Divine Sovereignty Always Trumps Human Expediency — Gen. 12:10 – 13:4

Prov. 14:12  “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Definition of Expediency – driven by what seems convenient and practical and will accomplish the end you desire rather than being driven by principle and conviction and a sense of what is right irregardless of how things might turn out in the end; the end justifies the means

I can think of many examples from my business experience where the owners chose to operate out of a mindset of expediency.  Usually there is no clear distinction between that choice and one that is morally correct; but sometimes there is a clear distinction.

[Illustration from past work history]

Today’s story is a different type of example – a godly man compromises his faith and chooses the path of expediency … but still God’s sovereignty saves the day

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY ALWAYS TRUMPS HUMAN EXPEDIENCY

GOD’S SOVEREIGN PURPOSES CANNOT BE DERAILED BY MAN’S SINFUL BLUNDERS

I. (12:10-13) PRESSURE CAN LEAD TO EXPEDIENCY —

2 RATIONALISTIC DECISIONS = SINFUL BLUNDERS

A. (:10) Rationalization Decision #1 – Bail When Hard Times Come

  1. Pressure Problem

Now there was a famine in the land;

Parunak: Canaan depended on rainfall, which could be irregular; it was better suited to grazing than farming. Particularly in the Negev (the region around Beersheba, translated “the south” in 12:9; 13:3), rainfall is very sparse at the best of times.

Abram had always lived in Ur and Haran, which are both on the banks of the Euphrates River. They never lacked for water.

What land is this?

– the Promised Land

– the Land of Blessing

Inevitable that trials come – key is how we respond

Hughes: We would expect after such a protracted and stellar display of faith . . . some tangible rewards, or at least a pleasant respite. . .  Faith is always tested. . . Here faithful Abram, who had left all to follow the bare word of God who had been outstanding in his 800-mile trek to the promised land and in his tour of inspection, got whacked.  He was literally starved out of the land.

  1. Expedient Solution = Sinful Blunder

so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there,

sounds reasonable

not a permanent change in residence

did not go back to the place of his idolatrous past (would have been a much longer trip)

did not seek God’s counsel

lack of faith – just because Sarah was barren, he didn’t leave his wife

Hughes: How like Abram we are!  Trials come, and we automatically go into survival mode.  We scheme, we prognosticate, wr run through the “what ifs,” we shore up our position, we pile sandbags.  And God?  Oh yes.  We ask him to bless our ways.

We all have a tendency to bail when hard times come:

  • At our jobs
  • In our relationships
  • In our commitment to spiritual ministry

Parunak: The lie about Sarah: Abram is culpable, but perhaps not as much as one might think.

  • His eagerness to preserve his own life may reflect his faith in the promises of God: “If God has made me a link in the blessings of others, it is critical that I remain alive.”
  • The scheme about being his brother does not mean that he intends to give her up. If one wants a man’s wife, the man must die. But if one wants a man’s sister, there are negotiations to go through; cf. the role of Laban, brother of Rebeccah, in 24:29ff. He may have hoped to set up a situation where he could, through his shrewdness and deceptiveness, put off any suitors until the famine subsided and they could get back to Canaan. He may simply think that he will be better at bargaining than at fighting off attackers, and thus that this is the best way to protect her, as well as himself.
  • Yet he is wrong to justify deception on the grounds of a “greater good.”

But then something unexpected happens: the interest of the royal house is aroused. Pharaoh is Egypt’s god. He negotiates with no one. What he wants, he takes. He wants Sarai, so he takes her, and Abram’s careful plan crumbles into dust.

  1. Reasonable Rationalization

for the famine was severe in the land.

B. (:11-13) Rationalization Decision #2 – Protect Self at All Costs

  1. (:11-12)  Pressure Problem

And it came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and it will come about when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, This is his wife; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.’

MacArthur: Abram sought on his own initiative to take care of his future, thinking to assist God in fulfilling His promise.

