Genesis 12: In ch. 11 of Genesis we were introduced to Terah who brought his son Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans to the territory of Haran on the approaches to Canaan. This move was all in response to the personal prophecy of Noah to his eldest son Shem that one day his heirs would reign over the nations of Canaan.
[Gen 12:1-20 KJV] 1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram [was] seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. 6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite [was] then in the land. 7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. 8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. 9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. 10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine [was] grievous in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: 12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This [is] his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13 Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. 14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she [was] very fair. 15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. 17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What [is] this [that] thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she [was] thy wife? 19 Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take [her], and go thy way. 20 And Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
The schools of higher criticism and unenlightened Old Testament scholarship dismiss Abraham and all the patriarchs as mythological figures, the product of oral tradition arising from the need of a later Jewish ideology to have a founding father. Many theologians do not directly disagree with this but rather make the point that the historicity of Abram is irrelevant to the theological value of the narratives. With that insight, we pause to glance with mild interest into the world of critical biblical analysis.
Biblical criticism is the study and investigation of biblical writings that seeks to make discerning judgments about these writings as to whether or not they are history, legend, or mere myth. They look at the biblical texts as having human rather than inspired origins, and then inquiry is made into these alleged originations and the motives for the derivations that constitute the scriptures as we know them. A devotional reader of the bible may be offended by the benign dismissal of the inspiration of the scriptures, but nonetheless, you can learn from these sources. The various schools of criticism include:
Form criticism and tradition history
Before we get too dismissive of these disciplines, let us remember that textual and source criticism uncovered and somewhat reconstructed the suggestion of a “Q” gospel from which Matthew, Mark, and Luke may have drawn from, sometimes word for word. This points tantalizingly at a proto-gospel distributed among the early Christians and its discovery is beneficial to the faith.
Returning to our devotional approach, God speaks to Abraham at the outset of the chapter in consideration. This opening encounter recorded in Gen. 12:1 provoked the writing of my book Face to Face with the Father. I read these anecdotes and think: “Now back up just a minute, what do you MEAN ‘the Lord said to Abram?'” We can learn how this actually happened by comparing the different anecdotes when God spoke to the same person. For instance, here it says that God simply spoke. In the following verses, it says God APPEARED to Abram. So originally God spoke through an acoustic response and later through a visionary response.
He told Abram to get out of his:
- To a specific place that God would reveal.
It seems that there are times that spiritual breakthrough cannot happen in your native environment. Another case in point is found in Mark 8:22-26:
[Mar 8:22-26 KJV] 22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put [his] hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell [it] to any in the town.
Get out of your Country:
We need to take note that one of the greatest promises God ever gave (Abraham’s promise) was predicated by an instruction regarding a geographical move. In prophetic schools throughout the US, students are taught not to prophesy geographical moves. This is a reputation saving tactic on the part of the school that is denying many in the body of Christ the breakthrough that could change their lives forever.
From thy Kindred:
Familial relationships often interfere with the plan of God for our lives. Abram’s destiny would never have been fulfilled had he stayed at the home place. In Mark 3:33, Jesus said: “who is my mother and my brother?” He further stated without ambiguity:
[Mat 10:34-36 KJV] 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man’s foes [shall be] they of his own household.
If you walk with God and listen to his voice and hope to see your destiny fulfilled, you cannot count estrangement from loved ones to be a sign of being out of God’s will.
From thy Father’s House:
Familiar spirits are actually familial spirits. There are familial traits, habits, haunts, and personality tendencies that you are going to have to question and challenge if you expect to see the promise of God find it’s fulfillment in your life. All 12 of the disciples were called to leave their homes, their families, and their businesses and suspend their lives as they had come to know them. The result was the altering of human history and the establishing of the church.
To a land I will show thee:
It isn’t enough to be a “come-outer.” Many people come out because they are reacting to real or imagined insults or slights, and they live their lives as misfits and rebels. When Abram came out, he did not spend his life with a backward glance. He was looking his entire life for something God promised him:
[Heb 11:8-10 KJV] 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.
