There are always consequences. Some we never see coming. Often, the worst are the ones coming on the heels of what we thought were insignificant decisions. By the time we realize just how significant our choice was, it is usually too late.
This is one of the many valuable lessons to learn from the life of Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 12:1-20. Abram was called by God and followed, as he was promised land and offspring. He was a picture of courage and obedience as he went without knowing where, when and how. To leave all you’ve known, without knowing the details involved, is nothing less than admirable and inspiring. As a planner, I am not confident I could do the same.
Although Abram begins his journey without hesitation, it does not take long before we see his vulnerabilities. Up until verse 10, he is following God’s general direction. Then we read of a famine in the land so Abram heads down to Egypt. What we don’t read is how Abram called on the Lord or sought His direction concerning the famine. He examines the problem and determines in his own ability the best course of action to take.
Why I think there is fault in this process is found in verse 11-13, as he anticipates what dangers may arise and how they should respond to them. He asks his wife Sarai to lie for him by saying she was his sister, rather than his spouse. Because she was so beautiful, he feared for his life and reasoned that as her “brother”, he would find favor as men tried to impress her. I’m not sure how she felt about her husband fearing more for his welfare than her’s, but I would imagine it came up later in counseling!
I see two things wrong with this scenario. First, he did not appear to ask God what should be done about the famine. Secondly, he asks his wife to lie to protect him from his intended role in her life. (When your plan requires your sin, it’s a bad plan!) Not only did he lie, he asks his wife to lie, and he forfeited his role of protector and caregiver as her husband. To put it bluntly, he placed her in danger to protect his own skin! He even benefitted financially as Pharoah treated him well for her sake by giving him livestock and servants.
The Lord ultimately comes to her aid by inflicting diseases upon Pharoah and his household. Sarai is released and they are all sent on their way, while getting to keep all the riches from Pharoah in animals and servants. They end up better off, by all appearances, leaving Egypt than when they arrived.
But as we all know by now, appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes consequences are not immediate, but come later on down the road. So in the short term, it seems that all is well and nothing bad has come of the lie and “favor” of Pharoah. (Except for a bitter wife on the rest of the journey I would bet!)
But then we come to Genesis 16:1-2 and there we find the “baggage” from the journey to Egypt. It says that while Sarai still had not borne any children yet for Abram, she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. So she reasoned ( once again self reasoning without consulting God) that she would build her family line through Hagar. She had come to the end of her patience and ability, so she looked for answers her way instead of remembering God’s promises and His way.
She told Abram to sleep with Hagar and produce the offspring through her, and he, oh so readily complied. Ishmael is conceived and the extent of trouble from this decision was detrimental then, and is still being felt today by a world living in conflict through his lineage, as he is considered an important prophet and patriarch of Islam.
This should come as no surprise as God fortold it from the onset. In verse 11-12 it says,” The angel of the Lord also said to her:’ You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man ; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.'” Not exactly the best family line to hand down generation to generation!
The choices are unmistakable in hindsight. Making decisions without consulting God, lying to protect and promote personal gain, accepting favor through dishonest means, living among pagan people and sharing quarters with them, forgoing personal responsibility, forfeiting spiritual integrity…….the list is long and harmful. What is worse is how the consequences or “baggage” from this journey are still relevant today. If Abram had only known how consequential his choice would be to go to Egypt and accept Hagar into his household.
I’m not saying trouble would have been totally avoided by not going to Egypt. I just think we ought not to give our enemy the devil any help with ammunition to use against us. We are always better off by staying close to the Lord and looking early and often to Him for direction and help.
Am I any better than Abram? No. As I think back to some of my decisions in life, I am utterly ashamed and appalled at my own baggage I have carried into my family and my journey with the Lord. I have committed some of the very same choices as Abram, only in different circumstances. Sin is exponential. It always takes me farther than I want to go and costs me more than I am willing to pay. But this realization comes too late most of the time. That is until I learn some tough lessons and start wising up to the schemes of the enemy.
Abram and Sarai teach me that processing life and choices without consulting the Lord will bring more detriment to me and mine than I ever want to experience. That is some baggage I am more than happy to leave unclaimed!