Genesis 12 and 13 present Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, with a test of faith. Let us look at this story and the context involved behind the great father. In Genesis 12:10, we see that there is a famine in the “land of plenty – a land flowing with milk and honey, the land that the Lord had promised Abraham.” Consider for a moment Abraham’s experience thus far, prior to the famine. He was chosen by God and obedient to His Word, and had broken his ties with the flesh and the world to follow God’s command. Before arriving in the Promised Land, before the famine occurs, Abraham is taken through many different places and experiences God’s presence and provision. At Shechem, he was strengthened by God, at Moreh, he was instructed by God, and at Bethel we was removed by God with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, where Abraham built an altar to God. (See Genesis 12:4-9)
Let us picture Abraham here at Bethel dwelling in the house of God, sacrificing, praying, and fellowshipping with God. Abraham was happy here. We do not know how long he stayed in this blessed place, but a famine had definitely arrived. But why? Had not God promised to bless him? Did God not ask him to dwell in this land? Was he not where God wanted Him to be? God was about to test his servant! Yet, Abraham failed in this crucial test. Instead of trusting God, he turned his back on Him, taking matters into his own hands and going down into Egypt, where he could escape the famine. If Abraham had stayed on amidst the famine, God certainly would have honored his faith. God was the one who fed Elijah by the brook, and sent manna from heaven to the Israelites. He also filled the disciples’ nets with fish, and fed the hungry multitude on a few loaves and fish, so, surely, the Almighty God was capable of meeting Abraham’s need even when there was famine in the land. But Abraham failed in this test.
Many sons of God failed in the day of testing. For instance, consider Elijah and his victory over the people who worshipped Baal in 1 Kings 18-19. Imagine the prophet on Mount Carmel, running over the top of the mountain. Jezebel sent him a message which said, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2) Elijah took to his heels, ran into the wilderness and sat down under a juniper tree requesting God to take his life. He cries out, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” God responds to Elijah, saying, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel and all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18) Elijah had not trusted in the Lord, yet failed in his day of testing by the Lord.
Abraham had also disobeyed when he lost his faith in God. In Genesis 12:12-13, He was almost in Egypt with his wife Sarai, but instead of trusting God, He began to fear for his safety and began telling lies. Was God disappointed in Abraham? Look now at Genesis 12:17: “And the Lord plagued the rock and his house with great plagues.” We see here that our God is a great God who can send such great earthly wonders, like plagues, to curse Pharaoh, but not Abraham. Pharaoh recognized the roles of God, and discovered the deceit of Abraham and asks him to take his wife and leave the country. (See Genesis 12:19) Then Genesis 13:1 opens with those words: “And Abraham went up out of Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had.” Abraham is then on his way back to Bethel, the house of God. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Abraham’s actions up to the point of return to Bethel could be described as “backsliding” or a lack of faith.
Despite Abraham’s backsliding and believers’ occasional lapses in faith, let us remember the story of the prodigal son, where the son who turns his back on his life and family is welcomed back with celebration despite all of the sin he had lived in and committed. (See Luke 15:11-32) Let us also remember the story of Naomi in the book of Ruth. There is a famine in Bethlehem, and Elimelech and Naomi leave for Moab with their two sons. They had failed in their testing with disastrous results. While there, Abimelech and the two sons die, leaving Naomi with her two daughters-in-law. Naomi decides to go back home, back to the land of Judah and the house of praise, to her hometown of Bethlehem. The city was awed when they saw her, saying, “Is this really Naomi?” But she said to them, “Call me not Naomi,” which means ‘pleasant,’ but ordered them to call her Mara, which means ‘bitter,’ for, as she reasoned, “the Almighty God has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21) The Lord had tested them with the famine and as a result they experienced many hardships from trying to escape the famine. Indeed, the Lord sometimes tests us to bring out the best in us.
Take Job as another example. Job was a good man, evidenced by Job 1:1, saying, “He was perfect and upright, he feared God and avoided evil.” We also know that he was a rich man, evidenced by his prosperity mentioned in Job 1:2-4. Satan’s theory was that Job was good because God had given him riches and prosperity, and that God had sheltered him. “Let me touch him,” taunted Satan, “and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:11) The Lord told Satan, “Behold, all that he has is yours.” (Job 1:12) God had confidence in him that he would be sustained and not curse God for his trials and extreme suffering.
Do these stories fit your circumstances? Are you cold, unhappy, or miserable? Have you relied only on yourself and failed to trust God in his time of testing? There is only one answer to your problem. Get back to Bethel - back to God - admit your lack of faith, and confess your sins. Return to Him and His joy will flood your life.