Notice also that Abram was working from a generational perspective. We tend not to do that because we are taught, “Jesus could come at any moment…” We need, however, to have a generational vision as Jesus also instructed us to “occupy till I come…”
Notice in v. 2 that God promised to build a nation. Does this apply to us today? Paul addressed this in Gal. 3:29:
[Gal 3:29 KJV] 29 And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
God’s purpose is not merely to build a religious edifice, a not-for-profit corporation, or a religious body politic. The bounds of our jurisdiction are the same civil and municipal bounds of the public square. Abram looked for a CITY, not an old home place, a cabin in the corner of Glory Land, or a quaint clapboard country church. Neither was his vision to build a religious group that was a social sub-set of the prevailing culture he found himself in. The promise of God is often not realized in our lives because we aren’t thinking big enough or broad enough in scope.
Because our vision is smaller than God’s plan if He blessed it, we would actually impede God’s larger purpose. So DREAM a BIGGER dream, think BIGGER and plan BROADER and be willing to be a component of the larger strategy, not the main attraction of a narrow vision.
“I will make your name great …”
God does not condemn fame or ambition. Remember that Abram’s name was an insult to him from his father. It meant, “my father is exalted…” It was said in the vein fathers often jest with their sons ” you will never be half the man that your old man is …” So God was speaking directly to the deepest fracture in Abram’s life. However, there were conditions. People expect God to solve issues in their lives without any adjustment on their part. Abram had to totally abandon his life as he knew it. Are you willing to make concessions for the plan of God to work for you? If not, you will NEVER see change.
“You will be a blessing …”
Not only was Abram to be blessed, but he was also to be a blessing. This tells us much about Abram’s character. He had a heart of mercy, and it delighted him to hear that God would give him opportunity to bless and be a positive influence on the lives of others. Faith works by love, and everything that happened to Abram was a faith proposition. It would not have been so without an echo of the love of God in Abram toward others.
God further promises in v. 3 to bless those that bless Abram and curse those that curse him. The meaning here is that God will execrate from Abram’s life those that even trifle with him. God takes it serious when others interfere with our lives. He also takes it serious when we interfere with the lives of others. When you find yourself part of the problem in someone else’s life, you need to stop and retrace your steps as though you were backing out of a minefield. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus was very tolerant of many things, but the one thing he acted swiftly and passionately against was when fellow Jews or fellow disciples contended or interfered in one another’s lives. The very thing that Christians blithely occupy themselves in doing almost as a past-time (meddling in other’s affairs) actually brings the disciplined hand of God upon them often without the person ever learning the lesson or making the course correction of coming back into a place of love and kindness toward others.
In v. 4, God tells Abram to leave his kindred and he promptly disobeyed – taking his nephew Lot with him. This was a great impediment to Abram afterward and proved disastrous for Lot and further set the stage for Lot’s descendants to be bitter enemies of Abram’s later generations. Why did Abram take Lot with him when God told him not to? Why have you included people in your life’s plans that you know God told you to exclude? Abram took Lot because Lot was fatherless and Abram was childless. Abram was accepting a substitute for God’s promised child. He did this as well in the matter of Hagar with catastrophic results that it would be difficult to overestimate. Lot was at a disadvantage, and Abram felt responsible (falsely so). Taking Lot with him appealed to Abram’s sense of fairness, but the end result was devastation and heartache on a generational scale.
God tells Abram in v. 5 to go, and there came a point that Abram actually did what God instructed. The word of the Lord to you is more than to inform you, but it is to move you, to motivate you to action. In Luke 17:20,21, Jesus said that the kingdom doesn’t come with observation. If you fail to act nothing changes. Things are the way they are because of what you are doing. If you want something different, you have to do something different. There comes a time when what you do with what God has said becomes more effective and powerful than what you are waiting upon Him to do or say. You must act.
These narratives of Abram’s sojourn were originally oral tradition. We know the Canaanite was in the land because it was something that Abram would have taken notice of. He could have said, “God, there are Canaanites there – troublemakers, obstacles…” Of course there are! The first spirit of the seven Spirits of God is the Spirit of the Lord. God’s nature is to fight the good fight of faith and to do it through you. Run to the battle!
