Meditations in the life of Abraham : 12. Problems in the Land
Gen 12:9,10 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.
Now the main thing I want us to remember is that Abram has only an embryonic faith. He knows very little of the Lord. He is on a major learning curve with the Lord for the rest of his life. So far, back at home, he had come to an awareness of the Lord speaking to him and telling him to go to Canaan where he would have a family and become a great nation. He had followed that guidance and come to the Land and when he reached the centre of it, the Lord had spoken to him again and declared that this land would belong to his descendants. So far, so good! Perhaps to spy out the whole land he continued on south. Then it happens!
Food in the land starts to run out. Now he has flocks and herds but life doesn’t comprise only meat. We aren’t told what caused this food shortage. All we are told was that there was a famine and it was severe. Now at this point Abram might have been forgiven for feeling slightly peeved: I’ve been brought all this way to this land and as soon as I get here they run out of food! So much for God’s guidance! That’s how embryonic faith might respond. Don’t be all super-spiritual and deny it; it’s just how most of us respond. If you deny that, you really don’t know yourself – at least when you were a young Christian, and maybe still today.
Be honest with yourself, it IS how young faith responds, and even some of us who have been around a while! Things go wrong and we wonder where God is. Why didn’t He protect me and stop this happening? Perhaps when we first came to Christ we thought everything would be wonderful from then on. If you have been around in the kingdom of God for a longer time you will know that things often go wrong in the world but the Lord is always there for us. Why is it like this?
Abram’s situation demonstrates that things go wrong in this Fallen World. That is the reason it is like it is; the world is fallen. It is no longer perfect as it was when God first made it; it is now broken by Sin and that means things go wrong, all of which can eventually be traced back to the Sin of mankind. Does God step in and stop these things? No, we know that He doesn’t. He is always there to be called upon and He will always help when asked, but He allows us the freedom to live in a world that works like it does because of our actions, our Sin. More than that, He uses such ‘breakdowns’ to test or train us. How do we respond when things don’t go right? Do we cope gracefully or act like spoilt children and throw a temper tantrum? I know my ‘natural’ tendency is to feel all miffed by things going wrong. I am a work in progress.
So a famine comes to the land. What should Abram’s response have been? Well probably with the little knowledge that he has, to do what he does, to go south toEgyptwhere they appear to have food. It might be smart to say he should have asked the Lord but one wonders what sort of answer the Lord would have given. It might well have been to say go down to Egypt, but it would probably have come with a reassurance that the Lord was with him which might have given him more confidence in the light of what was to follow. But he doesn’t because he is only a new believer and new believers haven’t learnt to refer every problem to the Lord and listen for an answer. If we see what follows as failure, remember the Lord doesn’t cast him off and doesn’t withdraw His promises of blessing. The Lord has a plan for this man and his descendants and that plan allows for the fact that he is a very human man and will get things wrong.
The reality for each of our lives is that we will get things wrong – many times, but as long as they are not purposeful rebellion against the Lord, He will still be there for us and will pick us up and take us on. It is part of the faith learning process that we get things wrong. It is part of the learning process that we learn to confess our sins and our failures and say sorry. That is all part of growing up in the Faith. It may take us a long time to learn some of these lessons, but the Lord is not in a rush. In the meantime He will allow us to be confronted by things going wrong in the world so that we will have further opportunities to learn to overcome.
Check out your present circumstances. Are there things that concern you, things that are not going right, things that are stressful, things that are indications of the world not working right or people not working right? Rejoice that here is yet a further learning exercise! Hallelujah!