Whose Choice Is Better?

Genesis 13
There were once two boys in a playroom. They were both promised toys. One boy wanted his toys now, and grumbled and complained until he got them. The other boy was content to wait for his toys. A little while later, the one who could not wait has broken all his toys, since they were of inferior workmankship, whereas the other boy is still waiting for his much better toys. This is an allegory from the Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. These two boys are very much like Abram and Lot. We will see that Lot wanted his toys now, and he got them, but when he got them, he discovered that they weren’t what he really wanted. Abram is content to wait, and so comes into possession of the promise.

Abram, though, had just failed miserably. He had had a panic attack in Egypt. There he had blown it, and almost lost the promise. So, what does he do? He goes back to square one. He retraces his steps to the place where he had first made that wrong decision. First he goes into the Negeb desert. Now, of course, he is very rich because he just got out of Egypt. In fact, he is just like the later Israelites who plundered the Egyptians when they came out of Egypt. They take almost the same path as Abram does. This is Abram’s Exodus, if you will. He goes to Bethel and Ai, where his tent had been before. That is significant. Moses wants us to be sure that we know that Abram is backtracking here. Twice Moses says this, first with regard to the tent, and second with regard to the altar.

There is application for us here. When we have blown it, made a mess of things in our lives, where should we go? We should go back to square one. Go back to the beginning where we first made that wrong decision, or wrong turn. Then we should worship God. Square one is another word for our salvation. So we can see then that square one is the place of salvation and of worship: they are connected. In a sense, we should never leave square one. By that I mean that we should never forget our origin. We should never forget that from which God saved us. We should never forget the wornwood and the gall. We should never forget Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin. When we blow it, God makes us retrace our steps to where we first began to go wrong.

This is well illustrated in C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” where the main character, Edmund, begins to go wrong by joining the witch’s side. This leads to all sorts of horrible results. But the Jesus figure, Aslan, rescues him by sacrificing Himself, just like Jesus did for us. Then Edmund is taken back to the point before he began to go wrong. This time he takes the right road. That should be encouraging for us. God is a God of second chances. It doesn’t matter how much you have made a mess of things, God can fix you. He might let you suffer some of the consequences of your actions. Nevertheless, God delights in giving grace to those people who know they really need it.

But now in Abram’s life there comes a problem. The land cannot hold both Abram and Lot. Their servants have started to quarrel. Pasture-land and water was at a premium. Furthermore, there were already people living there. Verse 7 says that there were Canaanites and Perizzites already in the land. So there is danger if Abram and Lot keep on quarreling, because that would make them vulnerable to attack from these inhabitants. However, there is also irony in verse 7. Abram and Lot do not seem to have any trouble living next to the Canaanites and Perizzites, but they have a great deal of difficulty living next to each other. That is just like us, isn’t it? We can live just fine next to neighbors who live terrible lives of sin, but we cannot stand our own brothers and sisters in the Lord. So instead of dwelling together in unity, they agree to part for the sake of unity. Sometimes that is necessary for the body of Christ. Some people think that the existence of different denominations is a terrible thing for the church, and that the church ought to have perfect unity, and worship together. That is sadly true. Many times people split over absolutely nothing at all. The story is told of 5 people marooned on an island: there was 1 German, 1 Italian, 1 Frenchman, and 2 Scotsmen. The German decides to build an astronomical observatory. The Italian decides to build a bakery. The Frenchman decides to build a winery, and the two Scotsmen build First and Second Presbyterian Church. However, if this side is true, the reverse is also true. Sometimes it is necessary for brothers in the Lord to worship apart for the sake of unity. We would not want to call our Baptist brothers heretics, for instance. But they do not baptize infants as we do.

Therefore, if we would not have large quarrels, then we need to worship apart for the sake of unity. There is still only one church, that of Jesus Christ. We are unified as we are all in Christ. However, true unity of worship will not occur until the end of time, when all theological differences will be erased in the new heavens and the new earth. In the meantime, we are to show charity to those with whom we disagree, and we are to strive for as much unity as we can achieve without compromising the truth. Abram does just that.

Abram shows a sterling character here. Abram takes the initiative in making peace. He nips potential catastrophe in the bud. Abram goes his nephew Lot and offers him a choice. Now it is important to realize that Abram is not offering Lot a bad choice by saying to him, “The whole land is before you.” It might seem that this is a ridiculous thing to say, given the fact that there were already people living in the land. But it is not a bad choice. Abram believes in the promise that God gave to him. Abram sees this land as already belonging to him. Therefore, Abram can afford to be generous. Now, when Abram says, “go left or right,” he is understood to be facing east, such that left would be north, and right would be south.

Now Lot does something that should be familiar to us by now. He lives by sight rather than by faith. It literally says that he lifted up his eyes. Eve did the same thing. She looked at temptation and saw that it was beautiful. Lot does the same thing. Both the fruit that Eve looked at and the land that Lot looked at are beautiful to the eye. They both take it. We don’t see as God sees when we live by sight rather than by faith.

We should not trust our eyes. The problem with living by sight and not by faith is that there is a lot that we don’t see that can most definitely hurt us. Lot saw a beautiful, fruitful, watered plain, whereas God saw the hearts of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Things are not necessarily as good as they look. This is a very common trick of Satan. He shows us the bait, but he hides the hook. We cannot be blind to the hook. We cannot be blind to sin’s consequences. If you are tempted to lie, then know that you will have to tell more lies to cover up the lie you told. Know also that your conscience will be violated. So don’t that one little white lie. Sin is always a slippery slope. Look at what happened to Lot. First he dwells nearby Sodom and Gomorrah. In chapter 14:12, we learn that Lot was actually dwelling IN Sodom. Then in 19:1, we learn that he becomes an official of the city, because it says that he sat in the gate. This is a lot like a frog in a kettle. If the temperature is boiling hot when you put the frog in the kettle, the frog will immediately leap out. But if you put a frog in a kettle at room temperature, and then only gradually increase the temperature, the frog will stay in the kettle, and will eventually die. That is a perfect picture of what is happening here. The road to incest with his daughters starts here with choosing to live near these most wicked people. It says in verse 13 that they were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. This describes a wickedness that is as bad as it gets. That is the problem when we let sin get a foothold in our lives. Satan wants us to think that the temperature is just fine. “Jump in, the water is warm,” he says. Little will he tell you about how he will turn up the heat while you are in it. All sin works like this. It is one little lie, one little look at pornography, one little theft from the grocery store, one little word of gossip, one little this and one little that. But sin has a remarkable ability to grow. It thrives in the dark secret places of your heart where no one else can see. You think. God sees the heart. He knows that the hearts of Sodom and Gomorrah are wicked through and through. That is why God blesses Abram’s choice of land. Abram chose to be generous and to believe in the promise of God. Abram didn’t trust his eyes. He trusted in God. And so, God saved Abram from what Lot would have to go through. The temptation for Abram here would be to take whatever land he wanted for himself. But he does not do that. Instead he lets Abram choose. This is just like Jesus’ temptation: Satan told Jesus to do something really small, like turn a stone into bread. He offered to Jesus one small little sin for a seemingly large return on His investment. But Jesus saw the hook and the bait, and so conquered the temptation that Lot here fell into, but into which Abram did not fall.

Abram’s generosity is remarkable. It is by no means to Lot’s credit that he takes such advantage of Abram’s offer. What Lot should have done was to defer back to Abram. Abram had the right to distribute the land as he saw fit. Lot should have recognized that and let Abram make the choice. Instead, he makes his choice. But as becomes very clear later, Lot made the wrong choice.

Abram’s generosity is a picture of Jesus Christ. Jesus came down from heaven in deep humiliation. He became a man, mortal, subject to human frailty. And he died the most humiliating death that it is possible to die: death on a cross. For that humiliation, God exalted Jesus above every name that is named, in heaven and on earth. God promises to Jesus the entire world. All the kingdoms of the earth will be put under His feet. Just as the temptation of Abram looks like the temptation of Jesus, so also the reward given to Abram looks like the reward given to Jesus.

The Lord honors Abram’s generosity by giving Abram all the land. Notice that the Lord says, “Lift up your eyes.” Because Abram had lived by faith here, the Lord granted him vision. When God makes us see, then we shall see indeed. The Lord promises Abram the entire world. What? Yes, the entire world. Notice that all four points of the compass are mentioned. Immediately, that means everything that Abram can see at that moment. But ultimately, it means the whole world will belong to God’s people, the true seed of Abram.

This land will belong to us forever. Notice that extremely important word at the end of verse 15. This is not a temporary gift, such as the promised land to Israel. This points us to an eternal land that will be ours: the new heavens and the new earth. This is worth waiting for. So, will you be the boy who wants all his toys now? Or will you be the one who waits for far better toys? The choice is yours.

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