Key vs. 13:15 “All the land that you see I will give you and your offsprings forever.”
Good morning. How are you doing? Thank you for coming to worship the Lord on this Lord’s day. May God bless you and lift up your spirit according to his word.
Before studying the passage, I’d like to go over what we learned last week.
God called Abraham while he worshipped idols, saying, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.” Humanly speaking, he was an old man without hope, but God had a purpose for Abraham’s life. God wanted to bless him and use him as a source of blessing to all people. So God promised to him, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
In the same way God has a great purpose for each one of our lives. When we accept his call and obey him based on his promises, God will bless us and make us a source of blessing to all people. Have you started a journey of your own life of faith with God’s promise?
Today’s passage teaches us the importance of the choices we make. Abraham and Lot faced a challenge and made different choices. At first glance, their differences in their choices seemed very small, but they resulted in grave consequences later in their lives. We have to make choices in every day life, whether they may be big or small. But the choices we make now can make huge differences later. I pray that we can learn from this how we can make a right choice that leads to abundant life.
1. Fresh start (1-4)
Lets look at vs 1 & 2.
“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.”
We learned last week that during the famine, Abraham did not pray, hurried to go down to Egypt to survive severe famine. He thought it was emergency. Unless he acted quickly, he would die, he thought. As a result, out of fear he lied that his wife was his sister. Then he lost his wife to the Pharaoh. Abraham did not know what to do. But God inflicted disease on Pharaoh and protected Sarah from the hands of Pharaoh and returned them to the promised land. Surprisingly when Abraham came out of Egypt, he became very wealthy. Abraham deserved rebuke and punishment, but God instead blessed him with so much materials. According to his promise, God protected him and blessed him. Abraham must learned first-hand a spiritual lesson that God is faithful to his promises; and also he provides all materials.
So what did he do? Look at vs 3 and 4. Abraham did not dwell on his failure and guilt feelings. He went up to the place where he had built the first altar, and called on the name of the Lord. He built an altar of thanksgiving because God had rescued him. He made a fresh start of his life of faith with God’s promise. God is gracious and willing to forgive us. We do not need to wander in guilt when we sin and repent. We can make a fresh start like Abraham.
2. Making choices (5-13)
Look at vs 5-7. When Abraham became very wealthy, Lot also became wealthy, because he was moving about with Abraham. Lot was like a caddy in the golf course. When a golfer wins the champion, he also earns a certain percent of the champion’s prize. Lot left Ur with Abraham and moved about from Ur to Haran, Canaan, Egypt and back to Canaan. Of course, Abraham was his shepherd. He must pray for Lot to grow as a man of God. He encouraged him to pray, call on the name of the Lord. When God blessed Abraham, Lot was also blessed. It is not a bad idea to move about with a servant of God.
When both became very wealthy, what was the problem? The land could not support them while they stayed together. They had too much cattle, flocks and herds. The land was too small for them. So obviously quarrelling arose between herdsmen of Abraham and Lot. They quarreled for water and grass. “Hey I got here first, you go there.” When they saw their cattle starving and thirsty, their quarrel intensified. “Hey I will kill you. Move away” Nearby hostile natives were watching closely.
So Abraham realized that it was a serious problem. He sensed that some actions must be taken immediately, otherwise something might happen. Abraham talked to Lot and initiated a proposal. What did he propose? Lets look at vs 8-9.
“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."
Abraham’s proposal was very unselfish. He said: “let’s not quarrel for we are brothers. Let’s part company for the whole land was before us. If you go to the left, I will go to the right. If you go to the right, I will go to the left.” Abraham did not even suggest about casting coins or Gawi-by-bow. He did not claim his seniority. He told Lot to choose first whatever land he wanted. It was a great sacrifice on the part of Abraham. These days people claim their own rights and sue each other.
Abraham trusted God for all blessings. So he did not have to argue or dogfight for materials. He wanted to do what God wanted. Abraham valued Lot as brother more than material gains. He loved Lot like his own son and cared for his spiritual life as well. By telling him to choose first, Abraham wanted to help Lot to grow as an independent man of God. Abraham did not want him to live as a permanent sheep under his shadow all the time. He wanted Lot to learn to make his own decision and grow as a man of faith. So he told him to make a choice first. If we love sheep truly, we must help them like Abraham. Abraham was a good shepherd for Lot. He could sacrifice materials to help his sheep to grow. When Abraham experienced God’s love, he could love God and love Lot deeply and help him grow as an independent man of faith. He could give up his own right to love his sheep. This is a true value system a man of God should have.
How did Lot respond to Abraham’s proposal? Let’s read vs 10-13.
“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. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD .“
Did he say humbly, “Uncle, thank you for your suggestion. I am ashamed that I did not tell you first that you choose first.” Instead he looked up and saw the whole plain of Jordan and chose for himself, and set out toward east. He responded as if he had been waiting for this moment. He did not have any tinge of conscience. He seemed to have a plate of iron skin.
