Before we consider Abraham’s frailties as a man let us look for a moment at his greatness.
In God’s eyes Abraham was a great man.
Consider the prominence of the Biblical record given to Abraham.
The first 2000 years of human history are covered in the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
The second section of Genesis begins with the record of Abraham.
Chapters 12-50 cover a period of approximately 400 years. These chapters are devoted entirely to the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
The other 38 books of the OT deal with the history of the nation which sprang from Abraham—Israel.
The Bible is a book of redemption.
It was through the seed of Abraham that God gave us our Bible. God also gave us, through Abraham, our Lord and Savior.
Careful reading of the Word leads us to believe that God speaks very little about the past, but He speaks a great deal about the future.
In ten words He tells how the world began in 1:1. This is all God says about the origin of the earth. The rest of the Bible is occupied with the future of the world.
The record of man’s origin is also brief—2:7. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into His nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
In 27 simple words God told us all He wanted us to know about our origin, where we came from. The rest of the Bible is concerned about where we are going.
The natural man is intensely interested and concerned with the origin of the earth. He searches the heavens with his telescope. He digs with his spade. He burrows through the rock with his drill.
Astronomers, archaeologists, geologists, and chemists are all busily engaged in trying to find out how and when the world came into being.
Man has come up with a thousand foolish natures about evolution. Many of the theories are discarded before they are circulated.
At this time we are expected to believe that man began as a little cell; the cell became a plant; the plant became a fish; the fish began to fly; the bird then lost its feathers, grew hair and climbed a tree; the monkey then lost its tail and most of its hair; and the result was man.
How much easier it is to believe the Word of God, and to forget the past and prepare for the future.
Let us now look at the patriarch Abraham.
Abraham’s conversion was very real. He lived in “Ur of the Chaldees.” God found Abraham in the place of the flame (Ur), in the land of destruction (Chaldees).
This is where God finds every sinner. Children of wrath—Ephesians 2. Flee from the wrath to come—John 3:36.
Abraham’s call was a definite call. He was called to renounce the certainties of the past, to face the uncertainties of the future, to look for and follow the direction of God’s will.
As he obeyed, and in faith followed the will of God, Abraham’s life was changed. He was separated from the world—he was set apart to God. He was a new creation, the old things had passed away.
This is how God expects conversion and His call to affect very believer.
The testing of Abraham’s faith—12:10. “And there was a famine in the land; and Abraham went down into Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land.”
At this time Abraham was dwelling in border land. Border land is always a dry place—famine soon comes.
It is at this stage that Egypt tempts, and Abraham went down, etc.
Instead of trusting the Lord who put Him in the land, he resorted to fleshly expedients.
God could have met his needs.
This was the same God who in later years fed Elijah by the brook, rained manna down from heaven, filled the disciples’ nets with fish, fed a multitude from a few loaves and fishes.
This unchanging and all-sufficient God could have met his need, but Abraham took his own way, and payed the price.
We must not minimize Abraham’s trial.
He had a large family and many servants, and a considerable amount of animals. These could not survive a prolonged drought, humanly speaking.
So Abraham in his worldly wisdom went down into Egypt. He did not mean to stay there for long, just to sojourn. For this he ultimately had to pay the price.
The point here is that God had brought him to this place, and he had received no direction from God to leave it.
Egypt offered immediate relief from the pressure and he took that way. Egypt is a type of the world.
While in Egypt several things happened to him:
1. He lost his sense of peace and security.
2. He resorted to lying, and became so fearful that he is willing to give his wife to the king to save his own life.
3. While there he engaged an Egyptian maid, who later became the mother of Ishmael, through Abraham, who is the father of the Arab race.
The present world feels the impact of Abraham’s backsliding. The bitter conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. Both claim to be the descendants of Abraham.
Abraham was recovered from his backsliding. 13:1—Abraham went up out of Egypt.
Ashamed, rebuked, and repentant he returns to Bethel, where he built an altar.
It is a disastrous thing for a believer to flirt with the world.
