A Basic Lesson from Abraham’s Failure

Gen. 12:9-10: And Abram journeyed onward, journeying toward the Negev. And there was a famine in the land; and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.


The landscape of our Christian experience consists not of peaks only, but of many valleys as well. Though often disregarded or despised, the experiences in the valleys actually cause us to learn crucial life lessons which prepare us to gain spiritual victories. As an example, Abraham learned the basic lesson of God’s sovereignty from his failure in Gen. 12:9-13:4. This experience later helped him to choose God’s sovereignty over his own preference and obtain the victory in fighting for Lot (Gen. 13:8-9, 14:1-24).

Abraham was called by the God of glory and eventually came to Canaan, the land that God had promised to give him (Gen 12:1, 7).  Because there was a famine in the land, however, he went down to Egypt, where he feared he would be killed and his wife would be taken because of her beauty (Gen. 12:12). Abraham therefore lied, saying that his wife was his sister, and as a result Pharaoh took Sarah to be his wife and gave Abraham many material possessions in return.  After Jehovah struck him and his house with great plagues, Pharaoh, realizing that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, rebuked Abraham and sent him away with his wife and all that he had. Abraham eventually returned to Canaan where he had first pitched his tent and called on the name of Jehovah.

Abraham’s failure was twofold: first, instead of remaining in the place where God wanted him to be, Abraham went down to Egypt, which typifies the world; second, he sold his wife in exchange for his life and livelihood. This was a shameful failure for someone called out by God. Abraham fell into the world and cared for his interest above God’s interest, even to the point of selling his wife to save himself. Like Abraham, even if we have experienced God’s glorious calling we may one day depart from His purpose, fall into the world, care only for our livelihood, and fail those closest to us. Nevertheless, the Lord can still use such an experience as this to teach us a valuable lesson.

Abraham might have thought that he had lost Sarah for good, but God was sovereign over the situation, preserving Sarah and eventually returning her to Abraham. Through this experience, Abraham learned that the One who called him also took care of him and that everything was in His sovereign hand. This basic lesson became the precursor to his victories in the following two chapters. He yielded the first choice of the land to Lot because he had learned the lesson of not striving for himself but trusting in God’s care, and he recovered Lot from captivity by defeating four kings based on His confidence in God as the Possessor of heaven and earth (Gen. 13:9-9, 14:11-24). These victories were a direct result of the revelation of God’s sovereignty that Abraham gained through his failure.

The lesson of God’s sovereignty may seem basic in comparison with some of Abraham’s later experiences of justification by faith, making a covenant with God, and living in fellowship with God (Gen. 15:6, 18; 18:1-33). However, it is a fundamental lesson we all must learn today. Whether it be in simple matters such as taking care of our daily necessities or in more significant concerns such as our education, marriage, or finances,  we must firstly recognize that God is  the sovereign One on the throne, arranging every detail in our environment. Recognizing His sovereignty and learning to trust in Him in all things will enable us to enter into the deeper and richer experiences of Christ that He has prepared for us (1 Cor. 2:9; Eph. 2:10).

Further Reading:

Witness Lee, Abraham—Called by God, Chapters 6-7 (Nook, Kindle, Print).

Witness Lee, Life-Study of Genesis, Messages 42-43 (NookKindle, iBooks, Print).

Holy Bible Recovery Version, all verses mentioned in this post and their corresponding footnotes (NookKindleiBooksPrint).

(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on http://www.ministrybooks.org.)

2 thoughts on “A Basic Lesson from Abraham’s Failure

  1. “We must firstly recognize that God is the sovereign One on the throne, arranging every detail in our environment.”

    This is truly the key.

    So often, I fight against this in my circumstances. But when I accept this, I’m brought into, as you wrote, “the deeper and richer experiences of Christ that He has prepared for us.”

    Thank you.

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