Tag: Covenant family

Story 42: Like Father Like Son: The Choices of Abraham and Isaac

Genesis 26

In the early days of Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage, long before they had their twin boys, they went through many trials and struggles.  At one point, a great famine came upon the land, and it grew more and more difficult for families to find enough to eat.  It was getting dangerous.  The lives of God’s chosen family was at risk.  What was Isaac going to do?

Well, he packed up his family and his servants, his tents and his livestock and all of their valuable treasures. They began a journey to Egypt, where the Nile River poured out an unending water supply.  It brought plentiful harvests to feed the Egyptian people and their animals.  Along the way, Isaac and Rebekah passed through the land of the Philistines.  While they were there, Isaac heard from God.

The LORD told Isaac not to go down to Egypt.  Isaac was to stay in the Land of Promise.

Wow.

That would take tremendous courage and faith.  It might mean hunger for his clan.  It would probably mean the death of many of their animals.  Yet Isaac was faithful.  He went to the region ruled by Abimelech, who live in the midst of the Promised Land.

Abimelech is a name we have already heard before.  Abraham and Sarah met a man of that name in their travels.  He was a king, and Abraham was afraid of him.  Sarah was so beautiful that Abraham feared the king would kill him if he learned that Abraham was her husband.  So he told the first Abimelech that Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech took her into his house to become his wife.  Wow!  Can you imagine what that was like for Sarah?  But God saved the day.  He came in a dream and told Abimelech that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and Abimelech sent her back to her husband.

Now Isaac was face to face with another tribal leader.  Some scholars suggest that he was probably the grandson of the first Abimelech.  This king called himself the king of the Philistines in the land of Gerar.  God told Isaac not to journey any further, but to rest in Abimelech’s land with his family.

Then something amazing happened.  God appeared to Isaac in a grand theophany.  “Theophany” is a fancy word to describe when God appears to a human.  God showed himself to Abraham in a theophany three times, and each time it was a great marker in the life of his chosen servant.  God came to communicate his covenant promises to Abraham, which should tell us how incredibly important those promises were.  Now the LORD had come to Isaac to pass the covenant of Abraham on to him. The Lord said to Isaac;

 

“‘Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.  For to you and your descendents I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.  I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.’  So Isaac stayed in Gerar.”

Genesis 26:2b-6

 

Wow. What an awesome moment.  For all those years, Isaac had learned about the promises of God from Abraham and Sarah.  Now God had appeared to him, and Isaac heard the words in person.  This was not just a gift to his parents, he was a critical part of the covenant himself.  His descendents would be as many as the stars, and every nation would be blessed through him.  The fate of all humanity was tied up in the fate of Isaac and Rebekah.

It is interesting that God said these promises were given to Isaac through Abraham.  There was a wealth of blessing stored up from Abraham’s obedience that was pouring out onto Isaac.  Abraham kept the whole of all that God desired from him.  His relationship with God was a righteous partnership so abundant that it flowed to the next generation!

God gave Isaac great and precious promises of abundance, but Isaac had to believe in them without seeing them.  God gave them in the middle of a great famine, and he would make Isaac and Rebekah wait for twenty years to have their twins!  Isaac was being called to live by the same faith that Abraham had.  He was called to live by the same righteous standard and the same immediate obedience, too!  He showed his immediate obedience by settling his vast clan down in Gerar!  He chose the hardship of famine and faithfulness to God over the abundance of bread and ease in a place that was outside of God’s will.

The men of Gerar were very quick to notice Rebekah.  She was a woman of remarkable beauty.  Isaac was afraid to admit she was his wife.  What if they wanted to kill him so they could have her?

And so he lied.  He told them that she was his sister.  Hm.

Who else does that remind you of?  Isaac was acting just like his father.

Now, these lies might seem a bit strange to us, but we need to remember that they lived in very different times.  There were no police officers to come and protect a family when others came to attack.  There was no court system to try a man if he murdered someone.  It was a dangerous and almost lawless land, and men were vicious and corrupt.  The most powerful men often determined the law of the land, and Abimelech was very powerful.  When Isaac weighed his options, the crisis of his own death might have seemed a lot less than facing the problem of a local man claiming Rebekah for his own while they were resting in Abimelech’s land.

