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From Fear to Faith

Date: Apr. 8, 2018

Author: Michael Mark

Genesis 12:10-13:4

Key Verse: Genesis 12:17

But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.

Have you ever been so afraid, so fearful that you ended up doing something foolish?  There was one time when I was in high school, that I became so scared it caused me to do something shameful.  I’m even ashamed to tell the story now.  I was playing football with a bunch of guys from church after Sunday service.  You know, like tackle football, a game for the manliest of young men.  Our game was interrupted when a couple of thugs from the streets stopped our game to take someone’s new basketball jersey.  So there we were, most of us helpless as we watched 2 neighborhood boys try to take a jersey from our friend.  The atmosphere was tense.  But where was I?  I was hiding behind all the boys smaller than me.  I was literally the biggest guy there.  But we were all afraid, every one of us, of the neighborhood kids.  But why did I hide?  Because I had just bought some new shoes.  I did not want those kids to take my shoes too.  So eventually, they were able to forcibly take my friends jersey, and we ended our game and went home sad, angry and downcast. What happened?  We definitely had the numbers.  We could have all ganged up on the 2 neighborhood kids.  But we all stood there and watched, because every one of us were scared, and I was the biggest yellow belly of them all.  So what’s the lesson here?  If there’s more of you, and less of them, don’t let them take your stuff.  Joking aside, fear can cause you to be at your worst, but there is one who can bring you from fear to faith.

We are picking back up in Genesis, the book of beginnings, and we have begun the story of Abraham.  Prior to that we studied about the table of nations, and how all of the nations of the world repopulated through Noah and his sons.  It didn’t take long for the people to get back together again and invent ways of doing evil, so God confused the languages of the world at Babel. Notice at that time there was not a nation that was called God’s nation.  There was not a people called God’s people, until now.  Now, after the call of Abram, that God would begin to call out a people for himself.  He would now begin the work of building his own nation – the kingdom of God. Finally, the kingdom of God was revealed in the earth, and it would sprout through the seed of Abraham.  So God said to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  God promised to bless the world through Abraham, and today, we call him the father of our faith.  Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham. All of God’s children are children of Abraham.

But it was not an easy road, even for the man considered the father of our faith.  As we learned 2 weeks ago, Abram’s faith was tested at least 10 times in the book of Genesis.  His faith, just like ours, had to be refined and strengthened by fire, and today we will look at the first of his trials.  Verse 10 begins, “Now there was a famine in the land.”  A what?  A famine?  God had just called Abram to leave his father’s household to go into another land where he would be blessed.  But here he was, and there was a famine.  What happened to the blessing?  Was God wrong?  Was he missing something?  But God knows exactly what he’s doing.  God gives, and he takes away.  But through this trial God would teach Abram that he needed to depend on him.  Sometimes in our trials, our hardships and our difficulties are blessings in disguise. The blessing is learning to trust God, but it is not always easy.

We are told that Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while, because the famine was severe.  Here we do catch a glimpse of Abram’s faith in God’s promise.  He did not go back to Haran, his former home, and his stay in Egypt would only be temporary.  It was probably his intention to come back to Canaan after the drought was over.  He did believe in God’s promise made to him in Canaan: “To your offspring I will give this land.”  It just wasn’t inhabitable now.  But that doesn’t mean his trials were over.  Whether he stayed in Canaan or went to Egypt, his faith would be tested either way.  Acts 14:22 says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” This was true for Abram as it is for us. But the Lord disciplines those he loves. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:4-11).

Abram would face another trial as he entered into Egypt – fear.  And here is where he failed.  Look at v.11-12 “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘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.”  Aww, isn’t it sweet, right before they enter in to another land, Abram says, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.”  But don’t get too admiring yet, listen to what he says next: You’re so beautiful, that they’re going to kill me.  You might see the smile disappear from Sarai’s face. Sarai was 65 years old, yet even at this age she was renowned for her beauty.  As they approached Egypt, Abram was filled with fear.  When we hear about Sodom and Gomorrah, you can get an idea of how bad it can get in some of those cities in Abraham’s time.  It was probably not uncommon to hear that men were killed so that their wives could be taken.  There was kind of a twisted morality.  The people considered adultery to be worse than murder, so it was ok to murder someone to avoid committing adultery.  Till death do you part?  Ok.  It seems like they did value marriage, even though polygamy was accepted.

There was a very real possibility that Abram might get killed.  This is where his faith falters.  He lost his trust in God.  He made up his own plan to save his life, a plan that would not have pleased God. Look at v.12, “Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”  First of all, if any of you husbands tell your wives to say they are your sisters, you would get a slap in the face.  Abram is basically concealing his marriage bond to his wife.  He is opening Sarai up to the market.  Maybe he had some other schemes to avoid anyone taking her to be a wife, but that was a risk he was taking.  He had exposed Sarai to the danger of adultery, and he put others at risk too.  He would have to lie straight-faced to everyone he meets and live the lie as long as he’s living there.  “Oh this beautiful and attractive woman here?  She’s not my wife.”  You can see for yourself what was wrong with Abram’s scheme.  But what else was wrong with this in the sight of God?  It was a failure of faith.  God had made a promise “To your offspring I will give this land.” Abram would have to alive to see that day.  But he was worried that he would be killed.  He did not trust God to save his life.  Abram also put the promise at risk.  The promise of offspring was made to Abram and his wife Sarai.  If Sarai happened to marry another, or lose her purity to another man, then his promise to Abram and Sarai would be corrupted and broken.  If there is no promise, then there is no kingdom, and there will be no salvation or blessing.  Lastly, his will for Abram was to be a blessing.  But in living in a lie and deceiving others, he could not glorify God, he could not be a blessing, but instead would bring a curse on them.  All of these things happen when we doubt God, when we forget about God, when we do not seek the Lord and his guidance, and when we do not trust God in either the good times or the bad.

Abram’s plan backfired.  The worst that could happen happened.  Sarai’s beauty was noticed.  The Egyptians saw that she was very beautiful.  Pharaoh’s officials saw that she was beautiful, and praised her to the king. Pharaoh saw her, and thought she was beautiful, and took her into his palace, most likely to prepare her to be one of his wives.  Abram may have thought, if it was any other person, he can probably try to get Sarai out. But this was Pharaoh.  How could you say no to Pharaoh?  Even if you didn’t like it, you couldn’t.  And this Pharaoh was even nice about it too.  He could have probably taken Sarai and not give anything back for her.  But he lavished Abram with gifts and treated him well.  These were some of the finest luxuries in all of Egypt: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and even human servants!  Abram could not refuse, or his lie would get out.  This only exacerbated and compounded his sin.  His sin was giving him extraordinary returns, with interest.  It makes it harder to correct things and make things right.  Abram was in deep.  How could he tell Pharaoh the truth now, after accepting all of these gifts?  He might die.  Sin mocks us, treats us treacherously and cruelly with a coldhearted laugh.

The irony is that Abram got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted, and at a great cost. He was treated well, and his life was preserved.  Pharaoh gave him the richest of gifts out of an innocent heart.  But Abram could not enjoy these things one bit – his wife was taken from him.  This shows us that there are things in life worth more than silver or gold. Happiness cannot be found in material things, but in a righteous life there is blessing.  Solomon wrote in Prov 12:2, “Ill gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.”  How agonizing he must have felt, to have to live with the fact he was the cause of all this trouble.  How miserable he must have been!

But God did not leave him alone.  God did not let him languish.  Though he was unfaithful to God, God was not unfaithful to Abram, and remembered his promise to him.  Only God can deliver, and only God is mighty to save.  Can we all please read v.17, “But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.”  God loved Sarai.  He was able to protect Sarai, even when she got into deep trouble.  God was faithful to his promises.  God wanted to bless the world through Abram, and he was determined to carry that out.  He struck Pharaoh’s household because of Sarai.  He was able to preserve her purity.  We are not told how Pharaoh eventually realized the reason for the serious disease was Sarai, but somehow he was able to figure it out. 

