All in Christ have a calling to fulfill. So many people live live of purposelessness. If the universe is silent, if we are only here as a result of a random assortment of atoms colliding, if the human soul is an illusion generated by the firing of our brain, and no judge awaits after death, then its very difficult to scrape meaning and purpose out of the years of our lives. Yet there is a God, and therefore you’re not a mistake, you have soul, and a purpose to carry out.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We all have a calling. Not just pastor and missionaries. As Christians we are liked Abram, “blessed to be a blessing.” Yet like Abram, sometimes we may feel like we have squandered our calling, not lived a life worthy of our calling, made too many mistakes, wandered away from God, and now we don’t know if we can get back, or how to get back, or if God will accept us back. What do we do when we feel like we have lost our way?
Begin with the Vertical Relationship and Reorient your Life Before God.
It may help to understand that we are created as multidimensional beings. We are created to be in vertical relationship with God, we then also have horizontal relationships with others, and actually I could add an arrow here, because we also are created to work in the world that God has created us to cultivate and keep.
In Genesis 13 Abram:
- Reorients himself under the call of God,
- Reorients his calling out closest relationships in light of his calling
- and moves into the land that God is preparing for him.
Last week we saw the beginning of this reorientation under the call of God. God’s story of grace in Abram’s life started when Abram was a man living in a city called Ur. Even though he worshipped and served the false gods of the people there, God called into his life and promised to bless him and make him a blessing. The call to this new life in God was non-negotiable, Abram was to make a complete break from his former life, value, and associations and follow the call fo God into the unknown land that God would reveal to him later. And so Abram, this man of Ur, sets out as a man of faith, and things are going well for him as he moves into and throughout the land of Canaan. Yet it is here the Abram experiences the first real test of his faith, and sadly, it does not go well for him. There is a famine and Abram panics, and runs to Egypt, which I described as the place of godless help. Egypt was a place of spiritual defeat for Abram. Abram’s still thinking like a man of Ur and not yet as a man of God. He fails to protect his wife; However, God is better to Sarai than Abram is, and He rescues her and preserves her and protects her, and Pharaoh send her back to Abram and send the whole household on their way out of Egypt. That must have been an awkward ride home in the caravan.
The chapter begins with Abram’s return from Egypt, which is both pictured as a physical return to place, and a spiritual return to God. A rededication of sorts. And here we face the main theme of the book of Genesis, that God works his purposes not only through the faith of men and women, but also through our failings. This is not an excuse of moral failure, but simply an honest admission that 1) our pursuit of holiness and spiritual maturity is a process, 2) God is sovereign even over our screw-ups. That’s good news. He’s the God who is bigger than both our faith and our failings.
Yet to say the life of faith is a process, is also to say that there will be progress. And here in this chapter Abram is making progress. First he make progress by going back. I know that sounds kind of strange, that he makes “progress by going back”, but if you’re going in the wrong direction, turning around and heading back to the place you got of the trail is progress.
Gen. 13:1 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. Gen. 13:2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3 And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD.
As i said before, this is pictured as not only as a physical return to place, but also a spiritual return to God, a rededication. Abram failed the first test of his faith, but that’s not the end of the story. He turns around, goes back, which is the definition of repentance, and finds his old altars, wipes the dust off them and worships. And let’s rejoice with him here. It’s hard to come back. Humbling. I talk to people (card - we’d love to have you back : get out of gossip free card) Particularly in a small church.
Begin to Examine Your Horizontal Relationships in Light of the Vertical
Abram is learning to reorient his life around the call of God. He’s worked out a vertical call, but it hasn’t yet translated into how he understands the implications of that call on his family or those closest to him. In chapter 12, he learns that A place in which he chose his calling over his wife, rather than to see his wife as a partner in his calling. The Bible speaks even more clearly - Abram chose to preserve his own life and security over that of his spouse. And while chapter 12 focuses on that first relationship (his wife) there is another relationship that takes some re-oriention, that of his nephew Lot.
We were introduced to Lot in chapter 11.
Gen. 11:27 This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. 28 Haran died in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans, while his father Terah was still alive.
Lot is the son of Abram’s brother Haran who passed away before any of the family leaves Ur, before Abram receive’s God’s call. Now we don’t know how old Lot was when his father died, but it seems that when Abram receives God’s call, Lot is initially regarded as a member of Abram’s household. That kind of makes sense, Sarai was barren and so Abram has no son, whereas Lot has no father. And so when Abram receives the promise of God that he will become a great nation, initially Abram looked around and saw Sarai, his barren wife, and though ok, the great nation is not going to come from her, and considered that Lot, who at that time had been like an adopted son to him, and reasoned that perhaps God meant that the promise would come through Lot. And thus when Abram set out to Canaan, he brings Lot with him as a member of his household, and most likely as his heir.
