Genesis – First, God
Moving to a new place is exciting…in theory. The actual act of preparing, packing and making the move happen is totally exhausting! There are many decision to make with every aspect of the move. There are calls to make switching utilities from one place to the next place. Whether you are moving across town or across the country, the details are still the same. Packing all your stuff, including the stuff you haven’t seen in years into boxes, labeling the boxes so you can find your underwear when you unpack at your new location is labor intensive. I think we can all agree, we discover we have too much stuff!
In our moves, we usually have a destination. We have a new address, even if it is a temporary apartment to go to until our new home is ready. We leave, knowing where we will go, with a caravan of all our belongings. When the last box is unloaded at our new destination we heave a huge sigh of relief. We made it!
IMAGINE packing all your belongings, herds of animals, AND your extended family, to leave all you know, to simply go where God leads. You will be traveling for months. You will pitch tents and camp along the way until you arrive “for a land that I will show you” says God.
Wow, that makes our moves seem like a piece of cake, right?
Genesis 12, The Message
Abram and Sarai
God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.
2-3 I’ll make you a great nation
and bless you.
I’ll make you famous;
you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you;
those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth
will be blessed through you.”
4-6 So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.
Abram passed through the country as far as Shechem and the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites occupied the land.
7 God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.
8 He moved on from there to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent between Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there and prayed to God.
9 Abram kept moving, steadily making his way south, to the Negev.
10-13 Then a famine came to the land. Abram went down to Egypt to live; it was a hard famine. As he drew near to Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “Look. We both know that you’re a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you they’re going to say, ‘Aha! That’s his wife!’ and kill me. But they’ll let you live. Do me a favor: tell them you’re my sister. Because of you, they’ll welcome me and let me live.”
14-15 When Abram arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians took one look and saw that his wife was stunningly beautiful. Pharaoh’s princes raved over her to Pharaoh. She was taken to live with Pharaoh.
16-17 Because of her, Abram got along very well: he accumulated sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, men and women servants, and camels. But God hit Pharaoh hard because of Abram’s wife Sarai; everybody in the palace got seriously sick.
18-19 Pharaoh called for Abram, “What’s this that you’ve done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she’s your wife? Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister’ so that I’d take her as my wife? Here’s your wife back—take her and get out!”
20 Pharaoh ordered his men to get Abram out of the country. They sent him and his wife and everything he owned on their way.
THE BUMP IN THE ROAD OF FAITH
Life can be difficult. A faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. Peter compared the Christian’s trials to the testing of gold in the furnace (1 Peter 1:7), and the patriarch Job used the same image: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10 nkjv). God’s purpose in allowing trials is not only to verify our faith but also to purify it and remove the impurities of our lives. God knows what kind of faith we have, but we don’t know, and the only way to advance in the “school of faith” is to take examinations.
In leaving his family and traveling to an unknown land, Abraham took a great step of faith. After he arrived, he saw God a second time and heard His word of promise. Abraham and Sarah probably expected to settle down and enjoy their new home, but God would not let them. Instead, God permitted a famine to come to the land.
Why did God allow the famine? To teach Abraham and Sarah a basic lesson in the “school of faith,” a lesson you must also learn: Tests often follow triumphs.
“I thought that getting saved was the end of all my troubles,” a young believer said to me. “But now I know that faith in Christ has given me a whole new set of problems! But now there are two differences,” he added with a smile. “I don’t face them alone, because the Lord is with me, and I know He allows them for my good and His glory.”
One of the enemies of the life of faith is pride. When you win a victory, you may feel overconfident and start telling yourself that you can defeat any enemy at any time. You start depending on your past experience and your growing knowledge of the Word, instead of depending wholly on the Lord.
God did not want Abraham to become proud and self-confident, so He put him and his faith into the furnace of testing.
After you have won a great victory of faith, expect the enemy to attack you, or the Lord to test you, or both. This is the only way you can grow in your faith. God uses the tough circumstances of life to build the muscles of your faith and keep you from trusting something other than His Word. Don’t try to run away from the problem. It won’t work.
When circumstances become difficult and you are in the furnace of testing, remain where God has put you until He tells you to move. Faith moves in the direction of peace and hope, but unbelief moves in the direction of restlessness and fear. “He that believes shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16). In times of testing, the important question is not “How can I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?” (James 1:1-12). God is at work to build your faith.
God alone is in control of circumstances. You are safer in a famine in His will than in a palace out of His will. It has well been said, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” Abraham failed the test of circumstances and turned from the will of God.
Abraham moved not only from the famine but he moved from trusting to scheming. Abraham had no altar in Egypt, and you don’t find him calling on the Lord for guidance and help.
Faith is living without scheming. When you stop trusting God’s Word, you start leaning on man’s wisdom, and this leads to trouble (Prov. 3:5-6; 1 Cor. 3:18-20). Abraham and Sarah brought this “half-truth” with them from Ur (Gen. 20:13), used it in Egypt and Gerar (Gen. 20), and then their son, Isaac, adopted it (Gen. 26). When you find yourself scheming in order to escape problems with people, beware; worse trouble is coming!
He also moved from confidence to fear. When you are in the place of God’s choosing, you don’t ever need to be afraid, for faith and fear cannot dwell in the same heart (Isa. 12:2; Mark 4:40). The fear of God is the fear that conquers every fear (Ps. 112; Isa. 8:13); but “the fear of man brings a snare” (Prov. 29:25 nkjv). God had repeatedly said “I will” to Abraham, but now Abraham was saying “They will” (Gen. 12:12). He took his eyes off the Lord and started looking at people.
A third change took place: He moved from “others” to self. He lied so that it might “be well with me for thy [Sarah’s] sake” (v. 13). As the husband, Abraham should have thought first of his wife and not of himself (1 Peter 3:7; Eph. 5:25, 28-29). In fact, he should never have taken his wife there in the first place! A husband out of the will of God can bring untold trouble to his wife and family.
This leads to a fourth change: He moved from bringing blessing to bringing judgment. God called Abraham to be a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:1-3), but because of Abraham’s disobedience, judgment fell on Pharaoh and his household (v. 17).
If you want to be a blessing to others, then stay in the will of God. Jonah ran from God’s will and caused a storm that almost sank the ship. Like Jonah, Abraham lost his testimony before unbelievers and had to face embarrassment and rebuke.
God graciously watched over His servant and brought him out of a difficult situation. If Sarah had become one of Pharaoh’s wives, what would have happened to the promise of the Redeemer?
When we don’t let God rule, He overrules and accomplishes His purposes, but we pay dearly for our disobedience.
Abraham learned his lesson, repented, and “went up” out of Egypt (13:1). When you disobey the will of God, the only right thing to do is to go back to the place where you left Him and make a new beginning (1 John 1:9). No failure is permanent in the “school of faith.” Abraham went back to his tent and altar and the life of a “pilgrim and stranger.”
THE LESSON FOR US
The practical lesson from all of this is simply never abandon your altar. Stay in fellowship with the Lord no matter what the circumstances may be. If you have disobeyed and God is disciplining you, go back to the place where you left Him and make things right. Remember the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings. That is not an excuse for sin, but it is an encouragement for repentance.
Move when God says to move. Be still when He says to be still. Worship with gratitude, pray for repentance. We pray, God works.
HE is God and we are not.
God, our Father,
Thank you for this lesson in faithful obedience. I will meditate on it all day long. Help me in my own tests and trials to remain focused on you, obedient to you and not on my circumstances or other people. I love you, Lord. I need you every hour. To You be the glory!
In Jesus Name, Amen