WALKING BY FAITH FREES YOU UP TO RELINQUISH YOUR RIGHTS BECAUSE OF YOUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S PROMISES
Review: Remember the journey that Abram has traveled as we get to this point in the book of Genesis. He has made some remarkable sacrifices and displayed exemplary commitment in obeying the call of God that came to him first in Ur and then in Haran. He has arrived in the promised land only to be discouraged by the hardship of famine. Instead of seeking counsel from God, he walked by sight and fled to Egypt where his decisions of expediency exposed himself and his wife to great peril. However, God graciously rescued him and has restored him to fellowship and worship so that we can see that his faith has matured. Now he is going to be faced with some more key decisions. How will he respond? Will he walk by sight or will he choose to walk by faith?
Steven Cole: There is a point along the Continental Divide high in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado at which the waters of a small stream separate. It would not seem to matter much whether a drop of water goes to the left or to the right. But the outcome of those drops of water is totally different. One drop goes to the west and eventually flows into the Colorado River and empties into the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. Another drop goes east until it flows into the Mississippi River and dumps into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Two drops of water, two entirely different destinations, but one small turning point that determines the outcome.
Many choices in life are like that. At the time, they don’t seem significant. But those choices set in motion a series of events which shape your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren after you.
– On what basis are you going to make your decisions?
– What value system is going to govern your choices.
– Are you ultimately kingdom-oriented (Seek first the kingdom of God) or materialistic-oriented (looking out for #1)?
– Are you able to treat others with big-hearted generosity or do you cling to selfish worldliness?
Are you going to live your life walking by faith in the promises of God or walking by sight – falling prey to the temptations of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life?
Your decisions have consequences. Let’s look at the decisions made by Abram and Lot in the story before us this morning.
I. (:5-7) INTERNAL STRIFE BETWEEN ABRAM AND LOT –
DIVERTS FOCUS FROM TRUE ENEMIES
A. (:5) Blessing on the Brotherhood – Success Can Strain a Relationship
“Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.”
“with Abram” – this companionship is about to be tested
We don’t want to turn God’s blessing into a source of contention
Look at the lottery mentality of the world – as if winning the PowerBall this week would solve all of their problems. Where here we see both Abram and lot blessed by the Lord with an abundance of wealth, but far from solving all of their problems, it led to the disintegration of their relationship.
Hughes: Lot had been piggy-backing on Abram’s wealth and God’s blessing
Parunak: Wealth does not always solve problems; sometimes it causes them.
o Eccl 5:11, When goods increase, they are increased that eat them
o Prov 30:8,9, Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
o 1 Tim 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
Luke 18:24 “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”
B. (:6-7a) Division in the Brotherhood – Strife Can Strain a Relationship
1. (:6) Demand for Similar Resources
“And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together;
for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together.”
First test: there was a famine in the land
Second test: land can’t sustain both Abram and Lot in their prosperity
Borgman: the land is somewhat disappointing so far
2. (:7a) Strife and Tension – When Everyone Insists on Their Rights
“And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock
and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.”
“strife” – legal term for dispute; later came to be used of a law suit – Borgman
Like a range war in the old Western movies – who is going to have the rights to the precious and scarce pasture land and water?
Marcus Dods: the rival shepherds, eager to secure the best pasture for their own flocks and the best wells for their own cattle and camels, came to high words and probably to blows about their respective rights.
C. (:7b) Enemies of the Brotherhood —
“Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land.”
They are in a land occupied by antagonists that would not make it easy for them to find ample pasture land and water
Sometimes enemies of God’s program can get along better than God’s people; strange bedfellows
II. (:8-13) CONTRASTING CHOICES OF ABRAM AND LOT —
BIG-HEARTED GENEROSITY OVER SELFISH WORLDLINESS
A. (:8-9) Generosity of Abram – Walking by Faith
1. (:8) Goal of Co-existing in Peace as Brothers
“Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers.’”
Abram valued his relationship with Lot over his right to choose the most fertile ground for himself; did not assert his rights; willing to give up his rights and sacrifice; desired to live in peace with his brother
Functioning as peace maker
But this is a unity that can only be maintained by separation – interesting
Note how it is Abram that takes the initiative here to address the problem – before it becomes any larger and consumes all of them
Prov. 17:14 “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out”
We would not know that Lot was a believer except for the record of Peter that characterizes Lot as a righteous man; seems much more like a spiritual hanger-on – somebody who likes the blessings associated with believers but does not have the same value system or decision-making grid
Parunak: Envy is the result of an attitude that focuses on our rights rather than our duties. The solution is contentment with what the Lord has given us and trust in him to provide anything else we need (Heb 13:5,6), a firm resolve to “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal 5:13-26; the whole passage deals with this dynamic). We should suffer ourselves to be defrauded (1 Cor 6:7), and endure grief, suffering wrongfully (1 Pet 2:19), following the example of our Savior and trusting in God.
Envy is an internal emotion, but if not handled appropriately, it manifests itself outwardly as strife, contention with those of whom we are envious. We have already seen the strife between the herdsmen of Abram and those of Lot. James 4:1 also bears witness to this dynamic: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”
2. (:9) Giving the Choice to Lot
“Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me: if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.”
Classic example of relinquishing one’s rights – very generous offer
Cf. the pattern of Christ in Phil. 2 – did not hold on to his rights; emptied Himself; self-denying
Abram did not have to take matters into his own hands in order to reserve the land for himself
Lot should have quickly protested – acknowledge God’s promise to Abram of the land and voluntarily taken a position of subordination instead of choosing the best for himself
Alexander Maclaren: [quoted by Hughes]
“The less of our energies are consumed in asserting ourselves, and scrambling for our rights, and cutting in before other people, so as to get the best place for ourselves, the more we shall have to spare for better things; and the more we live in the future, and leave God to order our ways, the more shall our souls be wrapped in perfect peace.
