(To read the other parts in the series, please see this link.) Last month we looked at Lot’s life to see what insight we could glean from it. We saw that Lot was a selfish man who made decisions based on what was good for him. Yet, Lot was referred to as a just man and was still better than the pagans around him. But, was he God’s man?
Based on observation, I find many professing Christians who seem to have a saving faith, yet their walk bears great similarities to Lot’s. We must each ask, “Is it I, Lord?”
The man we are going to look at this month was quite different from Lot, yet he had similar circumstances. Let’s look briefly at Abraham’s life and compare our life to his.
In Genesis 12:1-4 we read, “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him. . . .”
What a promise of incredible blessing that was! I find it tempting to think, “How could anyone not act on that?” But let’s look at this more closely, and see if we think we would have obeyed like Abram did.
First, God is telling Abram to leave the security of his extended family. In those days, living by your family was much safer than living by yourself in a foreign country. The men in the family would join together in opposing those who might attack them. By leaving, Abram no longer had that security. Abram trusted God with his life.
God didn’t even tell Abram where He was sending him. Abram was told not only to leave the security of his family but also to go someplace unknown. Most of us would ask ourselves, “What if I don’t like it there? Is this really God’s direction?” There is just something unsettling about not knowing. Oftentimes, we can handle good or bad news; it is the not knowing that “kills” us.
Years ago, at a training clinic for marriage enrichment leaders that Teri and I attended, each spouse blindfolded the other and led him or her around the building. I remember how uncertain I felt (okay, I’ll admit it, even a little fearful at times) as Teri enjoyed leading me on a very strange journey, up and down stairs, in circles, and through different rooms. It was natural for me to want to know where each step was being placed and where I was going to end up. One aspect the exercise demonstrated was how important it was to be able to trust the person leading you. It was much easier to blindly be led about because I trusted Teri and knew she would not take me anywhere that wasn’t good for me, yet because I couldn’t see, I still had an emotional response. Abram not only trusted God, but his expectation was in Him. Abram was not told where, but he went.
What an incredible beginning to Abram’s walk with God. It reminds me of the old saying where one says, “Jump!” and the recipient of the command says, “How high?” However, with Abram, he didn’t even ask how high. He simply obeyed. It is the desire of my life that if God says to do something, I will do it.
Abram traveled to the land of Canaan. Then in Genesis 12:7, God spoke to Abram again and said, “. . . Unto thy seed will I give this land. . . .” God did not give the land to Abram right then, but He said He was giving it to Abram’s seed. I wonder how many of us would be happy if all the blessings God was going to give us were to go only to our children’s children. We would not be able to enjoy them ourselves but would have to be content knowing they were coming. Are we willing to make decisions that will reap a harvest of righteousness only for our children and our children’s children?
As we read about Abram’s life, we are surprised twice by decisions of his that are not representative of a good leader. In fact, we would expect Lot, not Abram, to have made these decisions. God records these events for our benefit. What can we learn from them to help us be good leaders of our families?
In Genesis 12:13 and 20:2 Abram (now Abraham), like a good leader, was “looking down the road” ahead of their travels and thinking about situations they might encounter. Sarah was very beautiful, and Abraham was concerned in his heart that Sarah would be taken to be part of a king’s harem. It must have been fairly common that if the woman was married, the husband was killed and the wife taken. Therefore, Abraham reckoned that he was going to be in serious danger, and he asked Sarah to deceive them by not admitting that she was his wife, but to say that Abraham was her brother (he was her half brother). Deception is not God’s plan.
A good leader should be alert to danger, but he must seek the Lord for the right solution. Abraham’s plan of deception was not of the Lord. God “stepped in” and protected Abraham and Sarah, and there appeared to be no consequences for the deception.
We may be tempted to think the lesson Abraham learned through these situations was to trust God for protection. I believe, though, that an even greater lesson would have been to ask God first before proceeding. I could find no mention in Scripture of where Abraham sought God’s direction prior to traveling to those two areas that got him into trouble. Look how those failures could have been avoided if Abraham had prayed before he went down those roads.
“And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels” (Genesis 12:16). We read how Pharaoh gave Abraham gifts in exchange for Sarah. Then we read in Genesis 16:1, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.” Then we read how Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham as his wife so Sarah can claim Hagar’s children as her own. Here is another creative human plan laden with consequences. Yes, it was Sarah’s plan, but Abraham agreed to it and, therefore, owned the consequences.
Now we see that had Abraham not decided to go to Egypt, Hagar would not have been given to them, and she would not be part of Sarah’s scheme for children. Had Ishmael not been born, is it possible that the Arab-Israeli conflict through the centuries could have been avoided? Only the Lord knows, but it is an interesting question. How bitter the fruit we may serve our family when we aren’t following God’s direction.
Do you ever neglect to ask God for direction and then cry out to Him to fix the situation when the road leads to trouble? How much better for us and our families if we cry out to the Lord for direction prior to going down a certain road.
Abraham was God’s man and did so many things right. He had incredible faith in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. He was obedient to God to the point of being willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. He was satisfied with his descendants receiving the blessings of a homeland, instead of having the blessing himself.
May we be like Abraham in his good points and learn from his failures. May we seek God every morning and at every decision. May we be totally dependent on the Father to direct our lives.