After confusing the language of men and forcing their hand in spreading out to fill the earth, God enters into the story once again by choosing a man to leave his family and move toward a very specific place for a very specific purpose. This is not our gem for the day, but it sets the stage for what’s ahead:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.Genesis 12:1-4a ESV
The Covenant Promise
We know the story. God calls, and Abram obeys. He takes his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot, and leaves behind all he knows to go to a land full of people who don’t even know his God. He trusts the God who tells him, not only to leave but that he will be the father of a great nation. Sounds odd, when at age seventy-five or so, he has no son. I guess that goes to prove that God’s promises don’t always make sense.
Then there is the famine.
Not only is he having to move to a new land, but now it’s as barren as his wife. Why would God bring famine to the land he had promised to Abram? I don’t have a definitive answer on that, because Scripture doesn’t provide one, but I do believe that just because the Lord leads us in a certain direction, that doesn’t mean the way will be easy. Some see this as a foreshadowing of the period of slavery in Egypt, and that could be. It’s also possible that had Abram trusted and remained in Canaan, God would have provided for his needs in Canaan. After all, as we will come to find out, “Is anything too hard for God?” (18.14).
As we move to my gem for the day, I am grateful for this truth I’ve learned: The promises of God depend on God, not us!
Grace despite disobedience.
Abram did the natural thing when famine hit—he headed for greener pastures (literally, since he had flocks and herds). Those greener pastures were in Egypt, where there happened to be a huge river to provide at such a time as this. Unfortunately, Abram again did the natural thing to protect himself and his wealth: he claimed Sarai as his sister, instead of the wife she was. So, it’s no surprise that Pharaoh helped himself, since he was Pharaoh after all, and took Sarai into his haram. Abram benefitted from the deal, though I’m not sure how Sarai was feeling about it. One thing was for sure—God was not pleased.
I asked myself if Abram would have left Egypt if God had not intervened with the plagues. I think we could easily ask ourselves the same about the Israelites during their time in captivity. This is when I go back to the truth we will see over and over again in the coming chapters: The promises of God depend on God, not us. I don’t think I can be more thankful for that truth as I am here, with the exception of the grace he shows us in Christ. So, here’s my gem verse:
But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 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.” And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.Genesis 12:17-19 (emphasis mine)
Abram came away with excess baggage (some, like Hagar, will weigh him down in more ways than one), but he also earned a rebuke from a pagan king. He’ll learn some hard lessons through this experience and pay further consequences for his action later on, but instead of the bad, I want us to remember that this is still a grace from God. The Lord’s intervention in order to force Pharaoh’s hand in kicking Abram out is his grace. He’s protecting Sarai in order to protect the child of the promise, Isaac. He won’t come along for another twenty-five years, but God’s going to see his promise through, even if Abram seems to forget it.
What an amazing God we serve! He keeps all his promises.
Grace and Peace