This semester I am teaching something called Chronological Bible Discipleship. As you might infer, we’re going through the Bible chronologically in order to better understand the Bible as ONE story, not 66 independent books.
All that to say, we spent some time in Genesis 12 this week. It is in this part of the story that the Lord aims to relocate the people of God. God personally tells Abram to leave the land he is in and go to the land God will show him, promising blessings and prosperity (Genesis 12:1-3).
And Abram trusted God enough to do just that. He gathered up his family and his stuff and he traveled by faith to the land God showed him (Genesis 12:4-5).
And because human nature hasn’t changed a bit since then, I can imagine the ridicule Abram received.
“God spoke to you? God Himself just came to you and struck up a conversation? Yeah, right.”
“God wants you to just set out with no idea where you are going? That doesn’t sound like a very wise thing to do…”
During the travel, I can imagine the complaints.
“We’ve traveled 650 FREAKIN’ miles! We still don’t know where we are going! And you want us to KEEP GOING?!”
“My feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurt.”
“God isn’t leading us; you’re just making this up as we go, aren’t you?”
Whatever the journey was like, the text tells us Abram and his gang arrived in Canaan. And as they trekked through the land, they saw that the Canaanites were still possessing the land (Genesis 12:5-6).
While he was staring at these Canaanites, wondering why God led him all that way to an inhabited land, God told Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7).
If I were Abe, I’d be thinking, “I’ve drug my family 700 miles in obedience to the Lord, and now we have no land to live on. That’s all well and good that my offspring are taken care of, but what about us? Where are we to live?”
But that wasn’t Abram’s response at all. You know what this crazy God-lover did upon hearing this news from God? HE BUILT AN ALTAR (Genesis 12:7). Right then and there. So everyone who passed it would stop and reflect on that time the Lord spoke a promise to Abram.
Abram honored the Lord despite Him being responsible for Abram’s homelessness in a foreign land. Odd.
Hats off to Abram. He has more faith in his little finger than most of us have in our whole bodies.
Or does he?
Before we start worshiping Abram for his faithfulness, we need to keep reading.
In Genesis 12:10, everything changes. It reads, “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for awhile because the famine was severe.”
<insert sound of screeching tires>
Where did Abram’s faith go?!
(It went to Egypt, apparently, quips my smart-alack self to my writing self.)
Notice the lack of God directing Abram in verse 10. God didn’t tell him to go to Egypt to wait out the famine. This was all Abram’s idea (and perhaps his traveling companions’, whose faith was less than his).
Abram didn’t trust God to provide for the physical needs of him and his family during the famine. So he took matters into his own hands, like any good male provider would, and made sure his people had enough to eat. But in so doing, he left the land God had promised to his descendents.
And it was this one decision that began to unravel Abram and his remarkable faith.
He went down to Egypt and immediately began lying and trying to self-preserve, resulting in giving his wife to Pharoah. Eventually, Abram was found out, and he and his family were booted out of Egypt (Genesis 12:11-20).
When famine came, Abram’s faith, rock-solid as it was at times, collapsed.
I can’t say for sure how God would have provided for the Israelites during the famine, but I can say that God’s track record with Abram was pretty good. God took care of them on the journey. God led them like He said He would. God continued to speak to Abram directly. I can say with confidence that God would have provided food during the famine had the Israelites stayed in Canaan.
A lesson to be learned here is that it is important to remember how God has been faithful to you and me, personally, in the past. If you are experiencing some type of famine, trace the thread of God’s goodness back through time. When was the last time He was faithful to you? How about before that? And before that? I bet it won’t take long for you to build a pretty impressive resume for God.
Use the past to promote trust in Him NOW, during the famine. Don’t give into the temptation to self-preserve. Keep trusting Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).