Summary: Bible Couples, Pt. 2 "Abram and Sarai"
ENJOY FORTUNE TOGETHER, ENDURE MISFORTUNE TOGETHER
(GEN 12:4-5, 10-13:1)
Larry’s barn burned down, and, Susan, his wife, called the insurance company. Susan told the insurance company, “We had that barn insured for fifty thousand and I want my money.” The agent replied, “Whoa there, just a minute, Susan. It doesn’t work quite like that. We will ascertain the value of the old barn and provide you with a new one of comparable value.”
Susan replied after a pause: “Then I’d like to cancel the policy on my husband.”
Even people of faith fail for lack of courage, conviction and commitment, and so make poor decisions and suffer untold consequences. Abraham, the father of all who believe (Rom 4:11), was faithless on one occasion. He almost lost his family if not for God’s faithfulness. It’s been said, “Three things in life make a man: hard work, sincerity and commitment.” If that is true, Abram failed miserably. He could not tough it out in uncertain or harsh economic times, was not sincere with the neighbors and foreigners he met, and had no commitment to his wife in real or perceived threatening circumstances.
It’s been said, “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” but I beg to differ. Desperate times need not lead to the path of deceit, disloyalty, and dishonesty.
Desperate Times Call for Dogged Determination
A young man, a Christian, went to an older believer to ask for prayer. “Will you please pray that I may be more patient?” he asked. The aged saint agreed. They knelt together and the man began to pray, “Lord, send this young man tribulation in the morning; send this young man tribulation in the afternoon; send this young man....” At that point the young Christian blurted out, “No, no, I didn’t ask you to pray for tribulation. I wanted you to pray for patience.” “Ah,” responded the wise Christian, “it’s through tribulation that we learn patience.”
It’s been said, “Pain is nothing compared to the emptiness that comes from quitting.”
Every couple enjoys their fair share of fortune and suffers misfortune like any other couple. An article published several years ago in USA Today (11/14/95) about what most people say are the most difficult things to manage in the household still rings true today. 26% of the respondents said finances were the most difficult to manage; 21% claimed household member’s schedule was at fault; 20% blamed communication with family and friends; 17% attribute chaos in the family to household chores and errands; and still 17% said “others.”
After Abram and Sarai had settled in Canaan, external and internal forces soon bore down on them. Abram and his family and entourage were on the right track initially, but a famine sidetracked them. A famine is an environmental and agricultural downturn at its worst. Abram’s confidence in God’s guidance and provision was shaken. Canaan, not Egypt, was the Promised Land. They were supposed to be in Canaan (v 5), but after dropping anchor there, they panicked and fled to Egypt at the first sign of trouble (v 10). The same Hebrew equation for “the famine was severe” reappears one other time in Genesis 43:1, which characterized the early days of the famine that began in Joseph’s time but not its worst, at which the famine had become “very severe” (Gen 47:4: The Hebrew word “very” is missing from NIV).
The famine was as severe a test as any. God had commended Abram and promised the land to his offspring (Gen 12:7), and the patriarch had built two altars (vv 7-8) to mark the occasion, to pay his homage and to sink his roots. However, Abram really intended to stay in good times and had no intention to stay in bad or lean times. God specifically commanded Abram while he was in Haran (v 1), “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you,” and on arrival in Canaan the Lord God spoke to him, “To your offspring I will give this land” (v 7). The Lord gave no instructions to Abram when the famine struck, but Abram took God’s silence as permission to leave. The interesting thing was that the famine did more damage than the Canaanites (v 6). The natives could not scare Abram away, but the famine did the job (v 7).
The aging Abram (v 4) probably thought staying was too much to ask of him at his age. Left to his own judgement, Abram’s survival instincts took over, and he acted out of fear, not in faith. He failed to seek God’s presence, His will and guidance. Even though commentators like Derek Kidner felt it is unrealistic to regard Egypt as forbidden territory to God’s people at this stage, he, however, said, “In a famine it might well seem a providence that Egypt was near by, watered by the flooding of the Nile. Yet all the indications are that Abram did not stop to enquire, but went on his own initiative, taking everything into account but God” (Genesis, p. 116). The grass was literally greener on the Egyptian side. He was determined to leave his options open and open the back door in his commitment to God. Further, he convinced himself that it was a selfless move - he did it all for the sake of others, including his family and servants, or so he thought.