How to be wise in the time of a famine? This question might sound irrelevant in this modern age. However, there are some things we could learn from the stories involving famines in the Bible. That is what I am going to discuss in this article.
In ancient times famines were very severe and the people often had to move to neighboring countries in order to escape from death. Those days famines were very common due to lack of effective irrigation facilities. People had to depend on the nature for water and if it did not rain in the season, all crops would be destroyed and people would face shortage of food.
In modern times we are not very familiar with these kinds of situations because we seldom experience famine. Not only that, even if there is a famine, due to modern transportation facilities food items can be transported to the affected areas without any delay, there is no need for people from a drought-hit area to move to a place with plenty of food.
But in ancient times this was not the case. During those days, people normally moved to the area where food was available. When we examine the scriptures, we could find a few examples for this.
First, I would like to discuss the story described in the book of Genesis; the main character in this story is Abraham and the following verses tell this story very clearly.
10Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.
12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
Here, the scripture says – there was a famine in the land and the famine was severe; hence Abraham decides to move to Egypt and live there for some time.
However, Abraham had a problem – he feared Egyptians because of his wife Sarah. since she was a beautiful woman, he thought – Egyptians might kill him and take Sarah.
Therefore, Abraham advises Sarah to pretend to be his sister, so that, the Egyptians will treat him well for her sake.
Remember, Abraham was a man of God, he spoke to God face to face and Lord almighty is the one who brought him to the land of Canaan.
God is fully aware of Abraham’s situation and definitely he might have had a rescue plan in place. However, Abraham decides to execute his own plan to deal with the crisis and he moves to Egypt.
Anyway, things did not unfold as Abraham planned. Pharaoh’s officials saw Sarah and praises her to their king and he decides to take her as his wife. So, things take a completely different turn and Abraham ends up in real trouble without any way out.
But the Lord Almighty was still watching over Abraham and intervenes and saves Sarah and Abraham from the clutches of Pharaoh.
But I don’t blame Abraham for the blunders he made. He is a human being anyway with every weakness that you and I have. No matter how spiritual we are – there are times when we stumble and fumble in the time of a crisis.
We try to invent our own solutions for our own problems. We might think those solutions are the best, because we are spiritual.
Even when the devil is guiding us, we might think the Holy Spirit is leading us. But the end result of our decisions will prove that – we have been misled by the enemy. This is what happened to Abraham in the above situation.
So, let us analyze the mistakes that Abraham committed.
- In the time of this crisis Abraham did not seek God’s help. Instead, he prepares his own rescue plan.
- In the first place, Abraham’s decision to move to Egypt was completely unwise. Because Egypt was a land of pagans – a land of idol worshippers. There was absolutely no need for a Servant of God to move there in search of food. The move can be justified only if it was for a God-given assignment. But in Abraham’s case it was for a different reason.
- Abraham devised a plan of rescue that involved lying which was something very undesirable for a Man of God. Instead of trusting God, he trusted in his own wit for his safety.
Though Abraham committed a stupid mistake by moving to Egypt in search of food, God Almighty was still merciful to him and watched over him throughout his journey and stay in Egypt.
God did not allow Abraham’s weakness to bring misery up on his life. Finally, everything ends well through God’s intervention.
Next let us look at another story in the book of Ruth. The following verses tell the story in detail.
1In the days when the judges ruled, a there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
3Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.(Ruth 1, 1-5)
In the above verses too, we could see that the story begins with a famine in the land of Israel. This is the land chosen by God Almighty for Abraham’s descendants. And the Bible says: it is a land flowing with milk and honey.
However, there are famines occasionally. So, I think the reason for the famines might be the people, not the land.
Anyway, a man named Elimelek with his wife and two sons head to Moab. So, who were the Moabites?
Moabites were a group of people that descended from Moab, the son of Lot and his eldest daughter (Genesis 19,37). The Moabites were natural enemies of Israel and they had very despicable religious practices including child sacrifices.
So, Elimelek and his family settles down in Moab in order to escape from the famine that was ravaging Israel. Unfortunately, things did not go well for Elimelek and his family. After a short time Elimelek passed away. His two sons got married to Moabite girls, however they too died after a few years of their marriage.
Actually, Elimelek and his family moved to Moab with the purpose of saving their lives. But in the same place misfortune strikes them and three of the family members lose their lives. See the verses of Naomi.
20“Don’t call me Naomi, b ” she told them. “Call me Mara, c because the Almighty d has made my life very bitter. 21I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted e me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”(Ruth 1, 20-21)
Bible does not give the reasons for their death. However, from the context we know that those were untimely deaths that brought misery up on the family.
Anyway, here too the story ends well by the divine intervention and the reason was the faith of Ruth. God honored Ruth for her faith in Him and Naomi was comforted through Ruth. See the verses below:
16But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”(Ruth 1, 16-17)
Well, here I would like to ask you a question: Was Elimelek wise in making the decision to move to Moab?
