Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
This is the story of how God built the nation of Israel, starting with Abram (later called Abraham). The Bible shifts at this point from God’s relationship with the world in general, to God’s relationship with Abraham and his future offspring—the Israelites. Abraham was not chosen by God because he was better than others, but simply because God chose him (Romans 9:15). He is so important to the Bible’s story that his name is mentioned over two hundred times.
Abraham was living in a pagan culture when God broke into his life and told him to move to the Promised Land. Abraham lived in a tent for much of his life, For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10), says Hebrews. He is an example to those who refuse to settle down in this world as they journey to the next.
Genesis 12:2-3 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. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
God kept his promise to Abraham by making him into a great nation, and by making him famous. In the previous chapter the people wanted to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4), but God would not allow it. Abraham followed God, however, so God made a name for Abraham.
God also promised Abraham that, all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Two thousand years later, Jesus was born, descended from Abraham (Matthew 1:1). Since the gospel of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the world, the world has been blessed through Abraham. The God of Abraham does what he says. He can be trusted.
Genesis 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.
Abraham must have hoped for great things in the Promised Land, but what he got was a famine. Like many since, Abraham found that God’s ways do not always make sense to us. The way of faith can be difficult even when we are exactly where God wants us to be.
Abraham went to Egypt where the food supply was stable due to the Nile River. But there he was afraid that Pharaoh might kill him to take his beautiful wife Sarai (later called Sarah). Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you (Genesis 12:13), he said.
In fact, Sarah was Abraham’s half sister (Genesis 20:12), but this was still a deception and a terrible thing to ask. Pharaoh took Sarah to be his wife, and while the text is not explicit, he seems to have slept with her (Genesis 12:19). This would have strained Abraham and Sarah’s relationship, and compromised their walk with God. It is interesting how early in the story they failed.
Like others who try to follow God, Abraham and Sarah were not perfect. Their confidence in God was not always strong, and under pressure, they failed more than once. The story of God and his people is about sin and grace—failure and forgiveness. The only one who never sinned was Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:22). He lived our life, and died our death, so that he could be our Savior (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Genesis 12:20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
God sent diseases on Pharaoh and his household to show his disapproval. They understood this was due to Abraham’s wife, so Pharaoh gave her back to Abraham, and sent them on their way. They left Pharaoh’s palace with sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels (Genesis 12:16). God prospered Abraham and Sarah, even when they were out of his will.
Sin normally has negative consequences, including God’s fatherly discipline (Hebrews 12:6). But God may choose to prosper us even when we sin. The biblical word for this is grace (Ephesians 2:8). Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is not getting what we deserve; grace is getting what we do not deserve—the undeserved favor of God.
Genesis 13:5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.
Lot was Abraham’s nephew, and they both became so wealthy that the land could not support their families together. Both groups began to quarrel, so Abraham made peace by offering Lot whatever region he preferred. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left (Genesis 13:9), he said.
This was a generous offer and reflects well on Abraham’s character. As the elder of the clan, Abraham had the right to choose, but he left the choice to Lot. A generous person will prosper (Proverbs 11:25), says Proverbs. God applauds generosity, and is often pleased to reward it.
Genesis 13:10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt.
Lot chose the best of the land, and left the rest to Abraham. But the land he chose was close to Sodom, a town known for its wickedness (Genesis 13:13). It seems the region’s wealth was enough to offset any of Lot’s moral concerns. Abraham made him a generous offer, and Lot made the most of it.
But there was something Lot did not know. Sodom would soon be attacked, and would later be destroyed by the judgment of God (Genesis 19:1-29). Lot would escape with his daughters, but everything else would be lost. From this we learn that getting what we want, is not always what we want.
Genesis 13:14-15 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.
Lot thought he chose the best, but it soon became the worst. Abraham settled for what was left, but it soon became the best. This is a helpful principle when it comes to making choices. Instead of grasping for what we want, it may be wise to let others go first. God knows what is best for us, and he also knows the future (Isaiah 46:10). Letting others choose first is a way of being generous, and of trusting God to give us whatever he wants.
Reflection and Review
How does living in a tent illustrate the Christian life?
How has God blessed the world through Abraham?
What can we learn from Lot’s choice to live near Sodom?