Genesis 13:10—Lot lifted up his eyes—“the lust of the eyes.”
Genesis 13:12—He pitched his tent toward Sodom—“the lust of the flesh.”
Genesis 19:1—Lot sat in the gate of the city—“the pride of life.”
The result of this flirtation with the world was spiritual bankruptcy. So deeply entrenched in the city was Lot and his family that the angel had to drag him out before it was consumed in flames.
His wife, who left her heart behind, looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.
It is the same story in Ruth 1. Elimelech and his family left Bethlehem-Judah during a famine and went to Moab. While there disaster struck this family, and only Naomi was left. She eventually returned to Bethlehem-Judah.
She was so changed by her sojourn in Moab that her friends said, “Is this really Naomi?” She replied, “Call me not Naomi (which means pleasant), but call me Mara (bitter), the Almighty hath dealt bitterly with me.”
The case of Samson, and the history of the children of Israel, prove that it is disastrous for a child of God to compromise with the world.
Thank God there is a welcome for the backslider.
Abraham returned to Bethel—there he built an altar.
The prodigal returned to the Father—they began to be merry.
The Psalmist was extracted from the pit—there was a song in his heart.
Israel sang the Lord’s song after they crossed the Red Sea.
When we gravitate into the world for any reason there is always a price to pay.
Times of testing are designed by God to bring us into deeper spiritual experiences with Him.
God’s children should realize that it is better to starve in Canaan in God’s will than to live in luxury in the world. It is better to suffer with God than to be affluent with Satan. It is better to be poor with Christ, than to be rich without Him.
Some believers have prospered in the world, but they have sold their souls for a mess.
They have lot their joy and communion with God—they have lost an uncondemning conscience, a thankful and worshipful spirit, and vigorous testimony and effectual service.
The Test of Faith
There was a famine in the land—v. 10.
A famine in the land of plenty—a land flowing with milk and honey, the Land that the Lord had promised him.
Consider for a moment his experience thus far.
Chosen by God—obedient to His word—ties with the flesh and the world broken.
Strengthened at Sichem, instructed at Moreh, removed to Bethel (communion).
Picture Abraham here dwelling in the house of God, sacrificing, praying, fellowshipping with God.
Abraham was happy at Bethel.
We do not know how long he stayed in this blessed place, but there came a famine.
Had not God promised to bless him? Did not God ask him to dwell in this land? Was he not where God wanted him to be? Then why the famine?
God is about to test His servant. Abraham failed in this test. Instead of trusting God, he turned his back on Him. He took matters into his own hands and went down into Egypt (the world). If Abraham had stayed on amidst the famine, God certainly would have honored his faith. Abraham failed the crucial test.
Some of God’s servants failed in the day of testing. For instance, Elijah in 1 Kings 18 and 19. Think of the prophet on Mount Carmel—the tremendous victory over Baal. See him now on top of the mountain. Jezebel sends him a message which said, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them, by this time tomorrow.”—19:2. Elijah took to his heels and ran into the wilderness and sat down under a juniper tree and requested God to take his life. I am the only one left—everybody is against me. God said, “I have seven thousand in the nation who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”—v. 18.
Abraham disobeyed—Abraham lost his faith in God. He is almost in Egypt, and began to fear for his safety. He resorted to telling lies—12:12-13.
Was God disappointed in Abraham? YES!
But look now at v. 17—“And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues.” (Our God is a great God.)
God plagued Pharaoh, not Abraham. Pharaoh recognized the voice of God, and discovered the deceit of Abraham and asked him to take his wife and leave the country.
Chapter 13 opens with these words—“And Abraham went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife and all that he had.”
Abraham is on his way back, back to Bethel, the house of God.
1 John 1:9—If we confess our sin, etc.
Abraham’s actions up to this point of return could be described as “backsliding.”
Does this story fit your circumstances? Are you cold, unhappy, miserable? Description of a backslider.
There is only one answer to your problem: get back to Bethel, get back to God. Admit your backsliding, confess your sin, return to Him and His joy will flood your life.