Look around to the north, south, the east, west
key verse 3:14
Last week, Pastor Philip talked about Abram in Egypt. When Abram saw Egyptians, he thought what if they killed me because of my wife. So he lied, saying “she is my sister”. But his seemingly best option turned out to be a worst choice. not only he lost his wife, in genesis 12, God promised that he would make him a great nation through him and his wife. But if Pharaoh slept with Abram’s wife, even God’s plan was in great danger. So God intervened in this conflict and fixed the problem. Through this event, Abram experienced God’s presence in his life.
In today’s passage, Abram faced another type of conflict with his nephew Lot. Both had lots of flocks, herds, and tents. The land they stayed together was not enough for them anymore. As a result, their shepherds quarreled each other and their fighting was getting worse. But this time, God did not intervene in the conflict. Rather I think he seemed to wait and watch how Abram approached to solve the problem. Abram suggested Lot to choose a land first. He deserved to claim a right to choose a land. Nevertheless, he yielded the right to Lot. How could he able to make such a decision? How about Lot? What did he choose? What was the result of their choice? We are also facing many different types of choice every day. In workplace, in family, in future plan, which school to go, whom I should marry, … When we go to choose something, what should we consider most? I pray this passage may teach you about what the right decision is and how we can make a right decision.
1. Abram’s choice
Look at verse 5. “Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents“. Lot’s father died when he was little. His uncle Abram felt sorry for him that he took care of him as his own son. He followed Abram wherever he went. Since Abram was the man of God and the servant of God, whenever he was blessed by God, Lot also was blessed. Now he had his own flocks, herds, and tents. As we see Abram and Lot case, if possible, please stay near the servants of God. As an extra bonus, you will be blessed too.
Abram and Lot both became rich. Then, quarreling among them occurred. Somehow money always brings troubles. Look at verse 6 and 7. “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. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time”. The land where they stayed together was not big enough for them anymore. In the past, they greeted, hi uncle’s shepherd, Hi nephew’s shepherds. But now they were mad against each other because of lack of water and grass. Probably, Abram thought the time would solve the problem. He might tell his shepherds to be patient. But as time passed by, quarreling was getting worse. he could not just wait on and on. He had to do something to fix the problem.
How did Abram see and solve the conflict? Look at verse 8 and 9. “So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 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.“
First, Abram suggested Lot not to quarrel. Land is a thing like money, car, or house. It can exist today and may be gone tomorrow. But a person is different. To Abram, Lot was his close relatives. In fact, he was like his own son. He shared God’s vision with Lot together. He shared God’s material blessings together. He considered Lot as his precious coworker. He did not want to lose Lot just because of a thing: land. So he asked him to stop fighting over lands.
Second, Abram wanted to glorify God even through this conflict. Abram knew that people in the land watched him and Lot very closely. Verse 7 says “in the land there were Canaanites and Perizzites.” They were unbelievers. They had seen that Abram and Lot built an altar and talked about God. Then soon later, they saw also Abram’s shepherds and Lot’s quarreled with each other. Even though they did not say anything, they were very interested in how so called Christians would solve this problem. Abram knew this might be a good chance to reveal God’s glory to unbelievers.
By Jesus’s blood on the cross, we are brothers and sisters in God’s family. We are close relatives in God. We are different in many ways: naturally lots of issues, headaches, and conflicts among us. But one thing we should remember is that we are purchased by Jesus’ blood and precious more than money, lands, or any things. Then we can build a love community. People will see that we are Jesus’ disciples.
Third, Abram told Lot to be separate and to choose a land first. Being separated, giving up something, losing something, we do not like it at all. Abram and Lot went through either good times or bad times together. Being separated is somehow very scary. Also giving Lot an option to choose a land is very risky for Abram’s future. But Abram humbled himself and asked Lot to choose a land either to the left or to the right. Once again, how could he able to make such a decision? Without God, it is impossible to explain it. In Gen 12, God promised Abram to make him great and to make him a blessing for all people on earth. Then, in last week passage, Abram messed up everything, he cheated, he lied, he was stuck, nevertheless God gave him back his wife and made him super rich. Through this, Abram experienced that God was real. He deeply felt that God cared about him, protected him, and provided him. When he thought about God, he could be confident that God would continue to provide him his needs. So he might still worry about his future, but at the same time he was willing to give up his right to choose a land.
There was a woman named Ruth. She had an interracial marriage (Moabites and Jewish). But her husband died without leaving any children. Her mother-in-law told her to go back to her own race and remarry to someone. “To go back, or not to go back, that is a question.” what did she choose? Ruth 1:16, 17 say ”But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” She did not return to her own race: her father’s household. she chose to stay with her mother in law. This meant she might remain a young widow. She had to give up her Moabites citizenship and became a foreigner in Israel. Nevertheless, she wanted to be a part of God’s people. As we know, later God blessed her to become a great grand ma of king David.
Choosing something is not easy. Often we do not know if we make a right choice or not. But one thing clear from Abram is that we value God as 1st priority when we calculate. Then, we can have a courage to choose what is right before God.
2. Lot’s choice
Now let us see what the Bible says about Lot’s choice. look at verse 10 and 11. “Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company”
Lot explored lands here and there, and then he found a dream place: the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar. The land was like the garden of Eden, meaning the land had enough water and grass. Also the land was like the land of Egypt, meaning advanced city life: nice buildings, foods, drinks, shows, funs, and pleasures. It seemed a perfect place for his flocks and him. So he chose the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.
