Separate AND Different.
Genesis 13-14, Matthew 7
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12 ESV
It’s interesting to note that after Abram made what appears to be a non-authorized side strip to Egypt, he returned to right where he started. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes this point quite clear. He uses two phrases, “at the beginning” (Genesis 13:3) and “at the first” (Genesis 13:4) to emphasize that Abram eventually returned to where he belonged – the place where God had told him to go in the first place. It’s also interesting to note that one of the consequences of his trip into Egypt was the accumulation of a lot of material resources, due to Pharaoh’s attempt to assuage his guilty conscience regarding Sarai. Moses tells us, “Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2 ESV). What appeared to be a blessing was to prove to be a problem. It wasn’t long before he and Lot were at odds over the pasture land and water rights. Competing agendas led to conflict and, eventually, the need for separation. It became necessary for Abram to part ways with Lot. So he offered his nephew first choice when it came to the land, and Lot chose well. In fact, Moses makes it clear that he chose best. “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 Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other” (Genesis 7:10-11 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
It never ceases to amaze me how God can use even our apparent acts of rebellion and disobedience to accomplish His will for our lives. There is no indication that God ever commanded Abram to go to Egypt. It appears that the decision was solely Abram’s. And while it could have turned out poorly, God intervened and protected Abram and Sarai. I can only guess that Abram walked out feeling pretty proud of himself for having escaped Egypt with not only his wife and his life but an increased net worth. And God was going to use this new-found financial windfall to accomplish His will for Abram’s life. God wanted to separate Abram from Lot. It seems quite obvious that these two men had two competing agendas. Lot was driven by his own personal desires and passions. When given the chance, he chose the best. He selfishly selected the prime real estate for himself, giving no thought to the fact that the region he chose contained the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, a point Moses makes perfectly clear. In fact, Moses leaves nothing to the imagination, making a clear distinction between the land in which Abram settled and that in which Lot pitched his tent. “Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Genesis 13:12-13 ESV).
God was going to not only separate Abram from Lot, he was going to make sure that Abram was separated from Sodom and its inhabitants. The entire conflict over resources was used by God to protect Abram. Verses 14-17 record God’s reiteration of His covenant promise to Abram. God was going to give Abram the land of Canaan. Not only that, He was going to bless Abram with innumerable offspring. When Lot chose the well-watered, fruitful Jordan valley, it was well within the will of God. It was what God had intended all along. And it wouldn’t be long before both Lot and Abram recognized that God’s will was well worth waiting for.
What does this passage reveal about man?
What a contrast between these two men. One was chosen by God. The other was a free-loader, a hanger-on who tagged along for the ride, having never received a call from God. This is not to say that Lot was not right where he belonged. God clearly used this man to accomplish His will. In fact, Peter refers to Lot as a righteous man. “if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:6-8 ESV). Evidently, Lot was a God-worshiper, but he also struggled with a love affair with the things of this world. He wanted to have it both ways. He pitched his tent toward Sodom, then wrestled with his conscience over all to which he exposed himself and his family. He found himself separated from Abram and separated from God.
And yet, we see in Abram a man who chose to trust God. He gave Lot first dibs when it comes to the land and placed his future in the hands of God. And interestingly enough, God would use Abram to rescue the very man who selfishly chose to reward himself with the best land. In doing so, Abram was living out the Golden Rule long before Jesus spoke the words as recorded in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Rather than judge Lot, Abram rescued him. Abram chose to build his house on the solid rock. He placed his trust in God and rested in His provision and providence. Lot unwisely built his house on sand. He cut corners and took chances, and reaped the whirlwind. He proved to be a fool, because he chose to live his life according to his will instead of God’s. Two men. Two contrasting life styles. One chose to live for himself, while the other chose to live for God. One chose selfishly and the other, selflessly. One chose temporal blessings, while the other was willing to wait. One, in an effort to experience all that life had to offer now, exposed himself to danger and spiritual destruction. The other was willing to see what God in store in the future. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abram was willing to live in temporary conditions, making his home in tents, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10 ESV). Abram and Lot. Two men who lived separate AND different lives.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The constant temptation is to live like Lot. While he had not been called directly by God, he was part of the family that left Ur of the Chaldeas with Abram. In that sense, he had been set apart by God to live the same life of faith to which God had called Abram. But he chose to live by sight, not faith. He was driven by his senses and controlled by his passions. And his choices would come back to haunt him.
If I had been Abram, I would have let Lot suffer the consequences of his poor choices. But Abram exhibited the very characteristics taught by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount. Rather than judge, Abram intervened and rescued. He didn’t fret over what Lot got, but trusted his “Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11 ESV). He determined to enter the narrow gate and walk the less-chosen path. He wisely chose to build his house on the solid rock of God’s faithfulness. I want to live like Abram. He wasn’t perfect, but he was persistent in placing his faith in God. Yes, he sometimes doubted, but he kept coming back to the one thing he knew he could trust: the Word of God. I want to live my life separate AND different. I want to live a life that is holy, different and distinctive.
Father, help me to keep my faith in Your never-ending faithfulness. Don’t let me be swayed by the temporary blessings of this world, but wholly lean on the eternal blessings provided by You through Your Son Jesus Christ. This world is not my home. I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up elsewhere. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men