[Pro 22:13 KJV] 13 The slothful [man] saith, [There is] a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.
There is cowardice in the thinking “where God guides God provides…” You aren’t waiting on God – God is waiting on you. It is time to act! If Abram had held back waiting for an opportune time – God would have chosen someone else – He wouldn’t have had any choice. In the fact of resistance, God turns up the magnitude and intensity of His presence (v.7) appearing a second time. Before Abram heard the Lord God – now He sees the Lord God. If you are looking for greater intimacy and revelation of God, get ready to move toward the opposition. That is the point where God will reveal Himself. Then we complain, but His answer would be “weren’t you looking for greater intimacy and revelation? – well, this is where it takes place!”
In v. 8, we see that Abram was an altar builder. Everywhere you build an altar, God establishes a generational portal of glory. This is the very spot where years later Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending. I know what it is to serve under the portal of glory previous generations have established through their altar building. What altars have you built for your descendants?
Abram calls upon the name of the Lord. The wording here means that Abram made a demand on the reputation of God. He summoned God out loud to make good on His promise. Abram didn’t do this until he had a covenant basis for doing so. This is what is implied in Isa. 45:11:
[Isa 45:11 KJV] 11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.
In v. 9-10, we see Abram journeying toward the south “going on still…” Are you “going on still” or are you looking back and giving up? There will be times that you will move forward into God’s assignment and find you are moving into famine. This is what Joseph experienced when his dreams were stymied, and in fact, the exact opposite happened:
[Psa 105:19 KJV] 19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.
The promise of God was not Easy street for Abram. He did not falter but struggled with doubt. He faced division in his own camp. He dealt with the alternative plans that others suggested, but he refused to go back on what God had said. He anchored himself in the last thing he knew God told him to do. When you are struggling, that is your course of action. What is the last thing you KNOW God told you? Align yourself with that and wait for a fair wind.
In v. 11, Abram passes near to Egypt and starts worrying about his safety. Abram was not without his fear and insecurities. We read later on about Jacob and can see where he got some of his conniving ways. Sarah must have been an unusual woman to be so attractive at age 65 that Abram feared for his life. The life expectancy of people during this time matched those of our day, and the passage mentions that at this point, she was well past childbearing years. Abram was 75 at the time, so it should give us pause when we allow ourselves to think like our lives are over because we are over a certain age. I felt like this when I was 30, and now I realize at age 53 that I was just a child at that age. My father, at age 80, tells me I’m just a pup! We have time. Because God has time, we have time. The scriptures are replete with examples of men and women whose greatest usefulness in the kingdom didn’t come until their advanced years.
In v. 12-13, we witness probably the lowest point in Abram’s life in terms of his character (or lack thereof). Is it ever appropriate to lie? What is the motivation? If Abram was the father of the faithful, then why is he so full of fear in this instance? Why didn’t God stop him or correct him? There are times that God allows us to go our own way – particularly when we feel very strongly about something or are reacting to a set of circumstances. It doesn’t mean He won’t be with us, but God is not a reactive being; He will not often break into the tempest of our own making, we have to learn to get quiet in the storm and go find Jesus sleeping in the bow of our boat.
[Mar 4:38 KJV] 38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
In v. 14-17 notice what happens here: Abram is lying; he basically prostitutes his wife into Pharaoh’s harem and receives a pimp’s reward. Yet instead of God rebuking him, He rather plagues Pharaoh’s house for their involvement in the situation. As believer’s, we have inherited through Christ the favor of God that was shown to Abram. The character of God’s dealings with Abram reflects what we can expect in our lives. This is not a license to go our own way – to be sure if Abram had his choice he would prefer this episode not to have been rehearsed to millions for 4000 years. We need to learn God’s ways and walk in awe and reverence.
In the finishing verses of our chapter, Pharaoh recognizes there was something about Abram and Sarah that he didn’t want to meddle with. Even a pagan can see the hand of God on your life. Abram’s story is not mere anecdote or a Sunday School lesson. When we do with our faith what Abram did with his faith, we will see the same favor. If this was God’s power manifest in the time of the patriarchs, how much more those of us that have the indwelling of Christ in our lives through the death of the Savior?