God calls Abram, and by faith he goes to Canaan. Upon arrival he builds altars there, but then what? Now that he is in Canaan, he has these great promises from God, but does he know if he is going to see any fruit himself? It is as if Abram was saying “Now what God? I followed you here, but what I see is a famine. I hear things are good in Egypt (a humanistic representation of the world) so I will go there for a time (just until this famine is over!)” Then on the way, Abram makes a compromise; he realizes the danger of having a very beautiful (though 65 year old) wife, and he makes the decision to lie, potentially putting his wife in great danger to spare his own life.
Then what unfolds shows the mysterious nature and unexpected grace from God. Though Abraham lied, God saw fit that he was blessed abundantly, despite his sin. This probably made him feel quite guilty about lying in the first place. Also, God seemed to have protected Sarai as well, bringing great plagues upon Pharoah and his house on her account. How do you think Abram will feel when he finds out that some calamity came upon Pharaoh ultimately because of his lie? God had a fervent jealousy for Abram and his wife, and their marriage. And so God delivers Abram out of the situation, out of Egypt, and back on his way to Canaan, safely and with many goods in hand.
How would Abram feel at this point? There may be a telling silence and a chance to repent, or speak up, during his encounter with Pharaoh: “What is this you have done to me?” No answer. “Why did you not tell me she was your wife?” No answer. “Why did you say “She is my sister,” so that I took her for my wife? Again, no answer. Abram cannot speak because he is probably embarrassed, ashamed, and confused, though glad to be alive and glad to be getting his wife back.
This can be a picture of a new believer coming to Christ, only to step into the Promised Land and fail to see the bigger picture. God calls us, in essence, away from our earthly family (those who do not believe in God,) because conversion sets you apart and can make you feel alone from your own flesh and blood. This is why we seek the church as our new family. Then during a famine, be it spiritual, financial or otherwise, we turn back to the worldly way of doing things again, the path to which is filled with danger and compromise.
But God’s grace is more than sufficient here. Instead of allowing Abraham to sojourn in the world a while, or danger to befall him or his wife, he ends up escorted back out of Egypt bearing even more property and servants. Do you think God was trying to show him something? Not that he would be rewarded for lying, but instead Abram is left to consider that he should have simply trusted God in the first place which would have avoided this whole ordeal. Abram would also be understanding the mercy of God, that God Himself would intervene on his behalf, and strike with plagues the most powerful man in Egypt on account of keeping him and his wife safe, and to get them out of Egypt, where he did not want them.
This is not the first time Egypt will be sought as a refuge during a time of famine, and also not the last time Egypt would be left with spoils in hand. And Even Egypt is not immune to famine as we see later in Genesis. This whole event prefigures what is to come with the Israelites. Likewise, spiritually speaking, this event prefigures what happens quite commonly to us as Christians.
And where does Abram go as he sheepishly leaves Egypt? Gen 13:4 “to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.” And so with God’s kindness and mercy, He calls us back to Himself.