The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and transcendent above all things. The Bible teaches that God has supreme control over all matters and facets of life and uses circumstances to accomplish His will. Knowing all things, God is able to exercise His power over all things to arrange circumstances to ultimately fit His plans so that when people freely make poor decisions that are against His will, it all works together to accomplish the things that God desires in the end.
One of the early examples of this truth in the Bible is found in Genesis 12:10-20. In this portion of scripture one can observe the mankind exercise foolishness through his free will, and then watch God exercise His sovereignty to clean up the mess. In Genesis 12:10-20 the Bible makes its first mention of a famine in the land. The Bible says that the famine was very severe so that Abram was put in a position to make a difficult decision. God had instructed Abram to go to a land that He would show Abram and give to him as a land inheritance. God promised to bless Abram, multiply his name and his family, and glorify Himself through Abram. However, when the famine hit, Abram had a difficult decision to make. Genesis 12:10-20 explains that Abram was in the land of Canaan - the land that God instructed Abram to go to. Abram did well to demonstrate faith in God's promises to go to Canaan, but did not do so well to continue to trust in the Lord once he was there.
The Bible shows that as the severity of the famine grew, Abram took his family to Egypt for a while. The scriptures never testify that God commanded Abram to go into Egypt. On the contrary, the last set of instructions that God gave was to go to Canaan. The Bible shows Abram observing circumstances and simply responding to them. The challenge is that, while the Bible is clear to document Abram's praise and worship of God earlier in Genesis 12, the Bible does not document Abram inquiring of the Lord as to how to address the circumstances caused by the famine. Abram responded out of instinct. Unfortunately, when people that are sinners by nature, respond by instinct instead of the leadership of the Lord by His Spirit, bad things happen.
Genesis 12:10-20 testifies that Abram's response to the famine was out of fear. Decisions that are governed by fear without consideration of the Lord's will usually create miserable situations. The other challenge is that God made it so that everything reproduces of its own "kind." Therefore, one that operates by the motive of fear will simply produce more fear. Abram left Canaan in fear of the famine. Scriptures shows that Abram entered Egypt in fear as well. Fearing the Egyptian leadership, Abram asked his wife to lie about her identity. Abram, for selfish fear of his own life, told Sarai to lie and say that she was his sister rather than his wife. Though God had promised to multiply and bless Abram, he feared that he would be killed on account of his beautiful wife. Abram figured that since his wife was beautiful, they would kill him to take her if they found out Abram was married to her.
The scriptures go on to show that the Pharaoh of Egypt did find Sarai beautiful and did take her for a wife for a time. Sarai honored the command of her foolish husband and lied. Abram simply dealt with the circumstances so that he could live. Pharaoh was so impressed with Sarai that he treated Abram well by giving him flocks and herds of donkeys, camels, and servants. However, it was not long before God intervened to clean up the mess that Abram was making of himself.
Genesis 12:10-20 shows that God struck Pharaoh and his house with severe plagues to get his attention. While some might criticize God for striking Pharaoh when Abram was at fault, scriptures show that upon striking Pharaoh, he recognized the involvement of God. God not only sought the opportunity to keep Abram in line with His will, but also took advantage of the circumstances to reveal Himself to Pharaoh at the same time. Though Pharaoh was "innocent" (though the Bible teaches that none are righteous), he was able to realize that the Living God was working in his life. The scriptures show that Pharaoh soon realized that Sarai was Abram's wife, and not his sister. Pharaoh soon realized that Abram was a special man in regards to the plan of the Living God. Therefore, out of fear, Pharaoh told Abram and Sarai to leave immediately.
There are a few things to recognize about this testimony in regards to the grace and sovereignty of God. First, God used the foolishness of Abram to accomplish His will. It is true that as people, we all have the freedom to make whatever choices we want. This truth was demonstrated in that while God desired Abram to be in Canaan, he went to Egypt instead. However, God's power is greater than the foolish choices of mankind. God used Abram's presence in Egypt to accomplish His will to multiply Abram. While Abram was in Egypt, he received flocks, herds, and servants. The enterprise of Abram had grown even though Abram was in a position of disobedience and fear. The scriptures show that the foolishness of mankind cannot and will not affect God's promises that He makes. God made promises to Abram and because God's nature is faithful, God would fulfill those promises no matter what. This is the tremendous grace of the Living God!
Additionally, it is important to recall that Abram left to Egypt because of his fear of circumstances. God never told Abram to leave, but Abram made up his mind to go to Egypt where he felt it was safer. Yet after Pharaoh sent Abram away the Bible makes no mention of Abram being affected by the famine. The famine that Abram feared so much that he operated in disobedience to the command of God, turned out to have no affect on him whatsoever. The Bible shows that God is able to work in the midst of troubling circumstances so that circumstances do not affect God's ability to provide and fulfill His promises. God is bigger than any circumstance. God uses circumstances to reveal things about Himself to His people. God transcends circumstances so that He is able to continue His work unaffected by "trials" or "problems." These were valuable lessons that God was teaching Abram about Himself. Thus, one is able to discover that as God made His promises to Abram, God's motive for those promises were to simply reveal Himself to Abram, His family, His descendants, and those around them. God's promises simply reflect God's desire to show us who He is since the work He does to fulfill those promises provides evidence of His being and defines traits of His character.