Confidence in the Face of Fear
Genesis 12:10–13,17–20; 13:1–4
Trust God despite fear of circumstances. (12:10–13)
The first half of chapter 12 lays a beautiful foundation for God’s plan to bless Abraham, build the nation of Israel and eventually provide a blessing to the whole world through Jesus. Even though Abram is still childless, God has already fulfilled the first of His promises to Abram by leading him into the land of Canaan.
Now, the story takes a fearful turn. Famine causes Abram to abandon his promised land and settle, at least for a time, in Egypt. While God neither supports nor condemns Abram’s decision, one might wonder how Abram could so easily abandon God’s promise even for a time. However, all three of Israel’s patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, fled Canaan in the face of famine. Human fears often obstruct or delay God’s promises.
Fear threatens the promise. Abram is afraid of dying because of his wife. Still childless, Abram’s death would mean that God was not able to keep His promise of making Abram a great nation. Abram’s fear meant that he did not trust God. Though Abram did not know it at the time, losing Sarai to Pharaoh would also mean God had failed to keep His promise, since she became the Israelite matriarch.
Our fear can affect others. (12:17–20)
Scripture does not tell us how Pharaoh learned that Sarai was Abram’s wife, but Pharaoh knew that the plagues happened because he took Sarai into his harem. Sarai’s experience in the harem and the subsequent plagues foreshadow Israel’s bondage in Egypt. Unlike the later Pharaoh of Moses’s day, this Pharaoh was an honorable leader, returning Sarai to Abram as soon as he knew of the deception. The plagues served not as a punishment for Pharaoh as much as they did as a tool God used to correct Abram’s lack of faith through fear.
God never vindicated Abram for his actions. The passage makes it clear that Abram, who was treated well when he arrived (12:16), left Egypt in dishonor. Abram acted in fear leading to a lack of trust in God. God responded to preserve His promise and restore Abram’s trust. Abram’s actions out of fear did not thwart God’s plans, but it did cause pain and trouble for Abram, Sarai and Pharaoh’s household.
That Abram gained more wealth in Egypt is evidence that God keeps His promises as well as evidence that Pharaoh wanted Abram gone with the least amount of controversy.
Return to confident trust and worship of God. (13:1–4)
This passage serves as both a conclusion to the story of the Egyptian sojourn and as an introduction to the next challenge to God’s promise: the controversy between Abram and Lot. It brings Lot back into the story and points out that God blessed Abram well in Egypt, giving him more possessions and increasing his wealth. God was continuing His promise of making Abram’s name great. Abram returned to his former dwelling between Bethel and Ai. More importantly, he returned to the altar that he had built for the Lord there. The section ends with the same phrase from earlier that Abram “called on the name of the Lord” there (12:8)
Despite Abram’s fears and his lack of trust, God remained faithful and trustworthy. Though it may sound pedantic, the Scriptural truth is that whenever one wavers in trusting the Lord or in obeying His call, the best course of action is to retrace one’s steps back to where one’s trust was evident and return to worship and obedience.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.