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Abram's Radical Selfishness

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In Genesis 12:10-20, Abram (not yet Abraham) brought his wife to Egypt to obtain food because there was a severe famine in the land. In this infamous episode, Abram tells his wife, Sarai, to tell anyone that asks that she is his sister, because he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him if they found out that he was her husband. This ended up happening just as he predicted, but God protected Sarai by inflicting Egypt with plagues to prompt Pharaoh to release Sarai. This was a foreshadowing of the Exodus narrative, except for the fact that this Pharaoh was smart enough to let God’s people go.

 What always strikes me about this story is the radical selfishness of Abram. Yes, this man is the father of the faithful. This man left his family, life, and everything he had ever known and went to Canaan in obedience to the word of God. Yet, in the very same chapter, we see this example of Abram’s selfishness and cowardice. Rather than protecting his bride, Abram decided to save his own skin. Rather than relying on God to protect and bless him and his wife, Abram relied on his own cleverness. There is really only one word to describe Abram’s actions in this narrative: selfish.

 Chapter 13 is quite different. Abram’s behavior in chapter 13 is a direct contrast to his behavior in chapter 12. In chapter 13, we are told that Abram was very rich. He was dwelling with his flocks, and with his nephew Lot. However, there was conflict between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s because there was not enough room in the land for both of them. Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you?” (Genesis 13:8-9) Rather than putting his family in harm’s way to look out for his own self-interest as he did in chapter 12, Abram defers to his nephew Lot by giving him the choice of the land to end the conflict. In this culture, the younger would submit to the older. Also, God promised Abram this land, not Lot. Nevertheless, Abram offered Lot his pick of the land, trusting that God would fulfill His promises to Him no matter what. Abram’s behavior is absolutely selfless.

 Chapter 12:10-20 teaches us that, even though Abram acted in faith toward God by following Him to Canaan, he was still a sinner that acted in selfishness. Chapter 13, however, teaches us that God was working in Abram to make him less selfish and more concerned about the interests of others. This doesn’t mean Abram is perfect from this point on. As we will see in our study of Abram, he will repeat this same mistake again in Genesis 20. It means that, now that Abram has trusted in God and followed Him, God is now working within him to make him more like Himself. More selfless. More giving.

 In this way, Abram is a model for us. We should be quick to defer to others, and consider them more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). However, Abram also points forward to an ever greater example for us: the One who, in the ultimate act of condescension, considered all of His people as more significant than Himself, and humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8). Rather than clinging tightly to our rights and freedoms, let us lay them down to serve others. Let us, like our Lord, be willing to lay down our interests for the sake of others.


Posted by Nate Weis with

Abram's Faithful (and not so faithful) Response

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 This Sunday we’ll begin part 2 of a sermon series through Genesis that we started last year. Lord willing, over the next few winters, we’ll continue to work our way through the book of Genesis, and see how God faithfully and sovereignly establishes His people.

 Last year, we finished the series in Genesis 11, where God disperses the nations after they build the Tower of Babel and we read the lineage of Abraham. This week, we’ll look at chapter 12, when God calls Abram. He promises to build a great nation through this 75-year-old man. As incredible as this sounds, we see later that God doesn’t give Abraham his son Isaac until he is 100, and his wife Sarah is 90! It definitely would take some faith to believe this is possible.

 Abram’s story begins in Genesis with God promising to build a nation and calling him to move from his homeland and family. God doesn’t tell him yet where he will go, yet Abram packs his things and leaves all he knows behind. He trusts God to be true to His word.

 Just a quick sidebar: if you are in a small group at Coastal, you’ll spend some time discussing what our faith should be rooted in. Abram trusted God’s words, as should we. We have the completed Scriptures, we don’t need to look for some grand vision or a prophetic voice to give guidance. God has told us all He wants us to know through His Word. We can know His will and follow Him if we know the Bible. You’re probably familiar with Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. That light may not always show the whole path, but it will guide us the way we need to go.

 Abram sets out and responds in faith to God’s command. By the end of chapter 12, however, Abram has wavered. As he enters Egypt, he fears for his life and instead of trusting God’s promise to protect him, takes matters into his own hands. He develops a ruse to pass through Egypt pretending Sarai is sister rather than his wife. Needless to say, this backfires. God remains faithful, however, and delivers them from Egypt. How many times do we do the same thing? We know God’s commands, we know His promises, yet we think we can somehow do things better? “God, I know you say that I should be generous with my money, and trust you to provide, but have you seen the bills this month?” Or, do we use failure as an excuse for inaction? “God, I know you’ve called me to share the gospel with those around me, but my family knows too much about me. They’ll think I’m a hypocrite.” Abraham is called the father of our faith, and we see in Scripture he was far from perfect. God’s faithfulness is not dependent on our merit, He’s not surprised by our sin. He keeps His promises because of His character, not because we deserve it.

 Praise God that through His Son, we have forgiveness of sins! This is not an excuse to sin freely, but grace to overcome our sin. When we fail, we can turn to God and He will cleanse us. And as He did with Abraham, He can use us for His glory.


Posted by Josh Hazel with

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