Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday, June 23rd

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Chronicles 5-6, Psalm 119:41-48, Romans 7
Today's scripture focus is Genesis 13

Genesis 13

English Standard Version (ESV)

Abram and Lot Separate

13 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as 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 Abram called upon the name of the Lord. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents,so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.
Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” 10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lorddestroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are,northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Accompanying sermon by Bob Deffinbaugh: Lot Looks Out For Number One
Accompanying sermon by Ray Pritchard: Dancing With the Devil

When God first called Abram, He told him to leave his land and his family behind.  It would be safe to assume God didn't mean his wife, but it would also be safe to assume it was supposed to mean his parents and his siblings.  At first Abram didn't leave either his land or his family - Terah moved the family to Haran.  And Abram stayed in Haran until his father died.  And, after his father's death, he left Haran, but took Lot with him.

In yesterday's passage we also saw that, due to his lack of faith in God providing the means to His promise, Abram detoured to Egypt during the famine, lied about Sarai being his sister, and amassed a fair amount of wealth in the promise.

Both of these acts of disobedience lead up to today's passage.  The family he shouldn't have brought along, and the excess wealth he shouldn't have had, both combine to create the scene we see in today's passage.

Lot and Abram have become too wealthy - their workers are fighting and the land, which is still owned by the Canaanites and the Perizzites, is having difficulty providing for both families and all their animals.  They need to separate.  As God had instructed Abram in the beginning but he had failed to do.  God's purposes are not thwarted by man's disobedience.

Once Abram becomes forced to do what he should have done all along, he does it in a gracious and godly manner, allowing Lot to pick the land in which he would dwell.

Lot completely takes advantage of his uncle's generous offer and chooses the best land for himself - based purely on economic factors.  He may or may not have known of the sinfulness of the city of Sodom, but he set out to camp hear the city.

Deffinbaugh: While the soil was fertile and water was plentiful, the men in those cities were wicked. The spiritual cost of Lot’s decision was great. And, in the final analysis, the material benefits all become losses, too.

Lot did not intend, I believe, to actually live in the cities of the valley. At first, he simply set off in that general direction (cf. verse 11). But once our direction is set, our destination is also determined for it is now only a matter of time. While Lot lived in his tents at first (13:2), before long he has traded in his tent for a townhouse in Sodom (19:2,4,6). He may have lived in the suburbs initially, but at last he lived in the city (19:1ff).

Some decisions may not seem very significant, but they set a particular course for our lives. The decision may not seem very important, but its final outcome can be terrifying and tragic. And often the appearance is that this choice is one that is certain to be to our advantage. Material prosperity should never be sought at the cost of spiritual peril.

How time can change our perspective of prosperity! When the decision was made to settle in the Jordan valley, it was a virtual paradise (13:10). Moses, however, included a parenthetical remark which put this beauty in a very different light: “This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” (Genesis 13:10).

How different things appear in the wake of divine judgment. A beautiful paradise, and so it was—until God brought down fire and brimstone upon it (19:24). From that day on it was a wasteland.

Far more than the loss of his possessions and his prosperity, Lot paid a terrible price for his short-lived pleasure. According to Peter, Lot’s soul was continually vexed by what he saw in that city (II Peter 2:7). Even when the saint is surrounded by sensual pleasure, he cannot enjoy sin for long. And more tragic than anything, Lot paid for his decision in his family. His wife was turned to salt because of her attachment to Sodom (19:26). His daughters seduced Lot and caused him to commit incest, no doubt a reflection on the moral values they had learned in Sodom (19:30ff.).

It's interesting to note that God did not speak to Abram until after he had made the decision to separate. Blessing didn't come until he obeyed, and neither did reassurance.  The only thing standing the way of divine blessing was human disobedience.  Once Abram obeyed God, God reassured Abram and restate His promise to him....

As Abram stood, looking over the land, he could perhaps see the rich black dirt of the Jordan valley where Lot was headed. Also he could see the dust which blew about him, typifying the land where he would live. But God used that very dust as a testimony to the blessings that would come. His seed would be as plentiful as the dust which dominated the land where he lived. No longer was he to look on that dust with doubt, but with hope, for it was to be the symbol of future blessing....

For now he was not to possess it, but to inspect it with the eye of faith. The promise, “For I will give it to you” (verse 17) is future. It was not until the occupation of the land by the Israelites under Joshua that this promise was fulfilled. God’s promises take time to be possessed, and this is because God has planned it that way.

How gracious God is to speak words of comfort and reassurance when all appearance of blessing seems out of reach. How good to be reminded that God’s Word is reliable and that His promises are as certain as He is sovereign.

The decisions reached by Abram and Lot are the same as those which confront every Christian. We must decide whether to trust in the sovereignty of God or in our own schemes and devices. We must determine whether to trust in the ‘uncertainty of riches’ or in the God Who ‘richly supplies us’ (I Timothy 6:17). We must decide whether to invest in the ‘passing pleasures of sin’ or the future ‘reward’ which is promised by God (Hebrews 11:25-26).

These decisions are clearly contrasted in the separation of Lot and Abram. Lot chose to act on the basis of utility; Abram on the basis of unity. For the sake of unity, Abram was willing to be taken advantage of (cf. I Corinthians 6:1-11, esp. verse 7).

Abram acted on the ground of faith in a God Who had promised to provide. Lot chose to direct his life on the uncertain foundation of financial security. Abram was greatly blessed, and Lot lost it all.

Lot chose to dwell in a city which seemed like paradise (13:10), but was filled with sinners. Abram decided to live in a deserted place, but where he could freely worship his God....

Abram was successful because he was a servant. He did not get ahead in life because he climbed the hill of success over the wreckage of men’s lives who got in his way. He was exalted by God because he placed the interests of others ahead of his own....

The world’s way of getting ahead is to look out for number one. That was Lot’s way, as well. God’s way to blessing is looking up to Number One, and looking out for others (cf. Matthew 22:36-40). Such a life can only be lived by faith. Such a life can only cause our faith in God to grow.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 14
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Chronicles 7-8, Psalm 119:49-56, Romans 8

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