The First (Recorded) Famine
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.
In our modern day experience where the world food chain is globalized, we are more familiar with "supply-chain disruptions" and "shipment delays" than what was counted as famines in Abram's time in Genesis 12. Yet the severity of Abram's famine is probably equal to countries going to war. The famine in his time caused mass migrations to Egypt- people had to relocate to survive. War, job opportunities, and other situations of varying degrees of urgency and desperation are familiar to the human experience as to the reasons one has to move. Sometimes when we find ourselves in these desperate times, we tell ourselves these sentences, "It's okay to do something wrong, God will surely understand!" "It was for survival, it was for preserving life!" Abram's move to Egypt was for survival, but it was one that carried with it a lot of risk. You see, his wife Sarai was very beautiful, and in the name of self-preservation, they decided to enter Egypt with a lie to change their disadvantage to their advantage.
Genesis 12:11-13 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
So Abram was focused on self-preservation and self-enrichment. And what happened to them? Well at the start, things went really well:
Genesis 12:14-16 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
We take a momentary pause to reflect on this, things went really well! Abram got his wealth through this political relationship with Pharaoh. However, we have a problem: by doing this, Abram was giving up on God's promise of offspring, or at least giving up on Sarai as the way God will bring about his promise. This is a repeated theme throughout Genesis - Abram (and Sarai) had a lot of secondary plans in place. There was Lot who could just inherit the blessing indirectly, there was Hagar Sarai's servant. All of these plans were part of Abram's journey of faith. And God will not let His plan be jeopardized by Abram's own back-up plans. And without Abram's permission, God went on ahead to expose his lie.
Genesis 12:17-20 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
The LORD was not going to let Abram come out of his situation with the lie. God allowed the consequence of Abram's sin to be made manifest in Pharaoh's household. When we harbor and employ sin in our life's toolkit for success and survival, we plant seeds of hurt and destruction that wreak havoc not only on us but also to others (often innocent) around us. The exposure of Abram's lie leads to Pharaoh's order to get Abram and his men sent away from Egypt. This act fractured Abram's security in Egypt and plunged him back to the wilderness. Although we can't ascertain whether the famine was still ongoing outside of Egypt, surely this act of being exiled was a huge move for Abram! His reputation would have suffered a big blow, now that this lie was exposed. But perhaps if the lie remained hidden, Abram would have been stuck in Egypt, and not reach the promised land. Also, if we read on further, a lot of his acquired wealth in Egypt ended up causing him some trouble down the journey: The wealth of cattle he acquires becomes his issue with Lot. Hagar, Sarah's servant who becomes part of a big drama in Abram and Sarai's journey of faith later on was also purchased in Egypt.
Like Abram, we can often find ourselves in our own desperate situations. And in our desperate situations, we often face huge temptations to compromise.
Hunger is a very difficult and real problem. This is one of the reasons why God includes the provision of food as part of social holiness in the laws and in New Testament practice of the church. Though we may not be in these desperate situations like Abram, we may know of others who are in difficult situations themselves. In what ways could we help them?
In our desperate moments, what do we do to survive? Do we also let go of the promises of God? What about integrity? What about truth? Consider what you have gained because of these compromises. Have they really come to be used by God for His Glory in your life, or have they become like Hagar and the disputed cattle?
Food is very important, and God knows our struggles. This is why Jesus taught us to include this petition in the Lord's prayer: "Give us this day our daily bread." Knowing that God will give us what we need helps us to trust in His ways, not ours. It's an exercise of discipline to trust God and His ways to be above ours. And this applies not just to food, but in meeting quotas for work, or securing business in our dealings with others. In how we build our lives and relationships with both loved ones and the community around us, the temptation to use our wisdom to get what we want and to be safe is great. It often works, for awhile. But if we are journeying with God to His Promise for our lives, our lies will be exposed in His time.
How then should we live when we encounter famines in our lives? Instead of finding excuses for what we know will be against God's will, let us instead find strength in God's faithfulness. If Abram focused and trusted in God's simple promise that he will be made into a great nation, he could have arrived at the conclusion: how then could Egypt overcome him if he had stood on God's truth? Poverty and the threat of death are both scary, but being outside of God's will is even more problematic. In the coming weeks we will explore this transformation of Abram as he journeys with God, learning from his own personal mistakes. God's grace is indeed great, because in our own failures God continues to be faithful in leading us forward! Reflection Questions: 1. Do you know someone who is in a desperate situation (no food or other basic necessities)? How can you reach out to help them today? Consider finding a local food bank/church that can help bring food to those who are experiencing famine in their lives.
2. As you go through your personal famine moments, what compromises have you done to keep your head above water? Which of these compromises do you think God wants you to release to Him? What steps of faith would you take to trust in God?
3. What is one promise from God you can hold on to to help you in your time of famine? Write it down somewhere where you can be reminded to trust in our ever-faithful God!
Kosher Food Challenge Update
Today, I managed to find 100-Day Grass Feed Sirloin Steaks to compete with our Kosher Sirloin Steaks! With some Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and Kosher Salt and freshly crackled Black Pepper, I cooked both steaks in the same way. After calling some of the boarders in Oldham Hall to help me discern which tasted better, here are our findings: 1. Kosher Meat is inherently saltier (I made the mistake of salting the meat in the same manner as my non-Kosher steak! Will be a bit more reserved with the salt in the future Kosher meat challenges) 2. Boarders said that the Kosher meat was more intense in flavor and had a beefier punch! (I understand that as the meat is salted, much of the water is drawn out of the meat, making the flavor less diluted in the meat). 3. Boarders preferred the non-Kosher meat (4 - 1), saying it was something they were more familiar with. The one boarder who voted for the Kosher meat seemed to have a more discerning palette though. (Again, this is a non-scientific method of determining which is better, as taste is highly subjective!) 4. As for me, I enjoyed the Kosher steaks! Well I enjoy both, but if the price and accessibility of Kosher steak were not an issue, I would definitely want to experiment more in preparing stews and other recipes. So, for the grilled steak round: Non-Kosher: 1, Kosher: 0. Next week, we shall look to Kosher Chicken vs Non-Kosher Chicken. If you have any suggestions on the preparation of the chickens, do let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Hungry Chaplain