What was the reason Lot chose the plain of Jordan? As he surveyed the land below the Jordan river, the whole plain of Jordan was well watered. Jordan river was flowing down from the north toward the dead sea. He could see the green grass spread over the whole plain. He could picture his fat cattle and sheep grazing and drinking the water. His savings account was growing. It was also like the garden of the Lord, the land of Egypt. It was a very fertile land. He dreamed of life full of comforts and enjoyments the world could offer. It was the best real estate he could buy. “Whoa, it is a paradise!”
Lot chose the land based on his external observation. He trusted his assessment and his ability. It was a good decision if he had been a worldly businessman. Who would not choose like him, given the opportunity! The fatal error in his decision as man of God was he did not take God’s warning seriously. He did not value his spiritual life more importantly than material gains. Look at vs 10 and 13.
“This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD .”
But he ignored God’s ominous warning. He pitched his tent nearer and nearer to Sodom, the sin city, like Las Vegas, because he dreamed to taste the life of sin. The word, “Jordan” means “death” When he valued only growing banking accounts, he chose a death valley. He did not think how the life near Sodom would affect his spiritual life. Actually he did not abandon his life of faith so he did not move into Sodom right away. He just pitched his tents near Sodom. But he began to compromise in his heart. He ignored his conscience. He thought he could enjoy the benefits of both worlds – from the life of faith and the worldly life. He had a double mind.
Once he put his feet in the mud, he was drawn into the mud soon till he could not get out of it. 2Pet 2:8 describes Lot’s life this way in Sodom.
“For that righteous man living among them day after day, was tormented in is righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard”
A true believer cannot enjoy mix with sinful life. It is a torment. Lot did not enjoy his life at all in Sodom. His soul was tormented. About 20 years later, God destroyed Sodom. Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt. His two daughters committed incest with him. Unless Abraham prayed, Lot himself could have ended up in eternal judgment.
Lot made a fatal mistake when he made a decision based on material gains rather than God’s calling and his promise. Abraham made a decision to live in Canaan, the promised land though it was not so lush as the plain of Jordan externally. He lived according to the promise of God. When we live with the promise of God, we may suffer a little, but the life with God’s promise is far better than the life without God.
Shepherd Steve made a decision to stay in College Park when he graduated with Master in EE, though he could make 5-digit income in Silicon valley. When he decided to stay in the promised land, God blessed him with Alison, a woman of faith and energy and use him greatly to help many students. Missionary Abraham made a decision to go to China 3 years ago with Mark 6:37a “you give them something to eat.”, though he could have enjoyed high paying job as a public defendant lawyer. God uses him as a pioneer to open the door for China. Phillip Brown also followed his step. Shepherdess Elaine has made a decision based on the promise of God to go to Beijing, even though there is not job offer yet. I was surprised that she is not worried about it. She believes that God who called her will provide her with a job. When we follow God’s calling, he will feed us and clothe us. Truly the life with God’s promise is blessed life.
If you are considering what to do about your life – job or marriage, make a decision based on God’s calling and his promises. We may not know what’s ahead of us, but you will never regret because God will guide you and strengthen us through.
Prov 3:5-6 says:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.”
As long as we trust in God rather then our own ideas and understanding, God will make our path straight and bless us abundantly.
3. Go walk through the length (14-18)
When Lot left him, how would have Abraham felt? He must be discouraged and his heart empty. How did God help him? Lets read vs 14-17.
“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 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. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."
God said, “Lift up your eyes and look north and south, east and west. All the land you see I will give to you.” God promised him to give all the land he could see, including the land of east. Abraham thought he lost the best land. Abraham thought he had lost Lot, but God promised to give numerous descendants like the dust of the earth. God was his good shepherd. He knew how Abraham felt. He comforted him and encouraged him to go walk through the length and breadth of the land, and claim it. God enlarged his heart by his promises again and again. We should go walk through the length and breadth of college park campus this semester, claiming the students for God. Though we struggle with one sheep, God seems to say: go walk through the length and breadth of East coast and China, claiming the people for God. Abraham, Phillip and Elaine will leave for China this week. They should go and walk and claim China by faith. God says that the whole world is his. We must go all over the world and claim the world for God by faith.
How did Abraham respond to God’s promises?
Lets read vs 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 .”
Abraham went down to south, to Hebron and near the great trees of Mamre, and built an altar to the Lord. Abraham accepted God’s promises and built an altar of thanksgiving and joy. The word, “Hebron” means “fellowship” and Mamre means “richness.” He must have enjoyed rich fellowship with God there. This is a character of a man of faith. Though he was disappointed, when God said, always he trusted his promises and became obedient to his word. This way Abraham enjoyed his rich fellowship with the Lord. May God bless our journey of life of faith as we make a decision of faith moment by moment based on the promises of God and his calling.
Key vs. 13:15