In the last lesson, we left Abram heading back to the desert, having been expelled from Egypt with all he possessed. And we can see from the beginning of the text today that Abram managed to spoil the Egyptians in much the same way that the Children of Israel under Moses would later do. We know that the gold of Egypt became a snare to the wilderness generation. Eventually they would make a golden calf out of it and bow down to it rather than God. And God punished them severely for their idolatry. The idol was ground up and the people made to eat the bitterness of their sin. Many died as a result. Did Abraham and his family fare any better with the wealth of Egypt? Let us see.
Exposition of the Text
The text says that Abram went back to the last place where God had spoken to him. This is always a good idea after one has gotten off the track. When one is lost, don’t go forward in the hopes of finding the way out. Go back to common ground. And this is just what Abraham did. He went back to Bethel which means “House of God”, a place where his grandson Jacob who was fleeing home to go to a strange land to him met God and saw the ladder of angels going between earth and heaven. Bethel was a very special place for Abraham and his family. There he pitched his tent of wandering again, having left the houses of Egypt. There it says that Abram called again on the name of Yahweh.
The text does not say that God immediately answered Abram’s prayer. Instead it focuses on just how wealthy both Abram and his nephew and supposed heir Lot had become. They had been blessed with the wealth of Egypt to the point of pain. One of the blessings of God which was fellowship with God and family was again to be put to a severe test.
Strife broke out within the family. Abram’s and Lot’s servant fought for possession of the limited water supply. There was not enough grazing and water for their huge herds. They had suffered the curse of affluenza. Affluenza is a curse to today’s society as much as it has been a curse throughout history. It has even been recently been used as an excuse for murder. The fight over family possessions has caused grievous hurt to heirs and has resulted in brothers and sisters fighting one another in courts. For the blessing of Egypt, families have failed to see the true treasure they share as family.
We can think of the farmer Jesus talks about in Luke who had such a great harvest that he felt the need to tear down his barns to build bigger ones. Then he was going to live the easy life, or so he thought. He did not know that he had an appointment that very day with death, a death doubly cursed as it is implied that there would be strife among the heirs, who would be the heir.
The combined wealth of Egypt which Abram and Lot had gained in Egypt was about to become a great snare with tragic results. If they had only realized that God’s blessing of family is greater than the promises of worldly wealth, they could have given away the excess to the Canaanites if necessary. They would have been far better off with less. They would still have had each other as well as enough to live comfortably on. But before we get to judgmental, we might want to consider ourselves in relation to all the wealth we grasp for.
Abram had not heard back from God, so he relied on a practical solution to the matter. Abram and Lot would have to split up. The matter seemed agreeable to Lot as well. We must remember at this point that Lot would have been the heir to all Abram had including the promises. But Lot saw things like Esau and despised the blessing of God which was rightfully his for what was no better than a cup of soup in relation. He was no Jacob who would cling on and on with the angel until he received the desired blessing.
So Abram also erred in putting the promise of God up to the choice of Lot. The way things were done in the Ancient Near East was that the more powerful of the two would allow the lesser to make the choice, knowing well that the lesser who understood the rules would take the lesser part. But Lot lifted his eyes up and saw the well watered plain of Jordan. In those days, the area around Sodom was more lush than in out time, and archaeology points this out as well. To Lot, the land seemed like what he had heard about the Garden of Eden. Surely, this was the Promised Land, he thought.
So against the convention of that day, Lot chose what he thought was the best portion. But this was not the Promised Land. That land was the land upon which Abram was standing. So Lot took his inheritance early and wasted it in a strange land that would become a tragic snare for him and his family. In the end, they would be no better off than the Prodigal Son who found himself desiring pig slop. Unlike the Prodigal, however, there was no return trip. He would die in that land, living in fear with his daughters and sons by incest in a cave. So Lot chose the wrong inheritance and went to Sodom. He was no longer heir to Abram. What he lusted after in this world had become his undoing.
In verse 14, we have Abraham and Sarai alone in what appeared to be a much poorer land than the one Lot had taken. But it is at this point that the LORD makes his appearance. I don’t know if Abram had felt betrayed by his nephew or not; it does not matter. What matters is that the promises of God always will turn out to be for the best despite current appearances. God now further defines the promise he first gave to Abram. Look as far in every direction as you can. All this land is yours and will belong to your offspring, an offspring as great as the dust of the earth.
From this promise, we have confirmation that Lot was not to be the heir. Abram and Sarai, even though they were now alone, old, and childless in a foreign land which was theirs and not yet theirs, were going to be blessed with seed. This promise would soon come user a test of its own. Nothing had materially changed for them since the initial call other than a little bit more definition from God as to the vast extent. They could look in every direction to a land which was barren in the places no one lived and controlled by others in places which were desirable. In other words, the lands they could freely possess were barren and unfruitful and the places that they might desire was beyond their means of attainment.
It is easy to identify with Abram. And we can understand the choice Lot made as well. How many children try to escape the poverty of rural areas to find their way in the large cities?. And how great a cost they pay. They separate from family and community and thing gold and silver can replace it. And so often they make these kinds of choices with our blessing in the same way that Lot left with Abram’s blessing. Have we failed to realize what true riches are and that all true blessing does not come from the hand of man, but from God. And great tragedy is the result of our actions.
We must know from where out true riches and value come from. We sing the song that “We have a home in glory land that outshines the sun…way beyond the blue.” But this promise seems to us to be just that—way beyond the blue. We want to make the promises of God happen in the here and now. We try to find the Promised Land in the here and now. Perhaps it is Atlanta or for the Clampetts, Beverly Hills, but “blue heaven is a place on earth.” Lot thought he had found the Garden of Eden, but all he found there was snakes that he could not charm.
We must wait on the Lord and call upon him like Abram did. And we need to keep on calling until we hear from him and not think that “God’s work must truly be our own”. It takes a great deal of patience to wait on God, but God’s promises are sure and worth the wait. We need not settle for the second hand promises of the world who reached out to the Prodigal as long as he had resources to suck dry. But where were the friends when the Prodigal ran out of his inheritance? We can know that unlike the world that Jesus loves us, and we know this because the bible tells us so. He so loved us that he laid down His life on Calvary so that if anyone would believe God’s promises would have eternal life with Him.
Let us follow the words of Martin Luther in “A Mighty Fortress is Our God: “Let goods and kindred go. This mortal life also. The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His kingdom is for ever.” Don’t let a world filled with devils steal the blessing from God which is yours. As Luther also say in the hymn: “God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.” Luther had to be sure of his faith as his life was in constant jeopardy and wrote this mighty hym to bolster our faith in times of trouble Luther rested in Jesus promise:, “Fear not little flock, for it is God’s will to give you the kingdom. Amen.