Gen 12:11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, Gen 12:12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Gen 12:13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake."
The account of Abram going to Egypt during the famine and lying about Sarah being his sister and not his wife teaches us of what happens when we start to rely on our wisdom to live life rather than obeying what God says in his Word. This is seen in several ways in this passage such as Abram leaving Bethel which is called the House of God. It was the place where Abram made an altar and worshipped God and while there he called upon the Lord which basically means he was seeking to know God’s will; he was listening to and following the Lord.
But he leaves the place of fellowship with God and starts scheming on his own. He is not recorded as making another altar or speaking to the Lord until 13:4 where he returns to Bethel and starts to call upon the name of the Lord again. So I think we can assume that in between these two periods we are seeing Abram as he is living according to his own wisdom.
As I was studying this account a thought occurred to me as to why such a course of action will fail every time. By course of action I mean trying to take care of problems by human reason without first being guided by God’s revelation to us. We might say that Abram was scheming. He developed a rather elaborate ruse that he thought would feed his family, save his life and technically he was not lying since Sarah was his half-sister. Scheming is certainly something I can identify with. I often make careful, if not elaborate, plans when faced with problems. On the surface there is not necessarily anything wrong with this as God has given us capacities of reason along with experience to figure out how to overcome problems in life. Surely this is the mother of invention for instance.
The problem comes when we don’t allow ourselves to be first guided by what God has said in his Word and we aren’t seeking his help in prayer. And so we scheme using our own wisdom but without a very important ingredient which makes all the difference. Abram’s scheme might have worked except that Pharaoh didn’t play along. And this is where all of our plans are doomed for failure if we act apart from the will of God. Abram couldn’t control Pharaoh’s mind, will and actions but the Sovereign God of all can!
And this is why using his wisdom will always work and why trying to live on our own wisdom can never work. We cannot control anything other than ourselves and we can’t do that very well. The success of every plan we make ultimately depends on whether people, events, weather, machines, animals, etc. will cooperate and we have no real control over any of those things. But God controls all things after the counsel of his eternal decrees so every plan he has determined must come to pass.
Apparently it was God’s will for Abram to weather the famine in Canaan, not Egypt. He could feed Abram and his flocks as easily during a famine as he could any in the most fertile valley on Earth. Simply put he is sovereign and we are not. Abram’s first sin was to assume God couldn’t take care of him and needed his help. His next sin was to try on his own.
Often we can’t even control our own thoughts and bodies for our own good let alone anyone or anything else. Let’s leave the “scheming” to the Lord and let us trust his wisdom because we have been promised that it will all work good for us in the end, Rom 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.