Gen.13:1-13 “A Godly Separation” Part 1

Posted on September 13, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

The Genesis Class

Gen.13:1-13 “A Godly Separation” Part 1

Sunday, September 13, 2009

 

Read: Gen.13:1-18

Pray

 

Introduction: I well remember this Bible story from my childhood in various Sunday School and maybe even Vacation Bible School lessons. I want you to tell me, read my mind even, what the main point of those childhood lessons was from this text. Basically it was, “Be nice, and share like Abram. God blessed Abram because he shared with Lot.” That is about as man-centered of an interpretation as it can possibly be. And you want to know why Baptist’s and the American Church are in a mess!? This story is not a simple story about being nice and sharing!

 

This story is all about the God of Abraham keeping his promises made to Abram; promises that ensure that God’s will and plan will sovereignly be accomplished. In the stories that follow God’s promises to Abram in 12:1-3 we will see threat after threat to the promises of God. In this story there is a contrast made between foolish Lot and faithful Abram, but again, it is in the context of what God is doing to keep His Word.

 

Today as we look at Gen. 13 we will see again, some of the wonderful structure that Moses has woven into the story that will reveal what God was doing in Abram’s day and in Moses’ day. We will see the threat to the promise of God and how God worked it out. We will see the cracks in Lot’s soul that provide a contrast between him and Abram, and a warning to us. There are eschatological implications in this text and practical discipleship lessons as well.

 

A New Testament verse that I think will apply is Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

 

  1. I.                   Literary Structure
    1. A.     Abram, Egypt and Israel 
      1. 1.      There is a remarkable parallel between the structure of the Abraham stories in Egypt and the stories of Israel in Egypt. This is not just a sign of Moses’ brilliance as a writer; it shows the Providence of God who arranged the events. I think we will also see the ramifications for later Israel and even for the Church of today.
      2. 2.      John Sailhamer, EBC vol.2, “Genesis”, pp.116-117 shows the parallels:

             Abram                                                                            Joseph/Israel

12:10 famine in the land                                    41:54  a famine in all the lands

12:11 he drew near to go into Egypt             46:28 they came toward … Goshen

12:11 he said to Sarai his wife                             46:31 Joseph said to his brothers

12:12 when the Egyptians see you, they will say 46:33 when Pharaoh calls you, he will   say

12:13 Say                                                                46:34 Say

12:13 That it might be well with me on account  of you   46:34 That you  

                                                                              might dwell in the land of Goshen

12:13 And the officers of Pharaoh saw her and      47:1 And Joseph came and declared to Pharaoh                                                     declared it to Pharaoh

 

12:15 And the wife was taken into the house of   Pharaoh 

47:5 And Pharaoh said,“settle your father and brother in the best part

12:15 And Abraham acquired sheep and   cattle            

47:6 Put them in charge of my cattle and livestock

                                                                                  47:27 they acquired property and were

                                                                                       fruitful and increased greatly

12:17 And the Lord struck Pharaoh with great        Exodus 11:1 One more plague I will    

plagues                                                                           bring on Pharaoh

12:18 And Pharaoh called to Abram and said         Ex. 12:31 And Pharaoh called to

                                                                                      Moses and Aaron and said

12:19 Take and go                                                    Ex. 12:32 Take and go

12:20 and sent them away                                        Ex. 12:33 to send them away

13:1 And Abram went up from Egypt                      Ex. 12:37 And the sons of Israel

                                                                                    traveled from Rameses toward

                                                                                      Succoth

13:1 And Lot went with him                                     Ex. 12:38 and also a great mixed

                                                                                     multitude went with him

13:2 And Abram was very rich with livestock         Ex. 12:38 And they had very much

         silver, and gold                                                  livestock , vs. 35, silver and gold

13:4 Returned to altar and worshiped God              Ex.19:17 Moses brought the people

                                                                                   out of the camp to meet God*

                                                                                  (*this last point is my departure from

                                                                                      Sailhamer’s chart; he has 12:4 and

                                                                                       Passover as the corresponding

                                                                                        passage in Ex. to Gen.13:4)

***NOTE: placing a chart on WordPress is beyond my expertise****

 