There were good reasons for Isaac to be afraid if he was merely living according to the rules of this world.  But Isaac wasn’t meant to live as this world is all there is.  He was a man of God’s sacred covenant.  He had heard the stories of how God provided for his father.  He himself was one of God’s great provisions.

But God had a discipleship for Isaac just as surely as he had for Abraham, and Isaac was in the midst of one of the twisting points.  Isaac had already avoided one of Abraham’s mistakes…he didn’t go to Egypt.  Now he had another choice.  Did he believe more in the fear of the power of men, or in the promises of God?  Did he trust that God would protect his marriage, that Isaac could protect his wife and trust God with the results?  What would happen if one of the local men wanted to take Rebekah and marry her?  What would happen to the covenant if Rebekah’s children no longer belonged to Isaac?  Would Isaac let her go?  What would happen to the promises of God?

 

Story 39: Isaac’s Beloved

Genesis 24:1-27

Abraham was getting older, and he had lost his beloved wife.  Yet he had been greatly blessed by God in every way.  His mind turned to thoughts of Isaac, his son, and the future that lay ahead of him.  Isaac would inherit all of the vast wealth that Abraham had received from God’s hand over the years.  He would inherit his father’s power and reputation.  Most importantly, he had inherited the promises of God.  As Isaac moved into these high privileges and responsibilities, he needed a wife of his own.  Who would God choose for him to carry on the promises?

Think about how important it was to find a good wife for Isaac.  She would be the mother of all of Abraham’s descendants, the nation that God had promised.  Abraham had hundreds of servants, but for this job, he went to the one whose wisdom and decisions he trusted most.  This was his chief servant, the man whom Abraham had put in charge of everything he had.

Abraham said to him, “‘Put your hand under my thigh.  I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac’” (Genesis 24:2c-4).

This might seem like a strange thing to ask for, but that is simply because we don’t understand the culture of the Ancient Near East.   Abraham was having his most trusted servant take an oath.  They didn’t have cheap pens and paper or computers to create contracts with. There was no overarching governments to enforce the law in Canaan.  Things like spoken oaths and covenants took on an importance that is hard for us to imagine.  A sign of the seriousness of this oath was that the servant made his promise while laying his hands on the very body of Abraham himself.  This oath was binding.  It was a huge responsibility.  If the servant did not carry it out, it was not only a violation against Abraham, the great prince.  It was a violation against God.

Abraham knew the customs and lifestyles of the Canaanite people.  The women of Canaan would bring false worship that violated his sacred faith.  They had ways of living that would bring trouble and strife to their home.  Marrying a Canaanite would bring the family of Abraham and Isaac into allegiance with people who were idolatrous and corrupt…and their wickedness was stubborn.  They sacrificed their children to the gods as a trade to receive blessings from them.  Prostitution was often an integral part their worship practices.  The deeply imbedded habits, cultural customs, and beliefs would not go away because a woman married his son.  In times of pressure, these practices were seen as the answer to the problem.  But Abraham’s answer was to trust his God, to wait on him and pray.  Abraham wanted a woman who was part of the same clan as he and Sarah had been a part of, whose deeply felt beliefs and ways of life would honor their God and bring Isaac honor and peace.

You may remember that Abraham had a brother named Nahor.  He had married Milcah, the daughter of Abraham’s other brother.  In those days, marrying widows who had been married to a brother was common.  It was protection for the family.  It insured that the women in the family were taken care of in a vulnerable land.  Over the years, Milcah had given birth to seven boys, and those boys had grown and begun to have children of their own.  Perhaps a good wife could be found for Isaac from among the grandchildren of Nahor.