B. (:10-11) Selfishness of Lot – Walking by Sight
1. (:10) Selfish Desires
“And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere– this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah– like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.”
What value system did Lot use to make his life-changing decision? Strictly oriented towards materialism and wealth and prosperity and comfort and entertainment
Marcus Dods: Society is made up of little circles, each of which has its own monopoly of some social or commercial or political advantage, and its own characteristic tone and enjoyments and customs. And if a man will not join one of these circles and accommodate himself to the mode of carrying on business and to the style of living it has identified with itself, he must forego the advantages which entrance to that circle would secure for him. . .
We do not condemn persons who suffer from smallpox, but a smallpox hospital would be about the last place we should choose for a residence. Or possibly we imagine we shall be able to carry some better influences into the society we enter. A vain imagination the motive for choosing the society has already sapped our power for good. . .
Your life is taken out of your own hands; you find yourself in bondage to the circumstances you have chosen; and you are learning in bitterness, disappointment, and shame, that indeed “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” . . .
He who believes that God is pledged to provide for him cannot be greedy, anxious, covetous; can only be liberal, even magnanimous. Anyone can thus test his own faith.
2. (:11) Selfish Choice
“So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan;
and Lot journeyed eastward.
Thus they separated from each other.”
Deffinbaugh: The decisions reached by Abram and Lot are the same as those which confront every Christian. We must decide whether to trust in the sovereignty of God or in our own schemes and devices. We must determine whether to trust in the ‘uncertainty of riches’ or in the God Who ‘richly supplies us’ (I Timothy 6:17). We must decide whether to invest in the ‘passing pleasures of sin’ or the future ‘reward’ which is promised by God (Hebrews 11:25-26).
C. (:12-13) Foolishness of Lot – Trying to Live Too Close to the World
1. (:12a) Abram Separated from the World
“Abram settled in the land of Canaan,”
Abram probably had some temptations to resist as he naturally would reconsider whether he was wise to be so generous and so free to relinquish his rights. His shepherds may have criticized him for giving up so easily what they had fought to secure for their master. Just as one must walk by faith in the initial decision-making process; one must persevere in that faith because it will not be immediately plain to all the blessing that God will bring about.
Dods: as Abram saw, when the cities of the plain were destroyed, how kindly God had guided him; so when our history is complete, we shall have not inclination to grumble at any passage of our life which we entered by generosity and faith in God, but shall see how tenderly God has held us back from much that our soul has been ardently desiring, and which we thought would be the making of us.
2. (:12b) Lot Touching the World
“while Lot settled in the cities of the valley,
and moved his tents as far as Sodom.”
Steven Cole: First he looked toward Sodom (13:10). Then he moved his tents near Sodom (13:12). Next we find him living in Sodom (14:12). Finally he is sitting in the gate of Sodom (19:1)–he was a city official.
Cf. homeschooling decision
3. (:13) Wicked Nature of the World Culture
“Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.”
Deffinbaugh: Far more than the loss of his possessions and his prosperity, Lot paid a terrible price for his short-lived pleasure. According to Peter, Lot’s soul was continually vexed by what he saw in that city (II Peter 2:7). Even when the saint is surrounded by sensual pleasure, he cannot enjoy sin for long. And more tragic than anything, Lot paid for his decision in his family. His wife was turned to salt because of her attachment to Sodom (19:26). His daughters seduced Lot and caused him to commit incest, no doubt a reflection on the moral values they had learned in Sodom (19:30ff.).
III. (:14-18) RENEWAL OF COVENANT PROMISES TO ABRAM
“And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him,”
A. (:14-15) Vision of the Promised Land
1. (:14) What You See
“Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward;”
Contrast to vs. 10 where Lot selfishly lifted up his eyes and beheld for himself what he selfishly desired
Again, the contrast between walk of faith and walk of sight
Interesting that Abram could see all that Lot chose for himself … and God goes on to reassure him that all that land is still part of God’s gift package to Abram and his descendants
2. (:15) Is What You Will Get
“for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.”
B. (:16) Promise of Countless Descendants
“And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.”
Yet Abram and his wife were getting older each day and their prospects for children growing bleaker
The Reassurance of God’s promises does not remove the difficulty of persevering in faith
Hughes: Later in 15:5 God would promise that Abram’s offspring would be as numerous as the stars. So whether he looked down as he traversed the land by day or whether he looked up at the stars at night, he was reminded that he and his barren wife would become a great nation (cf. 12:2).
C. (:17) Faith in Ultimate Possession of the Promised Land
“Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
Faith Walk – symbolic of taking possession of the land
D. (:18) Dwelling and Worship in the Promised Land
“Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre,
which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.”
Abram lived in a pagan dominated culture as well – but responded quite differently …
Cole: Abram the pilgrim, just passing through; and, Abram the worshiper, bearing witness to a pagan world.
Where do you see Lot worshiping the Lord?
Steven Cole: Someone has said that we tend to think of commitment to Christ like laying a $1,000 bill on the table: “Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.” But the reality is that God sends most of us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there, in small deeds of faithfulness and obedience. But it’s right there, in those little 25 cent choices, that our lives take their direction.
So make your choices based on God’s principles: Relationships over rights; godliness over greed; fellowship with God over the world’s approval; and, faith in God’s promises over immediate pleasure from the world. Because if you have God and His promises, you have everything. So seek Him first, and all else is yours.
Walk by Faith … Not by Sight.