Genesis 13—the Choice
Abram had a lapse in faith in Genesis 12:10, and went to Egypt to escape the famine. While he was there he lied to Pharoah by telling him Sarai was his sister. Abram’s deceptive purpose was twofold—to protect himself and collect a sizable dowry from giving his wife Sarai to be Pharoah’s wife. In the culture of that day, if a woman’s father was not there the brother became her custodian to give her in marriage. God intervened to keep the marriage to Pharoah from being consummated by bringing great plagues upon him and his household. Like us, Abram was a paradox of self- centeredness and trust in God at the same time. Abram had been called by God to be a blessing on others and a witness for the Lord, but instead he brought the plagues. The “father of the faithful” was rebuked by the pagan king of Egypt—just imagine how that shamed him and the guilt he bore as he left Egypt. He carried something else when he left also—great herds along with much gold and silver. Amazingly God had blessed him in spite of his sin. God had intervened on his behalf in such a way that Pharoah kicked him out immediately to go back where he was supposed to be, but also because of the fear of Abram’s God, the king enriched Abram with great wealth. Our God is amazing in that He can use our own sin to bring about good to us in spite of ourselves. By the grace of God, Abram was back in the land and blessed materially.
In Genesis 13, Abram and his entourage left Egypt and did not stop until they reached Bethel way up in the hill country of Canaan. The urgency of their direct route along with the place they were headed tells us a lot about how he felt and what he needed to do first and foremost. 1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Abram no doubt felt guilty over his lies, deception, and selling of his wife, but at Bethel (which means house of God) he confessed his sins, made an atoning sacrifice, and sought after full restoration to God. Remember that they had been at Bethel earlier and built an altar in Genesis 12:8. When the text says they “called upon the name of the Lord” at the altar, it means confession and an atoning sacrifice. Now after his sins in Egypt he went right back there to Bethel, “called upon the name of the Lord”, and got right with the Lord.
Lot’s Bad Choice
In Genesis 13:5, we learn that Lot had also been enriched with great herds in Egypt. When they were of modest means Abram and Lot got along well, but what happened when they and their people became rich? Lot was Abram’s nephew, and by all rights Lot and his people should have showed respect for Abram and been subservient, but now that they were rich, their pride welled up in them, they seemed to lose their reverence for the Patriarch, and they demanded their rights. They began fighting over “stuff” and territory. What had Lot done to get rich? Nothing, but he just happened to be related to Abram and be in Egypt with him. What happens when people win the lottery? Studies show that they are in danger of changing, caused by pride and paranoia. Lot and his herdsmen became self-seeking, and serious friction developed between Lot’s people and Abram’s. God chose them to be witnesses for Him, but how are they doing so far as witnesses to the Egyptians and Canaanites?
In Genesis 13:8, Abram moved to put an end to the strife between his people and Lot’s people, but the wise way he did it reveals much about his new humility and wisdom from God. We can also surmise the providential sovereignty of God in the decision. Abram and Lot decided they needed to separate because their respective herds were so great that they might continue to argue over pasture land, and a rivalry was developing. Abram graciously offered the choice to Lot by saying, “If you go left I will go right, or if you go right I will go left.” Abram by all rights was the leader and should have had the priority, but he was a peacemaker, and so he gave the choice to Lot. The text says in Genesis 13:10 that “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw” which means that he went out and surveyed in both directions. To the west was the desolate hill country of central Canaan, but to the east was the plush Jordan River Valley with its green pastures. I remember a lot of stories about ”the grass is always greener” like, “the grass is always greener because it’s over a septic tank”, and that was true in Lot’s case. By appearances the Jordan River Valley did look better, but the five cities of that area were wicked beyond belief. I think the two men each saw something radically different. Lot saw the rich pasture land and five prosperous cities; but Abram “looked for a city whose builder and maker was God” (Hebrews 11:10). God’s sovereign providence was for Abram to stay in Canaan to the west of the Jordan River where God would keep him separate from the evil Canaanite cities.
Lot’s failure at that point was from a lack of principle, but not a lack of belief in God. Lot’s character was shallow so when confronted with a choice like this, he couldn’t help but go with appearances and materialism. To be honest, how many of us today in the church have considered morality only in so far as they don’t interfere with the pursuit of wealth and perceived success? So many of us have looked toward the fertile plains of Sodom, and heard the adversary’s voice say “I’ll show you all the kingdoms of the world, and it could all be yours.” John said it well in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of God is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the pride of possessions—is not from God but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires.” I think we all know how Lot’s choice turned out as in Genesis 14:12 we find out that Lot moved into Sodom, and became a rich business leader there (19:1), only to lose everything when God destroyed the wicked city in Genesis 19 because there was not found even 10 righteous men there (18:32). The irony is that from 2 Peter 2:7-8, we know that Lot tolerated the total depravity of Sodom, but he had a terrible guilty conscience, and was tormented by their lawless deeds there. This tells us that Lot was still a believer and was considered righteous by God, but stayed in Sodom for the money even though it ruined his life. How can we not say to ourselves after studying these stories “Come out and be ye separate from them (the carnal fleshly world)” (2 Cor. 6:17, Isa. 52:11)? Yet Christians today often follow the same path as Lot. They believe in God, but crave the carnal advantages of fellowship with the world. The problem is they just can’t live with a foot in both camps, because neither God nor the world will allow it. Either the world will corrupt them, or God will take them out as He did Lot. Abram had all the flocks and the gold, but they did not have him, yet Lot’s stuff possessed him. It’s fine to be rich, and God has blessed many believers with riches, but we must not put the love of riches before our love of God.
Abram Back in Fellowship
In Genesis 13:14-18, Abram was back in God’s good favor, and God once again spoke to him, and reconfirmed His covenant with Abram to give him the land along with many descendants. Abram himself never actually owned the land, but his descendants led by Joshua would possess it about 600 years later. Abram took these promises by faith as Hebrews 11:13 says, “These (Abram and his wife and son) all died in faith, not having received the things promised…and having acknowledged that they were strangers and aliens…because they desired a better country, that is a heavenly one.” God told him to “Lift up your eyes and look” in every direction. From where he was, he was in a position from a higher altitude (about 3000 feet) to see Mt. Hermon in the north, the Dead Sea and Hebron to the south, the Jordan River to the east, and the Mediterranean coast to the west. Everything Abram saw would be given to his descendants. Of course the promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the dirt particles on the earth (a simile), in the sense that there would be so many that they would be uncountable, could only be taken by great faith since Genesis 11:30 tells us that Sarai, his wife, was barren (couldn’t have children).
While Abram was surveying the land God promised his descendants, Lot was hanging out with the Sodomites. What a contrast in faith between the two men. Lot chose the things that are seen, and they were corrupting, but Abram saw through the eyes of faith the things that are not seen. Paul explained this well in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the unseen is spiritual and eternal”. If you have any doubts about who made the right choice, Genesis 14 will make it obvious by telling the story of King Chedorlaomar of Mesopotamia conquering the whole area where Lot lived, and taking Lot captive along with all his stuff and family. God then empowered Abram to take a small army up north of the Sea of Galilee where Chedorlaomar (cool name) was camped, and defeating Chedor, and saving all the people and possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even though the appearances to Lot were that those people had it all going on and were rich and powerful, clearly God alone has the power. Amazingly, after Abram recovered all the captives and plunder from Sodom, they offered everything to him but he declined. He had no ambitions to be a king or to own their stuff. By contrasting Abram’s reactions to the wicked kings of Sodom verses the godly king of Salem (Abram tithed to the king of Salem), Genesis 14 reveals his reliance on and veneration to the one true God.