Look at verses 12 and 13. “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord “
Before Lot was separate from Abram, he was Abram’s good 1:1 bible study student. He must have helped Abram when he built the altar. He also called on the name of God. In my opinion, he must have heard about the wickedness of people in Sodom. So he did not want to live in Sodom. So first time, he lived among the cities of the plan. He wanted to serve God and at the same time he wanted to taste pleasures of this world. He had suffered a lot in the past while he followed his uncle Abram. He might think it was time to have a fun. But this did not mean he left God. 2 Peter 2:7 says he was a righteous man. It meant he tried to have a right relationship with God. However, he did not want to fully commit to God. He wanted to worship God but also he did not lose his fun life. Since he did not give his full heart to God, his heart was getting corrupt more and more. Verse 12 says he became bolder in seeking sinful life. He was not satisfied with the cities of the plain. So he moved near Sodom and later in ch 14, he found himself living inside Sodom.
What does this teach about Lot’s choice? When we do not seek God first, other things occupy our heart little by little. Lot did not move into Sodom from the beginning. He might new the danger of Sodom for his spiritual life. So he stayed away from Sodom when he moved toward the east. But as we see, as a flying bug approaches to a light, he slowly, faithfully, moved near Sodom and ended up living in Sodom. Meaning that even he could not control his sinful desire.
As a result, what happened to him later? 2 Peter 2:7 says “and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless” his heart, his soul, was distressed by the wickedness of people every day. Also in Ch 14, a war broke out in those areas. He lost all his possessions and became a captive. In ch 19, the city was destroyed by fire from heaven. Did he know the city was destined for fire destruction? I do not think so. He saw only promising worldly things. What if he prayed to God? “God, I like the whole land near Sodom. But people are wicked. what should I do?”. Or what if at least he wanted a spiritual advice from Abram? “Uncle Abram, I love the land, but I feel uncomfortable for the people in the land. what should I do?” God is God of mercy and wisdom. Would not God give him a better land? He might also avoid his tragedy in his life. Proverbs 16:25 says “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” That is why we have to pray humbly when we choose something. The best choice we think may lead us our destruction. The stupid choice may turn out to be best choice. We do not know. That is why we should consider spiritual environment when we have to choose graduate school, job, marriage, and life direction. The choice of a moment affects our whole life.
Shepherd Fredrick is one of examples how he prayed in seeking God’s will when he had to choose a place to live in. When he graduated from Maryland engineering master program, he got a job offer at one of best satellite companies in USA located in Rockville. You know heavy traffic on 495 and 270 during rush hours. When he had to find a place to stay, most of his friends rented an apartment near by the company. He might want to live close the office too. But he prayed to seek God’s guidance. He did not know what would be his best for him. After much prayers, he chose to stay near the center. He decided to commit his heart to God than career. Of course, he had to suffer in long driving but God saw his sacrifice and his heart for him. Then, how did God bless him? He met Esther while they served YDJ. God also called him through John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” Now he is a happy husband to Esther and daddy to Lydia. He is also TV fellowship leader.
3. God’s promises to Abram
By faith, Abram was separate from Lot. By faith, he gave up his right to choose a better land. But what was waiting for him was cruel reality. He became lonely. Lot was gone. He had still his own issue of lack of water and grass for his flocks. When he thought about his situations, he was depressed. Then God appeared him again. Look at verse 14 – 16. “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 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.”
First, God told Abram “look around from where you are, to the north, south, the east and west”. Abram was a man of God. But also we have to remember he was a mere man too. He might regret his decision. He did not know what to do now. God did not want him to just stay frustrated. He wanted Abram to look up his eyes to see the whole lands in each direction.
God also wants us to look around from where we are. Often we go to only stamp union for fishing. But from the Stamp, there are the north campus, south, the east campus, and west. There are also many students from north (Canada), south (Latin America), east (England, Romania, Germany), and west (China, Japan, Korea). From Maryland state, there are four states to look around: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and West Virginia. Most of all, we need to look around from America, to Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America by sending short term missionaries. Is not it exciting to spread the gospel from America? I never thought about china mission. But as I stay in America, many international students come to study in America. I could have a chance to study the bible with several Chinese students so far. Actually, one of them studied the bible with me for 2 years and returned to China. I pray he may grow an influential Christian there. I did not know I have participated in china mission.
Second, God promised Abram and his descendants to give all the land he saw. Right now, Abram didn’t even have a foot of land. But God promised him that in the future he and his descendants would own all the lands he could look around. Also he promised Abram to make his offspring like the dust of the earth. Can you count the number of the dust on the earth? No way. What was Abram’s human situation? He was already over 75 years old. It was kind of too late for him to start a new thing. He might be very anxious. Nevertheless, God said to him, “in my timing, I will make your offspring like the dust.”
I am always wondering why God did not give Abram what he wanted right away? He knew how much Abram was anxious. But God only promised him. What God really wanted was that Abram would get to know about God himself, Abram would grow as a blessing, Abram would grow enough to deal with God’s blessing correctly. The same principle may apply to us. It is not a guarantee that our situations would get better when we make a right choice. Often God promises us about his blessing. But as time passes by, nothing still happens. We worry, we are nervous. We wish God may work out before too late. But we have to remember that such trouble is temporary. God will surely keep his promises as he kept his promises to Abram.
Now let us look at verse 17 and 18. “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord”
God commanded Abram to go and walk through the land. Abram believed God’s promises. So he began to walk all the way to Hebron: from Bethel to Hebron, around 35 miles. While Abram was walking through the land, what might he be thinking? “God said, this will be my land, this will be my descendants’ land, this is mine”. So he was so thankful that he built an altar to God again.
In conclusion, we learned some biblical principles which can help us when we make a decision:
God first, spiritual environment second, worldly things third. We also learned Abram’s choice and Lot’s choice. Abram valued God and Lot valued worldly things. We know their different outcome of their choice. Also we learned God’s vision for Abram, “look around from where you are, to the north, south, the east, and west”. Let us seek God first. Let us pray to God humbly that we may choose a right thing before God.