in hard famine and half-truths | Genesis 12.10-20
Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So 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? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
Genesis 12:10-20 | ESV
Famine in the land.
Famine in the promised land.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Whatever it is, it’s quite clearly catching, because it consistently shows up on the screen of our lives as well. How could there be famine – a big old pot of nothing at the end of the rainbow? Now even Abram no doubt begins to believe the taunt of those watching his story: “Look at this old man! Traveling through the country, looking like a madman!”
Yes, this is absurd! This is mad! What am I doing here? What was I thinking?
This is another crossroads every journey of faith encounters – except for those who lie about it. And Abram was good at that too. Lying, that is. “God can’t even provide grass for my flocks or food for my table, so how can I trust him to protect me as we go down to Egypt to find food?”
It only made sense to go there. And it only made sense to have his wife lie about her marital status. They’re godless people anyway and they don’t deserve the full truth. Wise as a snake, harmless as a dove, yes?
Oh yes, it only made sense.
It didn’t help matters that it worked – Abram became even wealthier as Pharaoh lined his pockets for the beautiful new addition to the royal harem – and Sarai was returned, no worse for the wear, right? (Curiously, Sarai has no lines in this part of the story. Just what was that reunion like as Abram tallied the profits?) Yes, Abram would have to remember this little move. (And he would. And so would his yet-to-be-born son.)
Yes, it is a mixture, this whole faith and sight business. We are a mixed bag, all of us. Which is perhaps the greatest miracle of all, for it would appear that it is in just such a profoundly human, mixed bag of faith and sight, truth and falsehood, good and evil, that the invisible God becomes the most visible after all.
Where has “Egypt” been in your life? In what ways has it made sense at the time? What have been your takeaways from your time there?
Unseen God, thank you for showing yourself even when I run for the presumed safety of the seen and the known. Thank you for meeting me in plenty and in famine, in your truth and in my half-truth. And, by your mercies, let me learn to aim higher. Through Christ.