Genesis 12: Lessons from Abraham’s First Three Tests of Faith

Introduction: Genesis Chapter 12 marks a transition in the book of Genesis. The first eleven chapters of Genesis deal predominately with universal themes including mankind’s origins, the origins of sin, God’s plan for redemption, the Flood, and the origin of the nations. For the remainder of the book of Genesis, the focus shifts from the universal to the granular. Here, God tells of the origins of the founding patriarchs of the future nation of Israel. The successes and failures of faith and obedience of these patriarchs would later have consequences for the nation of Israel throughout the remainder of the Torah (from Exodus through Deuteronomy) and the remainder of the Old Testament. For at least three reasons, the successes and failures of the patriarchs have relevance to Christians living under the New Covenant. First, through Christ, all believers are eligible to share in the blessings offered to Abraham and his descendants. Second, the successes and failures of these leaders provide instructions for every believer on either the blessings of living a life of faith and obedience or the pain of living without faith and obedience. Third, unlike any other holy book, the Bible displays the many failures of the patriarchs to show God’s mercy and grace when your faith fails you as well. God never wants you to take comfort in another person’s mistakes. Yet, He wants you to take comfort that if He can use the compromised and flawed patriarchs of Israel, He can also use you no matter what sins lie in your past or future. When you repent, His love and ability to forgive is greater than your sins. In chapter 12, God reveals the initial successes and failures of faith of the man who was initially called Abram. God would later rename him “Abraham” to signal both his transformation and God’s ownership over the calling in his life. To reflect the transformed man that he would later become known as, these studies also refer to him by his future name of Abraham. From Abraham’s mixed initial successes and failures to God’s first three of ten tests of faith, He reveals seven lessons that apply to your life when His calls you and when your faith fails you.

First, God called Abraham to leave both his homeland in Mesopotamia and his family and offered to bless him by making a great nation out of him. From the book of Joshua, God reveals that Abraham came from a family of pagan worshipers. Thus, God did not call Abraham because he was impressed by his works. Instead, out of mercy and grace, He called Abraham when he was still a sinner. The same was true with you as well. Second, out of undeserved grace, God offered to make a great nation out of Abraham and bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him. Also out of undeserved grace, He offers to allow you to share in these blessings when your faith causes you to accept Jesus Christ as both the Lord over your life and as your Savior. Third, Abraham showed only partial faith and obedience to God’s calling. While he did respond to God’s calling by leaving his home country, he initially tried to bring his entire family to Israel. After his father died, Abraham again disobeyed God’s instructions by bringing his nephew Lot with him. This seemingly minor act of disobedience would have negative consequences for the nation of Israel for generations to come. When God calls upon you, He expects you to fully break from the sins of your past. Abraham, however, is later celebrated only for his faith. From this, God reveals that He will celebrate and reward even partial acts of faith when you begin your walk with Him. Fourth, out of gratitude, Abraham built an altar to worship and thanked God for His mercy and grace. Like Abraham, gratitude for God’s mercy and grace in your life should motivate your worship. Fifth, the Bible reveals that Abraham journeyed with God and called upon His holy name in worship. From this, you are encouraged to also walk with God and call upon the power of His name in prayer. Sixth, God tested Abraham’s faith with a drought. Abraham failed that test by leaving Israel for Egypt. He then failed to trust God and lied when he feared that Pharaoh would kill him to take his wife. From this, God reveals that He will also test your faith to show you where it is lacking and to help build it up. Finally, out of mercy and grace, God protected Abraham when his faith failed him and he almost lost his wife to Pharaoh. He protected Abraham by inflicting a plague on Pharaoh. Out of mercy and grace, He is faithful to keep His promises, even when you are not.

