Abram returned to Canaan a changed man. He had assumed the worst of the Egyptians and then lied to protect himself from a perceived threat of death. If Abram had believed God told him the truth, there would have been no reason enter Egypt spouting lies. Whatever illusions he may have possessed that he was worthy to receive the things God promised shattered in the blast of Pharaoh’s demand for an explanation.
To be included in the promises, God made to one of Abram’s future children which the Bible identifies as Jesus, we must learn that deceit is in humanity not in God. But that revelation is not enough for God to include us in his coming kingdom. To be included, we must learn the same lessons Abram learned by walking in Abram’s steps.
…[H]e (Abraham) is the father of ALL who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11-12, NIV)
This passage in Romans addresses a controversy in the early church. Many Jewish believers taught the Gentiles that they must be circumcised to be included. Paul argued that Abraham possessed faith that imparts salvation before he was circumcised rendering circumcision unnecessary to salvation. Therefore, the descendants of Abraham have no right to the promises unless they also walk in the same steps of faith that Abraham did before he was circumcised.
Anyone can say, “The promises of God are mine.” What we say carries no weight unless God agrees with us. At this point in Abram’s life, God had made promises Abram cannot partake in. He will be dead before the son God made promises to was born. He took the first step of faith when he acknowledged he is not worthy to receive the things God promised, but the journey is not over.
Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the south. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 13:1-4, NKJ)
Abram returned to the place his walk with God began. He returned to the first altar he built when he entered Canaan, before he doubted God and went down to Egypt. This time Abram initiated contact with God, but his relationship with God can’t grow until Abram obeys him. God had told Abram many years earlier to separate himself from his father’s house. We don’t know exactly when God first spoke this desire of his to Abram. We do know it happened sometime during the first sixty years of Abram’s life.
Abram did not obey God. Things became a bit complicated for him as a result. Many years before God gave Moses the law forbidding the marriage of near-relatives; Abram had married Sarai, his father’s daughter from a second wife. Sarai’s brother from her maternal mother had a son named Lot, making Lot Abram and Sarai’s nephew. Since Sarai was barren, Abram may have desired to keep his wealth in the family. Jewish history states that Abram, having no children of his own, adopted Lot as his son making Lot heir to Abram’s fortunes.
Lot had been a part of Uncle Abram and Aunt Sarai’s life for many years. He was more than a nephew. He holds the status of “son” and heir to Abram’s fortune. We know Lot embraced Abram’s new God. The New Testament says Lot was a “righteous” man whose soul was vexed by the evil society he lived in. He followed Abram as Abram followed God. He followed an obedient Abram to Canaan. He followed a disobedient, fearful Abram to Egypt and returned to Canaan with a humbled Abram.
After all these years, how does Abram tell his adopted son, “When I was living in Ur more than twenty years ago, God told me to separate myself from my family. I didn’t obey him. Now you are in the way, so pack your bags and leave.” What would Abram do if Lot didn’t want to leave — force him out? How would Sarai feel about that, since Lot is her dead brother’s son?
It’s plain that Lot has to go, because that is God’s will – but how will he go? Should Abram pack his bags in the middle of the night and slip out of town, leaving Lot confused and bewildered when he awoke? Would Abram then have to spend the rest of his life hiding from Lot in order to remain in God’s will? What would Abram say when Lot found him and wanted to know why he deserted him? Should Abram say, “Tough luck, Lot — God wants to bless me and not you”? Wouldn’t that make Abram’s God no better than the gods of Ur, and sour Lot’s opinion of the God of Abram forever?
We need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves as we pursue God’s will. This wisdom is available to God’s people, but we must ask for it (James 1:5). If we use our human wisdom, we can, as Abram might have done here, cause major damage in an attempt to obey God. If we bring harm to others, the result will not justify the means we used.
We can’t enter the center of God’s will without God’s help, even when we know what God wants us to do. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” If we try to fulfill God’s will without him, we will make a mess of things — and I speak from experience!
We will enter God’s will in a perfect time if we pursue peace as we seek God. We must wait for the time God is best able to create and order circumstances that will enable us to enter his will without destroying people we love. The opportune time for Abram to enter God’s will arrived in the midst of a strife.
Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock (Genesis 13:5-7, NKJ).
God blessed Abram and Lot until they were both so rich they could no longer live together peacefully. God’s blessing created strife, not between Abram and Lot, between their employees. How will Abram solve this problem? How would you solve this problem? The answer to that question is very important. The way we solve our problems will determine whose child we are.
Did Abram storm into Lot’s tent hurling unwarranted accusations? “I’ve treated you like a son all these years. You repay me by letting your livestock graze on the best land while mine go hungry. I took you into my home when you had no one else, and now you’re trying to destroy my business! God never wanted you around anyhow. Pack your bags and move out!” Was that Abram’s attitude when he spoke to Lot about this problem? No! Egypt had taught Abram valuable lessons about love, humility and doing what’s best for others.
So Abram said to Lot, Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your headsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other (Genesis 13:8-11, NKJ).
Abram no longer thought only of himself and what’s best for him. He approached Lot with the intent of keeping peace even if it costs him. Willing to stop the strife before it infected their relationship, Abram put Lot’s personal preferences before his own. “The whole land is before you, Lot. If you go left, I’ll go right. If you go right, I’ll go left. Choose what you will, and I’ll take whatever’s left over.”
Abram’s unselfish pursuit of peace put him in the center of God’s will without alienating and hurting others. When you pursue peace with your brother or sister in Christ, you will both get what you want. Lot, already prosperous, in livestock and tents, wanted more wealth, so he chose the best land for his livestock. Abram, already prosperous in livestock, silver and gold wanted the Prince of Peace. Unfortunately for Lot, what he wanted eventually brought him loss and shame. He won’t be able to blame his future misfortune on Abram or God. From their hands, he received goodness and love.
Lot packed up his tents, separated his livestock from Abram’s and then departed for the well watered plains of Jordan to pitch his tents near Sodom. For the first time in his life, Abram was, at last, separated from his father’s house. For the first time in his life, Abram was walking in complete obedience to God’s instructions.
Jesus said, “Peacemakers are blessed, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). When God’s blessings created strife and Abram responded as a peacemaker, God spoke to Abram again!
Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever (Genesis 13:14-17, NKJ).
God did not include Abram in the promises the first time he spoke to him. This time God said, “I give to you and your descendants”. God was not impressed with Abram’s half-hearted, partial obedience. Jesus warned us:
Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me In that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and done many wonders in Your name? and then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, You who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJ)
There will be a much “wailing and gnashing of teeth” on that day when many stand before Jesus, saying, “We have done this and that in your name,” only to hear Jesus say, “I never knew you. Depart from me.” It’s not what we say that counts; it’s what God says. If we want God to say the land is ours, we must obey God’s instructions by walking in the revelation he has given us for our lives. Don’t worry about what you don’t know of God’s will; obey what you do know.
When God fulfills his promises to Jesus, he will include peacemakers, not great prophets. He will welcome peacemakers, not those with power to cast out devils. His kingdom belongs to peacemakers, not those who think they’re doing great wonders in God’s name. His will is peace. If we refuse to live in peace with others, he will not honor us by declaring before all creation, “This is my beloved son,” because you’re not his son if you don’t love peace.
If we think God’s kingdom belongs to us when we refuse to live at peace with our brethren, we deceive ourselves. It doesn’t matter how many times we “go to the altar.” Abram built altars long before God ever told him, “I give the land to you.” Building altars availed nothing until Abram chose to live at peace even if it cost him.
So, if we’ve learned that we’re not worthy to be King, if we’ve sought God’s face, and if we love peace, do we then wipe your brow and say, “Thank God, I’ve made it”? No! It’s not over for us yet, it’s only just begun. Don’t sit down and rest — grab your binoculars. It’s time to explore.
God told Abram, “Lift up your eyes and look. Everything you see I will give you.” We have to see it to possess it. Read Paul’s prayers for the churches. His greatest desire was that God would open the eyes of their understanding so they could comprehend what God had given them. Don’t stop now. Put on your hiking boots! Walk through the length and the breadth of what God has given us.