In The Beginning

Genesis Chapter Thirteen

I

"Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD" (Genesis 13:1-4).

So after this bad experience in Egypt, Abram made the decision to go back to where he came from. Abram didn't represent God very well during his stay in Egypt, and after being asked to leave (Genesis 12:19-20), he decided to return to an area where God spoke with him once before (see Genesis 12:7-8). 

Now even though we are separated from Abram by many centuries, this decision provides us with a good example to follow today. You see, if you've been in a situation where you haven't handled yourself very well as a representative of God, its important to follow Abram's good example and go back to the place where God has spoken with you. 

Now the place where God primarily speaks to you is through the Bible, because the Bible is the word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:16). This means that you have an opportunity to meet with God and hear from Him every time you read the Scriptures. God can also communicate to you through a message at church (see Acts 14:1 for a first-century example) or even through speaking with other Christians (see Acts 18:24-28).

The thing to remember is that if you make a mistake like Abram did, don't let it keep you from God. Instead, open up an honest and respectful conversation with God in prayer. Be up front with Him about how you messed up and the reasons why. Then ask Him to help you be a good representative of Jesus in your daily life. If you remember Abram's good example and go to the place where God has spoken to you, you'll find that He'll be there for you, just like He was for Abram.

Genesis 13:2 also tells us that, "Abram was very rich. He owned many cattle, sheep, and goats, and had a lot of silver and gold" (CEV). So just how wealthy was Abram? Well, one source says that, "An Arab sheik is considered rich who has a hundred or two hundred tents, from sixty to a hundred camels, a thousand sheep and goats respectively. And Abram being very rich, must have far exceeded that amount of… property." (1)

So God had definitely blessed Abram with a lot of material wealth and it seems that Abram was beginning to get back on track spiritually as well. But there were still some other things that hadn't changed…

(1) A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Genesis 13:2

II

"Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 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. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time" (Genesis 13:5-7).

You may remember that God spoke to Abram earlier and told him to leave his home and relatives and follow the directions that He would give him (see Genesis 12:1). But at some point, Abram's nephew Lot apparently decided that he wanted to go along with Abram too- and that decision eventually lead to the situation that we read about in the verses quoted above. 

This little episode provides us with something important to remember in our own lives- we can often avoid a lot of future trouble simply by doing what God tells us to do. You see, if Abram had done what God told him to do in leaving his relatives behind, then he wouldn't have the problem with Lot's herdsmen that we read about here. Unfortunately, this would not be the end of Abram's problems with Lot. In fact, the next chapter will tell us how Abram had to gather a small private army to rescue Lot after he was taken away as a prisoner of war (see Genesis 14:11-16).

So we can see that while Abram did follow God's instructions, he disregarded the part about leaving his relatives behind when he allowed his nephew to come along with him- and that decision eventually lead to a number of problems for Abram. Like Abram, people today can also make a similar mistake by disregarding portions of Scripture or by not paying attention to the things that God says in His Word. Abram's example tells us that we can often avoid big problems by getting on board with God's instructions first and then doing everything that He tells us to do. 

You see, the big issue between Abram and Lot revolved around the fact that they each had so much "stuff" that there was not enough room for everything. This also reminds us that it's possible for people to have many possessions but still not really be content. Contrary to what some may believe, having a lot of "stuff" doesn't necessarily make you a happier person- and the way that Abram and Lot handle this problem is going to tell us a lot about what they both are really like.

III

"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'" (Genesis 13:8-9).

So we can see that Abram chose to deal with this situation in a very God-honoring way. Notice that Abram never tried to hurt Lot, talk behind his back, or try to claim that he had a right to take everything because he was there first. Abram simply told Lot, "Take whatever land you want and I'll take whatever land is left."

Why do you think Abram handled this situation in this way? Was it because he was afraid to get into a fight or argument with Lot? Well, that's probably not the answer because the next chapter will tell us all about how Abram led a small army against a group of four enemy kings who were holding Lot as a prisoner. So it's unlikely that Abram was the kind of person who would look to avoid this kind of disagreement with his nephew.

A much better answer would be that Abram was generous with Lot because Abram was confident that God would provide for him no matter what. You see, Abram could afford to be generous with Lot because God had given him these promises: "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; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis 12:2-3).

These promises gave Abram the confidence to basically tell Lot, "Take whatever you want." But this is not just an Old Testament idea that only applied to Abram- God's promise to provide for His people also holds true today. For example, check out what God says about this subject in the book of 2 Corinthians...

"Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don't force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes. God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others" (2 Corinthians 9:7-8 TLB). 

IV

Now before we check out Lot's response to Abram's proposal, let's take a quick look at the way that these types of agreements were often negotiated back in those days.