1. God Called You When You Were Still a Sinner. Gen. 12:1-2.

  • God’s call and offer to bless Abraham while his family still worshiped pagan idols. God called Abraham to leave both his country and his family to move to Israel where He promised to make a great nation out of him: “1 Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, a make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing;” (Gen. 12:1-2). The books of Nehemiah and Acts reveal that God’s calling occurred before he and his family made it to Haran at the end of chapter 11 (Gen. 11:31-32). Instead, God’s calling happened while Abraham was still living with his family in the city of Ur in the southern portion of modern Iraq: “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name Abraham.” (Neh. 9:7). “And he said, ‘Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2-3). God called Abraham to leave his family behind (a command he did not follow) because his father Terah led the family to worship pagan idols: “Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, from ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.’” (Josh. 24:2). According to Jewish tradition, Terah was more than just an idol worshiper. He in fact made idols to sell to others. (Genesis Rabbah 38:8). Under his father’s misdirection, both Abraham and others would have grown up worshiping idols and other gods. Yet, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham realized his sins and sought out the one true God (Zohr 1:86a). Thus, God did not call Abraham based upon his righteousness. Instead, God called him because he was a sinner who repented.

  • Jesus also loved and called you while you were still a sinner. Just like Abraham, Jesus also loved you and called you while you were still a sinner: “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:6, 8). Like Abraham, you are called upon to accept and confirm God’s calling in your life: “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;” (2 Pet. 1:10). “knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thess. 1:4). Have you fully responded to His calling in your life? Or, are you clinging to your old life?

  • God does not care about your pedigree or background when He calls you. Many might assume that their past sins disqualify them from serving God. Yet, when you repent, God is faithful to forgive all your sins (1 Jo. 1:9). His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8). He won’t disqualify you based upon your past sins, your family’s sins, your economic background, or your lack of formal theological training. He is instead looking for those who will repent of their sins, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and accept His calling.

God called to Abram to leave his old life behind1

  • God also doesn’t care about your age. Noah was 600 when the Flood came. Abram was 75 years old when God called him (Gen. 12:4). Moses was 80 when God called him (Ex. 7:7). Jeremiah also protested against serving because he was only a youth when God called him (Jer. 1:7). Whether you are old or young, God doesn’t care about your age in serving Him. Have you used your age or any other excuses to ignore His calling?

2. Through Christ, God Offers to Share His Blessings to Abraham with You. Gen. 12:3.

  • God’s offer to make the blessing of Abraham available to all. God’s blessing to Abraham also included a prophetic promise to bless all the nations of the Earth through him: “and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations.” (Gen. 17:4). “Since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?” (Gen. 18:18). “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen. 22:18). “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;” (Gen. 26:4). “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:14). “Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.” (Josh. 24:3). “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him.” (Is. 51:2).

  • The fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing through Christ. Christ later fulfilled the promise to extend this blessing to believers throughout the world: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Gal. 3:29). “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.’” (Acts 3:25). “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’” (Gal. 3:8). “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” (Ro. 4:16). Like Abraham, you did nothing to deserve His blessings. Have you given thanks for your undeserved right to share in this blessing?

  • God’s promise to bless Israel’s friends and curse its enemies. Genesis 12:3 should not only guide the personal choices of every individual, it should also guide the foreign policy of every nation. When Israel’s faith led to its obedience, God repeated His promise to be an enemy to its enemies and bless its friends: “But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex. 23:22). “The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.” (Dt. 30:7). Throughout history, God has cursed Israel’s enemies and blessed its friends: “When the Greeks overran Palestine and desecrated the altar in the Jewish temple, they were soon conquered by Rome. When Rome killed Paul and many others, and destroyed Jerusalem under Titus, Rome soon fell. Spain was reduced to a fifth-rate nation after the Inquisition against the Jews; Poland fell after the pogroms; Hitler’s Germany went down after its orgies of anti-Semitism; Britain lost her empire when she broke her faith with Israel (Barnhouse). This is also one reason why the United States has been so blessed. The United States was one of the first modern nations to grant full citizenship and protection to Jewish people. This promise has also affected the church. The times when the church took upon itself the persecution of the Jewish people were dark times not only for the Jews, but also for the church.” (David Guzik on Gen. 12).2 America, however, has placed this blessing at risk as it has challenged Israel on a more frequent basis. Are you voting for people who will defend Israel and support its decisions?

