Sunday, March 05, 2006


Genesis 13


JULY 3RD, 2005

Good Morning, and a Happy 4th of July! Today we return to our study of the book of Genesis and the story of Abram. You’ll remember that in our last lesson, Abram returned to Bethel, the House of God and reestablished his fellowship with God after the fiasco in Egypt where he had gone in disobedience. Certainly he was certain he had left his sins behind him, but there was a time bomb ticking away under his own roof. The Egyptian slave girl, Hagar came along and the misery of that was still in the future. Let’s reread the first four verses to get the context.

Genesis 13:1-4. Read.

Now the story continues with the conflict that always grows when an increasing population seeks to use limited resources.

Genesis 13:5-13. Read

So Lot in a few short verses starts at Bethel the place of fellowship, and ends at Sodom, the center of debauchery. Again this reminds me so much of the deterioration we’ve seen in Christian schools, denominations, and seminaries which have backslidden so quickly from the positions they once held.

Genesis 13:5,6. Read

We see first that their separation in itself was not sin. It was a practical matter of ecology. All of us are stewards of the resources God has granted us, whether flocks and herds and tents as we see here, or such possessions and money as we are granted now. Bill Gustoff at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque would be glad to explain this to you in detail.

Genesis 13:7. Read.

Now we see that we are not only looking at a family issue. The land did not have to support just Abram and Lot’s families and herds, other people dwelt in the land also and their needs had to be taken into account. I stood with my brother Paul once on a hilltop overlooking the rugged desert of Northwestern Colorado. I commented on the beauty of the sun blasted landscape. “Yes, it’s dramatic,” he said, “but there’s much more to the story. When the white man first came here this was a lush paradise described by the early explorers as having grass belly high on a horse.” It took only a few decades of over grazing to turn it into sagebrush and sand. The Sahara Desert was once a forest. No great natural disaster created it, simply too many sheep and goats. This is what the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were facing.

There is more, too. Abram and Lot were not anxious, I’m sure to precipitate a war with the Canaanites and Perizzites, though one was to come soon enough. But Abram’s concern now was what was happening between his servants and Lot’s…

Genesis 13:8. Read.

Abram begins here as the peacemaker. He is the one who returned to fellowship with God and also as the eldest it was his responsibility. His justification for this is obvious… “for we be brethren”. Brethren, whether by the blood of familial relationship or by the blood of Christ have a responsibility to maintain civility and resolve strife. At a point before there was even such a thing as a church we can see this practical example in God’s word. No wonder one of the Lord’s requests of the Father for his disciples was for unity.

Genesis 13:9. Read.

Here is what MacDonald has to say about this verse:

“In true courtesy, kindness, and unselfishness, Abram offered Lot his choice of all the land. In lowliness of mind, he esteemed others better than himself.”

Philippians 2:3. Read.

Now the ball is in Lot’s court, so to speak. Does he seek to allow his uncle first choice?

Genesis 13:10. Read.

No, temptation is facing him. Should you visit the plain of Jordan now you would see fertile, blooming land, but nothing as it was then. The verse tells us that its beauty was comparable to that of Eden or to the Nile delta. God’s angry destruction had not yet descended on Sodom and Gomorrah. Where now there is a vast salt laden sinkhole, there was then perhaps a delta watered by the Jordan and the rains drawn off from the moisture of the Mediterranean Sea. What a paradise it must have been, and though we know from 2nd Peter Lot was a believer the temptation to take the whole of the very best was too much for him.

Genesis 13:11. Read.

Now would be a good time to turn to the maps in the back of your Bible. You will see that Bethel was on the high ground West of the Jordan valley. As they stood looking Eastward they could see the area around Sodom to their right and the upper valley to their left. Remember what Abram had offered. Lot could go right and Abram would go left or vice versa. The point was, they could have divided the valley between them. But Lot didn’t choose the South end toward Sodom or the North toward Galilee, he went straight forward and took it all and left Abram the wilderness between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. I’m certain he expected Abram to haggle, much as a car dealer today will inflate his price and then bargain down. But instead of arguing and bargaining, Abram stayed true to his offer and quietly let Lot take the best. We don’t see Abram journeying here, so he was able to stay in the place of fellowship while Lot’s greed moved him toward riches.

Now Lot had another choice to make. He could establish his home anywhere from Mt. Tabor in the North to Edom in the South. There were many cities of the plain. Which did he choose?

Genesis 13:12. Read.

Of all the cities of the plain he made the worst possible choice.

Genesis 13:13. Read

We see here the powerful word, “exceedingly”.

