In our study of Genesis chapter twelve, we will look at the struggles of Abraham. The man is known for his great faith but he was also a man and had struggles in his walk with God just as we do.
The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.'
We remember from chapter 11 that Abram's father (Terah) had been inspired by God to leave Ur of the Chaldeans (southern Iraq) and go to Canaan. He stopped on the way at Haran and lived the rest of his life there. God called Abram to continue on to Canaan.
'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. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'
God's call on Abram's life was followed by three promises and we are reminded that the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will. The first promise is that he would be a great nation and that was fulfilled when he was given the land of Canaan. The second promise was that his name would be great and that has been fulfilled as Jews as well as Christians refer to Abraham as the father of the faith. The third promise, that everyone on earth would be blessed through him, was fulfilled at the coming of Jesus Christ to die for our sins. The word "blessed" here refers to "worry free" and Jesus was from the line of Abram. All peoples on the earth can be "worry free" if they accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Now, we see a problem as it was good that Abram obeyed and left for Canaan but he was disobedient in taking his father's household. The word household here refers to the people and things that were a part of his father's house. Abram was told to leave them but he did not. We might ask ourselves why God would tell Abram to leave his father's household behind. The answer is simply that God was calling him to the land of His provision and He did not want Abram mixing the things from his family's work with His provision. God wanted a clear distinction between the works of man and the work of God. This same struggle has faced God's people since the time of Paul and continues even today. During Paul's journeys, there were always religious people trying to add works to the grace of God for salvation. The same thing is true today as many embrace Jesus as sufficient for our salvation but add rituals and laws. We can come to God because of the work of Jesus and we do not have anything to add to that.
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
God appeared to Abram and revealed more about His promise. We remember that Sarai was barren and he was an old man, yet God said that he would have offspring. Abram then set up an altar and worshiped the Lord. This is also a reminder that God was giving the land to His children and not to his nephew Lot. Abram was still walking in disobedience and this is a gentle reminder of God's instructions for him.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Why did Abram leave the place where God had appeared to him? Although we are not told why, we see that he did. As Christians, we sometimes do the same type of thing in that we get distracted by things and drift in our relationship with the Lord. The good news is that, just like Abram, we can stop and worship the Lord wherever we are and know that He is there as well.
Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
We see that Abram called on the name of the Lord but we do not have any indication that God told him to move. He did so anyway and headed into the desert. As Christians, we sometimes do the same type of thing as we may pray and ask for a direction from God but, many times, we do not wait for His answer.
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.
This great man of faith looked around and did not see how God would provide for him so he headed to Egypt. He saw the famine in the land and his faith failed. We often do the same thing, as Christians, when we face troubles and look to our own efforts instead of listening to God and trusting in Him.
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.'
The sin keeps on growing as Abram now asks his wife to lie because he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him to take his wife. In this we see that he trusted in his own clever actions and lies to preserve his life instead of trusting in the lord. The same type of thing can happen to us when we do not listen and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. We may take what seems like a minor turn and get off track and out of the will of God. If we do not listen to the prompting of the Spirit, this sin can grow and grow just as it did with Abram. Before we even realize it, we may find ourselves in a place that we do not want to be.
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.
Things happened just the way Abram had predicted and he was able to gain many possessions. It seemed like everything was just fine but the sin keeps growing as he is ok with the fact that his wife was taken into the palace. The same type of thing can happen to us as we look around ourselves and confuse material possessions with being blessed and in the will of God. We must remember that the devil can use wealth and possessions to deceive us and make us think that everything is just fine.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai.
Even though Abram may have been lacking in faith and in a place of disobedience, God still intervened on his behalf. This can bring us comfort in knowing that our heavenly Father may not be happy with our choices at times but He still claims us to be His children. Because we are His children, He will look out for us and protect us to accomplish His plans for our lives.
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.
Only God could have revealed to Pharaoh the truth and, when he was confronted with the truth, he did the right thing. Surely, Abram grew in his faith as he realized that God had intervened and the same thing happens as we see God at work in our daily lives. We also see that, even though he had been acting in disobedience, God increased his material possessions. There are those who think that God will not give things to His disobedient children and, as we see here, that is not always the case. There are also those who look at those who have been given much and automatically assume that they are worldly. We must accept the fact that God gives material things to whoever He wants and we cannot judge their relationship with Him based on what they have or have not been given.