Abram's Faith and Lot's Faithlessness
June 06, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Please open your Bibles to Genesis 13. We are looking at this chapter that has already been read for you this morning, and continuing in our study in the Book of Genesis. As we come to Genesis 13, we come to a story of human conflict and we also come to the beginning of a contrast. So, I look at this as a chapter of conflict and of contrast. I was reading recently about a tragedy that happened in the summer of 1986. Two ships collided in the Black Sea and sank, both of them, bringing hundreds of passengers to the cold depths with them. This is a great tragedy in any case, but it became even more bitter when the cause of the tragedy of the two ships crashing together became known. It turned out that each of the two captains knew of the presence and the direction of the other ship, but neither one was willing to divert their course. And so, they continued steaming toward one another, charging the other to turn, until it was too late to stop the momentum of the ships, and they crashed into each other and both sank.
Now, you might say, "What kind of stubbornness would result in this kind of a tragedy?" But all you have to do is look in your own heart and realize how much each of us plays the role of one of those ship captains from time to time. How we are unwilling to divert our course even if it brings suffering and tragedy to ourselves or our family, because we're just not willing to turn, we're not willing to yield, we're not willing to avoid the conflict for the sake of the relationship. I think as we come to Genesis 13, we see the way not to do a conflict on the one part, and then the way by Abraham's faith that a conflict can be avoided and by faith, overcome. I think we have a wonderful role model and example for us through the faith of Abram. We also see in this, I think, the beginning of a contrast, and it's not a major theme in these chapters in Genesis, but it's there. It's the contrast between the faithlessness of Lot and the outcome of his life, and the faithfulness of Abram, and this is a constant theme in scripture.
In 1986, when I was on route to a mission trip I was taking in Kenya, I had the opportunity to visit one of the old diamond houses there in Amsterdam with some friends of mine and we wanted to look at some diamonds. It was unforgettable. I remember they served us ginger ale in goblets and all this kind of thing, and it was all very classy, and that's the way we spent our 20 hours in Amsterdam. It was a very exciting time. I remember that the salesman as he was bringing out the diamonds, first laid down a black velvet cloth and then sprinkled the diamonds onto the cloth, and the black velvet behind the glistening diamonds provided the perfect backdrop so that the diamonds could catch the light and by contrast, display their characteristics. And so, we see this again and again in scripture, how God will lay out the blackness of someone's sin and of their character, and then contrast it with the faith and the obedience and the love of someone else. So, by contrast, you can see what God wants you to see.
Later in Genesis, you will see, for example, the contrast of the bickering selfishness of the sons of Jacob and the character of Joseph, as he stands under the plan of God and is willing to take anything that God sends his way. His arm staying limber to the service of God. Or, you could see, for example, the craven disobedience of King Saul against the man after God's own heart, David, as he was willing to obey God, no matter what God said. Probably best of all, you see this in John 18, the contrast between Peter and his repeated denials of Jesus, and Jesus, the sublime King who is in control of everything and who is totally courageous at every moment. The narrative is interwoven there in John 18 and 19, the faithlessness and cowardice of Peter, and the courage, boldness and the love of Jesus Christ. I think we see the same thing here in Genesis 13, by contrast. We see the faith-filled example of Abram and the faithless choice of Lot.
Abram’s Faith-filled Restoration
Abram’s Sojourn in Egypt: A Spiritual Disaster
Now, what's the context here? As we look in Verses 1 through 4, I see a story of restoration, of Abram's spiritual restoration. It says in Verses 1-4, "So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev, he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord."
Now, Abram's sojourn in Egypt had been a spiritual disaster. A spiritual disaster. It was prompted, I believe, in my reading of the text, by his lack of faith in leaving the Promised Land, to begin with. Remember that God had called Abram to leave his country and his people and his father's household, and go to the land that God would show him. And so, Abram, by faith, left Ur of the Chaldees and then later, by faith, left Haran and eventually ended up in the Promised Land. There God spoke to him and said in Chapter 12, Verse 7, “To your offspring I will give this land.” And so basically, spiritually, you've come home. This is the Promised Land. Well, we see no word of command from God in the text to leave the Promised Land when the famine got severe. Look at Verse 10 of Chapter 12. It says, "Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe."
