Renewing Our Lives and Ministries Through God's Word

Tracing Our Life’s Journey

Genesis 12:1-4

Paul J. Bucknell

Note: 'Three Life Detours' reveals three ways that Abraham did not carefully follow God's command in Genesis 12:1 and faced serious consequences: He went where he shouldn't; he accompanied people he shouldn't have; and he did things the way he shouldn't. This is the third of five sections that compose one longer article on Tracing Our Life's Journey. (This is part of a larger ADT training series, Renewing Our Lives and Minstries Through God's Word, –Renewing your spiritual life and ministries through improving the quality of your time in God's Word. Click to see the full 3-day schedule of this Renewal ADT series.)

Three Life Detours

When God speaks, we must obey. His revealed word helps us overcome special problems on the way. We must treat God’s Words very special. We should write them down in our life journal. Let’s look at these wrong decisions of Abraham. Each is a detour from the easy and right way. Yes, there was no doubt there were lots of pressures persuading Abram to go counter to God’s Word, but the difficulties that would ensue from disobedience always proved much more difficult and extremely painful. God has a way of managing us so that we get back on the road, but only after going through much affliction, tears and shameful situations.
A. Place Detour (Genesis 12:10-20)
Went where he wasn’t suppose to go.
“Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and it will come about when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.” Genesis 12:10-12, NASB.
In Genesis 12:10, we see the reason why Abraham might have gone to Egypt. There was a severe famine in the land where he was. There is no indication from his words that he battled over this decision. It seemed so obvious. Sometimes what seems so obvious is from God’s perspective so obviously wrong. Where did God tell Abraham to go? To Canaan. God was very specific. Abraham thought food was more important than obedience. I wonder how many people take jobs even though they have a feeling it is stepping away from God or the commitments that they have made to their families? Abraham felt at home with this crowd. He did not talk to God about the situation but merely responded to it.
Abram should have noticed something was wrong when he was tempted to compromise. In the very next words Abraham is found talking to his wife about what he would like her to do. He guessed right that the men in that land would like her appearance and desire to marry her. So he just asked her to say that she was his sister instead of his wife. In this way, she could, in a sense, be resold to the Egyptians. Abraham would live and even make a profit. Too bad for his wife.
Do you think she liked this arrangement? Of course not! This began, if not deepened, a wide chasm between him and her. He was thinking more of himself and more than likely ignoring the thoughts about her being sold off to these foreign guys. In all of this, we do not see any prayer lifted up to God. The more we read of Abraham, the more we find out his wicked heart. Truly, God did not choose him because he was a good man.
Abram did the exact opposite to what the scriptures say that a husband should do. The scriptures tell us that a man should sacrifice himself for his wife. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). When a woman knows her husband is willing to put her needs above his, then she gives her heart to him. When a woman discovers a big selfish hole in her husband, she is very reluctant to unreservedly give herself to her husband. The Lord knows all about what makes a great marriage. Abraham just make a colossal mistake that would instigate many other marriage problems way down the road. We find them arguing many years later.
Have you gone somewhere you shouldn’t have? Are you there now? What are the consequences? We can make excuses for ourselves, but they are not helpful. They only reveal our willingness to deceive ourselves to go places that we think best without consideration to what God wants.
But you ask, “What was Abraham to do?” That is a good question, that is, if it is asked in faith. Some of us are just trying to bolster our excuses. “I couldn’t help it.” “I couldn’t do anything else.” Abraham most likely said the same thing to his wife when defending his request. “The famine made me do it.”
Once we put ourselves in the hands of events rather than God, we are done for. The evil one can then easily move us to and fro just where he wants us. We need to address this issue with faith rather than doubt, or we will end up in further trouble.
First, focus on what God said. He told Abraham to go to Canaan (12:5). He was to “go to the land which I will show you” (12:1). The idea behind this was that this was to be his home. He was not to go elsewhere. If Abraham took this seriously, then when the famine hit, he would then begin to talk to God about what was happening. Perhaps things would even get worse and then Abraham would finally cry out for help. God would surely have heard Abraham. We see the Lord was everywhere where Abraham went. Was He there in the famine? Sure. But Abraham just did not pray or approach God about his desperate plight.
God was probably prompting Abraham to make God a real part of his life, but Abraham instead just ignored God’s command to stay in the land, selfishly allowed his wife to be swallowed up by the Pharaoh’s lust so that his life could be preserved.
Abraham had a lot to learn. It would take a long time if he kept responding like this. I was thinking why it took so long for Abraham to have a son. I thought of one good reason he should wait. If Abraham had a son early on, then he would be brought up with a wicked dad and fighting parents. Surely, to wait until Abraham had matured, his marriage improved, and his faith alive and vibrant, would be so much better. After all, God wanted a godly heritage to be passed on to Abraham’s descendants. If God tells us to go somewhere, we better go.
B. Person Detour (Genesis 13,14,19)
Stayed with those he shouldn’t.
God told Abraham to leave his relatives. He brought Lot along with him. God’s directions seemed so clear, and yet he somehow managed to ignore them so that he could take his nephew with him.
Now, we understand why he might do this. There was probably family pressure to care for his nephew. Maybe in a weak point his nephew asked if he could come along and he said, “Yes”. But it might also be because Abraham wanted him along. We see a side of fear dominating his life. Going into a foreign land is not an easy thing to do. One could be robbed and killed in a moment. The old philosophy goes, “There is strength in numbers.” It seemed the most logical thing to do. After all, he left the rest of his relatives back home. Our reasoning process surely does not lift up and respect God’s Word but only our limited judgment. If only Abraham could see what would happen to Lot later.
