Choices We Make
Weâ€™re reading Genesis 13 and 14 today and following Abram, Sarai, and their nephew Lot around the middle east. Lotâ€™s father had died in Ur in the land of the Chaldees, and Abram had taken Lot in with him on his journey with God. Last week, in Genesis 12, the Egyptian Pharoah asked Abram to leave Egypt, and to take his little dog, too. Genesis 13:1-4,
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Abram is seeking the Lord. We donâ€™t even know why Abram called on the name of the Lord, and I donâ€™t think it matters. Abramâ€™s made some goofy decisions in his life previously; last week, Abram told his wife to lie to Pharoah and say she was his sister. That was a bad decision; God is truth, and Satan is the father of lies. As Fred taught us last week, we cannot receive Godâ€™s blessings if we keep one foot in Babylon. We must follow God with all our heart. Now, we know Abram meant well; he was trying to save his own life. But thatâ€™s a lack of trust in the Lord; the Lord does not ask us to sin to accomplish His will. One commentary I read said trying to solve a problem by committing a sin is like â€œputting a baby in a pen with a rattlesnake and hoping that the presence of the baby will awaken a sense of compassion in the snake.â€ A snake is a snake. A sin is a sin.
Abram isnâ€™t making the same mistake; he is calling on the name of the Lord. And as soon as he does, fighting breaks out. Genesis 13:5-7,
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
Society seems to think that because we are Christians, we never have quarrels. I think sometimes we Christians think the same thing. But quarrels occur; scripture cautions us that â€œin our anger, do not sin.â€ One mark of a mature Christian is, or course, the peace of Christ within him, but another mark of a mature Christian is how he resolves conflict. With love, compassion, and without sin. Abram has called upon the name of the Lord, and the Lord has given him a problem to solve. Abram answers it admirably, Genesis 13:8-9,
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
This town just ainâ€™t big enough for the two of us. Well, actually, there wasnâ€™t a town, and the land was big enough. Abram and Lot had so much stuff they were crowded in the land near Bethel, and Abram gives Lot a choice. Pick any land you want, and Iâ€™ll go the other way, and then weâ€™ve removed the source of our conflict.
Lotâ€™s choice is going to affect history for millennia. We know Lot is a righteous man, but righteous men can make bad decisions, too. Lot chose for himself the whole plain of Jordan and set out toward the east and pitched his tent near Sodom. Sodom was already the Las Vegas of biblical times where what happens in Sodom stays in Sodom.
Letâ€™s skip ahead to Genesis 14. In verse 1, weâ€™re introduced to a whole lot of kings with unpronounceable names. Iâ€™m not going to attempt to pronounce them, so Iâ€™m going to ask Diane to do it. Wait, letâ€™s just count the kings, thatâ€™ll be easier. The kings of Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim. Thatâ€™s 4 kings. And Genesis 14:1 says they went to war against the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. Thatâ€™s 5 kings, and it says in verse 4 that the 4 kings ruled over the 5 kings, but after 12 years they had enough and rebelled. The 4 kings went to war to crush the rebellion. I think Iâ€™m going to root for the 4 kings because the 5 king team includes Sodom and Gomorrah. Which, coincidentally, is where Lot pitched his tent.
The four kings were very successful and routed many unpronounceable kingdoms that were either allied with the five kings or at least happened to live near them. One of those little kingdoms along the way was the Amorites. The four kings forced the five kings into retreat. In verse 8, the five kings have their backs against the wall, so they draw their battle lines. Here, the five kings are going to make their stand, in the Valley of Siddim. The five kings werenâ€™t the brightest bulbs in the tulip patch, if you know what I mean. The Valley of Siddim was known for their tar pits, and the five kings not only were defeated, but when they tried to flee, they fell into the tar pits and got stuck. The rest fled into the hills. The four kings, as was the custom, seized all the goods in Sodom and Gomorrah as plunder. That plunder included Abramâ€™s nephew Lot and all his possessions because he was living in Sodom.
One of the men who escaped came and told Abram what had happened. Why would one of the five kings come and tell Abram? Because Abram was friends with Mamre, Escho, and Aner who were all Amorites, that little kingdom the four kings conquered on the way to defeating the five kings. Uh oh. When the four kings were fighting against the evil five kings, they trampled an ally of Abram and took his nephew captive. Iâ€™m no longer rooting for the four kings, they turned out to be bad people, just like the five kings.
And interesting sidenote here â€“ verse 13 says all this bad news was reported to Abram the Hebrew. This is the first use of the word â€œHebrewâ€ in the bible. I suppose because weâ€™re not to confuse Abram with an Amorite; Abram is a Hebrew but heâ€™s allied with the Amorites.
