Review of Gen. 12 and Genesis 13:1-4 “Return To Your First Love”

Posted on September 5, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis Class Sunday Sept. 6, 2009

Genesis 13:1-4 “Return To Your First Love”

Bryan Walker

 

Read: Genesis 11:27-13:4

Pray

 

Introduction: Welcome back to Genesis. Last week I introduced myself and how I study and teach, then I gave a brief overview of Genesis 1-12. Today I want to begin with a brief review of ch.12 and go into 13:1-4. For those who were in the class last semester I apologize for going over some of the same material that we covered at the end of the semester, but I think we have all slept since then so a refresher is OK. and last semester we just plain ended at an awkward spot so I want to begin here in 12 and 13 again. If we get through the material today then next week we shall forge ahead into the rest of ch. 13 which will be new material.

 

I believe I gave some homework for today last time…to read Gen. 1-13. No pop quizzes today, but maybe in the future…

 

  1. I.                   Review of Chapter 12
    1. A.      Abram’s Family 11:27-32
      1. 1.          In 11:27-32 we have the beginning of a new toledoth (the Hebrew word for “these are the generations of”) which is Moses’ way of writing his outline. There are 11 toledoths in Genesis although the two in ch.36 are often just lumped together (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1,9; 37:2.) One key point about the toledoth here in 11:27 is that it is the central one, 5 before it and 5 (if you count the 2 in ch.36 separately) after it. This is one way that Moses shows us the importance of the story of Terah’s children, notably Abram.
      2. 2.           Another way that Moses shows the importance of his subject,    Abram, is the sheer amount of space he dedicates to him. Now modern man would look at chapters 1-11 as being the most important since they deal with Creation etc. but Moses has the greater half dealing with the Land and People of God’s Promise. This is Redemption History, the plan for our salvation. Abram’s story gets most of 15 chapters, Isaac and his children get 11 chapters, and Jacob and his children get 14.

                  B    Abram’s Call   11:27-12:3

  1. 1.                  When did God call Abram? When he was in Ur, paganville, an idolater (see Joshua 24:2), childless, already old at 75. How did God call him? God’s Word- The Lord said to Abram… Why did God call? To demonstrate his grace and love for Abram, to save Abram, to bless the whole world, to begin redemptive history.

 

  1. 2.                  God’s command had two parts- 1) Go from your country, your kindred and your father’s house, and 2) go to the land I will show you.

 

  1. 3.                  God’s promise had 7 parts- 1) I will make of you a great nation; 2) I will bless you; 3) and make your name great; 4) you will be a blessing; 5) I will bless those who bless you; 6) him who dishonors you I will curse; 7) in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Notice all the “I’s” It is God making the promises, not Abram.

 

  1. 4.                  Warren Wiersbe writes, p.14, “We are not saved by making promises to God; we are saved by believing God’s promises to us.”

 

  1. 5.                  What obstacles did Abram face? In vs.11:30 the obstacle is that Sarai is barren; they have no children. In vs. 31 the obstacle was an incomplete obedience in that they stopped in Haran, short of the goal of Canaan. In verse 4 the obstacle is his age, he is 75 yrs. old. In verse 12:6 the obstacle is that the Canaanites were in the land.

 

                  C.   Abram’s Obedience 12:4-9

  1. 1.      So Abram went as the LORD had told him…This is a similar phrasing that is used of Noah’s obedience in 6:22; 7:9, 16; and of Moses in Ex. 39:43; 40:16. It doesn’t say, So Abram went as he saw fit; or, So Abram went as Sarai told him; or, as Lot directed him. Abram at this point is obeying and trusting the Lord exclusively. Instant obedience is the way of faith; following the Lord’s word is the path of obedience.

 

 

The path toward blessing and to true worship of God always lies in following what the Lord tells us to do. We get that primarily from studying the Bible for the broad principles of how to live the Christian life. But what about our decisions for things like taking or leaving a job, dating and marrying someone? We wish the Lord would sometimes give us a direct word like he gave Abram, but that is not the case. How can we know the will of God?

                  D.   Abram’s Descent Into Egypt 12:10-20

  1. 1.      “Now there was a famine in the land…” Here is the next great obstacle for Abram. He arrives in the Promised Land, he sets up altars and worships in the face of the pagan Canaanites, and the Lord rewards his faith with…a test of famine. Folks, when you and I are called to follow Jesus, when we are saved, born again, we are not lifted out of the battle; we are placed in the thick of it. We will suffer.
  2. 2.      “So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there.” We are not told that God led him into Egypt, nor that God spoke to him. Neither Calvin nor Luther thought it was a problem for him to go to Egypt, but most of the modern commentators do. I do too. Moses very clearly shows contrasts between Abram’s journey into Egypt and the story before and immediately after the Egypt story. Thus the context seems to say that Abram was stepping out of God’s will at this time. Nothing good happened in Egypt; he lied about his wife and got kicked out of town.
  3. 3.      The biggest problem with the sojourn in Egypt is that the purity of Sarai, and thus the bloodline of the promised offspring, was threatened with compromise. God miraculously intervened. What other problems will arise because of this sojourn in Egypt? Throughout the Bible, Egypt is mostly a sign of slavery and sin. In only two major occasions in Scripture is Egypt portrayed positively: when God sends Joseph there and his father Jacob later, and in Matthew when God tells Joseph to take the baby Jesus and Mary there for safety. I believe that the ethical teaching of the passage is that we should place others in a dangerous position selfishly just because we are fearful. I believe the whole situation is an example of what can happen when we fail to trust in the Lord and resort to our own devices. Notice that everything that Abram brought out of Egypt ended up being a problem.

 

  1. II.                Literary Analysis of ch.13

 

  1. A.      Gen.13 and the Lot Stories larger context (See Waltke pp.218-219)
    1. 1.      Section 1 Gen.13:1-18
    2. a.      13:1-4 Setting- Abram is rich and worships the Lord
    3. b.      13:5-7 Lot’s problem- strife between the herdsmen
    4. c.       13:8-13 Abram to the rescue, Sodom is very wicked
    5. d.      13:14-18 The Lord blesses Abram
      1. 2.      Section 2 Gen. 14:1-24
      2. a.      14:1-11 Setting- War between Sodom and Shinar
      3. b.      14:12- Lot’s problem- he is taken captive
      4. c.       14:13-16 Abram to the rescue
      5. d.      14:17-24 Melchizedek blesses Abram, Sodom very wicked
        1. 3.      Section 3 Gen. 18:1-19:38
        2. a.      18:1-15 Isaac’s birth announced, contrasted with Lot’s grandchildren, Moab and Ammon.
        3. b.      18:16-21 Lot’s problem- the Lord is going to destroy Sodom
        4. c.       18:22-19:29 Abraham/the Lord rescues Lot, Sodom is very wicked.
        5. d.      19:30-38 No blessing for Lot (although Ruth, a Moabitis, enters into the ancestry of Jesus).

 

  1. B.      Gen.13 in its larger context, part 2, in Chiastic form (Wenham, p.262)
    1. 1.      Sarah endangered 12:10-13:1

2.  Lot episode   13:2-14:24

            3.  Covenant w/Abram  15:1-21

                  4.   Birth of Ishmael   16:1-16

            3.1  Covenant w/Abraham 17:1-27

      2.1  Lot episode  18:1-19:38

1.1  Sarah endangered 20:1-18

 

  1. C.      Gen.13 outline
    1. 1.      Gen. 13:1-4 Setting- Abram is rich and worships the Lord.
    2. 2.      Gen. 13:5-7 Lot’s problem- strife between the herdsmen.
    3. 3.      Gen. 13:8-13 Abram to the rescue, Sodom is very wicked.
    4. 4.      Gen. 13:14-18 The Lord blesses Abram.

 

  1. D.      Gen. 13 Plot and motifs
    1. 1.      The broad theological theme is still about God’s promise of Land and Descendants to Abram, but here the focus is on the land. The threat to the promise in 12:10-20 was the threat to Sarai’s purity, but now the threat is Lot who chooses the best part of the land. The Land in 12:10 was threatened by a famine, but now it is threatened by the abundance of wealth between Lot and Abram so that the land could not sustain both herds.
    2. 2.      Another theme is that of faith. The faith of Lot and Abram is contrasted here by Lot choosing first and choosing the best for himself as he walks by sight. Abram now relies on God in faith instead of his own scheming as he did in Egypt.
    3. 3.      A third theme is worship. This story begins and ends with Abram worshiping the Lord, but we do not see Lot worship.
    4. 4.      Notice the contrasts with the time in Egypt: 12:15 at Pharaoh’s house vs. 13:3 in Abram’s tent in the land of blessing; fear and cowardice in Egypt vs. faith and trust in Canaan; the silence of God in Egypt but God speaking to him again in Canaan; no worship or altars in Egypt but does worship and builds altars in Canaan. Scheming and lying in Egypt, being generous and trusting in Canaan.
    5. 5.      Notice the foreshadowing– Sodom is described as very wicked, which points forward to the events in chapter 19.  

 

 

 

  1. II.                Exposition
    1. A.      13:1-4 On Returning To Christ When You Have Lost Your Way (Rev.2:2-5)
      1. 1.      13:1- There is no doubt that the entire experience in Egypt left a bad taste in Abram’s mouth and likely strained Sarai’s relationship with him. He left enriched yet humiliated. His failure of leadership, his dishonesty and cowardice may have caused him to doubt God. The total lack of any mention of worship, any word from the Lord lends itself to the thought that Abram was seriously backslid at this point. Perhaps his fears of famine and Pharaoh fed his faithlessness.

 

Yet the strong rebuke from the world in Pharaoh seems to have caused in Abram a desire to return to the last place where he knew he was in God’s will- the Negeb. Q: Have you ever been rebuked by the world, by a lost person, for a failure of your faith? Have you ever been caught in a sin by a worldly person and then been shamed by them?

 

So Abram went up- one “goes down to Egypt” and “up from Egypt”. This is true enough geographically, but there is a subtle spiritual message as well. One always ascends to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to the dwelling place of God. We still use that kind of language today in that Heaven is “up” and hell is “down”. The Lord comes down to us, and He lifts us up. Even when Christ was on the cross, he was lifted up so that all men could come to him. When we are depressed we are “down”; when we are experiencing the joys of the Lord we are “on a mountaintop.”

 

…and Lot with him… There was no mention of Lot in the previous story because the principle threat to the promise of God was to Sarai. But now Lot becomes a key character as he takes on the role of Threat to the Promise of God. Notice how those closest to us are often a source of pain and even temptation as well as blessing, comfort and love.

  1. 2.      13:2- Now Abram was very rich- when he left Haran in 12:3 he had “possessions” and “people that they had acquired”, so he was wealthy then. But now he is “very rich”. Some of his wealth was no doubt from business dealings with the Egyptians. Lot is also the owner of flocks and herds, tents and great possessions. Also there was some kind of a bridal price given to Abram for Sarai, so some of Abram’s wealth was ill gotten. The Lord had promised to bless Abram and the wealth is a part of that blessing, but, we should never equate great wealth with being in a right relationship with God. Wealth can certainly be a part of God’s common grace. Jesus teaches us in Matt.6:19-24

 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust  destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

 

 

      we aren’t to lay up for ourselves treasures in this life and we cannot serve God and money. And Paul teaches us in 1Tim.6:9-10 that those with a desire to be rich fall into temptation and a love for money is the root of all kinds of evil. But clearly some of our OT heroes had great wealth and some who supported the early church were also wealthy, even the one who supplied Jesus and his disciples with the upper room for the last supper. Lydia was a dealer in purple, the dye that was used almost exclusively for royalty.

 

In this departure from Egypt with many riches, Moses is also drawing a parallel between Abram and the people of Israel with him in the desert. Had not they also been rescued, delivered, redeemed from Egypt? Had not Pharaoh also sent them out with great riches? Ex.12:33-36. So if I am correct and Abram’s whole trip to Egypt represents a failure of faith, yet God delivers him while protecting Sarai and enriching him and Lot, then Moses is using the story to encourage the faith of Israel in his generation, what does that tell us?

 

That you can sin and get rich and still enjoy the blessings of God? That might be the wrong idea! What it reveals is more about the grace and goodness of God. Even the greatest of the patriarchs, Abram, was not perfect, yet God provided for him abundantly and used even his failure to foreshadow the good that God would one day do to Israel. This gives me hope, that though I am full of sinful failures, God might still somehow use me for his glory and his plan. It humbles me because I see myself in Abram’s fear and selfishness. But it encourages me as I see God’s wondrous mercy and grace.

 

The Health&Wealth Gospel preachers are exegeting the American experience more than they are the Scriptures. To preach a name it and claim it gospel of self help, and to base it somewhat on Abram, is an abomination and heresy that is leading people to hell. I wonder how that health and wealth gospel goes over in the poorest of countries or places where you are persecuted and imprisoned for the Faith?

 

There is a contrast being set up with Lot. Lot will choose the best of the land for his great flocks and herds, but Lot will eventually  lose  everything  and  end up in a cave, impoverished.

Perhaps Moses is also showing that, though Abram grew very wealthy, he did not let that wealth hinder his faith, for now he is returning to Canaan, returning to his altar at Bethel, and worshiping the LORD. Calvin writes (p.367): “We know how greatly even a moderate share of wealth, hinders many from raising their heads towards heaven; while they who really possess abundance, not only lie torpid in indolence, but are entirely buried in the earth. Wherefore, Moses places the virtue of Abram in contrast with the common vice of others; when he relates that he was not to be prevented by any impediments, from seeking again the land of Canaan.”

 

We must avoid both extremes of thinking that poverty is a virtue in itself that pleases God or that wealth is a sure sign of being a believer. Poverty and wealth both have their unique temptations. Poor Lazarus was received into the bosom of rich Abraham.

 

  1. 3.      13:3-4 And he journeyed on…as far as Bethel…where his tent had been at the beginning…where he had made an altar at first… Abram returns to the beginning, or the last place he had built an altar. The fact that the altar remains where he first set it up indicates that God and his promises have never forsaken Abram; God remains faithful even if we are not.

 

I have been lost in the woods, or desert, mall, etc. a time or two, and one of the principles of land navigation that is vitally important is that when you first get the sense that you are going in the wrong direction, that you might be lost, STOP! If you can go back to where you last knew where you were, do so. This is also true spiritually. When we figure out that we are in sin, when the Holy Spirit convicts us or the world chastises us and we know that we have strayed from God’s will, we need to stop, and return to Christ.

 

This can be as simple as going back to reading the Bible and praying regularly, going back to church and fellowshipping with the Body of Christ, or going back from heresy to sound doctrine, quitting a sinful habit and going back to purity and obedience, etc. Abram went back to Bethel and his last altar.

 

If we stop and think for just a little while, I believe we could all                                                                                                                       think of a few times in our life when we did what Abram did. We lost our faith somewhat; we got impatient with God and struck out in our own way, going down a path of our own choosing. Look back at your life and you will see those sinful detours that brought us far from Bethel and into Egypt.

 

Obviously some sinful detours are worse than others in that the sin has greater negative impact on more people or a greater impact upon our life. But all the sinful detours take us further from where God wants to lead us. If we take a sinful detour early in life that is quite severe, we can mess up our future quite a bit. Let me illustrate it this way: if you are athletic as a teenager but then take up smoking and drinking booze, you get out of school and stop training as an athlete, you don’t eat right and you gain weight, by the time you are in your late twenties guess what? You can no longer do what you used to do physically. If you continue in a bad lifestyle into your thirties and forties, some health problems start to arise. By the time you are in your 50’s you suddenly realize that life is passing you by and you try to get back in shape but guess what? You have lost so much that you cannot get back in shape. The decisions of the years have taken their toll on your body to the extent that you have lost many abilities. Sin will do that to you, the longer you stay in sin, the greater your loss of spiritual capabilities. This is especially true for the believer, for the church member.

 

    Years and years of undisciplined spiritual life, years of spiritual     lukewarmness and apathy, years of allowing small sins to rule your life such as a critical spirit, rebellion, resistance to the leadership of the Spirit, lack of exercising your spiritual gifts, and all of a sudden you wake up one day and see the sorry state of your spiritual life and you try to fix things up a little bit, but you discover that you no longer have a desire for the richer things of God, you no longer have the spiritual abilities you once had. Step by step, like Abram, you have wandered out of the Promised Land into Egypt. Entire churches have made this shameful journey, or at least a sizeable chunk of a congregation has made that journey. I pastored a church like that, and it is a tragedy to behold.

 

What do you do if you wake up and find yourself in spiritual Egypt? How do you get back to where God wants you? How can we return to our first love- Christ?

  1. 4.      Vs. 4 Abram called upon the name of the LORD. It is more than just praying, it is worship, intercession, proclamation, sacrifice and instruction. Abram is here serving as priest over his family, hired men, servants and slaves. He is seeking the God who called him out of Ur, out of Haran, and brought him to this land, promising him the land and descendants. Abram returns to the God he loves.

 

Can you picture the scene? Abraham and all those people he had already acquired, Lot and his wife, Sarai, all gathered around the altar as he makes the sacrifice and cries out to the God who has called him, appeared to him, led him, blessed him and made promises to him. He is proclaiming the attributes and actions of the LORD. Ross writes, p.267, “he ‘made proclamation of the LORD by name’ [wayyiqra besem YHWH]. This expression, first used in Genesis 4:26, refers to the public proclamation of faith in the LORD. The expression is used in the Bible for prayer or for praise, but in the Mosaic material it seems to be broader.”

 

Notice that the LORD had promised to make Abram’s name great, yet here we find Abram proclaiming, calling upon the name of the LORD, making the LORD’s name great. Any greatness that we have is derived from the Lord’s work in us. If we aspire to greatness, make much of God, draw close to Christ, stick in His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, lead you and search your heart. He is the Sun, we are but the moon, we have no light in ourselves, we reflect his light.

 

To call on the name of the LORD is to pray, to seek him, to proclaim your loyalty to him in the face of the Canaanites. It is to intercede for those you are responsible for as well as for those who oppose you. It is to invoke blessings on you and yours, and curses on those who persist in opposing you. It is claiming the promises in a formal way of worship.

 

I must give a lengthy quote from Luther at this point: Luther’s Works, Vol. 2, Lectures on Genesis Chapters 6-14, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, translated by George V. Schick, Concordia Publishing: St. Louis, 1960 (pp.286-287) “Here you should note the godliness of the holy patriarch. Even though the people who lived at Moreh were beginning to hate him chiefly on account of his religion, yet this does not cause Abraham to give up his devotion to his religion. On the contrary, he erects an altar on this mountain, which is midway between Bethel and Ai, in order to perform his duty as bishop; that is, he instructs his church concerning the will of God, admonishes them to lead a holy life, strengthens them in their faith, fortifies their hope of future blessing, and prays with them. The Hebrew verb includes all these things.”

 

“…in this passage Moses is speaking of the entire ministry, just as ‘calling upon God’ itself includes the entire ministry. ‘How are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe it there is no preacher?’ (Rom. 10:14). Hence the meaning is: He cried in the name of the Lord; that is, he instructed his people about the name of the Lord, that they might learn that God is merciful and benevolent toward the human race, since he promises a Seed by whom his wrath is to be removed and the eternal blessing that was lost in Paradise through sin is to be restored. And upon this acknowledgment of God there follows the exhortation that in all dangers we should look to this merciful God, pray for his help, and call upon Him. Now go ask our popes and bishops: ‘Who anointed Abraham to fill this priestly office among his people?’”

 

I would suggest that America is on the brink of a very dark time and we need, more than ever, to be calling on the name of the LORD. Are you able, as was Abram, to be your family’s priest should the need arise? Are you able to proclaim the name of the Lord?

 

 

There is some similarity with Abram coming out of Egypt and worshipping the LORD and the Israelites of Moses’ day coming out of Egypt to worship Him Ex.3:12.

 

Returning to God is a theme that runs throughout Scripture. Deut. 30:1-10; 2Chron. 7:14; 30:6-9; Neh.1:8-9; Hosea 6:1-3; Joel 2:12-14; Rev. 2:1-7.

                                    How do we return to our first love?

1. Understand who our first love is. If the love of our life is not Christ, is not our Creator and Redeemer, the Triune God of Holy Scripture, then we love the wrong thing and we are guilty of idolatry. Heb.12:2 “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” Mark 12:30 Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

2. Accept the rebuke that makes us aware of our sin. God rebuked Abram through Pharaoh. 2Tim.3:16 “All scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” I think that in most churches the idea of a biblical rebuke is long sense gone. With a loss of church discipline, sound doctrine, biblical church polity and leadership, most Christians lead lives that are rebuke free. If we are going to be the body of Christ we need to be open to being rebuked when we stray and we need to have the courage to rebuke, in love, those in our close fellowship who are straying. Are we humble enough to be rebuked biblically? If we are in Egypt we need to accept rebuke because that will send us back to Beth-el, back to where we last worshipped God.

3. Accepting Correction– the rebuke lets us know we have done wrong, the correction shows us how to get back on the right track. Correction is the process of God giving us a plan for how to get back into his will. Most people do not like being corrected any more than they like getting rebuked. It requires humility and a teachable heart and a willingness to change. This all assaults our pride. There are some folks who need to listen to correction but absolutely will not. That is true in most churches. To the extent that uncorrectable people populate a church, to that extent the church suffers, slows down, does not prosper or grow. A church that accepts biblical rebuke and correction from God’s word is a teachable and flexible church that will change and grow and become healthy. By the way, this is one reason we have Care Groups in Redeemer Church; so that we can biblically rebuke and correct one another in the context of loving relationships.

4. Returning to Christ– Repentance is the key! Accept the rebuke, confess the sin, accept the correction, come to Him in faith and he will accept you again. Luke 15:11The Prodigal Son. We return to the person of Christ, not a mere program or just to church. We return to our first love- Christ. We return not just to get more blessings, but we return to know him, to serve him, to imitate him and give him praise and glory. We return to Christ to Make Him Known! It is not about us and our pitiful, whining, feel sorry for ourselves, pity party. We return to him because he bids us come to him, and die to self. In Egypt Abram’s focus was on self and it caused trouble, now, back at Bethel his focus is once again on God as he returns to his altar and returns to worshiping God.

 

In conclusion let me quote verse 3 of the great hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

 

O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let they grace, Lord, like a fetter, Bind my wandring heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above

 

***************************************

Sources:

 

Boice, James Montgomery. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Vol.2 Genesis 12:1-36:43. Zondervan, 1985 (383pp.)

 

Calvin, John. The Geneva Series of Commentaries. Genesis. Translated and edited by John King, 1847. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, Scotland 1965 (originally published in Latin, 1554. 2 volumes in one, vol.1 584pp. and vol. 2 523pp.)

 

Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary. P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ. 2006 (318 pp.)

 

Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary, vol.1B Genesis 11:27-50:26. 2005 (960pp.)

 

Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (744pp.)

 

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 1991 (656pp.)

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