In Abram's day, contracts and agreements between people were usually guided by a set of rules that specified how each side should respond. Since Abram was older than Lot and was also the leader of his group, he had the right in that culture to pick any area he wanted and then assign Lot to anywhere else that remained. 

But instead of enforcing his rights, we see that Abram graciously allowed Lot to make the first choice. However, once Abram offered to allow Lot to choose first, the proper response for a younger man like Lot would be to absolutely insist that Abram choose first and agree to take whatever was left. 

So let's see how Lot responded...

"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" (Genesis 13:10-12).

So instead of deferring to Abram, Lot immediately decided to move to an area known as the Jordan Valley (CEV). Now if you look closely as the passage quoted above, you'll find that it gives us some very specific reasons that help explain why Lot made this choice. If we take some time to look at the reasoning behind Lot's decision, we should be able to gain some valuable information that can definitely help us to make good decisions today.

First we're told that Lot looked over the land, saw the advantages of one particular area, and immediately took Abram up on his offer. To phrase this another way, we could say that Lot saw a bargain that looked good and took it right away. 

While this might sound perfectly reasonable to many people, the problem is that there's no indication that Lot gave any thought to what God might want him to do in this situation. There's no record indicating that Lot prayed before making this decision or that he sought any Godly advice. In fact, there's no indication that Lot gave any consideration to God at all. Lot apparently based his decision on one thing: What's best for me? He saw something that looked good and immediately made the deal. 

V

Lot's experience with Abram helps to illustrate how people often make decisions today. 

You see, the decision making process for many people begins and ends with this thought: "I see something that I want because it looks best for me right now." Unfortunately, we'll soon see that this approach is going to get Lot into some really big trouble. 

But instead of making a decision that was totally based on what looked good to him at the time, what Lot should have done was to go to God first and then allow God to inform his decision-making process. 

So what does it mean to allow God to inform someone's decision making process? Well, here's a good illustration of this idea from a God-inspired letter that Paul the Apostle wrote to a church located in a town called Philippi...

"If it is the Lord's will, I hope that I will be able to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be encouraged by news about you. He is the only one who shares my feelings and who really cares about you. Everyone else is concerned only with their own affairs, not with the cause of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:19-21 GNB).

Paul's reason for his confidence in Timothy was simple: "He takes a genuine interest in your welfare" (GW). This made Timothy very different from some other people of Paul's day who were much more self-absorbed and self-interested. Paul then went on to explain the difference between Timothy and these others by saying, "The others think only about what interests them and not about what concerns Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:21 CEV). 

Now even though Lot lived many centuries before Jesus' birth, he had a similar mindset to those "others" that Paul talks about here. In other words, Lot was concerned about his own interests, but not necessarily God's.

It's can be rare to find people who factor "what concerns Christ Jesus" into their decision-making process as Timothy did. Unfortunately, it's much more common for people to decide what's best for themselves first and then ask God for His blessing. Then there are others who do look to God's Word for direction but don't always put that direction into practice if it involves too much self sacrifice or conflict with what they'd really rather do. 

Timothy was different- he was interested in knowing and doing what God wanted him to do before anything else. We can follow this good example in our own decision making process today by first asking for God's direction in prayer, reading His Word, and getting advice from other God-honoring people. Unfortunately, Lot didn't have that attitude and that mistake is going to get him into some serious trouble real soon.

VI

"Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom" (Genesis 13:12). 

This verse may not seem very important right now, but hang on to this little detail because we're going to come back to it again in a few chapters. But first, the Bible gives us a tip-off that something bad is on the horizon... 

"Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD" (Genesis 13:13). 

So Lot decided to make his home on the outskirts of a place where some really bad things were happening. Again, don't forget to hold on to this information because we're going to come back to it again later on.

"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.' 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" (Genesis 13:14-18).

Did you notice that this passage specifically tells us that God didn't speak with Abram again until after Abram made the decision to obey God's original instruction to leave everyone else in his family? (see Genesis 12:1-3). In other words, God did not speak to Abram again until Abram finally did what God told him to do first. 

This is another instance where Abram's experience with God provides us with some important information that we can use today. The lesson from Abram's example in this passage is simple: if you want God to provide you with His guidance and direction, then you have to do what He says first. 

For example, if you are not doing what God's Word already tells you to do (or if you are doing things that God's Word says are wrong), then you shouldn't be surprised if God chooses not to answer your prayers for His direction. 

Remember that God began speaking to Abram again as soon as he acted on the instructions that God had already given him. In the same way, you shouldn't expect God to provide you with His guidance if you're not doing what God has already told you to do in the Scriptures.

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