Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, Jan 2002

Genesis 12:10-20: Famine Testing Faith
By Pang Hee Hung, Director & Trainer, Ezra Resources

Gen 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. v11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. v12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. v13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you."

Abram, a man of faith, faced a famine. Sometimes in our walk of faith, we too may encounter occasions of famine. When I entered full-time ministry, I entered it by faith knowing that my income was below my monthly budget. So it was like a financial famine. When I left the full-time supported ministry, there was yet a further financial setback. In the current economic environment, many are facing a financial famine.

In a famine, our faith is tested just as Abram's faith was tested. We come out with all kinds of solutions - often times man-made ones. We forget to consult God who first gave us His spiritual direction. In Abram's scenario, the passage is silent on whether God supports or even rebukes Abram for his journey to Egypt (Hamilton, Genesis, NICOT). So we have an unanswered question as to whether it was God's idea or man's idea for Abram's diversion to Egypt. However, Abram responds to the sojourn in Egypt with fear. He feared that the Egyptians would kill him to take his wife, Sarai. God really blesses this man of faith (Heb. 11:8-19) - with a beautiful wife. Imagine Sarai, who was at least 65 years old in this passage, was beautiful. (Pause to thank God for your beautiful spouse right now.) However, Abram's fears led to a deceptive plan, which could have endangered God's plan to bless him and to form a nation through him and Sarai. To protect himself, which seems rather self-centered, he claimed that Sarai was his sister. Abram's plan really went amiss. Sarai was brought to "Pharaoh's palace". This may mean actual adultery (Hamilton). Abram apparently did not learn from this incident and later in Gen 20, Abraham used the same deception - "She is my sister" ruse with Abimelech, king of Gerar.

These two sad stories however ended with a turn of fortune for Abram purely by God's grace and intervention. It seems like Abram was not directly disciplined for his ethical failures. He only suffered the Pharaoh's rebuke and gained wealth in this incident. This may tempt some to presume that it is a license for them to fail morally and ethically. However, we need to note that Abram's descendants, the other patriarchs like Isaac and Jacob, were disciplined for their failures. So one cannot assume that living by God's grace means a license to sin freely (c.f. Romans 6:15). In addition, we learn that there were threats to God's promise of blessings to Abram. Yet nothing can hinder God's fulfillment of His promises - not even man's failure (Sailhamer, Genesis, EBC). We also need to rise beyond our fears that lead us to devise man-made, sub-optimal solutions. We need to have courage to stand firm in our faith and hope that God will fulfill what He had promised.

Another observation. It seems that Sarai went along with the ruse based on a half-truth (Gen 20:12 "Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother"). This is clearly a serious deception even though it is only half the truth. In submission to one's spouse or to any authority, one must realize that our submission and obedience is first and foremost to God and not to man (Acts 4:19). This position is very clear when the one in authority sins outwardly e.g. embezzlement, adultery. However, the unseen sin is just as dangerous or even more dangerous since it is hidden. The sin may be half-truth (as in this case), exaggeration, deception or pride. Thus one must be careful not to accommodate any deception just as Sarai did - which almost jeopardized God's plan for Abram and Sarai.

1. What are the famines and tests you are facing now?
2. How have we forgotten to consult God and have instead responded with our man-made plans to these situations?
3. What unseen sins are we tempted to accommodate esp. as a couple? What can we do about it?
4. Abram repeated his deception. People say a leopard cannot change its spots. But what can you do not to repeat your sin?

Tools For Reflection:
Put yourself in the shoes of the main characters, e.g. Abram, Sarai, Pharaoh, Pharaoh's officials.
How would you have responded to the famine and to beautiful Sarai?

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