Abraham and his great tribal clan were many miles from the family he had left behind.  His servant would have to travel long days on camels to reach there.  He would have to bring a magnificent dowry with him that would display the wealth of Abraham and please the family of the girl.  But he would not bring Isaac.  The family was going to have to decide to give their daughter to Isaac without ever having met him.  The girl would have to leave her family far behind before she ever met her husband.  Abraham’s chief servant was worried that once he had found a wife for Isaac, she wouldn’t want to come with him!  He asked, “‘What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land?  Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?’”

“‘Make sure that you do not take my son back there,’” Abraham said.  “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me an oath, saying, “To your offspring I will give this land”-He will send His angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.  If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine.  Only do not take my son back there.’”

Genesis 24:6-8

 It is interesting that Abraham defined his life by the promises of God.  He understood the meaning of the events of his life according to God’s leading…and through his acts of obedience and response to God.  It was the LORD who brought him out of his father’s land and into the land of promise.  Not because of some psychological tweak in Abraham’s makeup.  Not because circumstances drove him there.  It was because of the hand of God on his life.  And now he saw that hand on Isaac’s life as well.

Abraham had great faith that God truly had prepared a woman to be the wife of Isaac.  The servant put his hand on Abraham’s thigh and swore to bring her back without the presence of Isaac.  Abraham had left that land long before.  It would not do for the family of God to return.

The servant swore an oath on Abraham’s thigh and ventured out for his task.  Some of Abraham’s other servants went along with him.  He took large amounts of gold and silver to bestow on the future bride of Isaac and her family.  He took ten of Abraham’s camels with him.  Camels were very expensive and a sign of great wealth.  If a family were to give their daughter to this servant, they would want to know they were sending her to a life of prosperity.  It was dangerous to travel through the wilderness with so many valuable treasures, but just as Abraham believed, the angel of the LORD was with them.

Abraham’s chief servant journeyed over the miles for many days.  He crossed back through all the lands that Abraham and Sarah had left behind.  It was evening when he arrived at the well of the town where the sons of Nahor lived.  He had the camels kneel down nearby.  As the sun lowered and the heated earth began to cool, the women began to come out to the well with their jugs.  They filled them up with water to use for washing and for cooking food for their families. As they each waited their turn, they chatted with the other women and discussed the day.

It was the perfect time for the servant to see the women of the town.  But there were so many of them!  Abraham’s servant prayed to God for help.  He believed that this task was an important part of God’s plan and that the Lord would guide him in it;

 

“‘O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water.  May it be that I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too-let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac.  By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.’”

 

The servant gave the LORD a way to show which girl was the one that God had specially chosen to marry Isaac.  Now, it was very normal for a member of a town to offer to give a stranger a drink from the town well.  But offering to draw water for camels was a totally different story.  Especially if those camels had just come in from a long journey.  A camel can drink up to twenty-five gallons at a time.  The largest clay pots in that time would have held three gallons of water.  The girl would have to fill her heavy clay jug up eight times for each camel.  There were ten camels!  That means the right woman would have to offer to lift three gallons of water and carry it to the animals eighty times!

That was a very generous thing for Abraham’s servant to hope for! But the servant wanted to be sure that the one he chose for Isaac was truly the will of the Lord.  Any woman who would offer such help was not only kind and generous, but hard working.  God could work through the character of the right girl so that she would do this lavishly generous work for a total stranger.

And sure enough, before God’s servant had even finished praying his prayer, a young woman came out to the well with a jar on her shoulder.  Her name was Rebekah, and she was the daughter of Nahor, Abraham’s brother.  But the servant had no way of knowing that.  She was also very beautiful, and she was a virgin, a pure young woman at just the right age for marriage.  She let her jar down into the water and brought it back up again.

The servant saw her as his prayer ended and rushed over to her, asking for some water. She gave him her jug and said “Drink.”  She must have seen all of his camels, because then she said, “‘I’ll draw waters for your camels, too, until they have finished drinking.’”  Then this beautiful girl set to work, filling up her jugs in the well and pouring out the precious water into the trough for the thirsty camels.  Abraham’s servant watched her as she worked to see if she would truly do as she had said.  If she did, then his trip was abundantly successful.  She was the one that God had prepared for Isaac!

