Lot’s Choice: Genesis 13:10-18

…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6 (photo courtesy of bibleinayearandbeyond.blogspot.com)

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt. (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. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the 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 went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the LORD.

Genesis 13:10-18

Decisions. I wonder if Lot prayed through his decision to set himself up in the greater Sodom and Gomorrah metropolitan area. I wonder if he sought God’s will for his life before he pulled the trigger on where to move himself and his family.

The plain was well watered. It looked like the garden of the Lord. It looked like the irrigated areas of the land of Egypt.

It looked good. It looked like an obvious choice.

But Lot wound up keeping company with those who were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD. (Genesis 13:13)

We do the same thing today. We make decisions, often times important decisions, based on how things look.

“They pay the most,” he says.

“If you work there we won’t have to move,” she says.

“He looks so cute,” she says.

“She’s smokin hot,” he says.

Some people said that he looked a little like Leonardo DiCaprio. He was older, charming, handsome, witty. She was young and impressionable. She liked his good looks and his big personality. He liked her youthful beauty. She went away with him in January of 2004. When she was only 21. He was 33.

“What an adventure this will be,” he said.

“I know he’s much older but we’re in love,” she said, answering her parent’s objections.

And it was a great adventure — at first. He was talented and landed a good job in the first town they moved to. She worked part time to help out. They enjoyed their first few months together. But he lost his job and they had to move again. New town, new job, fresh start, no problem. But less than a year later he lost his job once more. Off they went to another town. He took another job. It was there that she started to learn more about her new husband. As it turns out, he enjoyed gambling.

“This cuts into our budget,” she said.

“It’s just entertainment, what’s the big deal?” he said.

“You’re borrowing money from people at work,” she said.

“This is the last time, I promise,” he said.

Another job, another town. In this town she learned about his addiction to internet porn. She also learned that he can get abusive at times.

She also learned she’s pregnant.

The plain may look well watered, the choice may look appealing, the decision might appear to be obvious, but what does the Lord want?

Think about what you can know about a person. You can know how he or she looks and sounds. You can’t know what’s in his mind. You can’t know her intent. You can’t know what she plans for the future. You can’t know his heart.

But God knows everything there is to know about a person.

Think of what you can know about your environment. You can only know what’s happened in the past based on recorded history and your own memory. You can only know what’s in the present based on your senses — if you’re inside right now, with the drapes drawn, you can only know what’s happening inside the four walls of the room you’re in. And the future — you can’t know for sure what might happen even one second into the future.

But nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)

Why not tap into that?

Abram did. Abram tapped into that. Abram built an alter to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8) And look at the results! God told Abram “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” (Genesis 13:14-15)

And what’s Abram’s response to this news? We see in verse 18 that he builds another alter to the Lord! By the way, nowhere in scripture do we find Lot building an alter to God.

So often when we find ourselves in a position of having to make an important life decision, we do so based on our own impressions. It may feel awkward, it may feel different, but like it did for Abram, it will result in tremendous blessing when we seek the Lord before making important decisions.

The way to do that is to…

  • Pray for wisdom: Pray through your decision. Pray for the Lord to direct your steps. Concerning wisdom, James 1:5 says that …you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 
  • Study scripture: Personally I’ve found that the degree to which I’m immersed in God’s word is the degree to which I enjoy God’s peace about my decisions in life. Keep yourself immersed in scripture for the word of God is living and full of power. (Hebrews 4:12 Bible in Basic English)
  • Fast: When Paul and Barnabas were deciding who to appoint as elders in the early churches, they fasted and prayed through their decisions. (Acts 14:23) I know of a celebrity that fasts before she makes any major career or life decision. She’s enjoyed amazing success over the years. In most of Christian culture today, fasting is out of fashion. But while under utilized, fasting unto the Lord remains one of the most powerful tools made available to you.
  • Seek wise counsel: Seeking wise counsel from those who are wiser and more Godly than you are will make a tremendous difference in your life. But even more important than that, seeking wise counsel from God himself, reading his scriptures, fasting unto Him, and praying through life decisions, will make an even bigger difference.
  • Hang with the right people: In reality, when it comes to relationship decisions, there are only two categories of people to connect with. Irrespective of race, color, religion, age, or sexual orientation, spend time only with 1) Those who will influence you for God’s kingdom, and 2) Those who you will influence for God’s kingdom. And it pays to be conservative when you choose the second category. Lot is spoken of in the Bible as a righteous man, but later we’ll see that he seemed to have had little or no influence for God’s kingdom on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. (2 Peter 2:7-8)

Study scripture, fast unto the Lord, pray through your decision. Then pull the trigger on your decision and trust the Lord to be with you and to help you and to never forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

(Jeremiah 29:11)

Of course the most important choice you can make is to choose to accept Jesus Christ as your savior. This is the choice with eternal consequences.

Eternity is a long time.

Choose Jesus. (see So Your Life Is Falling Apart)

References:

(The story in this post about choosing a husband without seeking God is based on true events)

Bible Gateway

JonCourson.com

Stop doubting and believe: John 20:24-29

Doubting Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

-John 20:24-29

Missing Sunday Meeting

It’s Sunday and the disciples have assembled together. The disciples had met the Sunday before but Thomas wasn’t with them. Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to them. The disciples shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection but Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

Too bad Thomas missed that meeting. Had he made it, he would have experienced the bodily presence of Jesus and believed a week early. His doubt would have been erased and his faith would have been increased. But because Thomas missed that last meeting his doubt endured.

You know, if you think about it, something similar happened when Jesus appeared to the 500 after the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:6 tells us there were 500 present when Jesus commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised… …in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5)

Yet in Acts 1:15 it appears that only 120 of them listened and obeyed Jesus’ words. That’s huge! That means 380 missed the meeting in the upper room described in Acts 1:15. That also means 380 missed out on the blessing of the Holy Spirit. 120 had tongues of fire on their heads and spoke powerfully in foreign languages they didn’t know. 120 were used to save the souls of 3,000 people. (Acts chapter 2) 380 were left out–because they missed the meeting.

Verse 24 of John 20 says that Thomas was also known as Didymus. Didymus means twin in the Greek, so who’s twin is he?

He’s the twin of you and he’s the twin of me.

Have you ever missed a meeting with the Lord? I know I have. Missing meetings means missing out. Missing out on experiencing fellowship with the body of Christ. Missing out on believing. Missing out on increased faith. Had Thomas made it to the first meeting he would have seen Jesus and believed. His doubt would have been erased and his faith would have been increased!

That’s what happens to us when we make meetings.

Because Thomas missed the last meeting his doubt endured. It’s the same with you and the same with me. When we miss meetings, when we miss hearing the word of God whatever doubts we have endure.

No doubt Thomas and the 380 had their reasons for missing. They worked hard all week so they were too tired, or they didn’t care for someone who they knew would be attending that meeting, or there was a good game on TV that morning. But whatever their reason, when they missed the meeting they missed out on experiencing the presence of Jesus in a unique way. They missed out on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They missed out on a tremendous blessing.

Oh twin of doubting Thomas, don’t you see that Thomas didn’t believe until he touched Jesus? Don’t you see it’s the same for you today? You won’t  believe until you touch Him.

So touch him. Study Jesus’ life in the scriptures. Encounter Jesus with His believers. Do these things and you too will believe! Like Thomas, you too will find yourself responding to him, saying, “My Lord and my God!”

You’ll never regret it, I promise you!

Make the meeting.

Go to church.

References:

Bible Gateway

Jon Courson Sermon, 4/10/2011

The image is of the painting Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio circa 1600, Wikimedia.org, Public Domain

Genesis 13:1-9 If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.

Original photo courtesy of RomansNewsletter.Blogspot.com

So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 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.

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 herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 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 13:1-9

Most people don’t recognize it but what we’re seeing here is one of Abram’s greatest moments! As the elder man and as Lot’s uncle, Abram could have had his own way in this matter. But he showed Lot grace and allowed him to choose his own way. Perhaps this was in response to the grace recently shown to Abram by God in Genesis chapter 12. In chapter 12 we saw that Abram lied and put his wife Sarai in a terrible and vulnerable position yet the Lord spared Sarai and Abram and sent them away with riches. (see previous post Genesis 12:10-20)

Abram allowed Lot to have it his way.

How often does this moment of truth happen upon you and me?

In the car with family I want to take the route that I think is the best.

When we’re going to a movie I want to see the one I think is best.

When we’re deciding where to vacation I want to go to the destination I think is best.

We need to do it my way!

My way is the right way!

My way is the best way!

Why can’t people see that — it’s so obvious.

But wait just a minute. Let’s take a closer look at these examples. What actually happens if we take a slower route in the car? What actually happens if we arrive two minutes later? What damage is actually done if we see a chick flick? What if we vacation in some other nice place? What problem has been caused by these outcomes? I mean really, does it make a difference that’s significant or important in any way whatsoever? Most of the time, getting your own way isn’t nearly as big a deal as it seems.

So why do we think, feel, and behave this way?

When I was younger I played some amateur competitive tennis. Oh, how I wanted to make it as a pro. Several people close to me believed that there were better paths for me to follow. I didn’t give much consideration to their wise words. I didn’t give much consideration to the path that the Lord wanted me to walk in life either. I practiced. I worked hard. I disciplined myself. I studied books on tennis technique and strategy.

I prayed for God to do it my way.

“Please Lord, help me to win this tournament.”

“Please Lord help me to get a college scholarship.”

“Lord, that other guy isn’t even a Christian, why are you allowing him to be successful? That doesn’t make sense. Lord, You’re allowing him to enjoy success and accolades while You’re allowing me to flounder! Why?

Looking back I can see now that this was my flesh speaking loud and clear. Our flesh is the reason we think, feel, and behave this way.

Ironically, today I have many friends who have been successful in tournaments. I have quite a a number of friends and acquaintances who have gone to NCAA Division 1 schools on tennis scholarships. But as it turns out, the chance of becoming a successful professional tennis player is somewhere around 1 in 13 million! Most of those guys are teaching tennis for a living. For those of you who have never tried it, that means they spend all day at work pushing tennis balls at little old ladies and at young kids that are only there because their parents make them take tennis lessons. The few rest of these that I know who aren’t teaching tennis are struggling to figure out what they want to do for a living.

I thank God I didn’t get my way. Had things gone my way I would never have entered into the fire service. My thirty years in the fire service has been a tremendous blessing. I wouldn’t trade it for a career in tennis for anything.

Getting our way. It’s interesting to me that in our culture today, getting one’s own way is associated with wealth. Yet here we have Abram, who had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold (v.2), allowing Lot to have it his way. I do believe that God sometimes bestows wealth on people who show grace to others–I’ve seen that happen repeatedly. But even if you don’t receive wealth here on earth, think of the treasure you’ll receive in heaven! (Matthew 6:20 — see previous post) Jesus told his disciples, “…he that is greatest among you let him be as the younger…” (Luke 22:26) And that is precisely what Abraham did with Lot.

Remember back in Genesis chapter 12 when Abram lied to the Egyptians and allowed his wife to be put at risk in Pharaoh’s harem? God showed Abraham incredible grace and mercy by sparing Sarah and Abraham and even enriching them in the process. In the very next chapter we see Abram showing grace to Lot. Remember the grace that’s been shown to you. “…my blood which is shed for you,” Jesus said. He spilled his blood for you, he died for you. In spite of what you’ve done, God, in His grace and mercy, has provided a way for you to enter into heaven.

So show grace to people even as God has shown grace to you by sending His only Son to die on your behalf.

Getting your own way is usually less important than you think. And most importantly, showing grace to others as Abram did to Lot is the way God desires for you.

Love…does not insist on its own way

1 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV)

References:

Why Grace Changes Everything by Chuck Smith

Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife?–Genesis 12:10-20

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Genesis 12:10-20

Suspicion and Imaginings

Have you ever known someone that you suspected had ill will toward you?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had no choice but to encounter someone who you suspect has bad feelings toward you?

“Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” (v.18-19) Fear of man is a snare (Proverbs 29:25)–apparently, even for Abram the father of faith. Based on speculation that the Egyptians had intentions of stealing Sarai and killing Abram, Abram told a half-truth about his half-sister. What if Abram had told Pharoah the complete truth about his relationship with Sarai? How much better would that have been. Imagining what others are thinking and feeling is one of the chief causes of sin. It was that way for Abram and it’s that way today for you and for me. How many sins are caused by our imaginings? Abram imagined that the Egyptians would kill him if they knew that Sarai was his wife. A man imagines that his co-worker would throw him under the bus to advance his career. A daughter-in-law imagines that her husband’s mother thinks she’s not worthy of her son.

Imaginings.

Imaginings such as these result in all kinds of destructive thinking and behavior. And here’s a surprising element of this dynamic. Imaginings such as these result in destructive thinking and behavior–even when they’re accurate! Even if Abram was correct in his assumption that the Eqyptians would attempt to kill him and take Sarai, that wouldn’t have changed the fact that Abram lied and put his wife in a very vulnerable position. Whether his imaginings were accurate or not, Abram would have been better off honoring God by telling the truth. Would not God have intervened and rescued Abram, the father of faith, and his wife?

Watch and See

Watch and see. In your life and in the lives of others, where there are assumptions and imaginings about what others are thinking and feeling, you’ll see love for others quenched, squashed, and extinguished. When she entertains thoughts that her close friend is trying to put her down because she’s jealous; when he thinks he has insight that his boss is giving him a garbage assignment to discount him; when she thinks her husband believes that she looks fat in that new dress, the love that God desires for us to show these people becomes smothered in our thoughts and imaginings of the possible ill will that they may be feeling.

If my assumption is wrong, and there is no ill will then I’m outside of God’s will by not loving that person. Because He told us to “love our neighbor.” (Matthew 22:36-40) He told us to “love one another.” (John 13:34)

If my assumption is right, and there is ill will, then I’m still outside of God’s will by not loving that person! Because He told us to “Love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:35)

4 Blessings From the Benefit of the Doubt

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best in others through their good days and their bad, through thick and thin, and watch what happens to your interactions with them:

  • You’ll find them drawing a little closer to you.
    • It’s natural for people to become a bit defensive when they sense that you’re harboring suspicions. By assuming the best in a person you’re adding value to that person–people are attracted to those who add value to them. By assuming the best in people you’ll become more approachable.
  • You’ll draw out the best in that person.
    • The famous German writer Johann Goethe once said, “Treat a man as he appears to be and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.” By assuming the best in a person you’ll give them something to live up to.
  • You’ll experience an increased level of joy.
    • If you want to live your life in an emotional basement, play the “what if” game. That’s what we’re doing when we make assumptions about what others are thinking. “What if he’s thinking this about me?” or “What if she’s feeling that about me?”
    • Conversely, when we assume the best in people our minds are focused according to the instruction of God’s word in Philippians 4:8: …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy. (see previous post on Philippians 4:8-9) The result is a happier, more peaceful, more joyful outlook! Who doesn’t want that?
  • You provide an example
    • A final blessing that comes from assuming the best in people can be the spread of the practice of assuming the best. Who knows, that person you’re interacting with may be inspired to assume the best in the people they encounter. That’s the spread of God’s grace. That’s multiplying fruit for God’s kingdom!

Cynicism, Suspicion, and the Container That Carries Them

Will people sometimes take advantage of you? Sure, that might happen occasionally. But consider the following story.

When I was a new Captain on the fire department an older more senior firefighter who hadn’t yet made Captain used to enjoy taking shots at me. I either ignored him or took it good naturedly, until a well meaning supervisor shared that he was concerned that I didn’t realize this older firefighter was putting me down. Wow! Did that ever mess with my head! Instead of giving the older firefighter the benefit of the doubt I began to read things into every word, every facial expression, of not just the older firefighter, but of several other department members as well. I was miserable!

What kind of a life do you want to lead? Would you like to live a life with an attitude of cynicism and suspicion? An approach to life that says, “Nobody gets anything past me!” Or would you rather live a life filled with love towards others, in obedience to God’s commands for us to love our neighbors, one another, and even our enemies? We perplex and ensnare ourselves with this suspicious approach–even when we’re right.

Cynicism and suspicion rot the container that carries them.

You’ll be blessed if you choose God’s way!

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Luke 6:35

Did God Give Abram a Free Pass?

He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. (v.16) Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (v.20) What’s this? Was Abram’s half-truth about his half-sister not counted as a lie, resulting in blessings instead of consequences? While it’s true that Sarai was his half-sister, Abram neglected to share that Sarai was also his wife. Abram gave true information with false implication and that’s a lie. Those bearing false witness against Jesus in Matthew 26:61 did the same when they said that Jesus claimed He was able to destroy the temple and raise it in three days. Of course Jesus was speaking of his own body, not the temple made of stone in Jerusalem. True information with wrong implication–it was a lie.

So Abram lied and put Sarai in a terrible and vulnerable position. Does this happen without consequence? Surely God’s grace is in play here as evidenced by how Sarai and Abram are spared and sent away with riches. But though it may appear on the surface that Abram’s sin is without consequence, we should remember that one of the maidservants that Abram leaves with is an Egyptian girl named Hagar. A girl who we’ll later see break Abram’s heart and divide his family.

References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

John Wesley

25 Ways to Win with People, by Maxwell and Parrott

Jon Courson

5 Things You’ll Experience in Your Life With Christ: Genesis 12:1-9

Christian life with Jesus Christ

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

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.”

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

Genesis 12:1-9

It’s important to remember that in addition to the Old Testament events being true and literal (see previous post How Does Jesus View the Old Testament), these accounts are also illustrations of New Testament principles. Referring to the Old Testament scriptures Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:6 that these things occurred as examples for us. With that in mind let’s have a look at five ways that Abram’s story in Genesis 12:1-9 has application for you and for me today.

Five Things You’ll Experience in Your Life with Christ

1) Continual strength from instruction

Genesis 12:6 says that Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. The name Shechem means shoulder — the shoulder was a symbol of strength in the Jewish culture, similar to what the bicep symbolizes in our culture today (The shoulder makes more sense if you think about it, if you want something to move put your shoulder into it). The name Moreh means instruction.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth God’s word tells us in 2 Timothy 2:15. This makes perfect sense if you think it through. God’s ways are higher than our ways, better than our ways, and different than our ways. It’s not natural for us to understand the ways of the God who is so big that the scripture says He measures the universe with the span between His thumb and His little finger. (Isaiah 40:12) A God as big, as powerful, and as amazing as ours requires that we study His ways to learn them.

It’s essential that you and I recognize God’s Bible for what it is, a supernatural book that has a supernatural effect on our lives as we study His word. As we learn God’s ways in His scriptures we’re strengthened by Him.

2) Constant Conflict

At that time the Canaanites were in the land. (v.6) We’ll see throughout much of the Old Testament that the enemy of the Jewish people, the Canaanites, were allowed to live alongside the Israelites for centuries, which resulted in constant conflict in the lives of the Jews. We experience constant conflict today in that the Lord allows our flesh to live alongside His Spirit in our lives. We too experience a life of conflict between our Spirit and our flesh. Jealousy, envy, lust, intemperance, a short temper, sharp words, selfishness, greed — what I desire to do in God’s Spirit I sometimes find so very difficult to do, and what I don’t desire to do in my flesh, I sometimes find myself doing. Paul said in Romans 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

This side of heaven, you’ll always have your flesh with you. But thank God for Christ who strengthens your Spirit and in whom you can do all things. (1 Corinthians 4:13) You shall overcome! (1 John 5:1-6)

3) Continual Cleansing

Twice in chapter 12 we see Abram build an alter. (v.7-8) When we build an altar to the Lord, or in your life and my life, when we go to the altar, that’s when we’re altered. That’s when I’m changed into the man God desires me to become. That’s when you’re changed. That’s when you’re cleansed. That’s where you’re renewed!

For you young father of a family, it’s interesting to see here the beginning of a pattern in Abram/Abraham’s life. Pretty much wherever Abraham had a tent, God had an altar. That’s a great model for you and for me to set up and keep up the worship of God in our family, wherever we may be and in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves.

4) Continual Choice

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. (v.8) The name Bethel means house of God. The name Ai means house of ruin, heap, or dump. Abram had choices before him as we all do, every day. The house of God on the West, and the house of ruin on the East.

In Acts 7:2-3 Stephen tells us that God originally commanded Abram to leave his original home of Ur 25 years before Abram set out from Harran. In Ur Abram had a very comfortable life. He was rich materially. He was likely well respected for his wealth, his position in his father’s household, and his beautiful wife Sarah. He likely was comfortable in the habit of worshiping the moon god as did his father Terah and most of the rest of the culture there in Ur. (Joshua 24:2) Yet comfortable as he was, Abram chose to obey God’s command to travel to a yet to be identified location.

So often I see this issue of comfort in peoples’ lives today. A person in a comfortable situation who knows in his or her heart what God would have him do and yet he resists. I have a close friend, a Christian young man, who was very comfortable with his girlfriend of several years. During the second year of their relationship this poor girl began to struggle. Her personality began to change. She became angry, depressed, and self destructive. The young man began to recognize that this wasn’t the person that God desired for him to marry, but, he was comfortable in the relationship. He’d already been with her for two years. There were expectations on him to continue the relationship. Expectations not only from his girlfriend but from their mutual friends and from her family as well.

“Besides, I feel sorry for her,” he confided. “Wouldn’t God have me remain in this relationship to help her? Surely God wouldn’t have me abandon her in her time of need, would He?”

After much prayer the young man ultimately decided to leave the relationship. He felt that, awkward and difficult though it may be, God would have him end it. In the years to come this poor young woman continued to struggle.

My young friend is now very happily married to a different young woman, a bright and beautiful young woman who loves Christ. Today, with the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, he fully recognizes the wisdom of his decision to follow what God had in mind for him.

What are you comfortable with? Like my friend the young man are you comfortable in a relationship that God would have you leave? Are you comfortable with being unemployed? Are you comfortable with your dependency on alcohol? Are you comfortable with your dependency on prescription drugs?

Are you comfortable with sleeping in on Sundays rather than leaving your home and spending time with God over at His house?

Perhaps you’ve been in your comfort zone now for a number of years. Take heart: By Stephens account in Acts 7 Abram failed to respond to God’s calling for 25 years. But God in His grace patiently stuck with Abram through every one of those 25 years of procrastination. Our God is the God of second chances.

5) Continual Blessings

People tend to want to stay in their current, familiar, comfortable situation, even if it’s destructive or less than God’s best. Abram was comfortable with his life in Ur yet he chose to do what he knew God would have him do. Let’s see what the result was.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;” God said in verse 2 of Genesis 12. Abram was blessed with the gift of bearing abundant fruit. He who was without a child, who’s wife had been barren for decades, was promised the gift of bearing abundant fruit.

“I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” (v.2) Abram was blessed with a great name as well as the privilege of being a blessing to others.

“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;” (v.3) Abram was blessed with the security of God’s protection.

“and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (v.3) This last part of verse three speaks of the greatest blessing of all — through Abraham the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come, imparting the blessing of salvation to all peoples on earth. (Matthew ch.1, Luke ch.3)

Abram’s choice to act on what he knew God wanted him to do resulted in the blessing of primacy in that it would be from Abraham that the Savior of the world would come (v.3); the blessing of identity in that he was given a great name (v.2); and the  blessing of security in that God promised to protect him (v.3).

Interestingly, in the previous chapter of Genesis the builders of the Tower of Babel attempted to attain the same blessings, but not through acting on what God wanted them to do, but rather through the energy of their own flesh. They said in Genesis 11:4 “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens (primacy), so that we may make a name for ourselves (identity); otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth (security).”

Every day you and I face the same choice. To travel the path of those in Genesis chapter 11, or to follow the example of Abram in chapter 12. It didn’t work out very well for those who attempted the tower of Babel. But if you follow Abram’s example and leave your comfort zone, awkward and difficult though it may be, and act on what you know God would have you to do, you too will experience God’s blessings.

Choose God’s way.

You’ll never regret it.


In case you’re interested, there’s a map of Abram’s travel route from Ur to the promised land available on BibleStudy.org.

References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson