Monday, May 29, 2017

Genesis 13:1-18 Making the Right Choices based on God’s Promises

The story and the life of Abram, who became Abraham [17:5] is recorded for us in Genesis Chapters 12 -25.  

In Chapter 12 we read of God’s call of Abraham to leave his country and kindred to go to a land which God would show him. Along with the call comes a set of wonderful and great promises: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” [Gen.12:2]. He takes his nephew Lot, his brother’s son with him to the Promised Land called Canaan,   which is named after the cursed son of Ham.   God was planning to reverse the curse in this land and to make it a land of promise. All this foreshadows God’s great plan in terms of the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth [Rev. 21:1].   At Christ’s second coming the curse with which the earth has been cursed in Genesis 3 will be finally lifted, “and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” [Hab.2:14]  

As he arrives in the Promised Land however, a challenge confronts him and his family. There is a terrible drought, and he leaves there to seek temporary relief in Egypt. This presented him with further troubles, relating to his wife Sarai.  He almost lost his wife to Pharaoh due to a   lie concerning her which he told Pharaoh   in Egypt, when he said that she was his sister. But by the grace of God he was helped. We read of this in vv.  11- 20 and we asked the question whether Abram did right to go to Egypt for help, when he could have in fact relied upon the Lord to sustain him in Canaan in the midst of this drought, as He would indeed sustain Moses and Israel in their 40 year long journey through the desert into the Promised Land. All this reminds us that Christians, the called-out people of God, on their way to our heavenly city can indeed make bad choices, based on a lack of faith and a lack of biblical thinking and motivated by fear. If it were not for the grace and mercy of our faithful and merciful God, who forgives us in Christ we would never find our way out of Egypt back into the Promised Land. 

With that unhappy experience in Egypt behind him he, in Chapter 13,  returns  with all his family to  the promised land  where  he  finds his next challenge, and   in this challenge we shall find him a wiser  man. “So Abram went up from Egypt…into the Negev” (v.1).

1.                   The first thing we learn is that Abram returned to Canaan.  He left the place of compromise and deceit and he returned to the place of promise. As he retraces his steps we are reminded that this is the way of repentance.  The biblical idea of repentance[1], both in the Greek and the Hebrew,   contain the thought of turning away from one’s error or sin. Abram turns away from Egypt and returns to God’s design for him.  That is what you must do that when you have fallen into sin. You repent by confessing your sin, and by leaving the place of sin, and by returning to the place of blessing. That is the story of the prodigal son [Lk 15:11-32].  Zacchaeus the tax collector [Luke 19:1-10] demonstrated his repentance when he confronted by Jesus. He confessed his sin. He went to the people from whom he had unfairly exacted tax money and he paid them back with interest, and from then on he walked with God.  

Abram returned and he came to “Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first, and there he called on the Name of the LORD.” [13:3, 4 cf. 12:8]. Griffith Thomas says: “Whenever we backslide there is nothing else to do but to come back by the old gateway of genuine repentance and simple faith.”[2] 

So, Abram went back to the place where he had first worshiped God in the Promised Land, and there he found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  We need to stop here for a moment and consider a fact that runs through the biblical narrative.  We often find that it is not the enemies of God, but God’s people themselves who are the cause of the problems that exist in this world. Many a time we  who are the church are quick to condemn the sin and hypocrisy of the world  around us, but fail to take the log out of our own eyes [See Romans 2:21-24]. If it had not been for God who had intervened on Abram’s behalf in Egypt there is no telling where he would have found himself at the end of the day.  And so it is with us.

So then, there between Bethel and Ai, Abraham found himself in that place in which he would meet with God once again. This is important for it influences the story line which follows from here.    