Well, was that reason though to leave the Promised Land? Was that reason to turn his back on God and to believe that God could not provide for him? Was there any spiritual order from God to leave the Promised Land now and go down to Egypt? I don't think so. Could not the God who created heaven and earth have provided for Abram and for his household in the Promised Land, even despite the famine? Now, later on, once Abram's faith has been so sharpened and developed through all of these experiences, when his little son Isaac says to him, "Here's wood and fire, but where is the sacrifice?" You remember what Abram said at that point? "God will provide the sacrifice, my son." So, he's reached a different level at that point, but his faith wasn't there. He could have said God will provide food here in the Promised Land, but he didn't. And so, not by faith, but by lack of faith, he left the Promised Land and went to Egypt, and it was nothing but a disaster. It was lack of faith that prompted Abram at that point to say to Sarai in Chapter 12, Verse 13, "Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
The whole thing is so craven and cowardly. It doesn't seem befitting a man of Abram's spiritual stature. And, it was lack of faith in God that led Abram immediately into spiritual or physical trouble with Pharaoh. He really had to escape Egypt with his life, it seems, he's evicted almost from the country. The whole thing had been a faithless exercise and a spiritual disaster but the beautiful thing is, where we are faithless, God will remain faithful. It says in 2 Timothy 2:13, "For he cannot disown himself." How many of us count on that, for God to be faithful even when we are faithless? That really is the story of my salvation and yours as well. A faithful God who never forgets what He's about, and who continues to work with sinners like us, even when we make great mistakes and commit sins. And so, this has been a spiritual disaster.
Abram “Heavy” with Wealth
As Abram comes out of Egypt, he's bringing some baggage with him. He's bringing some baggage with him. Abram is literally heavy with wealth. Look at Verse 2, it says, "Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold." Now, the Hebrew literally is heavy, heavy with wealth. Gold, for example, is among the densest metals known to man. I calculated this out if my Bible here, which I'm lifting with one hand, if it were made of gold, it would weigh 42 pounds. Forty-two pounds. A 42-pound Bible, how would you like that?
Or this podium here, I calculated this out, you wonder when I have time for this, and I really don't, but as you're looking this podium would be well over a ton if it were made of gold. And here is Abram coming out of Egypt, heavy with wealth. Well, it's one thing if you have a house with a foundation and you don't have to move much to be heavy with wealth. It has its own problems. But here is Abram traveling about in tents by camels, I guess, going from place to place. Wealth can be a crushing burden and can be a big problem as much as a blessing. John Lippett said, "I've been more bossed by my fortune than I've bossed it." I love that quote. Sometimes the wealth can be in charge of you rather than you in charge of the wealth. God sometimes does permit godly people to become wealthy. It does happen, but even then, it's a great burden and it comes with a warning. In 1 Timothy 6:17, it says, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." And so, that's a command and a warning in 1 Timothy 6, concerning wealth.
Matthew Henry said this about this account in Genesis 13. It says, "Abram was very heavy, so the Hebrew word signifies; for riches are a burden, and those that will be rich do but load themselves with thick clay. There is a burden of care in getting wealth, fear in keeping wealth, temptation in using wealth, guilt in abusing wealth, and sorrow in losing wealth, and a burden of giving an account at the end on Judgment Day concerning the wealth. Great possessions do but make men heavy and unwieldy. Abram was not only rich in faith and good works, and in the promises, but he was rich in cattle, and in silver and gold." Now, Henry goes on to say that God does sometimes in His Providence make good men wealthy for His own reasons, and it is a blessing. But, it is also a burden that he carried with him from Egypt. Soon this wealth and Lot's together will be the cause of their parting ways. If you look at Verses 6 and 7, it says, "But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time."
Abram Returns to His Spiritual Roots
Because of their wealth and because of all of their possessions, they were not able to stay together, we'll say more on this in a moment. So, Abram has gone through a spiritual disaster. He's gone down on that sojourn to Egypt; it turned out terribly. He comes back burdened with additional wealth, but he does the right thing. He goes back to his spiritual roots. He knows that he needs restoration. He needs spiritual renewal and refreshment. Abram needed his soul restored, and the text stresses this in a number of ways. Look at Verse 3 again, "From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel." Now, the word Bethel means literally, House of God. House of God. So, he came to Bethel, the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier. This is harkening back to the earlier days of his time in the Promised Land, and the text does this on purpose. He's returning to his roots; he's going back to where he started. In Verse 4, it says, "where he had first built an altar." That's very important. That was the place where he called on the name of the Lord after he had received the promise of receiving the Promised Land. He built an altar and he lifted up holy hands in prayer to God, and his faith was strong then, but now it's not. Sin has brought him low, he's weak spiritually, and he needs to go back and start over again.
And aren't you glad God lets you do it? Aren't you glad that He restores you and doesn't cast you off? I praise God for that. And so, he does the right thing, he doesn't give up on his walk with God, he doesn't give up on the promise, but he goes back and he looks to his roots. He looks to his spiritual foundation. He goes back to where he had first built an altar and there it says, "Abram called on the name of the Lord." The fact of the matter is, in our sojourning with Jesus here in this world, every day is not sweeter than the day before. Sometimes we get ourselves into spiritual deserts through sin and through bad choices like Abram, and we need to be renewed and restored. It says in Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters." And what's the next part? "…he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake." And that's exactly what's going on here in Genesis 13. Abram's soul and his vision are being restored by God. He's being renewed. Now, it could be that that is what you need today. I have no idea what's going on in your life. I have no idea what spiritual state you came in through the doors with today. I don't know what you did last week, over the last few months.
I don't know if your quiet times have been what you want them to be. I don't know if your moment-by-moment walking in your obedience is where you think it should be. But perhaps you, like Abram, need to be restored, you need your vision renewed of why it is you're even here in this world. Go back to your roots. For Abram, that meant going back to a physical place. Going back to a physical place. Now, realize God is omnipresent, but yet at the same time, there are certain places that are spiritually significant. Like when God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:5, and said, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." And later on, and I believe another Bethel, God spoke to Jacob, that's where he had his vision, at Luz, it says, of a ladder reaching up to heaven and angels ascending and descending. And Jacob awoke from his dream and in Genesis 28:16-17 he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. . . . This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” And so, he went back, Abram did, to the place where he had his vision and where he had called on the name of the Lord, and he was restored. And he called on the name of the Lord.
Calling on the Name of the Lord
This is more than simply prayer. It really has to do with a faith-filled, crying out to God, the God of history, the God who's done all of this up to this point, whatever that point is in redemptive history. The God whose reputation has been built through creation and through the flood of Noah at that point, and through His very call from Ur of the Chaldees, that God, he called on His name. We have a far better understanding of the name of the Lord, don't we? We have a far greater history of redemption and revelation, and we call on the name of the Lord, and this very phrase is the one that Paul picks out and that Peter did at Pentecost and that Joel did to say how we get saved. For it says in Romans 10:13, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." And so, it's simply by calling out to God, the God of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob, I say the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who sent Christ in the world to die on the cross, calling on His name, saves our soul. And that's what Abram did. And we don't do it just one time, I believe once saved, always saved, and I know about walking the aisle and praying the prayer and all that, but we call on the name of the Lord all the time, don't we? We keep calling and we keep calling and we trust. And Abram went back and called again. He resumed calling on the name of the Lord.
Abram’s Faith-filled Peacemaking, Lot’s Faithless Choice
Cause of the Conflict: Wealth
Now, in Verses 5-13, we see the conflict coming and the contrast. Abram has been restored, he's been renewed in his walk with God, he's returned to his spiritual roots, he's healthy and strong again. And now it's time for a conflict. That's just the way it is, isn't it? Just when you're getting back on your feet the next trouble comes, but by faith, you can overcome them all, by faith, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, and Abram carries himself so beautifully through this conflict. He does so well. The conflict comes as a result of their wealth, as we've already seen, it started with a conflict between the servants who are watching the flocks and herds. I think it had to do with grazing and with water, and there were only so many of these resources because the Canaanites and Perizzites are still in the land at that point. They are getting squeezed for grazing rights. I love history and I love reading about the history of the American West, and I've been reading a book recently about that. During the great cattle drives going up from Texas, up north so that the meat could be distributed throughout the country, the cattle herdsmen constantly got into land battles with the homesteaders, and literally, they became almost shooting wars that would happen between the cattlemen and the homesteaders.
