Abram had settled in Canaan, established his place of worship, and for some reason known only to himself and God, he went down to Egypt “to live there for a while” because of a severe famine in the land of Canaan. Again we question Abram’s wisdom in such a decision; was he not aware that God was able to provide for him there in Canaan? Was he being disobedient to God’s will by going down to Egypt? Did Abram think that God wanted him to go to Egypt, so as to learn something more of God’s plan for his life? All these questions come to mind but only God knows the real reason for Abram’s action. There are however lessons for us to learn from Abram’s encounters in Egypt.
As the narrative continues, we find Abram in Egypt faced with a great problem. Because of Sarai’s beautiful appearance he feared for his life, so he instructed her to say she was his sister so as to make the Egyptians spare his life if and when the Pharaoh added her to his harem. Likewise, every believer at some time in our walk with God is faced with a similar type of problem and must make a decision; and whether in business or in family matters we must understand that we cannot compromise our God-based beliefs by making deceiving statements or actions; despite the fact that such a situation could cause us to suffer severe consequences. Fortunately for Abram, God intervened in his situation and delivered him from the hand of Pharaoh, and hopefully for us as believers that God would do the same. However there is no doubt that this event left a lasting impression on the lives of all those of Abram’s clan members including his servants; and we as believers must also realize that we too influence others, whether family members or fellow believers, by the events that follow the decisions we make.
So whether this was a lesson for Abram that was planned by God, or a lesson that he was forced to learn because of him going against God’s will, we will never know; but one thing is certain, that God expects us to learn from what happened to Abram.
One important thing to observe is that while Abram was in Egypt no mention of an altar or worship of God is recorded in this portion of the narrative. What do we learn from this? The lesson is that when a believer sins, no matter how insignificant it may seem, fellowship with God is broken and we cannot worship Him sincerely until that sin is confessed and dealt with by God. Where there is sin there can be no true worship. Because of God’s intervention, Abram was allowed to leave Egypt a very wealthy individual ; and as the narrative continues we find that Abram has now been restored to fellowship with his God. “From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.”
The next lesson we should learn from this experience of Abram is that although Abram and Sarai were restored to fellowship with God, the events in Egypt had left spiritual scars in the lives of Lot and their servants, and as is always the case this lead to quarrelling among the servants, as they thought back on all the comforts of Egypt. So we too as believers must be aware of the fact that we can be a stumbling block in the lives of other believers by the actions and decisions that we make in life . Each of us must be aware that there are limitations to our liberty, because there is some other believer who will be affected by the things that we do.
Another lesson that God wants us to learn from this experience is the one that He wanted Abram to learn in the first place, and that is the lesson of “separation unto God”. There comes a time in the life of every believer when God wants to use us for His glory, and sometimes we can be hindered by our closest of friends, yes even another believer. We no doubt have had the experience of always being in conflict of some kind with another believer while trying to do the service of our Lord and Master. This may even lead to “quarrelling” and the Lord’s work suffers as unbelievers see the disagreement among God’s people. This is the time for some serious soul-searching, because a decision is necessary for a “parting of ways”; a separation is necessary so that each one can go and serve God in the way that God wants each individual to serve. So it was with Abram and Lot: “So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company”.
God sometimes has to bring such experiences into our lives to remind us of some commitment to Him that we have not fully acted upon.
THE PROMISE RENEWED: “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
As God renews the promise He adds more to it. The promise now includes all the land of Canaan.
The final lesson to us from this section is that God does not tell us or show us all we need or want to know at the start. He reveals a little at a time and as we are faithful to Him in the small things He reveals more of His will to us. We must learn to be committed to God in the little things first.