2.                  A new challenge arises, and it comes from his nephew, Lot. Another challenge!  The life of faith is rarely straight forward!  Now, both of these men, in the course of time, had grown very wealthy (v.2). Between them they had so much livestock that they found it hard to live together any longer.   We read in vv. 6-7 that “the land could not support both of dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot.”  This is a real moment of tension, and sinful people can easily make such a situation worse.  But, at this moment Abram was living in the recent experience of the grace of God extended to him, and because of this he has become wiser and therefore instead of angry words and strife he can also extend grace to Lot.  Do you see what experiencing God does to you?  Knowing the grace of God experientially helps us to be more thoughtful, self-denying, and kind.   And so Abram took the initiative in vv.8-9 and he spoke to Lot about the problem. And this time he makes the right choice based on the promises of God.  These are the words of a man who had been humbled by God!  He was back in that place of trusting in the promises of God. Now remember that God and not   Lot had been promised to be the father of a great nation [12:2] (the mystery of election). He had been promised this when as yet he had no child and no son to carry on the family line. 
Lot would later become the father of the Ammonites and the Moabites, by an incestuous relationship with his daughters [19:30-38]. These tribes would become sworn enemies of Israel in time, but Abram believed that this land was his by God’s promise. Therefore he could say to Lot in a peaceful way, “Listen! Take what you want. I will take what is left!” Abram kept reminding himself whose he was, remembering who had accepted him and who loved him. Lot was not born of the chosen seed of the woman, and so we will see in time that Lot will become an obstacle to Israel.  Therefore this parting actually becomes a blessing. It becomes necessary.  This is worth reflecting on.  As Christians we often think face situations   in which we do not realise that those who are close to us can actually become obstacles in our Christian progress, particularly if they prove to be self- centred pursuers of their own agendas and not of God’s agenda, and this leads to a parting of the ways.  Fighting on every hill is not good. We have to choose our battle carefully. We need to be as peaceful as we can afford to be.  David had too much blood on his hands.  Let God sort Lot out!  This is Abram’s confidence. By faith he knew that the last page had not yet been written, and he could trust   God in this. And so he made the right choice based on the promises of God. When your eyes are on Jesus and His promises for you, then you will not easily be tempted to live for the quick fix!  Let the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus direct your agenda. Keep Christ before your eyes. David says in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the LORD always before me, because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  

And so Abram humbly says to his nephew, “You choose.” The Bible says that “whoever humbles himself will be exalted. [Matt 23:12]. Remember this principle as you live your life in this world! And as a church we must also remember this. As we participate in kingdom work, remember that the best way to remove those obstacles which prevent our reforming and building and expanding is to humbly walk with God, and according to His Word, and to be like the Lord Jesus, meek, just and patient.

Now Lot’s choice was based on what his eyes saw and desired. It was purely physical, and selfish. He quickly grabbed that which he thought was best:  “He saw that the Jordan valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt…” [v. 10]. Little did he   know that this was the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, filled with wicked great sinners against the LORD” [v. 13]. Little did he know this this land was soon to be judged with fire and brimstone.
“Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tents as far as Sodom.”[v.12]   so, it is clear now that Lot had abandoned the land of promise in which the operative principle was to live by faith in God’s promises. Abram, by contrast   will be blessed and he will become the sole inheritor of the land.

3.  The Lord Confirms The Blessing Coming On Abram After Lot Had Separated From Him. [Vv. 14-17] All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”  In Chapter 15:18 God will provide specific details. The land will be from the Nile to the Euphrates.  The land would actually stretch far beyond Abram’s physical sight.   Again we learn the principle that we walk by faith and not by sight.  God promises exceedingly, abundantly, above that which the eyes can see. [Eph. 3:20, 21]

Abram’s offspring eventually received a substantial portion of the promised land of Canaan under Joshua, but not all.  Under David more of the land was taken, and under Solomon it became a reality…but not really, because God had even more in mind.  Abram is going to be the father of much more than a people who will a territory in the Middle East.  Abram’s offspring would be heir of the world.  [Rom. 4:13]. So here we are!  Children of Abram, offspring of the promises of God in Windhoek.  A vast multitude is being called out from every corner of the world, and all those who profess faith in Jesus are of the promised offspring of Abram, the father of our faith.  

As we speak from the perspective of this chapter, the Canaanites and Perizzites were still living in the land, and yet God told Abram to consider it as his own.   They would not be there much longer.  “So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mare at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord” (v.18). He is surrounded by enemies, but what God promises He will do. Nothing will separate Abram from the love of God, not even his temporary unbelief and lapse of faith in Egypt. God has promised. He is faithful, and Abraham knows it, and he is thankful and humbled because of it.

CONCLUSION:

Dear child of God, I don’t know where you are in your life’s journey. It is possible for you to be here today in the presence of God’s people and of God and yet, in your heart, be in Egypt. To you God says, “Repent and return!” Humble yourselves in the sight of God and He will lift you up.

Dear Child of God, trust in God. Be patient! Be kind to those who disagree with you. Let go of the aggressive pursuit of your own desires, and your restlessness and unbelief.  God is in charge.     In Christ you have received far better promises than Abram. You do not see it now, but by faith fix your eyes on them and on Jesus.  All things are yours.  This inheritance is ours. It is secured for you  by the Lord Jesus Christ and  it is guaranteed to you  by the Holy Spirit.  
Do not fear the strongholds of Satan and the kingdoms of men.  
Christ has already conquered them by his life and death. 
Walk and live in this this world in the confidence of the gospel! 
Amen.   




[1] Greek: metanoia, literally to have a change of mind; Hebrew: There are two words for repentance in the Old Testament Hebrew.  One word is “nacham” which means “to be sorry” or “to regret” but the overwhelming majority of the time it is used (391 times) it means “turn” or “return” (“shuwb”).
[2] Quoted in: Philip Eveson: The Book of Origins, p. 261, Welwyn Commentary, Evangelical Press 2001 

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