We have now entered the section of Genesis where the focus shifts to one individual and his family line. The Bible has given us the origins of
- the natural world and how it has become what it is – the flood;
- the social condition of the world, how and why we came to be what we are – sin of Adam, tower of Babel.
The environment has not changed, other than continue its rate of degeneration, and the social situation has not changed either. We still read about the same kinds of problems caused by sin that plagued man thousands of years ago.
The difference, from the Bible perspective, is that it will no longer focus on the causes of man's predicament but will now explain the cure. God's plan to send a savior will be traced beginning with one man and his family. From this man, Abraham, God will build a nation through whom the savior will come.
In our last lesson we were introduced to him and followed his first steps of faith.
- His call to leave his homeland and go to the land of Canaan.
- His test of faith in Egypt where he failed to rely on God for help and protection.
- The fact that God rescued him anyways in order to protect the seed of promise that he carried.
Now we continue with his journey and his relationship to Lot, his nephew.
Lot's Choice – Chapter 13
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him.
2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 3 He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
Note that Abram leaves Egypt wealthier than when he went in. He still has his wife and nephew Lot, and he is now a wealthy man.
The problem is that he does not have a clear conscience. Jesus said, "What will you give in exchange for your soul?" Abram had exchanged security for his soul and felt bad.
Notice that upon leaving Egypt he immediately returns to the first place he had settled when he originally came to Canaan. Abram goes back to the original altar where he first called upon God's name. He once again calls on God's name in order to renew that relationship and ask for forgiveness.
Abram's decision – Vs. 5-13
5 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.
The fact that they were rich was not a blessing to them but rather a burden. Perhaps Lot lost respect because of what had happened; perhaps their wealth weighed them down so much that it motivated them to settle somewhere rather than be mobile; perhaps materialism bred competition and self-interest.
The Bible says that eventually they could not dwell together peacefully because there was a competition for resources. This competition caused strife between their servants and also produced a bad witness before the people of the land, the Perizzites, and the Canaanites.
Abram has learned a lesson about making a proper witness before non-believers so he offers to solve the conflict.
8 So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left." 10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.
He gently appeals to Lot based on the fact that they are brethren and there should not be any strife between them. Note the way Abram solves the problem:
- He describes the problem and does not try to lay blame. The problem was that they were brethren and there was strife between them and that was not right.
- He proposes a solution that will solve the problem, not one that will aggravate it. He did not throw his weight around, gossip, pout, scheme or promote more quarreling. He did what was necessary to stop the fight.
- He allowed Lot to take what he felt he needed first and trusted God to provide for himself. This was a deal that Lot could not refuse. The problem was having enough land to support their livestock, and Lot was given the choice of land and location.
The Bible says that the land Lot chose was to his eyes like the Garden of Eden (that his ancestors spoke of) or like the lush area of Egypt that they had just left.
The land also had established cities so he chose all of the land and separated from Abram. Once again it seemed, on the surface, that Lot chose well and served himself advantageously. However:
- He displayed disrespect since Abram as his elder should have had first choice.
- He displayed selfishness in that he made no offer to share any of the fertile land with Abram.
- He displayed lack of spiritual wisdom because he was purposefully interjecting himself into an area that would be a temptation to him and his family. (At first he pitched his tent near the city but eventually began to live in the city itself.)
- He also displayed foolishness in wanting to go it alone and not seeing the security that existed in remaining unified with his only relative and the only believer in the land.
All this done to promote his wealth and well-being.
God renews His promise
14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you." 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
Once the separation is complete, it seems that Lot has gained the best in the deal: fertile land, water, developed city system.
Abram has the desert, the mountains, the sea but he continues to have the presence and promise of the Lord. God renews and expands His promise to Abram: all the land he sees, even that which he has given up, will be his and his descendants. Of course, the Jews did not continually possess the land throughout history and the Bible says that at the end of the world the heavens and earth will dissolve. The promise as we now understand it is that the Promised Land represents the kingdom of heaven, and the spiritual descendants of Abraham will possess the Kingdom forever.
Not only will he be the head of a great nation, that nation will be a blessing to others; that nation will produce the Savior – that nation will be great in number – too great to count.
In relation to the other nations, the Israelites were rather a small group and remain so today. This promise as we now understand it in light of the gospel refers to the spiritual descendants of Abram. Those who are the spiritual Israelites through Christ Jesus. These are a great number and continue to increase until Jesus comes.
Once again, Abram is encouraged by the Lord's renewed promise. After the separation with Lot he resettles himself and renews his worship and fellowship with the Lord.
These chapters describe a world that has been confirmed by modern archaeology:
- Ur was only known through the Bible until it was discovered in a 19th century archaeological dig.
- Haran and other sites were also subsequently dug up.
- Scientists found a civilization that was highly cultured with libraries, great cities, commerce and architecture.
- Abram was in Egypt when that country was a great power and many of the pyramids were already old.
So the life and times of Abram are accurately depicted in the Bible. What you read in Genesis is an historical picture of that time which has been verified through modern archaeology. Not only is the history accurate but so are the lessons that it teaches us about our own lives today.
1. God will take you back
Abram had received God's promises and had immediately discarded them. This is after God had appeared to him. Notice that when he returned to Canaan and renewed his prayer, God restored Abram and blessed him by renewing His promises. We sometimes feel that what we have done is so bad or so repetitive that God is fed-up with us. It even seems that at times we are fed-up with ourselves.This story shows that God is not only ready to take us back but He is happy to take us back (note how He blessed Abram even more when Abram did the right thing with Lot).
2. Sin always has side effects
Abram and Lot came out of Egypt rich in material goods but the loss of respect because of Abram's actions divided them. They came out of Egypt rich in material goods but because they gained much of it through deception, it caused strife, self-centeredness and competition between the two families. The most dangerous lie that Satan promotes is that just one sin or just a little sin will not matter in the long run. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and sooner or later we receive the effect of every sin we commit.
3. God's Word is sure
For many years skeptics could say that the only proof of Ur's existence was found in the Bible and that was not credible evidence. For many years believers had to base their faith only on what the Word said about this matter. In the 18th century scientists proved that the Word was accurate, the skeptics were wrong and believers were justified in their faith. I think God helps our faith along with these types of discoveries from time to time and I am glad for it. However, there are many things in the Bible that remain strictly matters of faith – the Word says so and I believe it (end of the world, glorified bodies, destruction of Satan and death). It is our turn in our generation not to wait for science to prove our faith for us, but rather say, "The Bible says this and I believe it."
Some proof may come along to help us out from time to time but the Lord is looking for those, like Abram, who did not see but believed anyways. These are the true descendants of Abram that the Bible says will inherit the promises made to him.