We can trace the steps, one at a time that Lot took as he went deeper and deeper into worldliness: The first step was into strife as we observed in verse 7. Then he began to look at the pleasures of the world, he saw in verse 10. After he saw what was desirable, he chose in verse 11. But he had to chose again and he pitched his tent toward in verse 12. MacDonald goes on to point out that in 14:2 we will see he chose to reside away from God’s priest and by 19:1 we will see him sitting in the very gate of Sodom, the place of political power, he actually became a local official!

By the way, what does it mean to pitch your tent toward something? I have some small experience at this. First it means locating close to where you want to be. Should you go out to the North Tailwater campground below Red Rock Dam when it’s not overcrowded, you’ll be able to tell what the interests of the campers are by where they chose to stay. The fishermen will pitch their tents toward the shallow fishing areas below the dam. The boaters will in the spaces close to the boat ramp. The bird watchers will pitch their tents toward the bridge to Eagle Island. The hikers toward the trail heads on the Northeast side. So Lot wanted to be close to the sinful city of Sodom.

There is more, however. Most tents have a doorway and the whole of the tent leans toward it. You pitch your tent so the view from the doorway is what you want to see. I remember camping by the Des Moines River on the West bank just up from Ottumwa. We at first pitched out tent toward the river for the view and to catch the breeze. But then the sky darkened to the Southeast and the wind began to pick up and chill. We turned out lean-to about and faced a giant oak tree and tied off to it and when the storm hit it wasted its fury on the back of our tent. Lot didn’t turn his back on the exceedingly great sin of Sodom, he pitched his tent toward it and the fury came.

But before that happened, God conferred his blessing and established his covenant and Lot was to be separated from it.

Genesis 13:14-18. Read.
I hope that Abram choosing to let Lot have the best and then God giving it to Abram anyway sounds familiar. Let’s look at another example:

I Kings 3:5-15. Read.

We do not have a stingy, tight-fisted God. We have one who loves his children and wishes to share his riches with them, but he wants us to make the right choice, the holy choice, the unselfish choice.

You’ll remember, I’m sure that we learned some weeks ago that the Abrahamic Covenant was given in phases with each one both expanding and clarifying God’s promise. In verses 14 and 15 he promises Abram all the land he can see, from the Mediterranean at his back to the distant Sea of Galilee on his left to the mountains of Edom on his right to the mountains of Abarim to the East. The rich plain Lot had chosen was only a small part.

Genesis 13:16. Read.

God adds to his promise here. Abram will not just inherit this land for himself, he will have descendents without number. The Jewish race will multiply again and again. He chooses here the word “dust” to describe it. Dust blows before the wind and is moved from place to place. I believe the picture is of the seed of Abram spreading across the whole of creation as indeed they have. And God is making this promise to an childless elderly man.

Now he gives Abram something specific to do:

Genesis 13:17. Read.

Why did God tell him to do this? God wanted him to see with his own eyes what would be his. God expects us to investigate the promises he has made us and having realized them, appropriate them by faith. Have you ever bought a new car? You drive it home, of course, savoring the smooth ride and the new car smell, but then do you say, “well, that was fun”, put it in the garage and never think of it again except as transportation? I sure don’t. I open the trunk and check out the storage space, I take the new jack out and see how it works. I look to see how easy it will be to change the taillights. I pop the hood and marvel at the complexity of the emissions system. I check the oil and the brake fluid and the transmission fluid and the antifreeze and the windshield washer fluid. I take out the owner’s manual and read it and investigate every knob and switch and warning light.

I’m making it mine by investigation and knowledge. It is already positionally mine in that it is registered in my name at the courthouse and possibly the bank and it better be at the insurance company. But it becomes personally mine as I learn about it and drive it.

God has given the Christian an “owner’s manual” also – his word. His promises are within it and he expects us to investigate them and to seize and claim them.

Genesis 13:18. Read.

I’m assuming that Abram obeyed God immediately, doing what he was told by faith and having picked out a spot for himself and his herds and servants he took several more actions. First, he removed his tent, which was his prerequisite for moving. It would no longer be pitched toward a view of the Jordan valley and possibly Sodom. If you look at your map you will see he moved South and somewhat West just over the tops of the Judean mountains. He passed over the divide. Now he faced the West and the sea. You’ll notice all the streams from Hebron flow West into the Mediterranean not East toward Sodom. He was placing the back of his tent toward the coming storm.

He did NOT build a house. Lot did, we’ll find later, but faithful Abram built something else – his third altar to the Lord. Having received the promise, he investigated it. Having investigated it, he claimed it. Having claimed it he established fellowship and worship of the God who gave it.

This is our challenge today. We have the promise of being his seed through faith in his only son, Jesus Christ. Having appropriated that promise by accepting his free gift of salvation and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, we are to grow in knowledge of him by studying his word that is “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path”. With that illumination we are to go out and teach the gospel to every creature. Our instructions are clear, our path is illuminated, it remains only to see towards where we pitch our tents.
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