Abraham, the great patriarch, stands as an example of what it means to follow God by faith. He was a person who experienced God’s grace repeatedly. As wonderful as Abraham was, though, he was not perfect. There were some major sins in his life, which created repercussions that lasted for a long time.
God called Abram to leave his home and go to a place that God would show him and he did (Genesis 12:1). He left behind the idol worship of his family and followed the directions of the true God. When he arrived in Canaan, the first thing Abram did was build an altar to God. He journeyed further into the land and built another altar to the Lord. He has followed the call of God, been blessed, and in return offered thanks.
While Abram was obedient to God in leaving Ur and traveling to Canaan, it would seem from the biblical records that he was not completely obedient. Abram did not leave the pagan influences of his family behind. His father, Terah, traveled with him as far as Haran, where Abram lingered for awhile. After his father’s death, Abram continued on his journey but allowed his nephew, Lot, to tag along. These decisions would lead to trouble later on.
Abram is to be greatly commended for his faith in following God on a journey across the Arabian Peninsula. It is even more impressive when you realize that he was apparently the first person in his family to believe in Yahweh. It is easy, then, for us to excuse his lingering in Haran, or his failure to distance himself from his family’s influences. To do this, though, would be to make a mistake. While Abram did many great things for God, he compromised his beliefs more than once, developed a pattern of partial obedience, and through selfish actions caused others to suffer. The Bible is quick to write of its hero’s strengths and weaknesses, their victories and their defeats. By taking an honest look at Abram, we will see that even the greatest of men are flawed and in need of God’s forgiveness, power and grace.
After Abram has spent some time establishing himself in Canaan, a famine came and Abram left the Land of Promise and journeyed to Egypt. There is no record that he consulted God about the move. The events that follow seem to show that his lack of asking God for advice was a failure on Abram’s part. He shows a lack of trust in God by making the move. Surely, the God who had led and sustained him on the journey from Ur through Haran to Canaan could have sustained him there. Why would God lead him to a place without having a plan to bless him in spite of the circumstances?
Wouldn’t it have greatly strengthened Abram’s faith to see God blessing him with food in the midst of a famine? Wouldn’t it have confirmed that this is, indeed, where he was supposed to be? However, Abram goes to Egypt. He stops walking by faith and begins to walk by sight. He knows that there is food in Egypt so he picks up and moves on. By doing so, he places himself and his family in a life-threatening situation.
It seems Abram has married a very attractive woman in his wife Sarai. Since the Bible rarely comments on a person’s physical features, Sarai must have been a strikingly beautiful woman. She is so beautiful, Abram is afraid that she will catch the attention of Pharaoh when they go to buy food. He reasons that if Pharaoh sees her and desires her for his harem that he will kill Abram to get her. Therefore, Abram lies about his relationship to Sarai.
Sarai was Abram’s half-sister , but she was also his wife. That relationship should have taken priority in his mind. It also would not be the last time Abram used this deception, as we will see later on. Can you imagine how this must have made his wife feel? He was willing to subjugate her to a humiliating experience, just to save his own skin. Can you see her face, read her emotions, as she realizes that he is not the protector she has grown to depend on? One of a woman’s greatest needs is to see her husband as her champion – a lot of her security is tied up in this. Abram’s treatment of Sarai will have repercussions later on, in how his son Isaac treats his wife Rebekah, as we will see in a later chapter. It would seem that some lessons are passed on, albeit unintentionally.
Abram intended to deceive the Egyptians so he is guilty of lying. Is it ever right to lie? Even a “white” lie? God gives His opinion on the subject in many places, including Exodus 20:16. How many times do we try to justify our actions by rationalizing them away like Abram did? If we are called to be holy people, representing the character of God to a watching world, then we need to make sure we are not guilty of speaking with lying lips.
Because of Abram’s lie, Sarai was taken to the harem of Pharaoh to become one of his wives. This would of placed Sarai in the position of becoming an adulteress. God intervened, and Pharaoh and his household were afflicted, by the Lord, with severe diseases before he could bed Sarai. This begs the question, based on this account, how does sin affect others?
Pharaoh and his house are being punished. He does not know Sarai is anyone’s wife. He has been lied to. Certainly, his household is not guilty of anything. Yet because of Abram’s cowardice and lying, they are being afflicted. Abram is displaying an incredible lack of faith or trust in the Lord. Lack of faith in God’s being able to provide food in Canaan. He is showing a lack of trusting that God will protect him and Sarai in Egypt. Abram is not acting like the father of the faithful right now.
What do you believe would have been Pharaoh’s response, if, after Abram had been caught in his lie, he then would have tried to witness to Pharaoh concerning the goodness, protection and value in worshipping Abram’s God? Could it be that unbelievers may choose to remain unbelievers because of the lack of truthfulness among God’s people? How do we remedy a situation like that of Abram, so that unbelievers will receive our testimony?
Abram did not completely obey and his bringing Lot with him to Egypt would lead to no end of problems. Lot would see Abram’s cowardice on display. Is it any wonder that Lot grows up willing to sacrifice his daughters to save his own skin?
In leaving the land of Canaan and going to find security in the land of Pharaoh, instead of in the Lord God, Abram makes a colossal mistake. Called on the carpet by a pagan ruler, Abram has no defense. He has traded his wife for wealth, his helpmate for possessions, and has been chastised severely. Only by the grace of God is he not put to death by Pharaoh. In addition, he is allowed to keep all that he had received in trading Sarai to Pharaoh.
Abram is kicked out of Egypt and wanders back to Bethel. It is there that problems between Lot and him come to a head. Abram has journeyed a long way but has been unwilling to completely obey God. It will not be until years later that Abram comes to the point where he is willing to be completely devoted to God. His story is lot like ours. We wander for years, sometimes decades, on our spiritual journey before we completely turn our lives over to God’s leadership.
Many people, unfortunately, never reach the point of complete obedience. In fact, if we were brutally honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that none of us is completely obedient to our God.