Sarai and Abram’s Shortcut

1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress (Genesis 16:1-4).

Have you ever been tempted to take a shortcut to what you believe to be God’s will? Abraham had been promised by the Lord that he would be the father of a multitude, but there was a problem, Sarah (at this point she is still called Sarai) was way past the age of having children. But how does one get to have many descendants if his wife cannot bear children? It was now impossible for it to happen through Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Sometimes we get desperate and look for a logical way around a situation. Sarah thought about her handmaid—Abraham could have a child through Hagar, their maid, and it could be called Sarah’s. The shortcut was at the initiation of Sarai. Maybe God’s way was for their family to be built around Hagar, their servant girl, who had been added to their household while in Egypt.

Sarai’s motive was probably a good one, but a good motive does not make a bad decision right. Sarai loved her husband and trusted him implicitly and was willing to sacrifice even their special intimacy with one another for the sake of his vision and dream to be fulfilled. This says a lot for Sarai’s commitment and character that she would do this for Abram, but there was no evidence that Abram and Sarai stopped to think about the consequences of what they were about to do. This was a life-changing decision and one wonders if they stopped to ask God about it. Certainly there is nothing in scripture that tells us that they did. This seems to be a low point in Abram’s faith walk. For him to go ahead with this shortcut even when he knew in his heart that this was not God’s way was resorting to man’s way of doing things.

Abram is not a picture of a godly husband at this time, ready to protect the intimacy of his marriage. His first response to Sarai’s idea should have been a courageous, “absolutely not!” There was also no seeking after permission of Hagar’s father in Egypt, that we are told about.  We are not even told if Hagar herself had any say in the matter. I’m sure she was asked, but she would have thought to herself that if she didn’t go ahead, it would have meant her job, and another of the slave girls would have been chosen over her. Hagar became a second wife to Abram and, as far as we know, God was not brought into the picture (Verse 3). Of course, God had already revealed His will that a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). The Lord had not changed His mind and allowed for a threesome!

Things are about to get complicated for Abram and Sarai. It does not take a lot of imagination to see how this could have affected their relationship, their home life, and even their faith. Culture and traditions may change, but there are at least two things that do not, the Word of God, and basic human nature. When we try to do short cuts to our faith walk, it never works out. It honors the worldly way of doing things rather than the ways of honoring the Lord and walking by faith. There are no short cuts to faith and walking in the ways of the Lord. Live your life by being completely devoted to God and His ways, not the ways of this world. Keith Thomas

Abraham Believes the Lord

It is a possibility that Abram’s vision of the stars and the dust of the earth represent the heavenly seed as well as the earthly seed. The dust of the earth could be a picture of the earthly seed of Abraham, the Jewish people, and the vision of the stars of the sky represented the heavenly seed, those who were born again of the Holy Spirit, the church of the Living God. In this sense, we see an earthly and a heavenly seed. God often speaks to us in a natural and spiritual sense, as He calls out a spiritual truth and illustrates a truth, which is mirrored in a natural way.

Something happens within Abram’s heart when he sees the awesome vision of the stars of the sky. He is told that his offspring would be like the stars in number. Notice Abram’s response: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Verse 6). This was before circumcision, and more than four hundred years before the Law and the Ten Commandments were given. The Lord sees that inside Abram’s heart, there is a deep-seated trust and inner rest of belief that had come to him. On account of his faith, the Lord imparted to Abram the gift of righteousness—it was credited to his spiritual bank account. W.H. Griffith Thomas, in his commentary on Genesis, writes:

“The original Hebrew for ‘believed’ comes from a root whence we derive our ‘Amen,’ and we might paraphrase it by saying that ‘Abraham said Amen to the Lord.’ ‘Amen’ in Scripture never means a petition (‘May it be so’), but is always a strong assertion of faith (‘It shall be so,’ or ‘It is so’).[1]

This is how God still operates today in the world we live in. When we hear the gospel of the finished work of Christ in paying our debt of sin upon the cross, and we believe in our heart that God raised Christ from the dead, the gift of righteousness is credited to our spiritual bank account. No longer do we work at trying to please God by empty works, but we rest our souls on the finished work of God at the cross. The gospel (the good news) is that Christ has completely restored relationship between God and man through His substitutionary work in dying for us and as us on the cross. If you will place your life into His hands and simply believe (trust), just as Abram did, then you too will have credited to your spiritual bank account the righteousness of God. God gives us faith to reach out to Him and receive the gift of eternal life in Christ.