Rebekah filled the trough with water over and over until all ten camels were done drinking.  When she finished, she must have been tired!   But she was rewarded for her humble service to the visitor.  Abraham’s servant went to her and gave her a golden nose ring.  He took two golden bracelets and slid them on her arm.  Each bracelet weighed ten shekels each.  They were worth far more in gold than many farm workers could earn in a year.  They were valuable treasures indeed.    This was an act of great faith by the servant.  He didn’t even know who she was!  He just knew that God had answered his prayer!

“‘Whose daughter are you?’”  He asked her.  “‘Please tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?’”

“‘I am the daughter of Betheul, the son that Milcah bore to Nahor.  We have plenty of straw and fodder, as well as room for you to spend the night.’”

Wow!  The LORD had guided Abraham’s servant right to Nahor’s beautiful granddaughter!

The servant was overwhelmed at how perfectly God had answered his prayer.  He bowed down and worshipped the LORD, saying, “‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned His kindness and faithfulness to my master.  As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.’”

 

Story 29: The Son of God’s Choosing

Genesis 17

The human race had plunged itself into a terrible situation.  God created humanity to live in perfect harmony with Himself.  We were to live in a perfect Garden Temple called Eden, which means “pleasure.”  But the first humans, the ancestors of us all, rebelled against the one limitation God had given them.  They sided with God’s enemy, and in so doing, subjected the whole race to his bondage.  Yet even as they rejected God’s way, He had a plan to draw them back, a design for human history that would provide a ransom for the souls of humanity.  Abram and Sarai were at the center of God’s plan.  He chose them to be the ones through whom He would bless the nations of the world.  Their offspring would be His holy priesthood, and somehow, they would bring salvation.

Yet there was a problem.  Abram and Sarai had no children.  Sarai was barren.  After many years of waiting on the Lord’s plan, they grew impatient, and sought to have a child through Hagar, Sarai’s servant.  They lost faith in God’s plan and took matters into their own hands, violating the sacred covenant of marriage in the process.  Abram and Hagar had a son named Ishmael.

Thirteen years passed after Ishmael was born.  Many things must have happened in their lives over those years.  Still Abram and Sarai were without a child.  What ache did Sarai live with as she watched her maidservant raise a son before her eyes.

By the time of this story, Abram was ninety-nine years old.  The LORD appeared to him again.  He said:

“‘I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’”

When Abram heard this, he fell down with his face to the ground before the LORD.  God continued to speak:

“‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.   I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; I will be their God.’”

Genesis 17:4-8

Abram was given a new name.  It was a mark that the promises the LORD had given His servant before were growing.  God was filling in the details and showing Abraham just how great and awesome His promises truly were.  This covenant would bring whole nations and kings…it would be everlasting!

Then God gave Abraham a sign that would be the symbol of His covenant.  Abraham and every man who descended from him was to be circumcised.  Circumcision is a quick but painful operation.  A small piece of extra skin is cut off of a male’s private parts.  Every male in Abraham’s family or his servant’s family was to have this operation done as a sign that they belonged to the LORD.  They were part of His covenant blessing.  Most of them would have it done when they were infants, when they were eight days old.  They would hardly know what was happening to them.

It was a high honor, marked out in their very flesh, that they were to remember at all times!  Each descendant of Abraham had to chose to follow after God with the same faith as Abraham.  Whoever did not keep the sign of the covenant by being circumcised would be cut off from the people.  It was a breaking of the covenant itself.

Then God told Abraham that He was changing Sarai’s name.  It would now be Sarah.  God promised that He would bless her, and she would give birth to a son.  This son would become the head of twelve tribes, or clans, and from them whole nations would come.  Her role as the mother of the coming nation of God was high and honored.  The Lord had watched her go through every trial of faith with her husband.  She had carried the shame of her barren state as she waited on the Lord for His promises.  She, too, had remained faithful.