  1. 3.      The parallels continue thematically, if not so structured grammatically, as Abram fights a battle in ch.14 and Israel must fight Amalek in Ex. 17; Abram’s first son, Ishmael is rejected by God and all of Israel, except for Caleb and Joshua, reject the promised land and are them rejected by God and consigned to the desert too. Allow me to quote Sailhamer here (p.117) “By shaping the account of Abraham’s sojourn in Egypt to parallel the events of the Exodus, the author permits the reader to see the implications of God’s past deeds with his chosen people. The past is not allowed to remain in the past. Its lessons are drawn for the future. Behind the pattern stands a faithful, loving God. What he has done with Abraham, he will do for his people today and tomorrow.”
  2. 4.      The practical application from this highly structured story, and the historical events recorded, is that we can read the OT stories with certainty of their truthfulness and seek to apply them to the history of the Church and to our own lives. Eschatalogically, what I see here is that there is coming a day, when we will come out of Egypt (this world) and return to our God where we will worship Him face to face. God’s promise to Abram will ultimately be fulfilled as the Church meets her bride, Christ, and all nations will be blessed in Him. And here is another reason I am a fanatic about studying history, history is His Story. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Past, the Lord of the Present, and the Lord of the future. Granted, our ability to properly understand and interpret the past is perhaps only slightly better than our ability to understand the present, and our guesses about the future seem to be pretty futile at times, but I am convinced that in order for us to understand the times in which we live, so as to know what to do to best honor God, we must measure the present by the past acts of God in history. I think this applies to the Church, to our personal, spiritual lives and to the life and politics of our country. God gives us a choice of taking him at His Word and choosing the Promised Land, or choosing the rich plain of Sodom. Either way we choose has consequences and he remains sovereign even over our choices.
  3. 5.      A parallel structure exists throughout ch.13- the story is framed in worship scenes in vss.4, 18. The context of the strife and Abram’s graciousness is worship. The speech by Abram to Lot in vss. 8-9 is matched by God’s speech to Abram in 14-17. In vs.10 Lot lifts up his eyes and saw the Jordan Valley but in vs.14 God tells Abram to lift up his eyes and see all the land. In vs.7, after the strife occurs, the Canaanites are mentioned and in vs. 13, after the strife has been settled, the Sodomites are mentioned.
  4. B.     Themes in 13:5-18 God’s promise is threatened, separation, Sodom, geography, family tension.
    1. 1.      The promise of land threatened, 12:1, 6, 10; 13:6,7a,b,9,14-15 the major theme here is not the kindness and generosity of Abram, it is all about the Promises of God. The promise of land is threatened by the presence of the Canaanites, the famine (caused by drought), the abundance of livestock owned by both Abram and Lot which the land could not support, and then, finally, Abram’s own generosity- he offered it all to Lot!
    2. 2.      Sailhamer writes, p.118-119 “What is particularly striking about Abraham’s offer is that in the subsequent narrative (19:37-38) Lot is shown to be the father of the Ammonites and the Moabites. Abraham is about to hand the Promised Land over to the same people who, in the author’s own day (Num. 22-25) and throughout Israel’s subsequent history (Deut. 23:3-6; Ezra 9:1), were the primary obstacle to the fulfillment of the promise. Thanks to Abraham the promise seems to teeter on the whim of the father of the Moabites. But, as the narrative shows, Lot chose to go East; so Abram remained in the land. Thus God’s promise was secure, in spite of Abram’s passivity.”
    3. 3.      The threat of losing what God has promised is a recurring theme in the Scriptures. God told Adam not to eat of the fruit from the tree in the midst of the Garden, lest he surely die. He ate, and they lost paradise. Mankind became only evil all the time and God sent a flood, so man lost everything, except for Noah. Israel refused to enter the Promised Land and lost it as they died in the desert. After conquering Canaan, Israel prospered, like Abram, then acted like Lot and God sent the Midianites and Philistines to plunder them in Judges. Saul lost his kingdom for his disobedience. Under the Kings the Israelites began worshiping false gods and God sent in the Egyptians, the Assyrians and Babylonians to plunder them.
    4. 4.      Application- without becoming overly negative, the Church needs to look at our culture and our hearts to see what threatens the promises of God. I believe that here, Abraham acted by faith in his generosity towards Lot. He was trusting God with the results.
    5. 5.      Separation (Heb. parad) is a theme. The Heb. word is used in vss.9, 11, 14. This word or the idea goes back to 10:32; 11:1-9; 12:1-3 and 19:1-29. The actual word is used in the Babel story, thus linking Lot to Babel, and the idea is also linking Lot to Sodom. Babel and Sodom are not the two cities you want to be associated with forever. The basic quarrelling between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s foreshadows the problems between Israel and Moab and Ammon, the descendents of Lot. Hence the separation. In the Mosaic Law Moabites and Ammonites are even prohibited from entering the Tabernacle, Deut.23:3.
    6. 6.      Application-Folks, sometimes there are some basic differences between people, people groups, within churches, within a nation that will eventually lead to a separation if those differences are not healed. The separation that occurs here leads to centuries of strife between the descendants of Lot and Abram.
    7. 7.      Abram was told to leave, i.e., separate, from his country, kindred and family; in this story of separation from Lot he finally obeys completely.
    8. 8.      This separation also shows a geographic theme. The plain was well watered like the Garden of the Lord and like Egypt. But then he mentions, “in the direction of Zoar” thus pointing forward to ch.19 and Lot’s bad ending. Verse 11 uses a phrase full of significance geographically and theologically: “set out toward the east.” When Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden where did they go? East of Eden. In ch.11 the people migrated “from the east” to the plain of Shinar and built Babel and the Tower.
    9. 9.       Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned and verse 13 says the men of Sodom were very wicked. So again, parts of one story point back to what he has already told us and point forward to what lies ahead.

10.  Yet another theme is family tension. There is strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s, but this points us forward to the tension between Sarai and Hagar, between Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, David and Saul, Israel and Judah. In the New Testament we see the wheat and the Tares.

                      

  1. II.                Exposition
    1. A.     The Paradox of Wealth and Famine
      1. 1.      In 12:10ff the problem was a famine in the land, now the problem is too much wealth of cattle and sheep for the land. Abram already was quite well off according to 12:5 but the trip into Egypt had been very prosperous for now Abram is very rich, the word there is kabed meaning heavy. But this word is also used in 12:10 for a severe famine, a heavy famine. Moses then, wants us to link the two stories with this word. What does it mean? Moses is giving us a paradox, the land of promise is heavy with famine, but now the recipient of the promise is heavy with wealth. The severe famine led Abram astray into Egypt, yet still the Lord not only protected him (and Sarai!) but has blessed him with much wealth. The wealth leads to another problem, tension between the herdsmen, between Lot and Abram, which leads to the crisis point of the text, Abram giving Lot the choice of which land to take. The minor blessing of wealth leads to a crisis of potentially losing the major blessing promised by God, the Land.
      2. 2.      Verse 3- “he journeyed on…” Abram is the wealthy sheik, a nomad, not a citizen of Canaan like the Canaanites and Perizzites. Spiritually he is following the LORD to that heavenly city. He is a pilgrim passing through. Do we have a pilgrim mentality or a Lot mentality of settling near Sodom? Calvin writes on this verse, p.367, “Moses next shows, that riches proved no sufficient obstacle to prevent Abram from having respect continually to his proposed end, and from moving towards it with unremitting pace. 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…” See also Matt.19 for the story of the Rich Young Ruler who failed to leave his riches to follow Jesus.
      3. 3.      “as far as Bethel…the place where he had made an altar…” last week we talked some about his revival of worship as he called on the name of the LORD. When you find that you have lost your way spiritually, go back to where you last knew the Lord.
      4. 4.      vs.5 “And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.” This is directly related to 12:2 “you will be a blessing”, as Lot was with his uncle, he received the splash blessings that the Lord had given Abram. It splashed on over to Lot too.
      5. 5.      vs.6 “the land could not support both of them…” the “heaviness” of the blessing leads to a problem. Don’t ever think that the blessings of God cannot also present challenges and even temptations. God gives good blessings, and the problem is never with the blessing itself, the problem is with our sinful hearts and what we choose to do with God’s blessings. Think about the people of Moses’ day- this land that could not support both Abram and Lot is their Promised Land that is supposed to be flowing with milk & honey. How will Israel react to this story? What is the fundamental problem? It’s not the wealth, it’s not even Lot’s attitude. It is vs.7b “the Canaanites and Perizzites were dwelling in the land.” The land was already occupied! In Moses’ day the Israelites were supposed to do what to the Canaanites? Destroy them. Now we don’t like to think about that much today; we’re too prettified and sissified for that. But in Abram’s day, rich as he and Lot were, they were not big enough to take on the Canaanites. That is why Abram was a sojourner, he is waiting for God’s timing which is hundreds of years down the road. But God uses this Canaanite problem and the blessing of riches to both Abram and Lot to bring about a separation between the man of Faith Abram, and his weaker nephew.
      6. 6.      Application- How have riches and abundance affected the Church in America? Americans spend more on pet food than the Church spends on missions. Businessweek says we spend an astonishing $41 billion a year on pet food.

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_32/b4045001.htm

 

  1. 7.      This quarreling over resources is another foreshadowing of things to come. Isaac and Abimelech’s men have a similar issue in ch.26. Israel quarrels with Moses over water at Ex.17 and Num.20.
  2. 8.      Application- I have seen churches and families torn apart by quarreling in the midst of plenty. As we lose sight of the Giver of gifts and focus on the gift or when we disregard the gifts we do have and covet other gifts we sin. If you bake a chocolate cake and give it to a bunch of Baptists, they will fuss and complain that it has no nuts; but if you make the chocolate cake with nuts, they will fuss and complain that it has nuts.
  3. B.     The Godly Man’s Faith
    1. 1.      vs.8 The godly man deals with the issue before it gets out of control. Abram here understands that there is potential for a serious quarrel. So far it is just between the two groups of herdsmen; he wants to treat Lot as a brother so he brings up the issue in order to settle it. He does this in the midst of the Canaanites who might be watching, and in front of the hired men and servants and family. He takes responsibility and leadership in a godly manner. Notice the contrast between how Abram handles this problem, this threat to the Promise of God, and how he handled it in Egypt. Here he was direct and gracious both. The reason there should be no strife or quarreling is that, “for we are kinsmen.”
    2. 2.      Application- Oh if God’s people would deal with problems in this manner. Direct yet gracious. Avoiding unnecessary conflict because we are “kinsmen”, we are brothers in the Lord, joint heirs with Christ!

**************TO BE CONTINUED************

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