Gen 12:5 And Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they left for the land of Canaan.
However, as one walks with God, our call is often clarified, and for Abraham, this has been happening eve since arriving in Canaan the first time. For when Abram arrives in Canaan, God speaks to him again in a way that a indicates that it will not be Lot through whom the promise comes, but that the promise that Abram will become a great nation will be accomplished through Abram’s own descendants:
Gen 12:7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants [seed, offsrping] I will give this land.”
This is reinforced through the preservation of Sarai - that Sarai is as important to the fulfillment of this promise so that God preserves her.
So when we get to Chapter 13 the family dynamic has changed in a very subtle way.
Gen. 13:1 So Abram went up from Egypt into the Negev. He took his wife and all his possessions with him, as well as Lot.
Lot is no longer listed immediately after Sarai, but after Abram’s possessions. There is a distinction now made between Abram’s household and possessions, and Lot, who is introduced as having his own possessions. And this distinction between Abram’s household’s and Lot’s is sensed by their laborers, who can tell that this is no longer one family, but two.
5 And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6 so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, 7 and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.
So you can see that upon returning to the land, with that as the background, when reports of strife brewing between his own herdsman and those of Lot, it is an indication that the family dynamic has undergone a subtle shift. Now there is nothing in the text to suggest that there is any outward conflict developing between Abram and Lot; however, the signs are there and have been for a while now that it is time for Abram and Lot to part ways.
That’s why on the one hand, this breakup doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Moses breaks in to remind us that the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at that time. 1) there’s plenty of land, 2) there are real enemies surrounding them. So on the one hand it doesn’t seem that there is a need to separate, yet when Abram raises the issue with his nephew, it seems that they are both ready to move on.
Separate With Integrity and Kindness: Abram approaches this separation with a great deal of humility and maturity, integrity and kindness.
Gen. 13:8 Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no quarreling between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself now from me. If you go to the left, then I’ll go to the right, but if you go to the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
- Abram makes it clear that he wishes to preserve the relationship even through this separation. Lot will always be family. and Abram gives him his blessing to leave
- Abram gives Lot first choice of the land. Think of what this means, Lot is being dispirited from the promises. Lot has followed Abram as a father for many years, both Abram and Lot likely set out on this journey, considering Lot to be Abram’s heir. Yet, now God has made it clear that there will be another. That’s hard. And so Abram is being very considerate and mature to give Lot first choice. Discerning the call of God in your life does not give you freedom to treat others poorly or back out of your responsibilities or leave other people in bad places.
- Abram trusts that God will use Lot’s choice to further his plan and promise. I often struggle with this, what if Lot would have chosen to park himself right into the middle of Canaan? Lot’s choice ultimately leads him out of Canaan, and his descendants become a neighbour to Israel, but Abram doesn’t know that, yet he trusts that God’s plan will work itself out through whatever choice Lot makes. And it does.
Beware of Greed that leads away from God
Now let’s look at Lot’s choice.
Gen. 13:10 Lot looked up and saw the whole region of the Jordan. He noticed that all of it was well-watered (before the LORD obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, all the way to Zoar. 11 Lot chose for himself the whole region of the Jordan and traveled toward the east.
So the relatives separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, but Lot settled among the cities of the Jordan plain and pitched his tents next to Sodom. 13 (Now the people of Sodom were extremely wicked rebels against the LORD.)
As much as I am sympathetic to Lot in this chapter, the decision he makes here reveals something of his character, and he ends up paying for this decision in many ways over many years. Abram’s choice to select the best land is filled with foreshadowing that he is making a terrible decision, and being presented here as a warning to us.
- Pursuing the Path of Material Prosperity Often Leads to Spiritual Destruction
- Many commentators have noted that while Lot does look up and see, his line of sight does not look up to God, but instead, only fixes it’s eyes upon the terrain.
- Love of money is root of all evil
- No one intends to dwell in Sodom: Spiritual Drift is Subtle
- When we live two-dimensionally the drift is inevitable
- We cannot see all that we need to see: character matters
- Lot sees a lot, but doesn’t see the character of the people
- Great new job, but the boss is terrible and the people are monsters.
After Securing Our Vertical Orientation and Reorienting Our Horizontal Relationships, We Are Ready to Move About into God’s Call
Gen. 13:14 After Lot had departed, the LORD said to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west. 15 I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants also can be counted. 17 Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you.”
Gen. 13:18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, and he built an altar to the LORD there.
God reinstates his call to Abram, but with more clarity. Now that Abram has rearented his relationships, He’ll now walk about the land and work out the dimensions of God’s calling. As we walk with the Lord, God gives greater clarity to the call.