But when Abraham heard this, he threw himself onto the ground and started laughing.  Sarah was ninety years old!  Abraham was almost a hundred!  How could this be?  When it came to childbearing, their bodies were as good as dead!  It was impossible.  So Abraham reminded the Lord about Ishmael.  Perhaps God should use him.

Abraham did not yet fully understand that his Lord was the one who could call things into being that were not (see Romans 4).  Abraham was limiting his imagination to the things that a human could do.  God has no such limitations.  If God made the stars and the earth from nothing, surely He could raise up a nation out of nothing!  Surely He could make a child, even from the bodies of an aging couple!  God was able to bring life from the death of old age.

The fact that it seemed impossible was part of God’s plan.  Everyone would know that this was a miracle.  It was clearly something only God could do.  All of the surrounding tribes and villages, all of the towns where Abraham had visited and even saved in war, would know that something different was happening in the lives of God’s covenant family.  This was a power and a provision there that would shake their understanding of the world.  When the LORD began His holy nation through this child, the whole region would be gossiping and wondering how it happened.  It was a testimony and an opportunity to follow the God of Abraham.

God knew how impossible it was for Abraham to have a child and said, “‘Nevertheless.’”  Then He told Abraham that a son would be born to Abraham and Sarah the very next year. Abraham accepted the unique plans of his LORD and stepped out in immediate obedience. That very day, he circumcised himself and Ishmael and all the servants of the house.

Story 28: The Grief of Faithlessness: The Plight of Hagar and Ishmael

Genesis 16-17

Abram and Sarai had taken some major risks in obedience to God.  They had left their own land and all of their comforts to become Bedouins, journeying to the land of Canaan, trusting that God would one day give it to their descendants so that they could bless the world.  They had hung all of their hopes on His promises.  Eleven years later, Abram and Sarai still had no child.  In the eyes of everyone around her, Sarai’s barrenness was seen as a great weakness and failure.  She was costing Abram a family.  She was disgraced.

Sarai began to grow impatient for a son for her husband.  If the LORD was not going to bless her own body with a child, perhaps He would bless someone else.  So she made a plan.  They were not the plans of God, and they were not built on faith.

Sarai went to Abram with her idea.  Sarai had a servant named Hagar who tended to all of Sarai’s personal needs.  Perhaps if she gave Hagar to her husband, her servant would give birth to a son!  In the time of Abram and Sarai, this was common.  When a wife could not have children, another woman, usually a slave or a servant, would be brought to the husband.  The child from their union would then become the adopted child of the husband and wife.

Abram agreed to do what his wife suggested.  Apparently, Hagar agreed to take part as well.  It was a way of helping Sarai out of her disgrace.  So Abram and Hagar came together, and Hagar became pregnant.  A child was on the way.  It would seem that everything was going just as Abraham and Sarah had planned.  The only problem was that there were things they did not anticipate when they stepped outside of God’s plan.

Now that Hagar was with child, her attitude toward Sarai changed.  The disgraced wife of Abram had given him no child, but now she was providing one for him!  She began to carry the pride of her pregnancy around like a crown.  The most painful loss of Sarai’s life was now being thrown in her face every day…and by her own maid.   Hagar treated Sarai with contempt in her own home.  She treated Sarai as if she had replaced her as Abram’s wife and head of Abram’s household.

Sarai’s attempt to solve the problem  of her barrenness in her own power was unraveling into a nightmare.   She went to Abram and said, “‘You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering.  I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me.  May the LORD judge between you and me.’”

Even though Hagar was Sarai’s special maidservant, Sarai turned to her husband and handed Hagar over to him.  Sarai yielded the situation to Abram, honoring his position of authority and giving him the responsibility to make it right.  It was his role to put an end to this destruction.   It was his job to create the right order in their home.  He had to protect their marriage and Sarai’s position as his wife.  Then she appealed to God as her protector.  He was watching over Abram and would hold him responsible to his role as Sarai’s husband.  All of this took great faith, for Sarai had to let go of her own control and trust others to end her pain.  What if they failed?

Abram said to his wife, “‘Your servant is in your hands.  Do with her whatever you think is best.’”  Instead of handling a situation where his wife was clearly in over her head, Abram excused himself from the mess and let the burden fall on Sarai.