Look at v.18, “So Pharaoh summoned Abram.”  Dah-dah.. You have been summoned by the king. That sounds scary.  Abram gets rebuked by Pharaoh.  “What have you done to me?”  “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?”  “Why did you say you say, ‘She is my sister.’”  Pharaoh called him out on his lie.  Pharaoh even suggests that he would not have taken Sarai if he had known she belonged to Abram.  “What have you done?”  “What is this you have done.”  This echoes what God said to Eve in Gen 3:13 when he questioned her on eating the forbidden fruit.  “What have you done?”  It suggests that Abram sinned greatly.  Abram makes no defense.  He does not try to justify himself.  He has nothing to say.  His mouth is shut.  He is guilty, and he acknowledges his sin.

Abram became very dishonorable in the eyes of Pharaoh.  Egyptian ethics value truthfulness, and Abram violated that code. So Pharaoh sent him out.  He did not even want Abram in his land.  “Now then, here is your wife.  Take her and go!”  Pharaoh kicks him out, but gives him a little bit of grace.  He commanded his men to escort Abram and Sarai out of the land, so that nothing bad would happen to them on the way out.  He also let Abram keep everything he had given him. Perhaps after what had happened, Pharaoh feared the God of Abram, and recognized his power.  So maybe sending Abram out with a delegation and the gifts was his way to appease God.

Whew that was close. God had truly delivered Abram from the consequences of his sins.  He was free now, and his wife Sarai was restored to him, along with more gifts that made him very wealthy.  God had restored Abram’s honor.  Not that Abram deserved any of this.  What might Abram deserve for nearly nullifying the promise of God?  But because of God’s grace alone was Abram delivered, restored and prosperous.  Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, and from there, he went place to place until he came to Bethel, where he first built an altar.  It was a more than 220 mile journey back to the land of Canaan, so Abram made many stops along the way.

When he reached Bethel, he called on the name of the Lord.  We can kind of guess what might have been going on in his mind as he traveled from Egypt back to Bethel.  He may have been so joyful, thanking God along the way.  He may have felt some remorse and repentance for his sins.  He had a lot of time to meditate on these things. But when he came to Bethel, he worshipped God.  He called on the name of the Lord.  He praised God.  He thanked God.  He confessed his sins to God.  He worshipped.  He came back to God, back to the first place he worshipped.  Remember those days when you first learned about the gospel, and how you desired to know more about God, and how you hunger and thirsted for his word. I can remember when I first studied the book of John in depth in high school.  It absolutely satisfied my soul, and I wanted to read and study it every day. I wanted to double up on my Bible studies with my teacher.  Each of you may have a different story, but perhaps each of you can recall some time where you were really moved by the love of God.  Let those thoughts stir up worship in your hearts, and call upon the name of the Lord.

It was God who brought Abram from fear to faith.  You can see that Abram was not a perfect man, he was a sinner like you and me.  And he will stumble sometimes.  We will probably see it a few more times in Genesis.  But what does he do?  He goes back to God.  He calls on the name of the Lord.  This does not mean we should sin more and use God as some magic eraser. But this should encourage us to be faithful, and not to be afraid to come to God when we do stumble, for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.  There is no sin that you have done that is too big or no sins too many for God to forgive.  Come back to God.  Remember God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, as he proved to Abram. With his mighty hand, he delivered Abram from his sin.  In the same way, God has delivered us by sending his Son to suffer and die on the cross in order to take away all our sin.  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32).  Do not be afraid to come to the Lord.  We’ve all done stupid things.  We’ve all done shameful things, because of sin.  But they are forgiven and forgotten in Christ, the seed [or son] of Abraham.  So call on the name of the Lord.  Call on the name of Jesus Christ, any time, and all the time, in the good times, and especially in the hard times, and he will bring you from fear to faith.

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Daily Bread

Produce Good Fruit with Repentance

Luke 3:1-20

Key Verse: 3:8a

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

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