My answer is: No. Moving to Moab was a great mistake. You might wonder why. Let us examine:
- Elimelek was a worshipper of God Almighty; the right thing for him to do in a time of crisis was to seek the help of the God of Israel and move according to His will. But Elimelek failed to seek God’s will.
- Elimelek was an Israelite who worshipped the true God of this universe. There was no reason whatsoever for Elimelek to seek help from Moab – a pagan nation that was engaged in neck-deep idol worship and other evil practices.
- The decision of Elimelek to live in Moab led to the spiritual corruption of his whole family. Finally, his two sons ended up marrying Moabite women which God almighty specifically prohibited in the Bible.
See the verses below:
3Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.(Deuteronomy 7, 3-4)
Well, here, you might think about the blessings that came through Ruth. But things changed in Naomi’s life only after Ruth’s Conversion, not before; and that too was only because of God’s mercy and faithfulness.
Again, I would like to take you through another story in relation to a famine in the land of Israel. The character in this story is Isaac. Let us read the story first.
1Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar.
2The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live.
3Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.
4I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring a all nations on earth will be blessed, b 5because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6So Isaac stayed in Gerar.(Genesis 26, 1-6)
From the above verses we understand that there was another famine in the time of Isaac and he decides to seek the help of Abimelek, king of the Philistines in Gerar.
After Isaac reaches Gerar, The God Almighty appears to Isaac and instructs him not to go to Egypt for help and advises him to stay in Gerar.
But you might wonder; why The LORD Almighty is asking Isaac to live in this pagan land of philistine as they were also idol worshippers who practiced all kinds of evil rituals.
We get the answer in the following verse:
3Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. .(Genesis 26, 3)
Well, now you know the reason why God Almighty instructs Isaac to stay in the city of Gerar. So, now it is clear that, during the famine, Isaac, in fact, moved into another part of the same area that God had already assigned for him and his descendants and it was accordding to God’s Will.
And also, another thing to note is: God Almighty very specifically instructs Isaac not to go to Egypt.
Saints, you might wonder why God hates his children going to Egypt seeking help. I think it is because; Egypt represented everything that was against the God Almighty.
It was the cradle of paganism and Baal Worship and, in fact, Pharaoh represented Satan on earth. So, those days it was really something very undesirable for Israelites to seek help from Egypt. Further, we could also see in the Book of Isaiah God rebuking those who go down to Egypt for help.
1Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.
2Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against that wicked nation, against those who help evildoers.
3But the Egyptians are mere mortals and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, those who help will stumble, those who are helped will fall; all will perish together. (Isaiah 3, 1-3)
Well, so far, we have examined three stories from the Bible in connection with a famine in the land of Israel and based on these three stories we have an important question to answer; that is: What we, born-again believers, can learn from these stories?
As you know well, famines are common in the world. Even now the world is going through a famine. It may not be specifically a famine because of crop failure, but it is a famine of a different nature.
As of now, people do not lack food but many other things. However, food can also become an issue, if God does not intervene and bring relief in this situation that the world is going through.
Anyway, all of you know about this situation and in fact you are already experiencing it. hence, I don’t want to talk more about it.
Now, let us try to answer the above question: What we, born-again believers, can learn from these stories?
- Saints, during this journey on earth many times we might encounter situations like famines plagues and pestilences; Nobody is exempted from them. Even Abraham had to face them. But we should not go to Egypt in search of a solution – that is – we should not rely on solutions that are not of God.
Sometimes we might be tempted to rely on people or powers that are connected to the Dark World, though they might appear to be reasonable and harmless. Once we start depending on them, our pain will increase. Instead of getting better solutions, we will encounter more problems.
- Again, In the time of a crisis we, as believers, should not rely only on our own understanding to deal with the crisis, instead, we should seek God’s help to get a clear picture of the situation.
- Also, as a child of God, you are here on earth with a Divine Assignment. Things like your place of residence, job, marriage etc. are directly linked to this Divine Assignment and without God’s consent, you should not make any changes to these areas.May be the place where you live has only a very few opportunities to earn more. Or, the organization you work for don’t offer better career prospects, or you are living with a spouse who is not up to your expectation; but you should not attempt changes in these areas without seeking the will of God.If the current circumstances force you to consider a change:First – seek the will of God in prayer.Second – weigh on a scale the merits and demerits of that “move” exclusively on the basis of: how it will benefit the Kingdom of God.
Another point to keep in mind is – When we rely on God and wait for Him to deal with an issue, it might not happen at our time but at HIS time. However, HIS solution will be the best and it will not come wrapped in more trouble. But we need to learn to be patient until He acts.
In the Scriptures there are many examples that can encourage us to lean on God Almighty in the time of a crisis; the more we dive into those scriptures, the more we learn to depend on God and walk with Him.