The way Sarai responded is the darkest mark on her character in the story of her life.  Sarai turned the tables and began to mistreat her servant.  Now it was Hagar’s turn to be miserable. Who knows the harsh words or beatings Sarai gave.  Who knows what abuse Abram allowed.  The tensions that come up in a home when the most tender things are at stake can tear apart the integrity of the finest heart.  Whatever the sins of Sarai and Abram, they were harsh enough that Hagar would rather risk death in the desert than live with the torments of her mistress.  She fled away from the home of Abram and Sarai out into the wilderness.

God was watching as all of these sad events unfolded.  How differently these women could have treated each other.  The angel of the LORD came to Hagar as she sat near a stream in the desert.  This is the first time in the Bible that someone was visited by an angel.  When they came to earth, it is because they were sent on a mission from God.  They come as His holy messengers.  What an honor to receive such special attention from the Divine King!

It is remarkable that in the Bible, God’s first message from an angel was to this weeping servant woman.  What does it teach us about the character God?  In all of ancient literature, with all of the other religions and idol worship that was going on, thiswas the only time a divine being spoke to a woman by name. She had great worth in his eyes.  See how gently he came:

 

He said, “Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from, and where are you going?’”

“‘I am running away from my mistress Sarah,’ she answered.

“Then the angel of the LORD told her, ‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’  The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.’

The angel of the LORD also said to her:

 

‘You are now with child and you will have a son.

You shall name him Ishmael,

for the LORD has heard of your misery.

He will be a wild donkey of a man;

His hand will be against everyone

and everyone’s hand will be against him,

and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.’”

 

Who was this God?   He had come to speak to a lowly servant woman, an outcast, someone that nobody in her culture or world would have any time for?  Who was this LORD that saw her crying in the desert?  Hagar wondered at his tender care.  She said: “‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”  And she was right.  Though she was a woman and had no great importance in the eyes of the world, she could trust the God of the universe to look on her with love.

The angel of the LORD explained to Hagar that this son would truly be blessed.  He would be as a wild donkey, so passionate for freedom that he would not easily share life with others.  He would also be the father of nations.  Yet he was not the son of God’s covenant promise with Abram.  That could only come through his sacred marriage with Sarai.

Hagar obeyed God and returned to Abram and Sari.  She gave birth to a son.  Abram was eighty six years old.  Hagar must have told Abram what the angel said, for Abram named him Ishmael.  His name meant, “God hears.”  I wonder if Abram and Sarai felt convicted by the LORD when they realized that God listened to the cries of Hagar as much as He listened their own?

Sarai was the true wife of Abram.  They were one flesh.  When God called Abram, Sarai’s life was wrapped in that calling.  It was through their marriage and their union alone that God would bring about His great and precious promises.  But that required radical faith, a faith that had to increase with time.  Sarah was seventy five years old when Ishmael was born.  As they waited on the LORD and watched their bodies age, their trust in God had to intensify.  They had to believe in Him for the impossible.  Would this man and woman of God bear through the final stages of their testing?  Would they take hold of the faith that God meant for them to have?

Story 21: A Trip to Egypt: There and Back Again

Genesis 12:16-20

Abram had moved out in faith because of the promises of God. The LORD told him to leave his country and his father’s household and go to an entirely new land.  God was going to raise up so many descendants for him that they would become an entire nation.  That nation was to be a part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the entire world.  But Abram was not alone on his journey, and he was not the only one who had to show tremendous trust in what God said. His wife Sarai would have to faithfully move out into a world that was very different from her own as well. They would have to put their hope in God together, acting as obedient partners in God’s work, reflecting the image of God in their love and support for each other.

They made the long journey to the land of Canaan. They were nomads, living in tents that were easy to pick up and move. They herded their flocks and herds with them, careful to stop in places where there would be plenty of water to drink and grass for their animals to graze on. They stayed in the hill country that fringed around the land of Canaan, careful not to threaten the tribes and nations that already lived there. Along their dusty path, Abram built altars of grateful praise to his God. They were monuments to the LORD, and monuments to Abram’s faith. He did not fight, fret, or manipulate for the land. He did not try to invade them on his own. He stood in faith, believing he would receive it freely from the hand of God.

