The story of Abraham does not go far until Abraham’s faith is tested. This story encourages me because it seems I never go far with a “word” from God until I run into stiff resistance. We all can learn from Abraham’s failures, not just his successes.
We are not expected to do everything right! We are expected to correct ourselves once we discover disobedience. Like Abraham, what Christian has not discovered what it is to lose his/her sense of joy and awareness of the presence of Christ? This is the story about blowing it and then allowing God to fix it.
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. (Genesis 12:10 RSV)
The land of Canaan was and still is like parts of California — wonderful land with a magnificent climate, but dependent upon a limited amount of rainfall. When it fails to rain consistently, the land experiences drought. Abram was a man with flocks and herds, and when the rains failed, his livelihood was severely threatened. As the scarcity of food grew, he felt driven to leave, even though God had called him to be there.
Abram took counsel, not from God, but from his fears alone. To use a contemporary expression, he “pushed the panic button” or the “easy button” and down to Egypt he went. It was fear that drove him. If we do not allow the Lord to speak, then we will be left to only one voice and on most occasions it will be our fears.
I am asked the question all the time, “Do I have to ask God’s permission for every little thing I do? I mean, come on now, I thought I was free? Can’t I decide a few things in my life?” The answer is yes you can. In fact, you can make all the choices in your life if you wish. But if you want to discover the absolute best and avoid the pits like Egypt, then you will want to consult God as much as possible.
Abraham’s life is an example of what it means to “side step” seeking the will of God. By faith Abraham walked right into Canaan. By fear of famine Abraham walk right out of God’s promises into Egypt.
If Canaan is a symbol for us of what it means to experience fellowship with the Lord, and Egypt symbolic for the world … then a famine is any circumstance that threatens our dependence upon God. It is any circumstance that makes faith difficult to maintain. In short, famines are any threats, real or imagined, against the known will of God in our lives.
Have you ever experienced a famine? Have you ever been living in the full joy of fellowship with Christ and suddenly some circumstance beyond your control blew into your life? Because of the presence of that circumstance (famine) it became difficult to maintain fellowship and hold on to God’s promises.
Understand this right now: Famines come to everyone. With Christ or without Christ everyone has famines. “It rains on the just and unjust.”
When famine strikes the temptation will always be to flee rather than to fight and stick it out. No one enjoys trials. Our internal flight mode kicks in. We move to another neighborhood, change jobs, take a trip, or go home to mother. If we simply cannot flee, we try to run away mentally. We escape the unpleasant reality by a flight into unreality. It is easy to escape mentally to Egypt and float down the river of (De Nile) where life seems much more pleasant than it is in reality.
A few years ago people would lapse into daydreaming. (There used to be songs about daydreaming.) Now we mentally vegetate electronically via the television, computer, or video. Many live in the realm of fantasy all day long.
Whenever we attempt to satisfy the Spirit using the same resources of the world, we have gone down to Egypt. Compromise will never complete or satisfy the word God has for you. After God told Abraham to go into Canaan and possess the land as an inheritance, Egypt could offer nothing better. Compromise is a poor substitute to the promises of God.
Abraham’s flight into Egypt is not a warning that we should have nothing to do with worldly people. We are expected to live our lives in the midst of the world and its ways. This story is about staying with God’s resources instead of leaning once again on Egypt. Once you choose Egypt you will eventually adopt the attitudes, the expectations, and resources of the world. The point is to never forsake God and His resources in the first place.
The world is not the believer’s problem. The world will always be the world. Our problem is failure to trust the Lord amidst hard times.