Choices

Oct 20, 2019 by: Sam Hestorff| Series: In the Beginning
Scripture: Genesis 13:1–13:18

I don’t know if you ever view your choices as forks in the road of life, but it is helpful habit to get into because how you react to life’s circumstances can make you better or bitter. How you react to others can make you helpful or hurtful.  How you respond to God will either make you more Christ-like or not.

And it all comes down to choices.  Sometimes those choices are conscious but other times they are simply natural reactions but what you choose, will determine the outcome.

As we step into Genesis 13, we’re going to see two men make choices.  The outcome of those choices will be seen later as we continue our series; In the Beginning.

Let’s put this into context . . . It had been years since anyone had heard from God. But he shows up and speaks to a man named Abram . . . who was 75 years old and should be kicked back in his recliner and enjoying retirement . . . and He tells him to uproot his entire life.

And in return, God promised to make Abram a great nation, to give him a great name, and to bring a great blessing upon the earth which is ultimately fulfilled through Jesus.

So, Abram along with his wife and nephew, Lot, set out on this journey of faith and they head south until they came to a placed called, Shechem, which is in the middle of Canaan and there God appeared again and said, “this is the land I’m giving to your descendants.”

In response, Abram set up an altar to worship and to memorialize this covenant between he and God.

Everything seems to be going great for Abram; he’s made it to Canaan, he’s built a couple of altars, his family has been provided for but then a famine hits and what began as a journey of faith, quickly becomes a journey of doubt as Abram is faced with a decision to either stay in the land that God had called him to, and trust in God to provide, or leave the land and trust in man, specifically the Egyptians.

He decides that his best option was to head on over to Egypt and hang out there until the famine is over. 

It was there that he and Sarai lied to Pharaoh and were ultimately kicked out of Egypt, but despite their bad decisions to trust man over God, God still blessed them, and through Pharaoh, made Abram a rich dude. But now, God is going to test Abram again, only this time, with a family member. In this case, it was Abram’s nephew, Lot.

Let’s listen to our text: READ Genesis 13:5-18

It appears that Lot is also wealthy, just not quite as wealthy as Abram. Lot had flocks and herds and tents, but there is no mention of the silver and gold that Abram has. Because both Abram and Lot are wealthy, strife between the two results, and Abram is left with a choice.

You see, the land they were on did not contain enough water and vegetation to feed all the animals. The situation was getting so bad, that the herdsmen were even beginning to quarrel with one another.

So, Abram and Lot realize that rather than fight against one another, it would be better for them to go separate ways. And it is here that Abram faces a choice. God has promised all the land to him but in order to maintain peace with his nephew, Abram is going to have to let Lot live on the land.

That’s the first choice. It’s a choice between finances or family. Is money, and land and what belongs to him more important than his family? Abram of course wants to provide for Lot, so he decides that even though all the land has been promised to him, he is going to let Lot stay on some of it.

But now he faced another choice: how generous should he be? Should he be tightfisted and give Lot only a little portion, or one of the worst portions of the land? Or should he trust God to provide, not only for himself, but also for Lot?

Now, the best part was the Jordan Valley. It was rich and lush and green. There was plenty of water and vegetation. It was be a wise financial decision to keep that part for himself.

But Abram is beginning to learn to trust God. He has seen how God has blessed him time and time again. He has seen God provide for him at every turn. So, Abram decides to leave the matter in God’s hands by letting Lot make the choice of where to live.

Here they are – at a fork in the road. They cannot both take the same path. So, Abram says to Lot, “I will divide the land down the middle, and you pick which piece you want.”

Abram is acting as a peacemaker.  He is taking initiative to mend family relations by being generous.

I think that this is one of the best ways to solve quarrels. Humble yourself and take the initiative to be the peacemaker. And then be overgenerous. Give more than is necessary. Give more than what is required. As Jesus said, “Go the extra mile.”

Now I recognize that most people will say, “Yeah, but I’ll get walked on. I’ll be taken advantage of” and you’re probably right.  Just look what happens to Abram; he gets cheated out of the land that was rightfully his, but the outcome was peace and Abram was willing to be taken advantage of in order to achieve peace.

I believe that when it comes to disharmony and turmoil, there is no such thing as being too generous but that is going to take humility and trust that God will provide the right outcome.

