In my last post I looked at how Abraham’s obedience led to testing. We will now look at how his disobedience led to apparent blessing but subsequently created a problem that still plagues his descendants to this day.
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” Genesis 12:10-13 (NKJV)
Abraham had for some time now been going where Yahweh called and directed. He arrived at the land of promise, however, in response to the famine he left. Where did following Yahweh fit in and how does it connect to our lives? We have seen in following Abraham’s journey that he had some struggles with obedience but was always heading in the right direction. Here he changed direction and everything, very literally, went south, given that Egypt is south of Israel (Canaan at this point). Abraham journeyed south and went to live in Egypt to wait out the famine. He was now moving in fear instead of faith and got Sarai his wife (later Sarah) to lie to preserve his life.
As Abraham chose deception, because he believed it would preserve his life, the outcome was that Pharaoh gave him gifts for Sarai, Yahweh kept Pharaoh from taking Sarai to his bed and Pharaoh sent Abraham away and they returned to Canaan with the gifts. So there seemed to be no negative consequences to Abraham’s journey to Egypt and in fact he returned with further wealth. Yet one of Abraham’s descendants left us with this wisdom,
11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Ecclesiastes 8:11 (NKJV)
So while Abraham did not know Yahweh’s character he grew up with the rhythms and motions of agrarian life. He should have understood that often we do not immediately reap what we sow. The consequences of Abraham’s choices were revealed later.
Though he had come out of a pagan culture that really didn’t know Yahweh, Abraham had begun to follow Yahweh while not yet knowing His character. When we look at Abraham’s relatives that his grandson Jacob encountered we see that shrewd deceit and half truths was certainly part of the family culture and that was what Abraham engaged in rather than trusting Yahweh. So while Abraham had come out of the culture it was certainly not yet out of him. That is the process I referenced in an earlier post. Just as at creation Yahweh began separating light from darkness, so too in our lives He continually seeks to draw the darkness out of us to establish and reveal light.
So what was the final outcome of Abraham’s deception? While we are often taught in evangelical circles that God leads through circumstances we don’t need to look very far in scripture to realize that not only is that not true it is frequently the exact opposite of the truth. Yahweh frequently leads us in spite of circumstances! Abraham’s situation is a very good example of that. Based on his circumstances Abraham left Canaan and went to Egypt. Based on his circumstances Abraham sought to deceive Pharaoh. Later, based on his circumstances he conceived Ishmael with Hagar and created problems for Isaac’s descendants that persist to this day. The repercussions from that one decision, based on circumstances, have lasted thousands of years. When we look at it verse one there is a critical point.
1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. Genesis 16:1-2, 16 (NKJV)
Sarai, had an Egyptian maidservant. The scriptures do not tell us where she came from but given that her identity is highlighted the inference is clear that Hagar was one of the ‘gifts’ that Abraham received from Pharaoh. So eleven years after Abraham went to Canaan he now had a son in the land but from the wrong mother, his choice not God’s choice. Our decisions led by our circumstances rather than His spirit may have long lasting consequences!