There is a gift of righteousness from God that is given to Abram upon his trust and belief in God’s Word to his heart. This righteousness comes as a gift apart from anything Abram or we can do to earn it. It is given to us apart from any obedience to a set of laws.

20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:20-22).

There is nothing that you can do to earn this gift, otherwise it would not be a gift! A gift is so easy to receive—God has made it so. It is man’s way to try to complicate things. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). Go to your Father today and ask Him for the gift of righteousness. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He accomplished for you on the cross and you shall receive the gift of eternal life.  If you have not yet prayed this prayer, do not put it off. Do it today! Keith Thomas.

[1] W.H. Griffith Thomas, Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946) p. 138.

Trusting in One’s Own Resources

10Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you” (Genesis 12:10-13).

To the spiritual man, Egypt is a picture of one leaning on the arm of flesh rather than the power of God. Egypt was watered not by the rain or dew, but by the pumping up of the water with the foot pump. The River Nile was the source of water for the Egyptians, but to get the water to the fields required man to pump it up with their feet. God spoke of the land of Israel, that it was different from Egypt: The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden (Deuteronomy 11:10). In talking about Abraham’s faith, we must remember that God never spoke for him to go down to Egypt. When things were getting difficult from lack of rain, Abram was just like us; we often resort to the arm of flesh rather than take the time to seek God for His guidance. We are moved by fear—the “what if” syndrome. Israel has had a history of turning to Egypt for help instead of going to God:

2who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. 3But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace (Isaiah 30:2-3).

What fear rears its head before you today? For Abram to go down to Egypt there was a fear of death for Sarai’s sake. He had seen the looks that men had given to Sarai when they thought that Abram wasn’t looking. Perhaps he felt insecure in this new culture of Egypt. Insecurity will breed actions whereby a man will trust in his own resources rather than the provision of God.

Abram makes a deal with Sarai to call him her brother (v. 12). Actually, Abram is Sarai’s half-brother, so it is a deception that is conceived. Since Sarai’s father is no longer around, any suitors to obtain the hand of Sarai’s in marriage would have to negotiate with Abram, her brother. The common custom of the day was for the brother to assume legal guardianship in arranging marriage on Sarai’s behalf. This would give them time to slip away before Sarai would actually have to become anyone’s wife. Abram’s deception and mistakes should encourage us greatly, because we see that even those who have great faith can slip up occasionally, and the Bible never glosses over sins of the flesh by the Lord’s heroes. We see Abram not only going to Egypt, but also deceiving the people there for his self-protection. What promise should Abram have rested on? God had given him the promise that he would become a great nation—without his wife this could not happen. The promises of God often require us to hold on in faith and persevere over difficulties.

Perhaps Abram did not realize that Pharaoh would pursue Sarai. How it happened we do not know, but the text tells us that she was taken into Pharaoh’s household. Now what, Abram? How are you going to get out of this mess? We don’t find any complaint from Abram at Sarai being taken into Pharaoh’s court, but God steps in and afflicts Pharaoh’s household with serious diseases. Somehow the secret is out and Abram is severely scolded and shamed for his faithless act. How embarrassed he must have felt as he was told to leave with his head held low.

This is a reminder of the fact that even when we fail to act in faith, God has a plan. There is never a dead end when we submit our life to the Lord. He will always provide a way for us to respond and act in faith. If you have made mistakes in your life and feel that you have lost your way or made a wrong turn in your life, it is important for you to know that God is not finished with your story! The thing you need to do now is submit your way to the Lord and ask Him to give you the next step on your journey. Are you ready to trust Him?

