Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Genesis - Chapter 12 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. The LORD said to Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.
    2. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others.
    3. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.
    4. Abram was seventy-five years old when the LORD told him to leave the city of Haran. He obeyed and left with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and slaves they had gotten while in Haran. When they came to the land of Canaan,
    5. (SEE 12:4)
    6. Abram went as far as the sacred tree of Moreh in a place called Shechem. The Canaanites were still living in the land at that time,
    7. but the LORD appeared to Abram and promised, "I will give this land to your family forever." Abram then built an altar there for the LORD.
    8. Abram traveled to the hill country east of Bethel and camped between Bethel and Ai, where he built another altar and worshiped the LORD.
    9. Later, Abram started out toward the Southern Desert.
    10. The crops failed, and there was no food anywhere in the land. So Abram and his wife Sarai went to live in Egypt for a while. But just before they got there, he said, "Sarai, you are really beautiful!
    11. (SEE 12:10)
    12. When the Egyptians see how lovely you are, they will murder me because I am your husband. But they won't kill you.
    13. Please save my life by saying that you are my sister."
    14. As soon as Abram and Sarai arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians noticed how beautiful she was.
    15. The king's officials told him about her, and she was taken to his house.
    16. The king was good to Abram because of Sarai, and Abram was given sheep, cattle, donkeys, slaves, and camels.
    17. Because of Sarai, the LORD struck the king and everyone in his palace with terrible diseases.
    18. Finally, the king sent for Abram and said to him, "What have you done to me? Why didn't you tell me Sarai was your wife?
    19. Why did you make me believe she was your sister? Now I've married her. Take her and go! She's your wife."
    20. So the king told his men to let Abram and Sarai take their possessions and leave.

Genesis - Chapter 12

Entered: June 28, 2006
God's covenant with Abram is not His first covenant with mankind, but seems to be His first effort at taking a more direct role with man. Up to this time it seems as if God was standing back and watching His creation but not being closely involved in it. Now He is stepping in to start taking an active role with man. Abram is instructed to leave everything dear to him and go where God will show him. I believe there is something of a test involved in this. If we are follow God, we must not be hindered by place, people, or possessions. If we are, these things have taken a greater place in our lives than God, and thus have our worship rather than God. There is this same tension at work with every individual over whether they will follow God or not. I believe we all have this call to forsake these things in our life if need be, and follow God. I also believe few respond positively to the call as did Abram.

Entered: June 20, 2011

From this point forward in Genesis the history is focused on a single individual, Abraham and his descendants.  Accounts of other peoples and nations are given only as they relate to Abraham and his descendants. Chapter 12 is the account of God's call to Abram, Abram being his name prior to God's call. We should not minimize his response of faith to this call. Abram was a pagan with no knowledge of or prior experience with God. The religion of which he was a part thought in terms of territorial gods, so to leave his land was, by this thinking, to also leave the territorial god of this land. Thus, though it is not mentioned, God was telling him not only to leave his land, his relatives and his father's house, but also to leave his god.

Abram's response of faith to God's call and the result it had in the fulfillment of God's promises has labelled him the father of our faith. It serves as a model of what God wants to do in the lives of each of us. He calls us to leave our former life and turn to a new life that He promises to give us based on our faith in Him. Our role in this new life is to be obedient to God and keep following Him in faith, and His role is to build for us this new life step by step. Each step requires another response of faith on our part and leads to the next part of this life in God. Faith is not just passive mental assent to God, but is always active in that it requires not only agreement mentally with God but also active agreement through our actions. 12:4 says that Abram "went, as the LORD had told him." His faith resulted in obedience.

Abram struggled, as we all do, in leaving everything up to God. At the first potential threat he took things into this own hands. The ancient axiom, "God helps those who help themselves" reflects the strong tendency we all have to do what we can in all circumstances. This axiom, and the thinking behind it, while intending to contradict laziness and the wrong-minded idea of doing nothing while leaving everything up to God, is also wrong-minded. The truth we should learn about faith from Abram is not that we do nothing while God does everything. Nor is it that we must do our part while God does His part. It is that we must leave the planning up to God as we respond obediently to His instructions. Too often our version of doing our part includes also planning how we will do our part. This makes us susceptible to getting off track from God's plan. 

The potential threat Abram faced, at which point he took things into his own hands, was the need to go into Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. To this point he had waited on God and responded obediently to His direction. But on this occasion, as he and his entourage headed to Egypt, Abram thought he needed to make a plan to avert possible harm to himself because of his wife. Since his wife was attractive, he feared some Egyptian would kill him and take her for themselves. Was not God capable of handling this situation? It is particularly when we are threatened that our faith is most challenged, fearing we cannot stand idly by, but must do something.  When a threat arises we automatically move into strategy mode to plan how we will avert the problem. Waiting on God, though, is often the greatest challenge to our faith that we experience. And is also the greatest demonstration of our faith.