God speaks at unexpected places.
The other day, I was having Bible study with my 7-year old and the LORD spoke to me.
We were reading Genesis 12:10-20. In the passage, Abram lied to Pharaoh that Sarai was his sister in order to preserve his own life. However, the LORD inflicted Pharaoh and his household with diseases. When Pharaoh discovered that Abram had lied to him, he reprimanded Abram and hurriedly sent them away.
In this occasion, Abram messed up big time. His lie almost jeopardized God’s intention to make him into a great nation (Imagine if Sarai had become Pharaoh’s concubine and bore him children of Egypt!). However, God in His sovereign mercy intervened and saved Abram from this self-made mistake.
So often the focus in this passage has been on Abram’s lie. But God pointed out to me that the mess actually began upstream.
“Now there was a famine in the land (Negev, Canaan), and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.” (Genesis 12:10)
The error did not begin with Abram’s lie about Sarai, it began when Abram left Negev and went down to Egypt because of a severe famine.
In Genesis 12:1-7, God told Abram to leave his own country (Harran) and led him into the land of Canaan. God promised Abram that He would give Canaan to Abram and his offspring. And Abram obediently settled down at the south side of Canaan, Negev, building an altar to the LORD.
Some time later, a severe famine hit Negev. Nowhere in the passage did we read that God told Abram to leave Negev. But Abram took his own initiative, out of desperation I suppose. And this was the beginning of the mess.
There are times when we experience prolonged drought and famine in the place where God had called us to be, our Negev. It could be that God called you to serve Him in a particular ministry. Yet as the days passed, you felt dried up. Fruitlessness in the ministry de-motivates you; you feel unappreciated and taken for granted. Discouragement, disappointment, hurts and tiredness get in your way. This feeling becomes amplified when you are facing challenges at work, home or on the personal front at the same time.
So you are tempted to leave Negev. You say: “Maybe it is time to move on”, “I have done enough, I need to take a break”, “It is time for others to rise up to serve”, “I need time for recuperation and self-care”, “maybe it is time to call it quits”. So you pack your bags, and decide to go down to Egypt for a breath of fresh air.
At the bible study time with Jeriel, the LORD spoke to me. He told me not to use my human perspectives to respond to ministry challenges. Unless the LORD speaks, I am to remain in Negev and wait for Him.
It is certainly a difficult thing when the days of famine are prolonged, as in Abram’s case. But let’s keep returning to the altar of worship (v8) at Negev and call on the name of the LORD and wait upon Him patiently and steadfastly.
You do not have an altar in your Negev? It’s about time that you build one.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
May our service to Him be always a sacrifice of worship unto Him!
By Rick Toh, Lead Pastor (YCKC Bulletin 4&5 October 2014)