God’s Faithfulness to Abraham and to Us – Part 3
Trusting and obeying God does not mean that henceforth life will be free of
troubles and dangers. Instead, the Bible teaches us that the life of faith leads to hardships and sufferings.
The Life of Faith in a Fallen World
God called Abraham and gave him great and awesome promises. By faith and in obedience to God’s word, he left family and country and moved to the promised land. Then came a time of severe testing:
Now there was a famine in the land. (Genesis 12:10a)
In paradise, there were no diseases, calamities or death. But now we live in a fallen world; and God’s judgment and curse upon sinful humanity (i.e. the ancient Canaanites and today’s society) affect us all.
The Bible does not promise us a trouble-free life. Instead, God’s word tells us
to expect temptations, trials and tribulations in the life of faith (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12). But at the same time, we are also to expect the Lord’s presence and help to be with us the whole way through (Psalm 23:4; Psalm 34:17-19; Hebrews 13:5).
Life is hard and painful – that is true! – but we are never without comfort and hope. In all our pains and sufferings, the Bible tells us to look up and cry out to our Creator and Savior – to the One who sent His Son to pay for sins and redeem His sinful creatures. To us, undeserving sinners, our infinitely merciful God offers forgiveness, salvation and covenant provisions. And it’s all because of Christ’s death and sacrifice for us on the cross of Calvary!
Our Greatest Problem is Our Own Sinfulness
The lives of Abram and Sarai were not the only ones in danger here. The famine posed a grave threat to the fulfillment of God’s promise and plan of salvation. Abram was to become a great nation; and from Israel the Savior was to be born.
By God’s sovereign election and will, Abram and Sarai’s role in the outworking
of His saving plan was crucial. And so it was not a question of whether or not
their lives needed to be protected and preserved. The question was how? God’s
way or man’s?
In His word, the Lord promises protection and provision for us no matter how severe and life-threatening our circumstances may be. But oftentimes, like Abram, we fail to trust Him.
So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that
my life may be spared for your sake.” (Genesis 12:10b-13)
Our fallen world already cause much pain and suffering to us all. But our sins and weaknesses put us in more troubles and dangers. Like Abraham, we attempt to solve our problems without seeking God’s will. We try to protect ourselves through worldly “strategizing”, which does nothing but worsen our situation and put us in greater hazard.
When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. (Genesis 12:14-16)
I can only imagine how Abram felt when the Egyptians took Sarai away from him. His plan backfired on him. Now, his wife (his one and only love, and God’s chosen “princess” through whom the promised “seed” or “offspring” was to come) was taken “into Pharaoh’s house” (verse 15) to be his “wife” (19). Oh the turmoil in Abram’s mind and heart! Clearly, this was so much worse than the famine in Canaan.
Do you find yourself in great trouble and danger because of your worldly “strategizing”? The good news is, you are never beyond the Lord’s reach. In the “pits” of life, always turn to Him by faith. Ask Him for forgiveness and help, and He will do it (Psalm 103). Cry out for mercy and grace, and you will see: He never fails to protect and deliver His covenant children.
Saved by God Alone
Abram could do nothing to rescue his wife. And no “strategizing” whatsoever on his part could ensure the fulfillment of God’s plan to make him a great nation, from which the Messiah would come. Thankfully and gloriously, He who gave the promise is the very One, indeed the only One, who ensures its fulfillment. And He never fails to preserve His people for whom He graciously accomplishes His saving plan.
But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house withgreat plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that shewas your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12:17-20)
God remains faithful despite of our failures and weaknesses. He forgives all our sins. And He never fails to protect and deliver us from all the “pits” of our fallen world – even from those caused by our own sinfulness and worldly “strategizings”.
Brother and sisters in Christ, the God of Abraham is our Father and Redeemer. Let us be rooted and grounded in our blessed assurance and security in His Son who shed His blood for us. He will never fail to protect and preserve us. Faithfully, He will fulfill His saving plan and take us all the way to the new heaven and new earth. In all trials and tribulations, let us trust in Him and cling to Him alone by the grace and strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.
“[T]o be in the place of God’s appointment is not to be exempt from suffering… [T]he person who declares his trust in the Lord sometimes seems to be singled out for trouble, while the godless prosper (Ps. 73:2-14). There are indications in Scripture that spiritual ‘high points’, when God draws near or speaks in special way, are often followed by unusual testings.” – Joyce G. Baldwin
“The reason that Abram emerges unpunished is solely that the Pharaoh has experienced the power behind him.” – Claus Westermann
“Indeed it was a sin of omission in the first instance which had ultimately involved him [Abraham] in cowardice and betrayal of his wife: he had failed to draw near to the Lord, and had failed therefore to trust him, when trouble struck. The source of his danger was confidence in his own judgment. Like Abram, we have to learn that it is all too easy to find ourselves off the track, simply because we have trusted our own reasoning instead of consulting [God] our guide. All kinds of dangers follow. Marvellously there was a way back, for the Lord had not given up on Abram, despite his lapse, any more than he abandons his defeated servants today.” – Joyce G. Baldwin
“Abraham, though he was a great man, was a sinner. So we see the sinfulness of a great man set side by side with the grace of a great God… Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. You know, it’s in the trials of life that we either go one direction or another. We either revert to bitterness or our faith shines brighter in God. And in the midst of all Abram’s trials, and we might also add in the midst of all Abram’s failings… God did grow Abram by grace, and Abram did persevere to the end. That is an example for you and me, because in precisely the areas of God’s promises to you, I promise you He will test you, just as He tested your father, Abram.” – Ligon Duncan
“The movement famine-sojourn-captivity-return anticipates other portions of Scripture. This same sequence is clearly reflected in the experiences of Moses and the Exodus. And it comes quite close to events in the exilic period, where geographically the action has shifted to Babylon. In all of these events the infidelity of the people is subordinated to the faithfulness of Yahweh.” – Victor Hamilton