They had been living in Canaan for some time when a severe famine came. Any famine is a terrible thing, as it means that there is not enough food to go around. Perhaps the famine came because there hadn’t been enough rain for the crops of food. Or perhaps a disease had come to destroy the plants or animals of the region. Whatever caused it, it was dangerous. Many people could starve to death. Many others would grow weak and ill.

Can you imagine the sense of responsibility and fear that Abram felt? Here was his precious wife, his nephew, their servants, and all their animals, and all of them depended on the wisdom of his leadership to survive. Did he wake up in fear at night, imagining his beloved wife having to go without food? Did he picture his animals growing skinny and weak? The Bible doesn’t say exactly which horrors drove Abram to fear, but we do know that he was overcome by those fears.

Abram gathered up his tents and moved his family down to the land of Egypt. The mighty Nile River was there. When every other region went without water because the rains had stopped, Egypt could rely on the vast flow of water that constantly poured through the Nile’s riverbanks. Their farms crops and their animals were often healthy and strong in the worst of times. The Nile was so important to the Egyptians that they worshiped the river as a god. In many ways, Abram was doing the same thing. In his fear of famine, he did not trust God to provide for him in the land of promise. He left the place of God’s calling to go where there was help that he could see and understand. Faith is believing in what cannot be seen. Abram was not standing in faith.

As they traveled closer to Egypt, Abram began to worry about something else. His wife was radiantly beautiful. He knew that other men would desire her, and he knew how vicious they might become towards the man she was married to. He was afraid. Here was another chance to take his fears to God, to show his trust and faith in the LORD. Instead, he turned to Sarai and put the burden of his fears on her. He said, “‘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.’”

Sure enough, when they arrived in Egypt, the surpassing beauty of Sarai became known far and wide. Word spread as far as the high officials of the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. They went to their king and told him that a great beauty had come to live among them. The Pharaoh sent for her. When he saw her, he agreed with the rumors…she was ravishing. And since everyone had been told that Sarai was without a husband, the Pharoah took her to live in his palace.

Meanwhile, Abram was treated very well for giving the king his sister. He received sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and human servants in gratitude for giving the Pharaoh such a lovely gift. What was Abram thinking? Sarai had become a part of the royal harem! The Pharaoh wanted to come to her as a man should only come to his wife!

Abram had put his wife at terrible risk. He had put God’s promises in danger, too. God said that He would make a great nation through Abram, but in God’s eyes, Abram and Sarai were one flesh. They were married, and the promise of the covenant was to come through their united flesh. It was meant to happen through the love they shared in their marriage. Sarai had a sacred role to play that was every bit as important as Abram’s! But now Sarai was at risk to have a child from a man that was not her husband.

Imagine how Sarai felt as she sat alone in the palace, waiting for the king to come. What was she going to do? Was she mad that Abram had forced her to protect him? Did she feel betrayed that he had not protected her as a husband should? And how was God going to come through?

The Lord is patient. As Abram struggled to become a man of faith, God would help him along the way, especially as he faltered and failed. God would not let Sarai be violated by the Pharaoh of this idolatrous nation. The covenant was unbreakable. God sent a serious disease to infect every member of Pharaoh’s house. Imagine the entire palace writhing in discomfort. They all wondered what they had done to deserve this plague.  Then Pharaoh discovered that the painful infliction had come because he had taken the wife of Abram.  So the Pharaoh called for him. He said:

“‘What have you done to me…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!’” (Gen. 12:18b-20)

Wow! Now Sarai was safe, but the wrath of the Pharaoh was against them…and he had every right to be angry! Abram took Sarah and everything they had and left Egypt. With all the riches given to him by the Pharaoh, Abram had become a very wealthy man. He had added great amounts of animals and silver and gold from the Pharaoh.

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