Summary: How Abraham’s trials in Egypt led him to wisdom in Canaan
“Most lessons in life are learned the hard way.” You can be warned and taught about a danger or encouraged to do the right thing, but personal failure can be the most powerful teacher. When I went out to buy my first car, I was warned by my parents to be very careful, to shop around, to research, and not to make quick decisions. When I bought my first car, I did none of the above. The first car I saw I had to have. I didn’t look at its track record in consumer reports. I didn’t look carefully under the hood or under the body. I paid a premium price for it. From the moment I bought it to the moment I sold it, I had nothing but breakdowns and frustration. The car I spent my life savings on (at that time 1400 dollars), I sold for a year later for $200, and I was lucky to get that.
But it was a learning experience for me. I’ve made better decisions since then. And even when I’ve bought “junkers,” at least I had no illusions of what I was buying. I knew what I was getting in to. The best teacher is experience. The best lessons learned, are often learned the “hard way.”
Abraham, in chapter 12, made some terrible mistakes on his journey, mistakes that he paid dearly for, mistakes that caused pain for many people. Abraham decided God needed some help in keeping his promises. God had promised to bless Abraham if he left his homeland and hit the road. But when a famine came, Abraham took a quick detour to Egypt for greener pastures. He got in over his head, so he decided to tell a “little white lie” to save his own life. In the end he became a liar and forced his wife into adultery. He got kicked out of the country for his lies. What did Abraham learn from this experience?
Once again Abraham was confronted with a tough choice. It wasn’t a moral dilemma this time, but a “family feud.” His caravan of servants, relatives, and cattle had gotten too big. The land couldn’t support all their livestock. His nephew Lot’s shepherds were arguing with his shepherds about where their herds would feed. So Abraham became a Peacemaker and gave Lot the first choice of the land. “You go one way and I’ll go the other,” was his solution to this family feud.
That took some “guts” for Abraham to say that. What if Lot took all the good land and left Abraham with nothing but the desert? And that’s pretty much what happened. But Abraham believed that God would take care of him this time. There was no scheming on Abraham’s part in chapter 13, just faith and unselfishness. Abraham had learned from his past mistake.
One of the great results of trusting God is that it’s easier to obey His command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s been a long time since people in our country had to stand in line for food rations. But try to imagine yourself in that position. Maybe you’ve seen the footage of refugees waiting in line for Red Cross food. What if you were in that line and when it got to you there was one loaf of bread? Would you give it to the person behind you? You hear the words of Jesus ringing through your ears that “the last will be first” and “greatest among you will be a servant.” To let the other person have the loaf would be a sign of great faith. It means you trust God to supply all your needs, according to his riches and glory.
When you trust God it’s much easier to let go of what you have. It’s much easier to share. Jesus asked the Rich Young Ruler to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor, and then come follow. The story ends with the young man walking away dejected because Jesus had asked too much of him. He failed the test of faith that Abraham passed. He was asked to trust God for his security and not his bank account. He was asked to put God’s Kingdom before any other want or need in life. Abraham was back on track in his “trust walk” because he let his nephew have the choice land and he trusted in God to bless him with whatever was left.
Abraham was back on track in his “trust walk” because his priority was no longer feeding his livestock and accumulating more treasures, or saving his own neck. His priority was once again the spiritual Kingdom of God and his blind journey to the Promised Land. Abraham had learned the secret of contentment that the Apostle Paul talked about. He could give up the prime land because he trusted in God enough to be content in whatever situation he was.