3. Out of Grace, God Will Celebrate Even Your Partial Acts of Faith. Gen. 12:4-5.

  • Abraham’s partial faith in obeying God’s calling. Although Abraham showed faith by leaving his country, he failed to fully obey God’s direction to leave his pagan-worshiping family behind: “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.” (Gen. 12:4-5). Initially, Abraham induced his pagan-worshiping father to leave Ur. The family made it has far as Haran before God allowed Terah to die: “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.” (Gen. 11:31-32). In Chapter 12, God reveals that Abraham violated God’s calling a second time by bringing his nephew Lot with him. This shows God’s mercy and grace in accepting Abraham’s partial faith. He knows your sinful nature and will accept even your partial faith over nothing.

Pieter Lastman 1583 – 1633 (Abraham on the Way to Canaan) (painting 1614)3

  • God’s call required that Abraham break from the sins of his family. God wanted Abraham to leave his family because he wanted him to fully break his old life of the flesh: “Abram was tried whether he loved God better than all, and whether he could willingly leave all to go with God. His kindred and his father's house were a constant temptation to him, he could not continue among them without danger of being infected by them. Those who leave their sins, and turn to God, will be unspeakable gainers by the change. The command God gave to Abram, is much the same with the gospel call, for natural affection must give way to Divine grace. Sin, and all the occasions of it, must be forsaken; particularly bad company.” (Matthew Henry on Gen. 12:1-3). Jesus also calls upon you to accept Him, even if it means parting from a family that will not: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:37; Lk. 14:26). Have you accepted God’s call to break from your past? Is your family holding back your walk?

  • Faith without works is dead. If Abraham had completely ignored God’s calling, his faith would be dead: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Ja. 2:17). Abraham is celebrated for his faith because he left his country in response to God’s calling. Would you be willing to serve Jesus abroad if He called you to do that?

  • God will remember you for your faith and not for your acts of disobedience. The book of Acts reveals that God remembered only Abraham’s faith. He is not remembered for either his attempt to bring his entire family or his later decision to bring his nephew Lot: “Then he [Abraham] left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living. But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that He would give it to him as a possession, and to his descendants after him.” (Acts 7:4-5). In Hebrews, God again only celebrated Abraham’s faith in accepting God’s calling to move to Israel. He did not qualify that faith by noting his failures: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8). God recorded these details to give you hope that He will also remember only your acts of faith. He will forget your many sins when you get to heaven. “ . . . declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’” (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:12). Have you given thanks that He will remember only your acts of faith?

  • The conflict between Abraham and Lot’s Descendants because of Abraham’s actions. Although God will forgive your sins, you still must endure the consequences of your choices. For Abraham, he would later experience conflict with Lot (Gen 13:5-7). To resolve this conflict, Abraham gave up part of his inheritance in the Lord by giving Lot’s descendants the Jordan valley area (Gen. 13:11-12). Approximately 400 years later, the Jews became enemies of two nations that came out of Lot’s descendants. These included the Moabites and the Ammonites. They were the descendants of incest between Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19:36-38). Yet, to honor Abraham’s promise, God kept the Jews from attacking Moab’s land in Jordan when they refused to allow the Jews to pass: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the sons of Lot as a possession.’” (Dt. 2:9). For hundreds of additional years, the Moabites and the Amorites continued to torment Israel. The lesson is that when a lack of faith leads to disobedience, there can be negative consequences for future generations. If you are rebelling against God you may also hurt others, your children or even future generations.

4. Like Abraham, Let Your Gratitude Motivate Your Worship. Gen. 12:6-7.

  • Abraham’s gratitude for God’s mercy and grace. After hearing God blessing, Abraham showed his gratitude by building an altar for an animal sacrifice: “Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.” (Gen. 12:6-7). Many are tempted to view Genesis 12:6-7 and 12:8-9 as mere transitional verses between the stories at the beginning and the end of the chapter. But God never includes wasted detail in the Bible. Every verse is written about Jesus (Heb. 10:7). Abraham’s desire to build an altar in gratitude provides an example to all believers.