Keith Thomas

Step by Step Vision

We are continuing to think on the life and call of Abraham. When God originally spoke of the step of faith that He was requiring of Abram, He gave large brush strokes on the canvas of the vision. The initial call in Ur of the Chaldeans was to get up and leave the area that is now in South East Iraq. They travelled northwest following the Euphrates river until they came to Harran, a city in Northwest Mesopotamia, now Iraq. The distance to Haran was about 2000 miles. We don’t know how long they stopped in Haran but this was where Abram’s father Terah, died. Abram was seventy-five years old when God spoke to him to leave Harran and go the 800 miles further to the land He would show him. Imagine being seventy-five years old and God speaking to you to leave the comfort of Haran to go to Canaan. Most of us just want the comforts of home at that age.

It is natural for us to want to know the details of the vision before we take the first step, but that is not the way God leads. If God would show you the end at the beginning, you may not be ready for it, or it may scare you, causing you to drift along the path rather than being propelled by faith. God gives us just enough vision to propel us forward. A boat can never be steered when it is drifting. It is only as it is going through the water that it can be easily steered by a small rudder. Begin to step out in faith and allow God to operate the steering mechanism of your life. Remember Psalm 119:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).

Where does the Lord shine His light? He shines the light of revelation, His Word, on where the next step is, at the feet. We don’t see far ahead, just the next step. You just have to trust Him for the next step.

Only when Abram arrives in Canaan does God give more specifics concerning the future (Genesis 12:7), specifically that to his offspring God would give the land that Abram was walking on. He was told that God would make a great nation from his seed and that He would bless him and make his name great, and that those who bless him and his descendants, will be blessed in return. We are also told that those who curse his descendants will themselves be cursed of God. We should be careful about our attitude towards the Jewish people for the Lord says that He, “has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8). We might not agree with all the policies of the government of Israel, but the people of Israel and the seed of Abraham are precious to God. His Word is eternal, and He still stands by it. We are called to bless those whom God is blessing and the faith of Abraham is what we Gentiles have been rooted into: do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:18).

Can you look back and see that God has grown your faith step by step? I’ll bet that there are things you are doing now which you never dreamed of doing in your younger years.

Keith Thomas

“He Did Not Know Where He Was Going”

1The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-2).

 We often don’t stop to think of what it cost Abram to leave Mesopotamia. Of course, we know the whole story from beginning to end about how God led him, and made a great nation of his family. We can follow his story of how God took him step by step and honored the promises He made to Abram. Abram however, had to walk this story out step by step, without the advantage of knowing the end result! When you are living the story, it is different. Abram did not have the advantage of knowing what the end would be when he was called to take the first step.

8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).

He was embarking on this journey, leaving behind all he knew, for the unknown. He was called to leave his country, his relatives, his father’s house and with it, the inheritance that he would have gained from staying. One would worry about the language barrier that may await him in unfamiliar territory, and what about provisions for a journey without a definite time period? Would he have enough money for a trip of this magnitude? What if he encountered thieves and was robbed on the way? It is important to understand that God was asking Abram to take a risk. This was a journey of faith. Faith is spelled R.I.S.K.  It is still the same today. Faith is never a comfortable “walk in the park.”

Think of what the move was like for Sarai, his wife, to leave all the security of family and friends, and to live in a tent. The scriptures tell us that when Abram and Sarai left, they did not know where they were going! How do you think Abram broke the news to Sarai? Somehow, he had to explain to her that he had heard from God and that they were to uproot from their city, which they called home and go live in a tent in a different land. Don’t you think she asked him where they were going? At that point, Abram could not even tell her where they were headed! We do not know if Sarai had any resistance to the move. If she wanted to know all the practicalities, and I am sure she did, the obvious impracticality of a move was not a barrier to her. They were simply to uproot themselves and get on the road. God would lead them only as they acted in faith on what He had told them up to that point.

We are told in the passage above, Hebrews 11:8-10, that what motivated him was a vision of eternal things—the eternal city and God’s reward. Have you ever had to make a significant change in your life’s path? Was there a cost and a reward to it? What battles did you have in your mind when you took that step? Sometimes God will require you to step out in faith, not knowing the end result or even where the journey will take you. Is that a word for you today?

Keith Thomas