In our chronological study of the Bible, today’s reading is Genesis 12-13 which records the call of Abram. God appears to Abram while he was living in his native country and calls him to gather all his household and leave for the land that God would show him. Imagine if you were in Abram’s shoes! God calls you to turn your back on everything that you have known, everything that makes you comfortable, and set out for the unknown. All that you have to go on is the promise of God. In many ways, this parallels the call to follow Christ in discipleship. Jesus said, “If any man wants to come after me, he must first deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” From now on, the disciple’s life is commanded by Christ. Her life has come under new direction and has been given new purpose. Abram’s life illustrates this obedience.
God leads Abram to the land of Canaan where He assures him that He would one day give the land to Abram’s descendants. He would make Abram’s name great and his descendants would be a great nation. Through Abram all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This covenant points us to Christ, Abram’s Descendant, and the One who is the greatest blessing to the world of humanity. The Bible says that Abram settles down in the land, even though the Canaanites were living there in those days. One might wonder how the land could ever be Abram’s when there were so many obstacles. Of course, we know that nothing is impossible with God. We often give up too easily when confronted by challenges in life. The key is trusting God’s Word when we don’t know what is going on around us. Abram builds an altar of worship at the very place in the land where God appeared to him and promised to give him the land.
Something interesting happens at this point, though. Genesis 12:10 says that a famine occurs in the land. Food became scarce. Abrams responds to this challenge by leaving the place where he had build an altar and going down to Egypt. From all indications, this was solely Abram’s decision. At no point are told that he was prompted by God to do this. This is an illustration of how easy it is for us to leave the altar of obedience to Christ and follow our own hearts. Proverbs says that there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is the way of death. Abram encounters some unnecessary setbacks while in Egypt, as do all disciples who choose to follow their own counsel rather than Christ. Egypt is always an illustration of the world in Scripture. As a citizen of God’s kingdom, I know that this world has nothing for me, nothing that can satisfy me. I have learned in the Christian life that a famine in God’s country is far better than a feast at the enemy’s table. What I perceive to be my greatest struggles in the Christian life may in fact be my greatest blessings. God uses what I often perceive as being unusable to conform me to Christ’s image. Don’t ever leave your altar of worship just because there seems to be a famine around you. Stay close to Christ, stay dependent upon Him, and trust Him to lead you through the difficult times of life. If you’ve left Bethel for Egypt, you need to get back to where you started.