Abram is rich and powerful; it says in verse 14 that he has 318 trained men born in his household. Abram and his trained warriors attacked the four kings, routed them and chased them up the coastline. In verse 16 we read that Abram recovered all the goods, brought back his nephew Lot and all his possessions as well as women and other people.
A fascinating character shows up here; Melchizedek, king of Salem. Melchizedekâ€™s name means â€œrighteousnessâ€ and Salem means â€œpeace.â€ Melchizedek is the king of righteousness and peace. He appears, blesses Abram, shares communion with him, and accepts a 10% tithe, then disappears back into history again. Melchizedek is both a king and a priest in Jerusalem. Psalm 110:4 promises our savior will be a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 7 tells us that Jesus Christ is our King of Righteousness and King of Peace in the order of Melchizedek. We spent an entire lesson on Melchizedek last year when we studied Hebrews; all weâ€™re going to mention today is that the Levitical priesthood was a temporary system; the priesthood of our savior lasts forever and ever.
In verse 17, the rout of the four kings is complete, and one of the original five kings comes to see Abram, the king of Sodom. Donâ€™t you know he must have his tail between his legs and heâ€™s looking up to Abram as the one who freed him. The king of Sodom tells Abram heâ€™d like his people back, but that Abram can keep all the captured property for himself. Abram tells him heâ€™s made a promise to the Lord not to profit from the king of Sodom; after all, Abram had no fight with Sodom. His nephew Lot was living there peacefully until the four kings attacked.
The first of those four kings, by the way, was Amraphel, king of Shinar. The plains of Shinar is where Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah, began to build the tower of Babel which became the center of Babylon. This is where the source of much of the worldâ€™s conflict has lasted for thousands of years, and scripture tells us will continue through the last days prophesied in Revelation. Because of Lotâ€™s choice to dwell in the land of Sodom, he is living in the land of the five kings, captured by the four kings, and then Abram goes to war against the four kings to free his nephew, setting up a conflict with Babylon that lasts from approximately 1900 BC to the end of time, nearly 4000 years so far.
Thereâ€™s a brief look at the history. Now letâ€™s get a good look at the people and see if thereâ€™s a lesson for us. What was so bad about Lotâ€™s decision? The answer lies back in Genesis 13:10-13 â€“
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.
Where in those versus do you see Lot looking to the Lord for guidance? I think the 5 key words are found in verse 11, â€œSo Lot chose for himself.â€ Letâ€™s turn to 2 Peter 2:7-9, where Peter is teaching us that God will rescue the righteous while condemning the ungodly:
and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
Lot was a righteous man, but when Abram gave Lot a choice, a decision to make, Lot chose for himself. We know Lot was righteous; yet he made a choice that was pleasing to the eyes. He chose land that would prosper himself. It doesnâ€™t sound like a bad decision; he looked over his options and saw plenty of grass for his cattle, plenty of water for his lands, and plenty of opportunity. Sure, it was located next to Sodom and Gomorrah, but who cares? They probably wonâ€™t bother him.
But they did bother him. Here in Genesis 13:11, we see â€œLot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east.â€ Lot has taken one small step toward Sodom. In verse 12, it says, â€œAbram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tent near Sodom.â€ Thatâ€™s more than just one small step toward Sodom, now Lot has pitched his tent near Sodom. By the time we get to Genesis 19:1, we find Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city.
Lot placed himself close to sin, then closer to sin, and then in the gateway of the city of sin. Let me ask you a question about Lotâ€™s decision that put him in the city of sin. Do you think Christians should avoid people who are engaged in sinful lifestyles?
Several of us saw The Bucket List last night. Excellent movie, and for once I was pleased to see that the upright Christian man, Carter, lived a righteous life and Hollywood didnâ€™t make him out to be a religious wacko for a change. Do you remember the scene at the bar where the woman propositioned him? How do you think his life would have changed if he had made a different decision?
Lot is a righteous man, but righteous men can make bad decisions. Remember when Peter saw Jesus walking across the water? Jesus called to him, and Peter was able to walk across the water. And then Peter saw the waves and storm all around him and took his eyes off Jesus. Peter looked at the world around him. And then what happened? Peter began to sink because he took his eyes off the Lord.
When we are in bondage to sin, Satan has an easy time with us. Given the choice between good and bad, all he has to do is make the bad decision look like fun. Excessive drinking looks fun and loud and can lead to drinking and driving or alcoholism. A one night fling that leads to children out of wedlock or abortion and broken families. Drug abuse, excessive gambling, Satanâ€™s work is easy.