Abram has faced two decisions, and in both, he chose wisely. He chose according to God’s will and he trusted God to provide.

Now, Lot has his own decisions to make, and he hasn’t learned much from his uncle. The first choice he faces is between wealth or wisdom.

As he looked over the land, he was drawn to the plain of Jordan.

Now, if you’ve seen pictures of the plain of Jordan now, it is one of the most desolate and barren places in the middle east. Certain places along the Jordan river are lush and green, but the Dead Sea region is – as the name implies – dead.

But it wasn’t always this way. At that time, it was much more like the garden of Eden, full of vegetation and trees. It was also a desirable place to live because the road that went through it was one of the major trade routes of the Middle East.  So, in Lot’s mind, this meant more riches and wealth.

But although his decision was good financially, there was not a lot of wisdom involved, because the location he chose to live was near Sodom. His acquaintances, the people he would be dealing with on a day to day basis, were not known for their upright, moral conduct. Instead, it was widely known that they were exceedingly wicked and sinful.  It’s great land but the neighbors are terrible.

 

But he probably figured he could protect his family from the bad neighbors, and so chose to go to the Jordan Valley anyway. He even stayed out of the city. It says he pitched his tent as far as Sodom, but he did not actually move into Sodom — yet.

Here’s an observation I’ve made over the years, people who ride the fence soon sit on the fence, and then eventually end up on the other side of the fence.

So, you can probably guess how this is going to turn out.

God tells us in scripture to, “Come out from among them and be separate,” but this is not the choice Lot made. He chose wealth over wisdom and Sodom over separation.

These choices made by Lot are very different than the ones Abram made and as we’ll see in the coming weeks, it will lead to a bad outcome for Lot and his family.

But right here in chapter 13, we see a result for Abram right away. God makes a choice. Or rather, He reiterates a choice He has already made in chapter 12. He reminds Abram that all the land will eventually be his but then he adds three more elements to his promise.

  • Abram would have countless descendants.
  • They would be given all the land Abram could see or set his foot upon.
  • It wouldn’t just be a temporary possession, but they would possess the land forever.

I think Abram was probably feeling a bit cheated and discouraged. I mean, he had let Lot tag along with him for years. Lot had surely benefited from Abram’s wealth. But given the choice, Lot stabbed Abram in the back and takes the best portion of the land for himself.

So, God reminds Abram of the promise. God tells Abram to look North, South, East and West, and everything he sees will be his. Abram will have countless descendants, and they will own this land forever. Abram has done the right thing. He made the right choices. God is now encouraging Abram.

This is the way it is with us too. It often seems that in this world, it truly does happen according to the saying, “The nice guy finishes last.” And while that may be true in the eyes of the world, in God’s eyes, things are completely different.

In God’s eyes, the one who is first shall be last, and the last shall be first. The one who gives will receive, and the one who takes, even what he has will be taken from him.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says “the eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. When He finds such men and women, He chooses them to receive great blessing, and accomplish great things for His name.

After receiving a reminder of this promise, Abram responds with worship.

Then Abram moved his tent and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.

Hebron was not the lush, verdant Jordan valley, but it was a nice place to live as well. Here is how one historian describes Hebron in Abram’s day:

If Lot had the tropical luxuriance of Sodom, Abraham [sic] had the refreshing breeze of the hills, whose soft slopes were sprinkled with stretches of gray olives, and picturesquely mingled groves of pomegranates, figs, apricots, and almonds; while round him spread waving patches of wheat and barley, varied by green gardens and vineyards so famous, that the Jews believed the vine had been first planted by God’s own hand on these fertile slopes. His flocks, moreover, had only to wander to the next heights, beyond this quiet retreat, to have before them unlimited upland pastures.

That doesn’t sound too bad. I imagine that after God’s words, Abram thought to himself, “Well, if it’s my land, I’m going to move somewhere nice.”

So, he moved to Hebron and worships God there. This chapter begins and ends with Abram worshipping God. It shows his heart is fully fixed on God. His decisions revealed that too, and he is already experiencing some of the benefits of his decisions.

As we wrap up let me ask you some questions: What decisions are you facing? What choices must you make? Learn from Abram’s wise decisions and Lot’s poor ones.

God would call you to choose humility, generosity, wisdom, and separation.

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