  • Like Abraham, give thanks for Jesus’ mercy and grace in choosing you. Like Abraham, you are called upon to give thanks that He chose you and died for you: “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:13). “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20). In Old Testament times, believers built altars for animal sacrifices to show their gratitude. Today, instead of animal sacrifices, you can show your gratitude by making your life a living sacrifice to Christ: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). Is your life a living sacrifice of gratitude for what Christ has done?

5. Like Abraham, Walk with God in Faith and Fellowship with God. Gen. 12:8-9.

  • Abraham’s walk with God. Even more important than a momentary act of thanks, Abraham showed the sincerity of his faith by walking with God and calling upon God’s holy name in prayer: “Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. Abram journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev.” (Gen. 12:8-9). Again, Abraham’s journey should not be viewed as filler details in the story. Instead, it represents the high point in his relationship with God after partially passing God’s first test of faith by leaving his homeland. His example in walking with God again provides an example for every believer in Christ.

  • Like Abraham, walk with Jesus as a new creation. Just as Abraham walked with God, you are called upon to walk in ongoing fellowship and holiness with Jesus: “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Eph. 1:4-5; 5:2). Walking in Jesus’ fellowship, means that your flesh was crucified with Him and you live according to the will of the Spirit: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20). Are you walking in faith under the Spirit’s direction? Do you regularly call upon His holy name in prayer?

6. Like Abraham, God will Test Your Faith to Help You Build it Up. Gen. 12:10-16.

  • The failure of Abraham’s faith and trust in God when tested in Egypt. While on his walk with God, God tested Abraham’s faith again with a severe drought. Abraham failed that test by fleeing to Egypt. He then failed to trust God by telling his wife to lie about their relationship: “10 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. 11 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; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.’ 14 It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.” (Gen. 12:10-16). God tested three of the patriarchs with famine and migration. These included Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 12:10; 26:1; 42:5; 47:11-13). Yet, God placed Joseph as the second in command of Egypt to protect Jacob’s family in Egypt. By contrast, God never called Abraham to Egypt. Abraham’s failure to ask for God’s guidance, and his failure to trust God were both failures in his faith. Abraham’s decision to present Sarai as his sister was a half-truth since she was a half-sister (Gen. 20:12). He feared for his own safety even though she was 65-years-old at the time. It was common for women to be abducted in foreign countries. The Jews had a similar right to marry women that they captured in warfare (Dt. 21:10-14). Abraham’s failure in his faith placed at risk God’s plan to have the promised line leading to Jesus run through both of them.

  • God’s ten tests of Abraham. The Jews believe that God tested Abraham ten times (m. Avot 5:3). The ten tests included: “1. The call from his homeland; 2. The famine in Canaan; 3. The abduction of Sarah in Egypt; 4. The war with the four kings; 5. The long wait for a son and his marriage to Hagar; 6. The exile of Hagar after she gave birth; 7. The commandment of circumcision; 8. The abduction of Sarah by Abimelech; 9. The exile of Ishmael; 10. The sacrifice of Isaac.” (Torah Club, Unrolling the Scroll, Book 1 (First Fruits of Zion, 2nd ed. 2014, p. 44). Abraham’s ten tests correspond to His divine order of the Ten Commandments. Just as God tested Abraham, He also tests you.

  • God tests you to show you where your faith is lacking or where your hearts is evil. Your old sins should not weigh you down. Instead, rejoice that God has given you the chance to learn and change from your prior mistakes: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Ja. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). While Satan’s temptations are meant to cause you to sin, God’s tests are meant to build your faith. He also tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). David, someone who committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder, later invited God to search his heart to expose his sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you willing to let God show you your hidden sins? When He does, do you repent of them?

  • Fear is false evidence appearing real. The Lord is the only thing that you are to fear (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). The last time you felt fear, did you take your eyes off Jesus? Are you trusting in yourself or in Him?