As Christians, we are no longer in bondage to sin, but that doesnâ€™t mean we canâ€™t be ensnared by sin. We are aware of good and evil and we can see better what Satan is up to. So Satan doesnâ€™t offer us such clear-cut choices between good and evil. Satan offers us a poor choice and a really bad choice. Deceived, we sometimes take the poor choice and take one step closer to Sodom.
A need to work late, a female coworker, and an over-inflated confidence in his ability to resist sin. A Christian man finds himself in an affair with a coworker. When discovered, it wrecks one or more families. How did it happen? He took one step closer to Sodom and soon he found himself sitting in the gate of sin.
A disappointment in a missed birthday or that she had to pick up his underwear off the floor yet again. A seed of bitterness takes hold, she begins to criticize things about her husband. Criticized, he works late at the office with a female coworker who tells him what a good job heâ€™s doing.
Or a mother, hurt because her daughter doesnâ€™t call like she used to, tells her daughter sheâ€™ll never amount to anything. The daughter, feeling down and unloved, is disappointed that her husband missed her birthday and criticizes him. The husband, criticized, works late at the office.
So many small opportunities to sin. Of course, weâ€™re forgiven. When we accept Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. But 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and Godâ€™s righteous people are tasty morsels if we take our eyes off the Lord. We, too, will be given an opportunity to pitch out tents toward Sodom. We will convince ourselves that we are walking with God, and not even noticing that we are holding hands with the devil.
Every choice is important, and every choice made apart from the Lord can lead to the path of destruction. Most Christians donâ€™t pack their belongings and move to Sodom and Gomorrah. If we take our eyes off the Lord, we pitch their tent a little closer to Sodom today than we did yesterday. We skip one week of church, then we skip another. As Christians, we are to worship the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. How are we doing with that? Are we truly worshiping with everything we are, or have we found a compromise somewhere, some â€œruleâ€ that we feel isnâ€™t applicable to us? Whatâ€™s the best way to evaluate how weâ€™re doing? Ask. Go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to search you and to tell you how youâ€™re doing.
After the Lord, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. How are we doing with that? Think about where you live. Who is your neighbor? Or where you work, who is your coworker? What are their needs? If you truly love your neighbor as yourself, why donâ€™t you truly know their needs? You know your own needs, donâ€™t you? Or have you found one step toward Sodom as an excuse, that youâ€™re too busy or youâ€™ve convinced yourself that they would rather have their privacy? Whatâ€™s the best way to find out what your neighbor needs? Ask them. Ask them how you can help.
Who is your closest neighbor? I have no doubt your closest neighbor is your spouse, your covenant mate, given to each other in love. Do you love your spouse as you love yourself? From Proverbs 31 to Ephesians 5 to 1 Corinthians 13, our God tells us how we are to love our spouse. How are we doing with that, or have we allowed ourselves to pitch our tent a little closer to Sodom? Something we hide from our spouse, something weâ€™re not comfortable talking about, a little rudeness or selfishness weâ€™ve allowed into our marriage? Whatâ€™s the best way to evaluate how weâ€™re doing? Ask. Ask your wife how you can be a better husband; ask your husband how you can be a better wife.
In Genesis 13:14-18, Abram took a different approach than Lot.
The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.
Abram was looking to the Lord and was in a covenant with God; no matter where Abram went, the Lord had promised to bless him. Lot, instead, chose something that was pleasing to the eyes. Lot chose the richness of the world and let it appeal to his eyes. Lot settled near Sodom, or as Fred said last week, he still had one foot in Babylon. He chose for himself. Abram chose what was pleasing to the Lord, and settled for everything. We experience Godâ€™s many blessing when we keep our eyes on Him. If Lot sought the Lordâ€™s will first, perhaps instead of settling near Sodom, he might have made a different choice. Perhaps Lot might have repented of the strife between his family and Abramâ€™s and asked Abram if he could stay instead.
Every little choice is important; every action we do, every word we utter, every thought we have, should be in harmony with the Lordâ€™s will. We all sin; thatâ€™s why we need a savior. But we donâ€™t need to settle for sin. Donâ€™t compromise. Donâ€™t fool ourselves that we can walk with God and hold hands with the devil. That one little choice we make that goes against the will of the Lord is one step closer to Sodom. And then another choice, and nex thing we know, weâ€™re pitching our tent toward Sodom. And then weâ€™re sitting in the gate of Sodom, and when destruction comes we wonder how we got here.
We have a choice. We can choose to seek the Lord’s will first, or we can choose for something pleasing to our eyes or our senses. Donâ€™t be fooled by our own righteousness; the bible is replete with examples of righteous people that make poor choices when they took their eyes off the Lord. A lifetime of good decisions can be undone by one bad decision. Lift up your eyes and look to the Lord for everything and He will protect you and bless you. Every choice is important.