In Genesis 12, God called Abram and his wife Sarai (later renamed as Abraham and Sarah) out of Haran (probably somewhere in the area we now call Northern Syria) and sent them westward and then south through the land of Cannan. This was not a trivial journey — and meant leaving a comfortable life for what could be a journey that never ended. It took a lot of faith in God to take that first step out of Haran … trusting that God had a great plan for them and that he would take care of them along the way.
By the time they got down to Egypt, that trust had apparently worn a bit thin. When they met Pharaoh, Abram introduced Sarai as his sister because he didn’t trust the Egyptians … and didn’t trust God to protect them. As it turns out, God was watching and protecting the Egyptians from Abram’s schemes — and Abram came out of the encounter a very rich man. Abram was trying to rely on his own smarts instead of trusting God — not very smart.
Many years later, Abraham’s son Isaac found himself in a similar situation in Genesis 26. God sent him and his family to live in another place (the land of the Philistines) with a promise to protect him and (carrying forward the promise to Abraham) to make his offspring numerous. One would assume that the story of Abram and Sarai’s escapades in Egypt would have been told to Isaac; but despite that and God’s promise, he pulls the same stunt — introducing his wife as his sister to keep the Philistine King from killing him! Once again, God protects the Philistines from Isaac’s foolishness and Isaac comes out of the situation not only alive, but richer (much richer).
What lessons are we supposed to take from these two situations?
An obvious one would be that we are supposed to trust God instead of trying to “do it ourselves”. While it is a good thing for us to do … both Abram and Isaac gained significantly from their encounters — that somewhat weakens that lesson, because there is no negative for those two men for having tried to rely on their own wits.
Another lesson that could come out of this is that God protects the innocent. Neither the Egyptians nor the Philistines had done anything (that we know of) to provoke this action on the part of Abram and Isaac — so God kept them from sinning in spite of their ignorance of the true situation.
While both of these are valid lessons, I think the real lesson from this situation is that God can take a situation that we’ve messed up trying to do it our own way and still make it work out for good:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)
God can take something that we’ve made into a total disaster and turn it into a positive result … just because He loves us.