  • Be vigilant to avoid Satan’s strongholds where your flesh is weak. Abraham clearly feared for his life in places like Egypt where men were murdered for their wives. This was Satan’s stronghold. It was also a place where Abraham’s flesh was weak. Thus, he should never have gone there. Although God has given you a mind to overcome temptation, you are not to reason with something that tempts you. Instead, you must flee any temptation that might cause you to sin: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14). Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:22). You must also be vigilant at all times of things that might cause you to sin: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). “So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11). A recovering alcoholic should not hang out in a bar if his or her flesh is weak there. Likewise, a recovering drug addict should not hang out with drug-using friends. A pornography addict must also guard his eyes. If you resist the devil, he will flee from you: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). Are you avoiding Satan’s strongholds in your life where your flesh is weak, and you are prone to sin?

  • Don’t travel to places where you might place your marriage at risk. By traveling to Egypt, Abraham not only put himself in a place where his flesh was weak, he also placed himself in an area where he put his marriage at risk. Without God’s intervention, Pharaoh would make Sarai part of his concubine. Believers today may not face the same peril. But you can place your marriage in peril by being in the wrong place or by hanging out with members of the opposite sex. Are you placing your marriage at risk?

  • God’s Word – the antidote to fear and lacking faith. Where do you find your faith when, like Abraham, it is lacking and you feel afraid? “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). The next time you fear, recite God’s promises: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Faith is like a muscle, it will either be built up or atrophy depending upon whether you read the Word. Are you regularly reading the Word to build up your faith?

7. God is Faithful to Keep His Promises Even When Your Faith Fails You. Gen. 12:17-20.

  • God’s mercy and grace in protecting Abraham after Abraham failed to trust God. Abraham partially passed the first test. He then failed miserably in God’s next two tests. God, however, protected Abraham from his failure of faith: “17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.’ 20 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.” (Gen. 12:17-20). The plagues that God brought upon Pharaoh’s home foreshadowed the ten plagues that He would bring upon Egypt approximately 400 years later. Abraham did not deserve God’s intervention and protection. Instead, out of mercy and grace, He protected Sarai from becoming Pharaoh’s concubine. This would have thwarted God’s plan to have the line of the Messiah run through them both. He also used Pharaoh’s anger at being deceived to drive Abraham back to Israel. Without this push, Abraham might have ignored God’s calling and settled for a life in Egypt. God showed that He is faithful even when you are not. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks for His faithfulness?

Pharaoh confronts Abram about his lies4

  • God molds your faith with similar trials. Being trapped in Egypt symbolized being trapped in the world. Just as He molded Abraham into a man of faith through trials in the world, God also molds your faith through trials in the world: “But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” (Dt. 4:20). “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10). Are you letting God mold you?

  • God sees you for the person of faith that you will become. Abraham eventually showed incredible trust in God by his willingness to sacrifice his son. Yet, it took time for him to develop that faith. Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter denied Jesus three times. Yet, Jesus saw him for the man of faith that he would become. God also sees you for the person of faith that you will become. If your faith is lacking, do you trust in Him to transform you? Likewise, have you written off a sinner because you think he or she cannot be changed?

  • When God shows you errors in your ways, learn from your mistakes. Unfortunately, Abraham did not learn from his mistakes. Exactly 25 years later, Abraham traveled to a Philistine territory in southern Canaan where, like Egypt, the murder of men to take their wives was common. Feeling the same fear he felt in Egypt, he again told Sarah to lie about their marriage: “1 Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar. Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ So Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.” (Gen. 20:1-2). Abraham had failed to learn from his mistakes.

  • Abraham’s failure to teach his son from his mistakes. Abraham compounded his sin by failing to teach his son Isaac from his mistakes. Isaac would later find himself in this same desert place before a different Abimelech king during a later drought (Gen. 26:1). While living in Philistine territory, he also feared that a different Abimelech would kill him to take his wife Rebekah. Thus, like his father, he instructed Rebekah to also lie and claim that she was his sister: “When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ for he was afraid to say, ‘my wife,’ thinking, ‘the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.’” (Gen. 26:7). Like his father, God was forced to use a foreign king to rebuke Isaac for his lies and deceit. Abraham should have taught Isaac to avoid those places where his flesh was weak. Are you teaching your children from your mistakes?