Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. Tonight, is study #9 of Genesis, chapter 12 and we are going to read Genesis 12:10:
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
In our last study, we saw that in the Bible a “famine” identifies with a famine of “hearing the word of God,” as it says in Amos 8, verse 11. God speaks of famine and says it is not a famine of bread or a famine of water, but of hearing the Word of the Lord. When there is a famine of hearing, it means there will be no salvation because faith (Christ) comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. When there is a spiritual famine, there is no faith and no salvation. When God brings judgment, there is spiritual famine. He did this to the churches and He is doing this now with the entire world.
We saw that there was a famine in the land and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there. That tells us he departed out of the land of Canaan because Egypt is not part of the land of Canaan. It is a separate nation. Abram left the land of Canaan as Canaan was experiencing a famine and he went into Egypt to sojourn in that land.
It is eerily similar to what happened at a later time with Abraham’s descendants in the time of Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons and one of his sons, Joseph, was sold as a slave and ended up in Egypt. He rose to be second in command under Pharaoh. We all know that wonderful story. Then Pharaoh had dreams that represented seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. During the seven years of famine, the land of Canaan was, once again, struck very hard and survival was extremely difficult. At that time, Jacob sent some of his sons to Egypt to buy corn because he had heard there was corn in Egypt. It was Joseph that interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and wisely instructed Pharaoh to store up grain against the coming famine so Egypt would have available corn during the famine. They would not starve and they were in an excellent position to receive money and lands from people for the surplus corn. Pharaoh rose to a position of power that previous Pharaohs had not known because the people indentured themselves in order to be fed and nourished by the corn that Joseph had stored.
We know the Bible tells us that it was a “sore” famine in Genesis 43, verse 1 and that word “sore” is the same word that was translated as “grievous” in Genesis 4:10: “for the famine was grievous in the land.”
That famine was also spoken of in Genesis, chapter 45 after Joseph made himself known to his brethren. It says in Genesis 45:5-6:
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
There would be no crops and this is what makes a literal famine so terrible. There is little food and little water. Typically, there would have been no rain and people starve to death. People are greatly impacted by physical famine, but when it comes to a spiritual famine it is just as awful, but most of mankind cannot see spiritual things. Even though they can experience it and be afflicted by it, they do not even know it because it is happening in the spiritual arena. Unsaved mankind is “dead” in his soul, so he is dead to spiritual things; he does not perceive them and he is not aware of them. A spiritually dead individual can go through the most grievous spiritual famine imaginable and not be aware of it. He sees no difference between that time and the time before when there was no famine, but God’s people are sensitive to the spiritual realm because they have been granted renewed life in their souls and they have spiritual discernment and understanding to see through the eyes of faith. Therefore, they recognize spiritual famine, while people of the world typically would not recognize it.
In our last study, we saw that the Hebrew word translated as “grievous” (in regard to the famine that was in the land) was also translated as “slow” concerning Moses and his speech and tongue. He had slow speech or a slow tongue. We were beginning to discuss the idea that oftentimes the judgments of God are very grievous because they are “slow.” They do not happen instantaneously, for the most part. It is not something where you are just “struck” and it is over and done with, although there is an element of that when a man dies. He is dead forever and he ceases to be and when God finally destroys the world at the end of time, there will be utter destruction and complete annihilation of the creation and unsaved man. There will be that finality that will come quickly. However, many judgments of God that we read about in the Bible are prolonged – they are not quick. There is a very interesting verse in Ecclesiastes chapter 8, verse 11. Just notice that this verse is in the context of what we read in Ecclesiastes 8:5-6:
Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.
Then it continues until we come to Ecclesiastes 8:11:
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Now there is an element to this verse that does identify with the fact that God tells sinners, “The wages of sin is death,” and, yet, they continue in their sins and going their way. They lack fear and their hearts are fully set to do evil. God tells men that when they sin they will die. They are already dead in their souls, but they will die physically and, at that point, they will be dead in both body and soul and be gone. But since a man thinks, “I might live to be 70 or 80 or 90 or even 100, and since I am only 30 years old, I have at least forty years before I even have to be concerned about that.” There is an element of that, as it says: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” I think we can conclude that is in view to some degree and that is how I looked at this verse in the past, but God is saying something that also relates to the duration of a judgment or the timeline for a judgment.
First, what is a “sentence?” It is a judgment. Let us say that a man goes to court because he was caught robbing a house and maybe he had a gun at him at the time. He has a trial and is found guilty and then the judge “sentences” him to time in prison. Because of the use of a gun, the judge sentences the individual to thirty years in prison for the burglary and possessing a firearm in the act. So, there is the sentence or judgment that he is guilty and from the moment the judge pronounces the sentence, the individual is under judgment. He is under the condemnation of the court and the government and the law of the land. The judge has condemned him to a punishment of thirty years, so there is the sentence against his evil work of breaking and entering and using the gun, and so forth. However, the carrying out of the sentence is the execution of it and that takes place over the course of the next thirty years. He was sentenced. Then he goes to jail and it is “day one.” He gets the haircut and receives his prison clothes and they take all his possessions and place him in the cell. He eats his meals and the day passes and the night comes and then there is “day two,” and so forth, for the next thirty years or until he is paroled. That is the execution of the judgment or the carrying out of the sentence of judgment. So, let us think about that as we read this verse again: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” We recognize that in our court system a punishment is often grievous because it is of a long duration; the longer the sentence, the more grievous it is. If someone gets life in prison without the possibility of parole, that is most grievous, excepting the death penalty. Then there are people that get sentenced to fifteen, twenty, twenty-five or thirty years in prison and we understand from our own system of justice that “time” is very important regarding punishment – the longer the time period, the more grievous. For instance, someone could be sentenced to only one to three years. That is punishment, but it is not quite as bad because it is not as long. The lesser time period means that it is less grievous. It is less affliction. The time element is very important insofar as punishment is concerned. It can really be a factor that serves to afflict like nothing else. Yes, it is very bad in prison. You do not have your freedom. You are confined and you cannot go outside the gate. Sometimes, you cannot even go out of your little cell. You must eat the food they provide and wear the clothes they give you to wear. There are all sorts of aspects to the punishment, but the major part of the punishment is the duration. What you can handle for one year is a different matter in the fifth year; and what you can handle after five years is a different story than what you can handle after ten years. The longer the sentence goes, the harder it becomes and the more difficult it becomes and your mind is constantly on the end of the sentence: “When will the thirtieth year come? Maybe I will get parole.” A drawn-out punishment makes it especially grievous compared to a punishment of lesser time duration. That is just how we naturally understand things.
