Sometimes our believing God is a progressive thing. While studying through the life of Abraham in Genesis, I have really enjoyed seeing Abraham’s character develop as he learns what it means to believe God.
God called Abraham to come out from his own people and go to a place He would show him. From the scriptures it seems Abraham, or should I say Abram, didn’t hesitate, he simply went. Abram took his father, nephew and wife Sarai along too. They made it as far as Haran and there Abram’s father died. After Abram’s father died they continued and eventually found themselves in Canaan.
Now that Abram was where God had directed, you would think things would start to work out for him or maybe not. A” famine came to the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to live there.” Here’s where we run into what I believe is Abram’s first real dilemma. He finds himself in the land of Canaan, which is where God wanted him to be, and yet things don’t look so good. Maybe Abram looked around at the lack of provision and thought, you know I’m the provider for this family, there’s nothing growing, maybe I should look elsewhere for food. This sounds reasonable enough doesn’t it? While there’s no specific mention of disobedience here, I think this is the very beginning of what turns into a great problem later. As most know disobedience is usually a slow slide rather than an abrupt fall and we do have to face the results that come from our decisions.
If you notice as Abram and Sarai are about to enter Egypt Abram tells Sarai to lie and say she’s his sister. Abram’s fear and need for self-preservation tells me God isn’t the one who told Abram to go into Egypt. In fact I think this is Abram making a decision without consulting God at all. One of the men in my small group Bible study at the jail said, “He should have been more patient.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. One lesson here for me was how if we are making a move independently of God we have to manipulate things to make it work. Could it be the famine was God’s way of teaching Abram to walk by faith rather than sight? Maybe God wanted Abram to seek Him about the famine. Either way Abram and Sarai went into Egypt and were subsequently ran out by the Pharaoh himself. You see the Pharoah was going to take Sarai as his own and found out she was indeed Abram’s wife. The good news is Pharaoh didn’t kill them rather Abram and Sarai actually left Egypt with gifts of sheep, oxen, donkey’s, camels and male and female servants. This, mind you, is where Hagar, Sarai’s handmaiden comes from, whose presence becomes a huge problem later.
After leaving Egypt, and having grown considerably in size, Abram and his nephew Lot’s herds were too large for the land to sustain them so they had to part ways. Here Abram shows his generous nature and gives Lot the first option to choose where he wanted to live. Abram told him, “If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; or if the right, then I will go to the left.”
Later in the story we read where Lot, not only chose to live near Sodom, he ended up living in Sodom. During this time several kings gathered together for war and Lot was taken as a prisoner. When the news reached Abram it seems he never hesitated. He gathered his meager group of about 318 trained men, of his own household, and went in to rescue Lot. Here again Abram is demonstrating God’s very own character. Even though Abram could have said to himself, “you know Lot chose that land and he got himself into that mess, maybe he should get himself out.” That isn’t what happened though. You see just like Adam, and we in him “got ourselves into the mess” we call the fall, God could have said, “let them get themselves out of it.” Of course we know we could never get ourselves “out of it” and thankfully God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us.
So here we see again how Christ was being formed in Abram. The very nature of Christ, which is self-for-others was on full display in the life of Abram and it’s at this point in the story the mysterious figure Melchizedek, king of Salem, shows up, but I think I’ll leave that for another time.