There are seasons when life backs you into a corner. It may be personal trials or circumstances which make your environment unconducive. Both experiences usually drive us to seek greener pastures. Seeking greener pastures isn’t necessarily bad, but our quest is often fraught with uncertainty because there are usually no guarantees that the grass where we’re heading will be greener. Nevertheless, when we’re under significant stress, it’s easy to rationalise that over there cannot be as bad as where we find ourselves presently. Pressure can cloud our judgement and push us into compromising positions, especially where we or people we love are under threat.
Christians aren’t exempt from the circumstances that force others to seek greener pastures or the consequences of making bad decisions. But we have the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures to help us make wise choices even when we’re under severe pressure [Psalm 119:105]. In Genesis 26, there’s a famine in the land of Canaan, and Isaac has a choice to make. He decides to head to Egypt, where presumably there was no famine, and he’d find food and respite for his household. But God appears to Isaac and prohibits him from going to Egypt. God also commands Isaac to remain in Canaan and promises to be with him and bless him. Famine is particularly tough on an agrarian society. It took immense faith for Isaac to risk the lives of his household and livestock to obey God and remain in Canaan. That couldn’t have been an easy decision for him.
Yet, Isaac did as God instructed and reaped a bountiful reward for his obedience. A few verses later in Genesis 26, we read that Isaac sowed in the land and that same year, he reaped a hundredfold. That was no ordinary yield. Isaac became rich and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy. Considering Isaac inherited Abraham’s significant wealth before this episode [Genesis 25:5], he must have been very wealthy indeed [Genesis 26:12-13]. His opulence drew the envy of his neighbours, and they eventually asked him to leave [Genesis 26:14-16]. Isaac prospered stupendously in a land probably still feeling the effects of a famine because he obeyed God. The lesson is simple: your greener pastures are where God instructs you to pitch your tent, irrespective of the surrounding conditions [Psalm 23:2-5].
As I reflect on my life, I realise I’ve gone looking for greener pastures without seeking God’s will for me on multiple occasions. Even in seasons where I’ve sought His will, I’ve either struggled to hear clearly because of my biases or found it difficult to muster the faith to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I suspect I’m not alone, which is why Isaac’s story is very instructive. I can imagine that as Isaac weighed up his options, he thought of his father’s first foray into Egypt – also prompted by a famine [Genesis 12:10]. Abraham’s search for greener pastures in Egypt resulted in a moral failure which also put his wife at risk [Genesis 12:11-15]. Within the biblical context, Egypt is anti-God. Therefore, a voluntary alliance with Egypt results in ungodliness. Yet, Egypt also possesses the wealth of this world. As Christians, we may scoff at the riches of Egypt when we aren’t in lack. But if there’s a famine and Egypt offers respite, we may find its supposed greener pastures irresistible if we don’t possess a greater revelation like Isaac.
Let’s be honest: Christian or not, we all have needs, and Egypt’s riches can solve many of our problems. On the other hand, God is mightier than Egypt, and He can meet all our needs more perfectly, irrespective of what’s happening around us [Psalm 34:9]. But He will only do it His way and on His terms because He knows best. Ours is to trust and obey Him, just like Isaac did, knowing that, unlike Egypt, God desires us to prosper even as our souls also flourish [3 John 1:2]. Trusting God may violate social conventions and logic, put us in risky positions or even make us seem foolish. Yet if we can muster the faith to trust God, He will always vindicate us spectacularly [Romans 10:11]. For instance, Isaac prospered despite a famine and fierce opposition from detractors who tried to stifle his supply [Genesis 26:17-22]. But in the end, those enemies came to seek a peace treaty with him [Proverbs 16:7]. They even testified about the faithfulness of His God of their volition [Genesis 26:26-32].
Isaac’s life shows that nothing can successfully oppose a person blessed by God and walking in His will through discernment [Romans 12:2]. Such a person has built on the Rock [Matthew 7:24] and walks by faith, not sight [2 Corinthians 5:7]. Every believer who lives this way will inevitably become an object lesson, manifesting God’s awesomeness. But unfortunately, many Christians never anticipate the circumstances that might drive us to Egypt. So we don’t build our faith for the tough seasons as Scripture instructs [Jude 1:20]. We also don’t spend quality time with God and learn to decipher His voice when the storms of life aren’t raging. As a result, we struggle to distinguish His voice from others and obtain the direction we need when trouble comes. So, we’re ill-equipped to rebuff the allurement of Egypt when the going gets tough.
The simple truth about the Christian walk is that if we don’t anchor ourselves in God like Isaac, we’ll eventually succumb to temptation and moral failure when the famine comes and Egypt offers us a way out. You’ll find yourself in ungodly places behaving immorally, either through ignorance or desperation. Don’t wait till that happens [Colossians 2:6-8]. Don’t rest until you know you’re walking in God’s will for your life because genuine green pastures can only be found in His presence [Exodus 33:14-15].