Covenant Father 3: Strife and Separation - Genesis 13

As Abram and Sarai leave Egypt and head back into the desert region of the Negeb with Lot, Abram faces a new sort of problem: up until now, he’s faced problems of not enough, but now he faces the problem of too much. God made Abram rich with livestock, silver, and gold, and now he’ll have to learn to be a waystation for such blessings, not the end of the line. God promised to bless him so that he could bless others, and so this is a test of Abram’s faith: will he grasp God’s blessing in a clenched fist, or will he freely give to others out of what he himself freely received?

As we see in verse 3, Abram makes a good beginning: he returns to the place between Bethel and Ai where he had set up an altar and called on the name of the Lord. Now that the famine problem has been overcome through the sojourn in Egypt, Abram returns right away to worship and thank God, modeling gratitude as the faithful response to God’s blessing.

After gratitude, Abram’s responsibility is to share the blessing, and the occasion for spreading God’s blessings arises through strife. Abram and Lot were now so successful that they came close to sending Canaan back into famine, and their herdsmen had to compete with each other for the natural resources to feed their livestock.

Abram overcomes this rising strife with a two-fold strategy of sacrifice and separation. He believes that generosity is better than grasping, and separation is better than strife, and so he allows Lot to choose the best of the land, and then sends him on his way. Abram has already shown his willingness to leave everything behind to follow God, and so accepting the barren land Canaan is simply a further expression of his faith that God will keep His promise to bless him. And while some separations are sinful or sinfully handled, separation is often a good thing that God uses to multiply blessings, as when a man leaves his parents’ house and takes a wife to start a new household, or when Paul and Barnabas separate over John Mark and the church’s missionary efforts are doubled. Godly separation isn’t meant to end the relationship; it’s meant to end strife, whether in families, business relationships, ministries, or even churches and denominations.

Here’s what we learn from Abram about overcoming strife: Give generously. Be content with less. Consider others more important than yourself. Give them first choice. Draw clear boundaries. Separation is better than strife. Self-sacrifice overcomes strife. Abram exemplifies these lessons as he walks in faith, blessing his nephew Lot out of the blessings that God has promised him.

As for Lot, we will continue to see the rotten fruit of his choice in the coming chapters, but here we see hints, as Lot goes east, which in biblical geography usually means moving away from God. We’re also told by the author that this happened “before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah”, foreshadowing impending disaster. Verse 13 calls the men of Sodom “wicked, great sinners against the Lord”, and we should hear echoes of how God described people before the flood. In other words, judgment is coming, and Lot is walking right into it. It may be difficult to point to any one decision as inherently sinful, but none of them are wise, and Lot will pay a very steep price for his folly.

But the most significant thing that happens in terms of the story of salvation is that the one we might have assumed would be Abram’s heir is separated from Abram’s house. Lot establishes his own household, which clears the way for Abram’s true offspring. God is directing our eyes away from Lot back to Abram, even though Abram is still childless. And after Lot leaves, God speaks to Abram and reiterates His promise that Abram’s offspring will inherit all the land that Abram can see. Lot’s departure hasn’t overthrown this promise in the slightest. No matter what the circumstances are, God’s blessing remains with Abram.

And so once again, what does faithful Abram do in response to God’s promises? He believes them, taking the measure of his promised inheritance by moving his tent around Canaan until he comes to Hebron, where he does what he always does: Abram establishes an altar to worship the God of blessing.

Posted on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 by CJ Bowen