It's just a bloody chapter of our history and not well known. Eventually, they had to make corridors with fences so that the cattle could go on and keep them away from the homesteads. You could see the passion that would arise over these kinds of things, the anger and frustration, and I think at a different level, perhaps that's what's going on between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. They are having constant conflicts over where the cattle get to graze and the water, this was life, the wells were life. Throughout the Book of Genesis, there are struggles over wells and who dug them and who had the right to drink from them, and I think that's what was going on here. What was the cost of their conflict? Well, realize, God said to Abram from the beginning in Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you." So, Abram is a missionary.
Cause of the Conflict: Their Testimony Further Hindered
That whole sojourn in Egypt was a spiritual disaster, because what kind of missionary can you be as a con artist and a liar, we need to be restored so we can get away from that. And now, what kind of witness is it that you're arguing with your family and you can't find a place to graze your cattle, you can't get along, and so their testimony is greatly hindered by this conflict. Remember the Book of Philippians, way back when. Philippians 2:14-16 says, "Do everything without complaining or . . ." What? "Arguing." Some of you memorized that verse and said, it's one of the hardest verses of your life. Working on it, some days you do well on the complaining but not the arguing. Some days better on the arguing and not on the complaining. Some days better or neither. But it's a struggle. Do everything without complaining or arguing, and why? "So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."
Abram’s Faith-filled Example of Peacemaking
Well, what kind of star were they as they were arguing and having conflicts? How could they hold out the word of life to the Canaanites and Perizzites as long as they were having this conflict, and so we see Abram, his faith-filled example of peacemaking. Actually, truth be told, Abram never did argue in this account. It was the herdsmen that were having conflicts and it went right up to the top, and so Abram and Lot met together to try to resolve it. Abram gives us an excellent answer of how to end a conflict. Look at Verse 8, it says, “So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left.’” Now, when I was a child and we were arguing over the last piece of cake, we were told that one person would cut it and the other would get to choose, you see, and that way, there is no conflict.
Never has been a cake cut so perfectly as were cut in those days, it's incredible how accurate the cutting can be. Well, why not try this? Why not just cut it however and say, you take the biggest piece, I want you to have what's best. That's about what Abram does here, he says, “Whatever you want. You go ahead and I'll take what's left. I'll take what's left.” It says in Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” If ever there was a marriage verse, that's a good one. Okay. A gentle answer turns away wrath. So why should there be conflict between you and me. Well, there shouldn't be disagreements. “Tell you what, you choose, you go your way, you take whatever you want and we'll take the rest, and don't worry about it.” We see his humility, but I think behind it is faith, because you know why? He's going to get it anyway.
Abram's going to get it anyway, God already promised him he was going to get it. So why should there be a conflict? “I'm going to get it anyway. And, if you stay with me, you're going to get it too.” And so, I can just let go. I don't have to have a conflict, you know, there was a problem in the Book of Corinthians, in which the Corinthians were arguing with each other and having divisions and in factions, and even some were suing the others, taking them to court. And Paul says, “Why not rather be wronged?” It's a shameful thing for a Christian brother to be in court with another Christian brother, and that the one is suing the other, it's wickedness. What will the pagans think? Why not rather be wronged? “Why not rather be cheated” than to take somebody to court. But he said earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:21, “. . .no more boasting about men! All things are yours . . .” You are going to get it anyway. So let it go. No more white-knuckled holding on to something earthly. It doesn't matter. Let it go. I think Abram's faith was behind his generosity. We see also his incredible humility here. He says, “We're brothers.” Lot was his nephew and Abram, his uncle, but he calls him a brother. He says, “We are brothers together.” There's a humility here that's very disarming and I think very attractive.
I was reading a story recently about Booker T. Washington, who was a renowned Black educator, a very powerful and strong educator and an important man. Shortly after he took over the presidency of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in a wealthy section of town and a White woman stopped him, and not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, asked him if he would be willing to earn a few dollars by chopping some wood. He said, well, certainly, and took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves and began to do the humble task, and when he had finished, he stacked up the wood, did a great job, and took his pay. Well, as he was doing that, he was recognized by a young girl in the house who told the wealthy lady who this man was after he had left. She was absolutely humiliated by this and went and visited him at his office the next day, and came in and said, she was very, very sorry. He said this, "Don't worry about it, don't worry. I always like to get a little exercise anyway. Besides which, it's always good to do something to help a friend.” It was a very gentle and humble answer. The lady went home, organized some of her wealthiest friends and gave thousands and thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute as a result of his humility.