So, when we look at the Bible, we find that God has drawn out judgments. For example, if you read the Book of Judges, when Israel would go astray there would be an evil king of a neighboring nation that would afflict Israel. Israel would become servants of that nation and they would have to give them their crops. They were grievously afflicted, sometimes for many, many years. It was never the case that God would say, “Israel has gone astray and they have been unfaithful, so I will afflict them by raising up the neighboring nation of Moab and Moab will afflict them for 48 hours.” No – that would hardly be noticed. It was over the course of many years that they were afflicted and then the Israelites would cry out and beseech the Lord to deliver them; then God would raise up a judge that would deliver them. So, there was a time element for the judgment that God brought through neighboring nations. There was a time element with the judgment of the Assyrians upon Samaria, the ten tribes in the north. It did not happen immediately, but it happened over the course of time. We also know there was a time element upon the apostate nation of Judah. Good king Josiah died in 609BC and judgment then came through the Egyptians, followed by the Babylonians, and there was a prolonged period of judgment upon the people of Judah. It was very, very grievous. They were taken captive and the wall of the city was torn down and the temple was destroyed. It was terrible and it worked out over the course of seventy years, from 609BC to 539BC. It was an especially grievous time for the nation of Judah in the history of the people of God. The length and ongoing nature of the punishment was year, after year, after year and it served to greatly afflict and it served to add to the awfulness of the punishment that God brought. Time is often key.
We see in this verse in Ecclesiastes that it says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily,” and the emphasis is on the duration. Let us turn to the Book of Jeremiah, where God often tells us about the sins of Judah and the outpouring of His wrath upon them for their sins. We read in Jeremiah 23:14-16:
I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith JEHOVAH of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith JEHOVAH of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of JEHOVAH.
Then go down to Jeremiah 23:19-20:
Behold, a whirlwind of JEHOVAH is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of JEHOVAH shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
Here, we are told that the whirlwind has gone forth and it will “fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.” Then it refers to the anger of JEHOVAH and how the anger will not return “until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart.” So, there is the sentence that comes upon the rebellious people and then there is the execution of it as God carries out His wrath. Judah was rebellious; God poured out His anger through the Egyptians, followed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, and it utterly destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. And over the course of seventy years, the punishment was being carried out and it was not a speedy execution. It was very slow and methodical. It was very intentional, as day followed day (for seventy years) and the “slowness” of it just added to the terrible nature of the judgment.
You know, we think that we have gone through a lot because we went through a 23-year Great Tribulation, but Judah went through seventy years. For the New Testament churches and congregations, God determined an exact 23-year judgment (8,400 days), from May 21, 1988 through May 21, 2011. This was not a short period of time; it was over two decades. It was 23 years and it went year, after year, with a spiritual famine of hearing the Word of the Lord. The corporate church was populated overwhelmingly by “tares” and they did not perceive it; they lacked the ability to perceive it. They looked around and they had nice carpeting and air conditioning and a pastor that taught for 20 minutes. [Laughter] By the way, that is actually taught in seminaries: “Just talk for about 20 minutes. Do not go more than that because people have a short attention span. Just talk for 20 minutes.” They do not want to “bore” the people with the Word of God. For the child of God, that is not what is boring. What is boring is when they do not talk about the Word of God by comparing Scripture with Scripture, using the methodology that God has laid out in the Bible. Instead, they come up with their analogies and they spend 10 of their 20 minutes laying out an analogy to make one point that is related to some “moral obligation” or “moral responsibility,” but there is no meat of the Scriptures. That is not boring to natural-minded people that just want to “put in their hour” in church and now they are good for the entire week: “Let us just get it over with – let us get in and get out – and let us get back to football.” I know this is cynical, but there is reason for cynicism because it is accurate in many ways.
God’s judgment was carried out for 23 years upon the corporate church that did not perceive it, but God’s people were given eyes to see and ears to hear: “And a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.” The wrath of God was perceived by the true believers, along with the timeline for that judgment. We understood it was a 23-year Great Tribulation period and the added time duration goes along with the punishment. It fits with the punishment that God meted out to those within the churches.
Then we came to May 21, 2011 and we had it all wrong. We thought the believers would be taken out of the world and we would escape the punishment, but that was in error because God would judge the righteous and the wicked. For a long time, we thought that would be the end of the world on that day, but then we learned that there was a time element and we thought it was a literal five months. However, “five months” is not really all that long. We will have to talk more about that in our next study.