Title: Abraham’s Faith vs. Abraham’s Failure
Text: Genesis 12.10-20
Introduction: v 1-9 of ch. 12 are moving. They inspire us as we observe the faith of a man who heard the voice of God and followed. You’ll remember he lived in a culture that was very dark. Those people worshipped the moon god. Abram packed up and obeyed God’s command to go, without even knowing where he was going. He traveled 800 miles in a circular type journey up and across Mesopotamia and down to Canaan. He gets there and God then promises him this land and a nation. Abram builds an altar in the middle of the land and worships God. He does it again as he moves south , and then makes his way toward the Negev.
Our Focus: a person who believes God, is credited righteous and lives a life of obedience to what he believes – because he believes it! He knows it to be true. That was Noah. That is Abram. Abram actually believed God, that this land would go to His offspring.
The Down-side of up: he never gets to see this. Right away, he experiences difficulty.
App.: if you’ve ever heard that living your life with God is easier, you been fed a line. I’m reading a book about James Fraser, the missionary to Yunnan province back in the early 1900’s. His life was anything but hard. Have you ever considered that missionaries overseas don’t use our evangelistic methods? God has a wonderful plan for your life! Oh, yeah? Prison is a wonderful plan? Persecution is a wonderful plan?
Transition: Let’s look at the reality of Abram’s life after he is called and he obeys:
The outline of 10-20 (formulated from Matthews):
· God constructs a Famine
· Abram instructs Sarai
· Pharaoh abducts Sarai
· God obstructs Pharaoh
It all begins when things don’t go so easy. Rd 12.10a – Now there was a famine in the land. Abram has to eat. He needs to lead his family, friends and animals to food. So he develops a plan – a man-made plan.
1. A Plan to escape the Famine (v 10)
exp.: you might say: A man-made plan to escape the famine. This seems a bit unfair. I don’t know about you, but I was taught that God rewards us for our goodness, for our faithfulness. Abram doesn’t deserve this famine. No, he deserves some sort of reward for his obedience. What does he get? A famine! How is that fair? (answer);
rd v 10b; I find it interesting the Abram doesn’t inquire of the Lord of what he should do. He just keeps heading south and then west to Egypt. Maybe because that is where the food is – in the fertile valley of the Nile! It sounds natural, doesn’t it? It just makes sense. There is no food here – go where there is food.
app.: The Gospel Transformation Study Bible Notes on v 10: Abraham had no child but was promised a family. He had no soil to cultivate but was promised a land. He was promised blessing, but he experience famine in the land. He lived with promise but experienced only toil upon the earth the Lord had cursed (5.29). In short, Abraham was forced into dependent trust in the Lord. Then, as now, it is in the crucible of life, when all hope seems to have fled, that the path is cleared for God to work supernaturally. It is precisely at the moment when we despair and think we have nothing to offer the Lord, that he can truly get to work on our hearts and through our lives.
But Abram doesn’t know that lesson quite yet. He doesn’t see that God is at work here. He only knows he needs to go where the food is. And that is the problem: it doesn’t seem that Abram consulted God
Transition: But Abram has a problem – he has a beautiful wife.
2. A Plan to escape the Pharaoh (v 11-12)
exp.: rd v 11; Man made plans to escape fail – most man-made plans do. Isn’t this so… human like? We’re good to follow God as long as things are going well. Enter a struggle and we start scheming and planning to make it all work out. Oh and by the way, we ask God to bless our plans. But Abram has a problem with his plan – His wife is stunningly beautiful – even for a woman in her 60’s!
a. Sarai’s Beauty (v 11; 14) When I ask: name beautiful women in the Bible, I expect to hear Esther, or Abigail; but, I don’t expect someone to say Sarah! Consider that people at this time live about 2x’s as long as we do today. So, cut her age in half and she’s probably mid 30’s by our comparison. Rd v 12; Sarai’s appearance will lead to his disappearance! Think about this: Her face could launch a thousand camels! So, here is where he instructs Sarai; rd v 13; don’t you just love that way that ends – I’m doing this for you! Rd v 14; it is exactly as he knows – they see her and are amazed out her drop-dead-gorgeous beauty.
It appears that Abram hatched this plan as the headed to the border of Egypt, but not so. Did you know he’d had that plan all along? Read 20.5-13; This is going to happen again in the future, Abraham clarifies then, that this was his plan all along. Now, will these guys keep this to themselves? No! rd v 15;
b. Pharaoh takes her to be his bride. (v 15); she joins his harem! Wow! The plan has backfired! It hasn’t gone as he thought it would. Here we see the man of God who has faith in God, lacks faith at this time and plots and plans to protect himself.
Ill.: There are those who wonder if Abram was putting Sarai at risk. I don’t think so. You see, the responsibility of a woman was given to the father. If the father died or was no longer there for the family, the son would take responsibility for his sister. It is still this way in some countries. That was my mom’s story. My dad had to make arrangements with her oldest brother. Well, Abram is then given these awesome gifts by Pharaoh. Rd v 16
c. Pharoah makes Abram a rich man. (v 16) ; a female donkey and a camel were the best modes of transportation available for work or for getting somewhere. Cf.: Job 1.1-3 as a comparison for wealth.
Note: Being wealthy isn’t always a sign of God’s blessing. Neither is being poor always a sign of God’s withholding blessing. So, Sarai is now in Pharaoh’s harem; rd v 17; here is where we see God obstructs Pharaoh;
3. A Plan to Intervene saves Abram from his man-made plan.
exp.: God-made plans are always better and greater than man-made plans. 1st
Ø He protects Sarai; rd v 17; interesting; some scholars think this means that Pharaoh violated Sarai; I’m not so sure; Think of Esther; it was common for a woman to move into the king’s harem and then be trained and prepared for the King; we don’t know how he knows something’s wrong and finds out why he’s being afflicted; he must of inquired and Sarai told him; rd v 18-19a; 3 questions:
o What is this you have done to me?
o Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?
o 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife?
1. Pharaoh has taken the position of a godly person – Abram, not so godly.
2. Sin still affects us.
– Ignorance: you just didn’t know.
– Negligence: you knew, but made a mistake.
Ø He protects Abram; rd v 19b; Pharaoh: Behold, here… wife… take… go
Ø He protects His own plan – rd v 20; a military escort
Observations & Implications: