This sermon is based on Genesis 13:1-18. Click here to read the text.
Abram, Sarai, and all who were theirs had journeyed to Egypt. While there, Abram, out of fear of Pharaoh, subjected Sarai to Pharaoh’s desires and consequently subjected Pharaoh to God’s judgment. He left Egypt richer in livestock and precious metals (13:2) but smarting from Pharaoh’s rebuke (12:18-20). There is no mention of Abram seeking the Lord nor of him offering worship to the Lord in the narrative that tells of his sojourn in Egypt (12:10-20). That is a noticeable absence, especially given how prominent worship of God was for Abram at his arrival in and journey through Canaan (12:7-8). Abram’s geographical return to Canaan, specifically Bethel, is marked by a spiritual return to the worship of God. At the altar near Bethel, Abram once again called upon the name of the Lord (13:4).
As Reformed Christians, we believe in our eternal security because of the sovereign grace of God. You might sum it up by saying, “Once saved, always saved.” We also acknowledge that though our eternal salvation is secure in Christ we do wander in our hearts and minds. We go through seasons or spells where we take our eyes off of Him. Life gets busy, hectic even, and rather than calling on the name of the Lord in worship (individually in devotions and prayers, in our homes as families, in small groups, or corporately as a congregation) we try to face things in our own strength. It is similar to a husband and wife who are still married and still dwell together in the same home, but have allowed the circumstances of life to crowd out the primacy of their own relationship. One date night won’t make it all better but it can be a new beginning to renewing the relationship that had been ignored. So too coming back to God in worship, calling on His name again, is a return, a renewal of our relationship with Him.
We see Abram’s renewed faith in the Lord in his dealing with Lot. Abram and Lot had both grown wealthy, particularly with much livestock. Their herds were so large that they were finding it difficult to pitch their tents in the same territory, the land being unable to support all of their flocks at once. So Abram proposed a separation before the strife proved deadly. He allowed Lot to choose where he wanted to go and Abram would go another direction. Lot chose the Jordan Valley, for it was like the garden of the Lord (13:10-11). Was his choice selfish? Perhaps. It was most certainly a worldly wise, though heavenly foolish choice. For not only did Lot choose the valley whose water supply and lush lands would be a great source of water and food for his flocks, but he also moved toward Sodom, a city full of wicked, evil men. Lot’s geographical move would prove symbolic of a spiritual departure from the Lord (see also Genesis 3:24; 4:16; and 11:2 for the association between moving east and moving away from God). Abram, however, displayed a patient faith in the Lord. The Lord had promised great things for Abram and his descendants and Abram was living by faith more so than the sight by which Lot chose to live.
Abram’s faith was met with a word of hopeful encouragement from the Lord. Was Abram discouraged by his separation from Lot? Probably. Was he wondering how long he would have to wait to see and touch the fulfillment of God’s promises? I’m sure he was. So the Lord (probably on a mountaintop) spoke to Abram and called him to look and see the land all around him. God not only reminded Abram of His earlier promises (12:1-3) but He expounded upon them. As far as his eye could see, the land would one day be his. As many particles of dirt as he could count, so would be the number of his descendants. The Word of the Lord gave him hope and strength to carry on. Genesis records eight occasions when the Word of the Lord was given to Abram/Abraham. Sometimes we might, reading of such occasions in the lives of Abraham and other saints of old, long for similar encounters. We might feel as if we have missed out on something because the “Lord has never spoken to us.” Only He has! Eight times is all we know for sure that the Lord spoke to Abram. But you and I have the Word of God, complete in sixty-six different books, breathed out by the Holy Spirit, written by the prophets and apostles. What would Abram choose if he could? Eight encounters, or the whole story of the Gospel? Who would he say was more blessed, him or us? We have been given a wonderful gift in the Word of God. It is an encouragement for those who are down. It is hope for those who despair. It is knowledge for those who seek it. It is life for the dead.
Discuss and Pray – Genesis 13
- In the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” the writer says that he is prone to wander… prone to leave God. What are some of the ways you have wandered from Christ? How has He responded to you with grace to lead you back to a mind and a heart for Him?
- Abram lived by faith in God, so he was able to be very gracious in his dealing with Lot. What can we learn from his example about how we are to deal with others? How and when do we, by faith in Christ, assert our own rights, defend the rights of others, turn the other cheek, agree that separation is – at least for now – best, etc.?
- What have been some passages of hope and encouragement to which you have turned over and over in times of grief, hardship, despair, or frustration? How have you been able to use the Word of the Lord to encourage others to live out their faith in the Lord with great patience?