Genesis 12:10-13

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.”  Genesis 12:10-13


This surprising little left turn in the plot of our story has much to teach us…or at least it raises a lot of questions that invite us to dig a little. 


First, do you see the allusion to the exodus story?  Abraham and Sarah are facing hard times so they head to Egypt.  Sound familiar?  Doesn’t it remind you of Joseph, left for dead, but rescued from the well and sent off to Egypt?  A little later his brothers are facing a drought so they too head off to Egypt.  In the New Testament, that other Joseph is warned by God of Herod’s murderous plot so he takes Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt. 


What is going on here with all of these “bad times leads to leaving Israel for a foreign land only to be later rescued by God” stories?  Is it that God lacks creativity and keeps rewriting the same story?  Not so much.


It is passages like this that bolster the argument that the central life experience that shaped the Old Testament was the gut-wrenching defeat of Israel by Babylon, which then led to a ruinous generation of captivity and servitude between about 586 BCE and 528 BCE that is commonly called the Babylonian Exile. 


That period of loss and cultural dislocation, and all the years which followed as Israel picked itself back up out of the ashes, is when the various pieces of written and oral history were woven together into the coherent narrative we see as the Old Testament.


(If you find this interesting and want to do a little background reading, click here.  This paper does a pretty good job of reviewing the questions around how the Old Testament came together.)


The point here is that hard times do not mean that God has abandoned his people or his promise.  Hard times do require hard decisions and call many things into question (we will talk more Abraham’s questionable ethics tomorrow), but hard times often are the necessary twists in the journey that strip us of pretentions and get us back on the right road.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, we pray today for people who are facing difficult times in their lives – facing hunger, sickness, civil war, wild fires, grief, and all that often leads us to question your presence and power.  Make a way in the wilderness and bring light into darkness.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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