If he had carried himself like a king and said, "Don't you know who I am, I don't chop wood," etcetera, none of those good things would have happened, but he built a friendship and the Tuskegee Institute was blessed by his humility. And, we see the same thing, I think, in Abram. The sacrificial generosity, is not the whole land before you. Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right, and if you go to the right, I'll go to the left. Well, Lot at that point made his choice. Imagine Lot standing up on that ridge and looking down and saying, “Okay, that's a good deal, so I get to choose first, wherever whatever I want. Alright, let me go do it then.” So, he looks down.
Lot’s Sensual and Selfish Choice: Following the Eyes
Look at Verse 10, it says, “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So, Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company. Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom,” is what it says. Verse 13 says, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” A. W. Pink in his comment on this text, made much of Lot's eyes. See Lot looked up and saw that the land was watered, and he made a sensual choice, he made a choice based on sense, based on sight, but we walk by faith, the scripture says, not by sight. And so, Lot looked down and saw only what he wanted to see, namely that it was lush and green, and I believe Lot probably at that point had caught a kind of virus from Egypt, the desire for a comfortable and easy affluent life, it's a spiritual virus that he's caught, and so he's led by his eyes there.
The Future Cost of Lot’s Faithless Choice
And this is the beginning of a decline or a descent for Lot, that will end up in incredible shame. I mean, it's a long, long way down. He looks down and he sees the land and sees that it's lush, but there are some things he cannot see. For example, he cannot see the true spiritual condition of Sodom, he can't see what's going on there. We get some hints in the text concerning God's feelings toward Sodom. Look at Verse 10, “the land was well watered,” it says, but this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. That's a bit of a warning, isn't it? There's kind of a heaviness, like a sword of Damocles hanging over Sodom and Gomorrah, this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But Lot couldn't see that when he looked down at the plain, he did not see their great wickedness in the sight of God. Look at Verse 13, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.”
Allow me to paraphrase, Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and apply it to this situation. There were black clouds of God's wrath now hanging directly over the heads of the Sodomites, full of the dreadful storm and big with thunder. Had it not been for the restraining hand of God, it would have immediately burst forth upon Sodom. The sovereign pleasure of God at that moment in history was staying his rough wind, otherwise it would have come with fury, and Sodom's destruction would have come like a whirlwind, and the Sodomites would have been like the chaff of the summer threshing floor. The wrath of God was like great waters that had been dammed for the present, they increased more and more and rose higher and higher until an outlet was given at last. The longer the stream was stopped, the more rapid and mighty was its course, when once it was let loose. The floods of God's vengeance had been withheld, but Sodom's guilt was in the meantime, constantly increasing, and every day they were storing up more and more wrath. The waters were constantly rising and waxing more and more mightily, and there was nothing but the mere pleasure of God that held the waters back, that were unwilling to be stopped and pressed hard to go forward. If only God had withdrawn his hand from the flood gate, it would have immediately flown open the fiery floods of fierceness, and the wrath of God would have rushed forth with inconceivable fury and come upon Sodom with omnipotent power, and if the strength of each Sodomite was 10,000 times greater than it was, yes, 10,000 times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would have been nothing to withstand or endure. The bow of God's wrath was bent and the arrow was made ready on the string and justice bent the arrow directly at Sodom's heart and strained the bow, and it was nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that kept the arrow one moment from being made drunk with Sodom's blood. Jonathan Edwards reply applied to Sodom, and that's exactly what Lot could not see. The wrath was coming. Why live there? What else could Lot not see? He couldn't see the future, he couldn't see what would happen to his own heart by living there, the future cost of Lot's faithless choice, a gradual corruption enticed little by little by the life of Sodom. At first, he saw it from afar, standing up there on the ridge, and he didn't see anything, all he sees is well-watered plain land where he can go down with his flocks and herds and be away from Abram and away from the conflict. That's what he sees initially. Then the text says he pitched his tents in the direction of Sodom, you see he is closer now, he's living, but he's not in Sodom yet, he's just moving in that direction.
And then in Chapter 14, the next account, he's abducted along with the other Sodomites and taken away by Kedorlaomer, and he has got to be rescued by Abram, and Abram does rescue him, but then. . . Already knowing what the people were like, he chose to go back and live there some more. The next time we see him, he is actually living in the city and seems to have a job as the gatekeeper or some kind of local city official. The people know his righteous commitments and stand because he says, he is this foreigner come to judge us, so he's probably already said, “Hey, you shouldn't do this,” or “You. . .” But it's not very strong. He is getting watered down, he's getting weakened, his wife became totally enamored with the life in Sodom and could not bear to leave, and despite the angels warning, "Don't look back at the city," she looked and was turned into a pillar of salt. And so, Jesus said, “Remember, Lot's wife.”
Lot's sons-in-law had absolutely no intention of leaving Sodom when the angels came. No intention whatsoever. They stayed there. They mocked him and ridiculed him. And so, they stayed in and perished. Lot's daughters came with him though, with great reluctance, and they fled. He ends up in a cave with his daughters. I think they thought the entire world had been destroyed, and he ends up getting them pregnant after he got drunk. He didn't know what he was doing. It's one of the most shameful and despicable stories in the whole Bible and it began at that moment when Lot was just standing up there on the ridge looking down over the plain, and it looked good to him, and he figured he would travel there and see what it was like. And yet, Lot is a story of God's redemption as well. Frankly, if it weren't for 2nd Peter, I wouldn't know anything good to say about Lot, but it does say in 2nd Peter that Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard, and God sent an angel to rescue him, sent two angels to rescue. The angel says in Genesis 19:22, “But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you're safe.” That shows you something about God, doesn't it? Praise God for His faithfulness to His own.
God’s Renewed Promise to Abram
Lot’s Separation from Abram and Its Significance
And so, we see the contrast, that is Lot's faithless choice, and we see how long the slide was, you talk about the slippery slope, it starts up here and it ends up down there, somewhere you don't want to be. But in Verses 14 through 18, we see God's renewed promise to Abram; Lot's separation from Abram was significant. Lot and Abram clearly had different agendas and different world views at that moment. Lot wanted to live by sight, Abram wanted to live by faith, they had to separate, and so they did.
God’s Renewed Two-Fold Promise to Abram
But God makes his promise to Abram, again, faith must be restored and renewed. This is one of the things that I've learned from studying in the book of Genesis this time, how many times God makes the covenant promises to him again and again and again, it's the same thing.
Always a little more information, but God restores and renews faith by the Word of God, and so all of you, if your faith is weak today, get back in the Word, read the scripture. Saturate your mind in the word of God, memorize, meditate, fill your hearts with the scripture, if you came in today weak in faith, getting weary in your spiritual life, get back into the Word of God and in prayer. That's how it starts. And so, He made him the promise in Verses 14-16, “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.’” Verse 17, I love, “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
What an incredible thing, isn't it? God wanted Abram to touch the soil, to smell it, to feel it, to walk around, to look at this little watered valley or to look at some trees or to look at something. And just have his faith renewed. Say, I'm giving this to you. I'm giving this to you. What would you rather have? Ten years living with Lot, near Sodom, in that well-watered land, or 10 minutes of a walk like that with God and saying, I'm giving this to you, I'm giving that to you. Isn't that marvelous? And yet it's all just words. It's just promise. It's just faith.
Two Promises: The Land and Numerous Descendants
And the same two promises again and again, I'll give you multiple descendants as numerous as the dust of the Earth, and I'm going to give you this land, north, south, east, and west, go walk through it, I'm giving it to you. And so, He renews his faith, but in Verse 18, Abram has to live in a tent and build altars. That's what he's going to do. Verse 18, “So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord.”