What is at stake here?  The protection of the line through which the Messiah would come

  1. (:13a)  Expedient Solution = Sinful Blunder

Please say that you are my sister

A half-truth; she was Abram’s half sister 20:12

  1. (:13b)  Reasonable Rationalization

so that it may go well with me because of you,

             and that I may live on account of you

Disturbing Motivation – all about Abram’s welfare

What about what would happen to Sarah??

II. (12:14-15) EXPEDIENCY COMPROMISES GENUINE FAITH AND CANNOT ACCOUNT FOR EVERY CONTINGENCY

A. (:14a) Execution of Expedient Solution #1 – Seems to Work Out

And it came about when Abram came into Egypt,

Notice that God doesn’t put obstacles in our way and close the door when we choose to stray off the straight and narrow path .. Abram probably had clear sailing down into Egypt; no difficulties on the trip

Thought he had escaped the trial of the severe famine …

Out of the frying pan into the fire

B. (:14b-16) Execution of Expedient Solution #2 – Unforeseen Contingency

  1. (:14b-15)  Treatment of Sarah

the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.

              And Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh;

             and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

Exceptional beauty

Abram had probably counted on having some time to negotiate the marriage relationship …

But with Pharaoh there was no negotiation … he could just take whoever he wanted immediately into his harem

  1. (:16)  Treatment of Abram

Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake;

             and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.

How did Abram feel as day after day he received a new delivery of riches from the palace of Pharaoh – knowing that Sarah was captive in the harem of this pagan leader

III.  (12:17-20)  DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY OVERRULES HUMAN EXPEDIENCY

A. (:17) Protection of Sarah — Divine Judgment on Pharaoh and His House

But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues

       because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

Expediency angers the Lord when it compromises true faith

Great plagues from the Lord must have been devastating; yet Sarah was untouched;

Maybe she said something to Pharaoh; somehow he was able to connect the dots

B. (:18-20) Rebuke of Abram for His Expedient Deception /

            Rescue of Abram Despite His Expedient Deception

  1. Rebuke

Then Pharaoh called Abram and said,

             ‘What is this you have done to me?

             Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?

             Why did you say, She is my sister, so that I took her for my wife?’

Humbling of Abram; embarrassed greatly

Implication is that if Abram had not been deceptive, Pharaoh would have lived up to a higher code of ethics than what Abram anticipated

Pagan savage teaching God’s chosen patriarch about moral ethics

Like Putin lecturing America on human rights and freedoms

  1. Dismissal/Rescue

“’Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.’

             And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him;

              and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.

Not going to demand back any of his generous gifts – did not want to mess at all with the God of Abram

Had an official escort to the border – did not want to ever see Abram return to Egypt

Get out and stay out

IV. (13:1-4) RESCUE AND REPENTANCE LEAD TO A RENEWAL OF WORSHIP

A. (:1) Back to the Starting Point

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to        him; and Lot with him.

Transition – introducing Lot again – who will be a key figure in chap. 23

B. (:2) Enriched by the Grace of God

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold.

C. (:3-4) Refocused on His Mission

  1. Pitching His Tent – Pilgrim Mentality

And he went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai,

  1. Worshiping at the altar – Cleansed and fit for Worship

to the place of the altar, which he had made there formerly;      

  1. Calling on the Name of the Lord – Combining Worship with Witness

and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Closes the loop on this chiastic section with 12:8-9

CONCLUSION:

David Thompson: Conclusion: Parallel between Abram’s situation and that of Israel:

  • Both moved because of a famine
  • Both ended up in Egypt
  • Both faced execution of males and preservation of females
  • Both were delivered by plagues that had been sent by God
  • Both left Egypt with an abundance of wealth
  • Both ended up in the Negev

Exception: Abram stayed faithful to God (despite lapses) but Israel did not – willing to do whatever God wanted him to do

Our sinful blunders do not have to define our lives;

Let’s make life decisions based on principle and conviction after seeking the Lord’s will; not based on expediency

God can rescue and restore us in His faithfulness

He will carry out His sovereign plans

Divine Sovereignty Always Trumps Human Expediency