Genesis 13, 14 and 19 mention three negative consequences from having Lot accompany him. There are no positive ones. We must remember that many other things could have been said about Abraham. We all would love to read more about him. But God placed these accounts of Lot here so that we could learn from Abraham’s mistakes. Once again, we do not find a great man, but a sinful man that God chose to work with.
Chapter 13 records the first problem with Lot. They both prospered greatly to the point that  each of their men were fighting with each other over where they would feed the sheep. In the end, Lot chose to go to the area of Zoar, south of the Dead Sea. He like how it looked. It looked promising to his career. He edged closer and closer to the city of Sodom rather than staying in the countryside raising sheep. (We do not know that Lot should have raised sheep but am identifying the temptations that arise in the cites of the world).
In chapter 14, the second problem develops. Abraham hears that Lot and all that he had were carried away by captives. Notice what 14:14 says, ““And when Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” We are touched at Abraham’s concern for Lot and the others. He learned to take risks for others. He risked his life to save him.  Although Abraham was able to subdue the enemy and rescue Lot, all of this could have been avoided. This was trouble and danger that Abraham simply did not have to experience. But once his nephew is there in danger, he was obligated to protect him.
In Genesis 19, we find the situation of Lot and his wife. God was going to blow up Sodom and Gomorrah. His to-be son-in-laws mocked Lot for telling them about the imminent judgment. They would not go along. Lot’s wife, turned about and was destroyed. His two daughters committed incest after they lost hope that they would ever have children. Each of their resulting sons (Ammon and Moab) became enemies to God's people. We need to wonder if it was best to bring Lot along. At first, it seemed to make much sense. He could help out Abraham and be helped himself. In the end, however, we see Lot’s whole heart and home decimated. I wonder if Abraham’s tender bargaining with the Lord was because he felt guilty of having brought Lot there in the first place.
Are you with someone that you shouldn’t be? A non-Christian girlfriend? Too close to a Christian girl? Living married under your parents’ house? It is startling to think that professing men and women are for convenience sake now staying with each other. This should not be. Men should not be alone with women. There are a number of circumstances that we need to be concerned about, but fortunately, they don’t need to be crisis when we obey God’s instructions. Remember, we are not trying to say that relatives should not associate with you. Abraham had specific instructions for special reasons. The crucial part is to obey what the Lord has told you.
C. Procedure Detour (Genesis 16)
Did things in ways he shouldn’t.
We see one more detour that Abraham took. Can we say this debacle with having a son through his wife’s maid is worse than all? Back then, it was culturally acceptable to do this very thing. The wife would catch the baby coming out and claim him or her as her own. But things did not work out so easily this time. Nor does it ever work out smoothly when we do things in ways that don’t please the Lord.
 Sarai was not a happy wife. She had a crumb for a husband and could not bear children. She was lonely and depressed. She came up with a solution. We see this in Genesis 16:2.
“So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2).
It seems from verse 3 that Abraham knew this was not right. He was in the land ten long years before he finally took up his wife’s proposition. But the instant this happened, more trouble blew up in Abraham’s face. “And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you!” (Genesis 16:5). She blames him for it all. Nothing seemed to go right for this couple. Trouble after trouble developed.
Each day, people would hint that it only made sense to have a child through his wife’s maid, Hagar. God after all, promised to have a child, did He not? He was already about 85 by the time he went into Hagar (16:16 assuming she had the child right away). Time was going by quickly.
But this clearly was not the way God had it planned. Doubt in God’s instructions and ways of doing things always brings trouble. What seemed to be a shortcut was no shortcut at all. It is through Ishmael and his twelve sons that all the Arabs have descended. They have been at war with the Jews early on  and up to today through Islam.
Shortcuts are always detours. There is no easy and simple way to get God’s will done. It is always through observing His ways. Have you taken any short cuts in the past? Are you in the middle of one now? Are you about to try to do something in a way that does not seem just right? Do hold off. God back and think about how God does things. He does not do things through immorality, lying, anger or deceit. These are things from the evil one.
Each detour brought great consequences. God did not say that this or that decision of Abraham was wrong. He just showed the result. Disobedience never got Abraham to where he wanted to go. It is impossible for disobedience to help us in the end.
Positively, however, we can think again how God’s Word was all that Abraham really needed. He and we all desperately need to hear and pay attention to what God says. He speaks  regularly through His Word, the Bible. If we need extra communication, He has no problem getting the message to us. He is the Master of communication. It does none of us any good, however, when we hear His Word but forget or ignore what He has said. Perhaps, God had much more planned for Abraham, but he was not ready to follow what he was already instructed to do.
If we clearly follow the Lord’s instructions, our journey with God can go on at a much quicker pace. Let’s now turn to see what else God had to say in those few words mentioned at the beginning of Genesis 12. God not only directs us, but inspires us with His promises. Next =>
This is the third session of the ADT 3-Day Seminar on Renewal

Revive Your Faith | Deepening Our Reflections | Tracing Our Life's Journey | Pursuing Our God 

The Heart of Discipleship (Isaiah 50:4) | The Heart of Discipleship ( Isaiah 50:5-9)

Exodus: Overview Christ in Exodus 3 Whys in Exodus

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

By Paul J. Bucknell

NASB used

1 We, of course, are not speaking about those despicable selfish ambitions created from our lusts.