Abram’s Life of Tents and Altars
Promised Land is not Possessed Land
You know, promised land is not possessed land. Do you know how long it would take for Abram's descendants to get that land? I calculated over 500 years. Now I think back 500 years to what was going on in history, 1504, that's how long it would take for this promise to be fulfilled, 500 years. The land was promised directly to Abram and his descendants, but the Canaanites and Perizzites are still there, and in Genesis 14, Abram is going to be told that his descendants will go to a land not their own and they will be there for 400 years. But that's way down the line, even as it is, Abram died never having received the land, as the book of Hebrews makes plain. Hebrews 11:13 says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.”
Abram Lived in Tents
Abram lived in a tent, moved from place to place. Now, I'm not recommending that those of you that have houses with foundations sell them and live in tents. I'm not sure where you'd go, I don't think there's a lot of camping ground around here, and wouldn't it be interesting if all First Baptist members showed up there with tents. But you could have a great witness, I'm sure, as people ask you what you're doing. But there's a symbol here, the idea of a tent is movability and not being weighed down by any sense or illusion of permanence here in this world. You have to carry everything you own with you, and so it kind of benefits you to give it away. Alright, why be burdened by that weight.
Abram Built Altars
Abram, it says, built altars, in Verse 18, it says “he built an altar to the Lord.” This was the ancestral altar, this is the father of the patriarch setting up the family altar, and there establishing patterns of family devotion that he would teach to his son Isaac and would be passed on from generation to generation, the family altar renewed and established. Perhaps you, as a father, made a commitment to a family altar a short time ago or even a while ago. Maybe you, like Abram, need to go back to the family altar, as it were, and clean the weeds off it, get the stones that have fallen down off it, put them back up, clean it up, and get it working again. That's what Abram had to do with the altar when he came back after Egypt. Maybe that's what you need to do as a father.
Now, what kind of spiritual lessons can we take from this story. First of all, on wealth. In this passage, wealth is seen neither as a blessing nor as a curse. Just something to deal with. We see it as a blessing from God for the sustaining of Abram’s family during a famine, because much of the wealth was in livestock and you can eat that and it can help you to survive, but it also was the reason for the quarreling and the parting with Lot.
Secondly, on resolving conflict. Abram shows the way that a faith-filled man resolves conflict. If you truly believe that you will inherit the earth someday, then you can say all things are yours, the meek will inherit the earth, let it go. And, if God calls on you to be generous it's easier by faith, resolving conflict then becomes easier, too. The relationship with that individual is more eternal than any of the stuff over which you're having a conflict. A gentle answer turns away wrath. Thirdly, on choosing by faith not by sight, try to make every decision, whether who you should marry, what job you should take, what church you should attend, what you should do with your time, based on faith and what the word of God says. Which of these two choices will bring me closer and closer to the promise of God, and which one is going to lead me away? And if you make a mistake, a wrong judgment like Lot did, have the wisdom to do a U-turn and repent and get out of there before it gets worse and worse and worse.
Lot was saved, but is it as if by escaping through the flames, what happened to his life and his witness? What was the fruit of Lot other than a warning? Live by faith not by sight, and on living near Sodom, if you live in the land that's characterized by ease and luxury and sexual perversion, be afraid and be on guard, because brothers and sisters, we do. Are you shocked anymore by the things that are going on in our country? I hope so. I hope we are not numb to what's happening with gay marriage, I hope we are not numb to that, it's the same thing. I hope we're not saying, “Oh, live and let live,” or “it's just the same old thing.” Are we not shocked by some of the things that we see in America today? And even more pointedly, what's happening in your heart as a result of living near Sodom? What's happening in your heart? Guard your heart.
And if you've compromised already, understand that the God of this text of Genesis 13 is the God of restoration and renewal, who welcomes sinners back to the promise He originally made to them, and who makes the promise even better the next time. God is a God of restoring faith and grace, renew your faith in God's promises. And finally, be willing to live in a tent, metaphorically. If any of you are thinking of doing it physically, come and talk to me about it, and I'd like to find out what you have in mind. But, basically, acknowledge that nothing here is permanent, there is nothing with a lasting foundation here in this world. And establish the altar in the center of your life, not physically, but a calling out on the name of the Lord. It could be that you are listening to me today and you have never committed your life to Christ. Maybe you have never called on the name of the Lord at all. Maybe Jesus is not your Savior, when you walked in the door, he wasn't. Trust in Him, call on the name of the Lord. Trust in Him for your salvation. And then having done that, walk by faith and not by sight.