Monday, June 7, 2010

Genesis 12:2 I will bless you

Part of God's promises to Abram consist of the assurance that He would bless him. I know it is tempting to look for temporal blessings and indeed, God does bless Abram in this manner. Sometimes this is in spite of Abram's behavior. For the next thing that we are told about Abram, in Genesis 12:10-20, is that he decides to leave the promised land for Egypt. Now, to be fair, on an intellectual level this is not a bad idea, for there is a famine in the land, and the Nile is a reliable source of water, and thus, sustenance. However, Abram has forgotten that God has promised to bless him. Abram has not yet learned that God is quite able to provide for him. In fact, Abram decides that he also needs to lie in order to protect his life. Realizing that the Egyptians can not help but notice that his wife is very attractive, Abram assumes that they will kill him in order to get him out of the way. So he asks Sarai to tell everyone that he is her brother.

Of course, when the couple arrive in Egypt, Sarai's beauty is immediately noticed, and Pharaoh's officials sing her praises until the Pharaoh sees to it that she is taken into the palace. In that culture, the brother of a woman often acted in a protective way and also had considerable say in choosing her husband, so Abram is treated well and acquires sheep, cattle, donkeys, male and female servants and camels as gifts. These were considered the wealth of a person, so Abram is doing very well materially. However, he finds himself without his precious wife. I don't mean to be sacrilegious, and it doesn't say so in Scripture, but I believe Abraham is kicking himself at this point. Lying and relying on himself for his family's protection has certainly seriously backfired. He probably never envisioned things progressing to this point. However, sin has a destructive way of infiltrating even the lives of those around us, and engulfing everything in its path.

"But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai." (Genesis 12:17 NIV) Apparently God was not pleased with the security arrangements which Abram had made. On an even more serious level, the plan of God for the salvation of the world was in danger of being interrupted. Of course, God is never limited. He could choose any line of human descendants to bring the Messiah. However, He has already chosen this line and committed Himself to Abram, so God intervenes.

We are not told exactly how these 'serious diseases' manifested themselves: illness? miscarriages? Whatever it was, Pharaoh seemed to know exactly who to confront with the problem. Egyptian ethics placed great value upon truthfulness. We can hear the indignation in Pharaoh's voice as he asks, "Why didn't you tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!" (Genesis 12:18-19 NIV)

Actually, things had been even worse than Abraham knew. With the benefit of hindsight, we know why God took this separation of Sarai from Abraham very seriously. Although Abraham didn't know it, the plan of God regarding the Savior/Messiah who was to come had been in serious jeopardy, at least from a human point of view. For if Abraham had lost Sarai to Pharaoh, how could all nations of the earth have been blessed through his descendants?!

Fortunately, God is absolutely faithful about keeping His commitments. Verse 20 of Genesis 12, and Genesis 13:1 indicate that Pharaoh sent Abram off with all of the gifts which he had been given. However, although Abram probably didn't realize it until much later, God's protective covenant relationship with Abram was his greatest treasure. He was indeed blessed.

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