Previously in Genesis...
Previously I discussed Abram's call and his move to Egypt (Genesis 12). When Abram moves to Egypt, without any mention of God in the decision process, he finds himself trying to save his life though his own means. Abram lies, his wife is taken away, God has to intervene, and Abram and company get kicked out of Egypt.
Abram's Egypt adventure reminds the reader of the garden of Eden, but not in a positive way. Genesis 12:14-15 Has language that we witnessed in Genesis 3. The way the Egyptians see that Sarai is beautiful and take her is similar to the language used to describe Eve seeing that the fruit was pleasing to the eyes and taking it. Sarai was Abram's wife, she was therefore forbidden to be taken by another man. Also Genesis 3 ends with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden and Genesis 12 ends with an expulsion of Abram with his wife and all that he had.
Genesis 13:1 bridges the two chapters. Genesis 13:1 has language that is very similar to Genesis 12:9 Abram had gone toward the south in 12:9 and now he is going to the same place in 13:1, the writer could be indicating that Abram should not have left, he left just to come back the same way. The mention of Lot however, is unique to 13:1. In fact Lot will play a major role in this story.
When Abram returns to Canaan but there is no mention that the famine has ended. Abram returns because he was expelled from Egypt. Since Abram came back and there is no mention of the end of the famine, it seems to the reader that he did not really have to go to Egypt in the first place.
Abram’s return to Bethel indicate his intention to repent and repair his relationship with God. Abram wants to reconnect with God and restore what his trip to Egypt interrupted. I find it very interesting that later Israel will be delivered from Egypt for the purpose of worship (Exodus 3:12; Acts 7:7). Abram's experience in Egypt caused him to want to draw closer to God. Abram's experience in Egypt made him painfully aware of his need of God and or his inability to protect his own wife. Abram was reminded that God was his strength.
Similarly, we are tempted to solve potential problems our way. We think that by bending the rules a bit we can make things work. We think we can improve on God's plan for us. How sad, and even dangerous, when we forget our need of God, and how much we depend on Him for everything.
Abram has been so blessed by God, and Lot as well, due to his proximity to Abram, that the land is not able to support them. With the blessings came new challenges. Abram and Lot could no longer dwell together, their herdsmen were arguing over pasture for their livestock, not to mention that the Canaanites and Jebusites dwelt in the land.
As the patriarch, Abram could have simply told Lot and his herdsmen to give him and his herdsmen priority, always. Abram could have expelled lot. Abram could have handled this a number of different ways being the one with greater power and influence. He could even argue that the land was his, since God had given it to him. But Abram avoids the conflict, even if he could clearly win by "force."
Abram proposes separation as a way of restoring peace. Some commentators believe there might have been bigger issues than just land and pasture. Some argue if they really wanted to be together they could have made it work and the reason for their separation was ultimately conflict of world views. Perhaps Lot was not wiling to live as Abram was, depending on God, moving from place to place. Future events in Lot's life seem to support this view.
"Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt." - Genesis 13:10a (NLT)
The Land that Lot sees, all the plain of Jordan is located outside the confines of the Promised Land.
There is a contrast between Abram who dwelt in the land of Canaan and Lot who dwelt in the cities of the plain which became the future possession of Lot’s descendants the Moabites and Ammonites. Interestingly in Deuteronomy 2:9,19, we learn that this land was given to them by God.
Ironically this region is compared both to the Garden of Eden as well as Egypt, and to make things even more interesting there is a mention of the future destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as a reference to the wickedness of the inhabitants.
"10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. 12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord." - Genesis 13:10-13
I believe this highlights the attraction that Egypt offered to Abram and that Lot did not learn the lesson that Abram had learned in Egypt. Lot was setting himself to repeat the mistake Abram had just committed (Genesis 12:10-20).
Lot is being attracted by something that will not last long, he is being deceived by appearances as if by a mirage, not realizing the reality behind what he sees. What looks appealing to Lot will be destroyed by fire.
Lot moves eastwards like Adam when he left the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24), Cain when he left his family (Genesis 4:16), and the builders of Babel when they left their original settlement (Genesis 11:2). Moving Eastward seems to signify a human initiative.
Free to Choose
Lot chose for himself (13:11) - Language reminds us of Genesis 6:2 and how the antediluvians “took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.”
Abram does not choose, by faith he allows God to choose the land for him, even though it is not the land Abram would have chosen for himself. Abram chose to go to Egypt, and there he learned that God is able to provide for him and that God's plans are superior to his. But this land was to be a gift, Abram was to receive this gift only through the grace of God. This land was God's plan for his life even though at that point Abram could not see what God would ultimately do through him.
Lot decides to lift his eyes and see (13:10) while Abram does the same thing at God’s invitation (13:14)
This is the first time God speaks to Abram since He called Abram to leave Ur (Genesis 12:1ff).
God confirms the gift of the land to Abram. As Abram stands in Bethel, God invites him to look northward, southward, eastward and westward (13:14). The same will happen with Jacob in the same place (Genesis 28:14).
Abram should walk the length and width of the land in order to better grasp what it is that God is giving him and also as a symbolic appropriation of the land.
Abram sets up an altar and worships the Lord (13:18) just like he did when he first came into the land (Genesis 12:7-8), again around trees like last time.
It is clear now that Abram has recovered both his connection with God and his destiny. Even though Abram strayed from the gift, from the promise, from his relationship with God and God’s plan for him, he is now back and determined to stay in the land.
At the end of the chapter a problem seems to remain,
"Abram neither has the land in hand nor a descendant to whom he may bequeath it, yet he continues to wait on God." Mattews 139.
This real problem exists at the end of this chapter because this is not the end of the story. We may not always know how God will do all that He promises to do, we may not always know when He will do it, but neither did Abram and many other heroes of faith we read about in the Bible. It all comes down to faith, how much do I trust God to fulfill His promises especially when I am unable to understand how He will do it?
We make decisions daily. Decisions that impact our lives and the lives of those around us. Life is made up of a series of decisions. Our daily decisions, both small and great, shape who we are and ultimately shape our destiny, that is, where we will spend eternity. So the big question is how do we make decisions?
Do we make decisions based on God's word as it has been revealed to us by Him in His word?
Or do we make decisions based on what we see, on what our senses tell us?
Just to clarify, decisions that do not go against the explicit will of God can and should be made based on what information is available to us through our senses and reason. However, when our senses and reason lead us to decide against God's clear and explicit will, we should decide according to God's will.
Much like the cities of the plain that Lot found so appealing, many of the things that attract us in this world, will one day be destroyed by fire.
Life is all about priorities. May doing the will of God be our top priority.
Resources used besides my Bible:
Doukhan, Jacques. Genesis. Nampa, ID, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016.
Mathews, K. A. Genesis 11:27-50:26. Vol. 1B, Nashville, Tenn, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.