In Genesis 12 we see Abram making his way to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. Once there, the Lord renews His promise to him:
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. (Genesis 12:7)
Abram then journeyed further into the Promised Land, made camp at a place between Bethel on the west and Hai on the east and constructed another altar where he called upon the Lord. (12:8) He was doing everything right. A traveler in a strange land, surrounded by strange people, he was making sure to stay close to God. Then a real trial came:
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. (Genesis 12:10)
Scripture does not fault Abram for going into Egypt. We often do, but Scripture does not. Abram’s journey into Egypt is not what Scripture faults him for. It’s what he did while he was there:
(11) And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
(12) Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
(13) Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
He wasn’t wrong in his assessment of the Egyptians. They did find Sarai attractive and Pharaoh did take her into his house. (12:14-16) What Abram failed to do was to trust God for His protection as he had done all the way up to this point. Thankfully, God acted on Abram’s behalf despite Abram’s unbelief:
And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. (Genesis 12:17)
Angered by Abram’s deceit, Pharaoh called him out for it, publicly embarrassed him for his lie and sent him on his way. (12:18-19)
Abram could have wallowed in his failure. He could have grovelled before Pharaoh. He could have given up and said: “Woe is me! I messed up! God is done with me.” Instead, we see him in Genesis 13 prevailing in his next trial. God had greatly blessed Abram and his nephew Lot. Their flocks and herds had flourished so greatly that the land could not bear them. “and there was strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle” (13:6-7a). Instead of seeing self-preserving Abram, we see God-fearing Abram:
Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. (Genesis 13:9)
He trusted God to take care of him in this circumstance, and God blessed him for it. Once more the LORD renews His promise to him:
(14) And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
(15) For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
(16) And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
Abram demonstrates his faith again when he rescues his nephew Lot by prevailing against king Chedorlaomer and his allies. (Gen 14) After the battle, the king of Sodom told Abram he could keep all the spoils of war and that he only needed to return the king’s subjects (14:21). Abram refused the king’s offer and returned everything, trusting the LORD to provide for him (14:22-24).
Then in Genesis 20, he messes up again. By this time, God has changed Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. Again Abraham asks his wife to lie about their relationship in order to survive. Again, he is called out for it.
Why does Scripture tell us these things? Why does it show such great highlights contrasted with such great character flaws? One reason is to show us that we are all flawed by sin. The other is to show us that we don’t have to live defined by our failures. Abraham got up from this fall and found more blessings before God. He is called the friend of God (James 2:23). He is a hero of the faith and he is featured in faith’s hall of fame in Hebrews 11 – even though he’d messed up multiple times.
God tells us these things to encourage us.
Maybe you were doing great last week and then just yesterday you blew it. There are consequences to blowing it, yes, but there is also a God in heaven Who will help you get past that and move on to the next victory. When Abraham messed up, he learned from his failure and grew in his faith – and God kept using and blessing him. We are no different from Abraham and we serve that same God. So, get up! Learn! Grow!