The promise is not problem-free
“And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing.“ – Genesis 12:2 NASB
At the beginning of chapter 12 we have God making His covenant promise to Abram. He calls Abram to leave his homeland and move to a place he had never heard of – all based on a verbal promise. And amazingly, Abram obeyed. He took everything he owned and set out for the land of Canaan. This was an incredible step of faith. He had no idea what was in store for him, but was having to trust in the word of God. God had told him, “I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and I will make you a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3 NLT). The promise made to Abram included God’s blessing and His protection.
But the promise was not without opposition. In verse six we read that “the Canaanite was in the land.” No sooner had Abram gotten close to the land God had promised to give him, Abram discovered that it was already occupied. You would have thought that upon his arrival Abram would have found a welcoming committee sent by God. There would have been a clear indication from God that this was the place He had promised. But instead, Abram finds the land occupied by someone else – a formidable foe who would not give up the land easily. So Abram arrives at his destination and all he could do was “pass through the land.” He not only journeyed to the land by faith, he would live in it by faith. The promise of God is not without opposition. But rather than complain, Abram erects and altar and worships God.
The promise of God is not without difficulty. Not only is the land occupied, it is going through a severe famine. This land of blessing that God had promised Abram is not exactly fruitful and abundant when he arrives there. Had I been Abram, I would have begun questioning the wisdom and direction of God. Why did You tell me to leave my home for this? Where is all the blessing You promised? How can this be part of Your plan? What did I do to deserve this? I would have had all those questions and more. Because I don’t expect the promise of God to come with difficulty. But rather than complain, Abram moves his retinue to Egypt. I don’t think this was an act of faithlessness on Abram’s part. I think this was God’s plan for him – another test of his faith. One he would fail to a certain degree. Because when Abram arrives in Egypt, he begins to fear.
Opposition and difficulty can cause us to improvise. The fact that the land was occupied and going through a severe famine caused Abram to have to move to Egypt temporarily. It was the only way he could feed his family and his flocks. But when he got to Egypt he began to fear and so he took matters into his own hands. He came up with his own scheme. He instructed his wife to lie in order to save his own skin. He improvised and compromised. That’s what we do. We follow God and find the way is not easy, so we begin to come up with our own plan – in an effort to make the way a little bit easier. We doubt God and His ability to provide and protect, so we devise a plan of our own. And the outcome is usually less than ideal. Abram’s plan led to his wife ending up in Pharaoh’s court as one of his concubines. Abram’s plan had saved his life, but cost him his wife. So God had to intervene and clean up Abram’s mess. Because that is what God does. And the amazing thing is that Abram comes out of it blessed, not cursed. It seems that Pharaoh sent Abram away with even more flocks than when he arrived. At first blush this looks like Abram got rewarded for his efforts. But it would not be long until that blessing became a curse.
The promise is not without conflict. Upon arrival back in the land, Abram finds himself in conflict with his own nephew, Lot. They both had huge herds and we are told that “the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together” (Genesis 13:6 NASB). Abram and Lot were at odds. They were in conflict. So they had to separate. Abram ends up giving Lot his choice of the land and Lot picks the best, which happened to be in the vicinity of Sodom. This would prove to be a bad move on his part. But isn’t it amazing that in the midst of the promise of God, Abram finds himself in conflict. Things were not going as smoothly as might be expected. And when we find ourselves in the same situation we begin to doubt God’s promise. We begin to question whether we are really in His plan. We don’t want or expect the promises of God to come with conflict. But Abram discovered that following God did not exempt him from opposition, difficulty, or conflict. It was all part of the plan.
The promise never stops being the promise. God was not impacted by the opposition, difficulty, or opposition. His promise still stood. He was still in control. Abram was learning to look to God and not his surroundings and circumstances. God was not done. At the end of chapter 13, God restates His promise to Abram again. In spite of the greed of Lot, God was going to give all the land to Abram. In spite of the presence of the Canaanites, the land would one day be occupied by Abram’s descendants. In spite of the famine, God would make the land fruitful. Abram was learning to trust the God of the promise. He was learning not to judge based on the circumstances and situations. God’s word was trustworthy. The promises of God can be trusted. No matter what we see happening around us. He is faithful and true to His word.
Father, You can be trusted. Your word is true. Your promises never fail. Help me to believe that in spite of all the opposition, difficulty, and conflict I encounter in this life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men