The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by Watchman Nee


After Abraham arrived in Canaan, the Bible shows us that he was tested three times concerning the land of Canaan. Let us consider these three tests one by one.

The First Test—Famine

Soon after Abraham reached Bethel, failure set in. This was God’s dealing to show him that his calling was of God’s mercy and was not due to his own goodness. Abraham was not born good; he failed just as everyone else does. Genesis 12:9 says, "And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south." This was his failure: God had brought him to the house of God, but he did not stay there for long. Instead he moved gradually to the south. Although he did not move immediately into Egypt, he was in the south at the border of Egypt.

When he moved to the south, he encountered a famine. Verse 10 says, "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." Abraham had reached the border of Egypt, and it was very easy for him to go into Egypt. After he arrived in Egypt, he began to lie and was rebuked by Pharaoh. There he suffered great shame (vv. 11-20). After this he returned to Canaan. This was his first test.

How did this test start? God appeared to Abraham in Shechem and said to him, "Unto thy seed will I give this land." God intended to give Canaan to him. Did he want it? Abraham was not a strong man. Although God promised to give him this land, Abraham did not maintain his stand. What did he do? He kept moving to the south until he reached Egypt. This was the cause of the first test. The first trial tested Abraham to see if he wanted this land. Abraham did not see the preciousness of the land. In order to establish him in the land, God had to test Abraham.

After his failure in Egypt, Abraham learned one lesson: He realized the importance of Canaan and knew that it was wrong to lie or deceive. It was a shame for God’s people to be rebuked by the Egyptians. What did he do? Genesis 13:1-3 says, "And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai." He returned to his former position. Now Abraham knew how to treasure the land. In this land there was no need to lie, and he did not need to bear the reproach of the Egyptians. In this land he could glorify God.

(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)