Walking by Faith: A Study of the Life of Abraham,
When Godly People Do Ungodly Things
By Dr. Robert Jeffress
Mark Twain said, “Each of us is like the moon … we have a dark side we do not want anyone to see.” Unfortunately, our dark side eventually is exposed for all to see—most often when we are suddenly confronted with an unexpected disaster in our life.
The life of Abraham is a continual reminder that godly people do stumble. And thankfully, when we do, there is forgiveness, but there are also consequences. The Lord appeared to Abraham while he resided in the pagan city of Ur of the Chaldeans and said, “Go to a land I will show you.” Abraham was willing to leave everything familiar to follow God’s command. And although there was a 15-year lapse of obedience when he settled in Haran, he eventually obeyed God and traveled to the promised land.
Although life in Canaan wasn’t perfect, at least he was finally in the promised land, and for that, he was grateful. He had successfully endured that 400-mile trip through the wasteland, he had refused to be swayed by the criticism of friends and probably even his wife Sarai and nephew Lot, and now, at last, he had arrived.
But waiting around the corner for Abraham, just as there is waiting for you, was a tremendous test of his faith.
1. Abraham’s Disbelief (Genesis 12:10)
In Abraham’s case, the trial was a famine. The rains that usually came in the latter part of the year failed to go, and suddenly the earth dried up. There was no water for Abraham, his family, his servants, and all the livestock they had brought from the rich pastureland of Ur of the Chaldeans.
So the basic question confronting Abraham was this: “Can I trust God to meet my needs? Although God miraculously brought me to Canaan, can He be depended upon to provide for my family and me while I am here?” Sometimes it takes more faith to remain in the promised land than it takes to get there.
Picture in your mind an issue about which you are having difficulty trusting God. Maybe it is a financial need you are facing; perhaps it is your need for a job. Possibly the issue is selecting a marriage partner or a need for one of your children or grandchildren. Maybe the issue is a move you have recently made or are considering making.
Do you believe that God can lead you to make the right decision and care for you once that decision is made? Failure to trust God leads to a downward spiral that includes disobedience, despair, disaster, and disgrace.
2. Abraham’s Disobedience (Genesis 12:10)
Abraham is faced with a test—could God be trusted to provide for his needs? Abram concluded NO, so what does he do?
He leaves Canaan to go to Egypt, where this is plenty of food. Throughout history, Egypt has sometimes been a place of refuge for God’s people. Remember that Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph was supernaturally placed in Egypt so that he might provide food for his brothers when another famine came to Canaan. Egypt was God’s provision for keeping Israel alive.
Centuries later, Joseph and Mary and their infant son Jesus would travel to Egypt, by the command of God, to seek protection from Herod. But in both of those instances, God was the one who commanded his people to go to Egypt.
Egypt also symbolizes trusting in human resources rather than God’s power. And the Scripture has a stern warning against trusting in human resources rather than God to meet our needs. Listen to the words of Isaiah as he warned his people against trusting in Egypt rather than trusting in God.
Abraham’s motive was pure—trying to provide for his family. The only problem with Abraham’s reasoning was that he left God out of the equation. The basis for all worrying is calculating without God. Abraham failed even to consult God or consider the possibility of God’s supernatural intervention.
3. Abraham’s Despair (Genesis 12:11-13)
There is a strong relationship between disbelief, disobedience, and despair. Whenever we determine that God is incapable of meeting our needs and decide to disobey God for a quick fix to the situation, there comes fear or despair. That is what happened to Abraham.
Sarai was 65 and was still a beautiful woman; Abraham understood how the Egyptians tended to be attracted to foreign women. A powerful ruler like Pharaoh would have no qualms about taking someone else’s wife as his own.
Even Israel’s kings like David thought nothing of allowing their unbridled lust to throw God’s laws overboard and have sex with whomever they chose. After all, they were the king. Any woman, all women, were fair game. Realizing this, Abraham concocted a scheme. “Let’s tell people you are my sister instead of my wife.” Now there were two problems with this plan.
First, the plan was a half-truth. Sarai was the daughter of Abraham’s father but not his mother, but the intent was deception because she was his half-sister.
The second problem with this plan is his selfishness. Abram’s plan was for one person’s benefit—Abram.
4. Abraham’s Disaster (Genesis 12:14-17)
When we fail to trust God to meet our needs and set out on our course, we often find ourselves surrounded by ungodly people or difficult circumstances that leave us with few acceptable choices. That is what happened to Abraham. But then the story takes an unexpected twist.
In verse 13, Abraham says to his wife, “Let’s enter into this deception that it may go well with me.” Verse 16 uses the Hebrew verb “yatab” to say, “And it went well for Abraham.” Pharaoh showered Abraham with wealth.
But the most important thing to note regarding Abraham’s wealth gained from Pharaoh is what it cost him. As Abraham counted his money, livestock, and servants, it was a bitter reminder that the most important person in his life was missing. Sarah was no longer in Abraham’s bed but Pharaoh’s harem. Even though Abraham had abandoned Sarah, God didn’t. He miraculously intervened to keep Pharaoh from defiling Sara.
When our disobedience leads us into an impossible situation, God may or may not deliver us out of that predicament. But if He chooses to, it will be His glory, not ours. In this case, Abraham’s disobedience threatened to derail the covenant God made with Abraham, including the coming of the Messiah, the world’s savior, so God miraculously intervened. But that intervention did not erase the disgrace that came to Abraham.
5. Abraham’s Disgrace (Genesis 12:18-20)
Visualize an issue you are having difficulty trusting God. Do you believe that the same God who has brought you this far in life is capable of providing whatever answer you need right now? Do you think that the same God you have trusted to take care of you in the next life can be trusted to take care of you in this one?
Or, like Abraham, are you ready to abandon Him and set off on your course in life? The price tag for disobedience for that journey into Egypt is high. It almost cost Abraham everything dear to him.
Which will it be for you?
Full Passage: Genesis 12:10-20