ish, getting a little blind?

Slide10Well, verses 14-15 seems to agree with his assessment of the situation, right?  “When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.  And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace”  (Genesis 12:14-15 (NIV)). Abram was bang on with his assessment.    But do the ends justify the means?

Is that what people of faith ought to do?  I know, I know, Sarai was technically Abram’s “half-sister”, “the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother” was his excuse when he pulled this shenanigan again on another unsuspecting ruler in chapter 20 (cf. Gen 20:12).  So he wasn’t telling Sarai to tell them an outright lie just omit the part about being his wife.  But do the ends justify the means?

 

After-all Proverbs 12:22-23 says, “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthfulA prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.” (NIV).   This verse is the heart of business 101.  Be truthful but don’t give the company secrets away!  There is a difference between the need to know and simply a desire to know that helps govern most business transactions.  Some cards you play closer to the chest and only reveal if they need to know.  But when it comes to public health and safety?

Slide12Abram put the whole Egyptian nation, and especially its Pharaoh in harm’s way by this sin of omission.  And at first it worked just as he thought it would.  Pharaoh was delighted in Sarai, took her for his wife (cf. Gen. 12:19).  Not just ‘put her in his harem’ as some commentators allude to so as to soften the terrible thing Abram had done.  Verse 19 tells from Pharaoh’s point of view that they became one flesh.

Think about that for a moment.  The one person that was critical to the birth of the Messiah was traded off, in fear, put into another man’s bed, not once but twice by this man of faith?

Instead of protecting his wife Abram put her in harm’s way.  And for what noble purpose?  To save the nation?  To help God fulfill His promise of the seed? No!  It was to save himself and so he could grow richer (cf. Gen.  12:13).

This trial of faith was almost a complete failure of Abram’s part.  And, except by the grace of God, the outcome of his deception could have been far worse.  But God’s word is better than man’s best attempts at conniving and scheming.

Instead of being a blessing, Abram became a stench in Egypt’s nostrils, one that Pharaoh couldn’t get rid of fast enough when he found out what Abram had done.  We read that God brought a curse upon Pharaoh and those in his land.   We’re not told what disease or sickness it was but hey with all the weapons at His command it could have been a pesky mosquito delivering a Zika  or Malaria outbreak.

Slide13

The point is somehow, Pharaoh put two and two together and came up with Abram’s lie.  We’re not told how he knew but he surely did.  And immediately Sarai was sent off with her husband back to the Negev.

So what is our take away from this story?  Well as I see it, God promised Abram, “Whoever blesses you I will bless.  And whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen. 12:4).   But Abram, like all of us men, was suffering from Adam’s disease of Gen. 3.  So he took matters into his own hands on this occasion instead of continuing to trust the Lord and His promise.

And again…which of us can blame him?  The famine was real.  And it was real bad.  But the faith that Abram had to begin the journey crumbled when push came to shove for he hadn’t yet learned to trust God with all of his life.

It seems to me that this is a lesson you learn by failure for the most part.  I wish it wasn’t so.  We could simply read and learn from Abram’s mistake and choose to walk in faith but the likelihood is we will learn this lesson along the rough roads of faith.

Abram would have to live with this failure and the consequences wrought by his sin of omission.  And though it may look like he gained much by going to Egypt just look at where he was before that part of the journey.  He was standing in the Promised Land by verse 7.

 

Slide14

  1. But wait, there are also several amazing God things here to be seen.
    1. This chapter begins with God speaking to Abram. And Abram recognizing it was God and obeying His voice.  (See also John 10:27)
    2. Look at God’s response to Abram’s failure. Does God say, hey Abe you blew it?  And leave him to Pharaoh’s wrath?    No!  God actually uses this dry spell to bring about greater faith.   (See also 1:Pt. 1:7)
    3. We see a God who not only is watching over but also rescues His children when they wander and He leads them back to the path of righteousness.  What marvelous mercy! (See also Heb. 7:25)
    4. We see a God whose word is worthy of our trust even when circumstances scream otherwise. (See also Prov. 3:5-6; Psalm 118:8; Psalm 56:3; Isa 12:2, 43:2;  17:7-8; Rom. 16:26-27; Jude 1:25 )
    5. We see that God even moves our enemies to bring His children blessings at times. (see also Gen 47:13-26; Ex. 12:36; 2 Kings 7; 1 Cor. 1:27)

    God is the reason we exist to help people know and follow Jesus Christ. He is the God of all mercy, and the God of Grace MB Church in the Heart of Penticton.

    “For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

     Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

    (1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)).

 



Questions for this passage:

Read Gen. 12:10-20

  1. Do the ends justify the means?
  2. Would you leave your friends, the people you’ve grown accustom to and lived with for the past 75 years?  
  3. Where was Abram in Gen. 12:1, 7, 8, 10?
  4. Why did Abram end up in Egypt? Gen. 12:10
  5. Why do you suppose there was a famine in the Negev?
  6. Have you ever experienced a dry spell in your faith? A time when God seems silent on what direction you should take?
  7. What should we do when God seems silent or our faith is dry or the circumstances look bleak?
  8. What made Abram decide that this wasn’t the Promised Land where he was called to?   Why didn’t he settle where he was in Gen. 12:7-9 and raise himself a family? 
  9. What does Abram tell his wife in Gen. 12:11-12?
  10. Should Abram have told Sarai to withhold the fact that she was married to him? (Gen. 12:13)
  11. Do the ends found in verse Gen 12:14 justify the means? Why or why not? (Gen. 12:17-19 See also Gen. 20:1-16)
  12. Put another way. Is it ever right to ask your wife to sleep with another man?
  13. What is it that we are to glean from this story?   Is it that telling lies or as some would argue “half-truths”, that this is somehow applauded or even condoned by God?
  14. So what is your take away from this story?   What have you learned?
  15. 5 things about God you can learn from this story.
  1. This chapter begins with God speaking to Abram. And Abram recognizing it was God and obeying His voice.  (See also John 10:27)
  2. God actually uses this dry spell to bring about greater faith.   (See also 1:Pt. 1:7)
  3. We see a God who not only is watching over but also rescues His children when they wander and He leads them back to the path of righteousness.  What marvelous mercy! (See also Heb. 7:25)
  4. We see a God whose word is worthy of our trust even when circumstances scream otherwise. (See also Prov. 3:5-6; Psalm 118:8; Psalm 56:3; Isa 12:2, 43:2;  17:7-8; Rom. 16:26-27; Jude 1:25 )
  5. We see that God even moves our enemies to bring His children blessings at times. (see also Gen 47:13-26; Ex. 12:36; 2 Kings 7; 1 Cor. 1:27)
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