Gleanings In Genesis
18. Abraham And Lot
In our last article we followed Abraham from Ur of Chaldea to Haran, and from Haran to Canaan. We saw that after he had arrived in the land to which God called him, a famine arose, and his faith failing him in the hour of crisis, Abraham, accompanied by Lot, sought refuge in Egypt. Our present study reveals some of the results of the patriarchís backsliding. While God, in faithfulness and grace, restored His wandering child, yet the effects of his departure from the path of faith were manifested soon afterwards and continued to harass him the remainder of his days. The principle of sowing and reaping is of universal application and is true of believers equally as much as unbelievers. Two things Abraham obtained from his sojourn in Egypt, each of which proved a hindrance and curse, though in the end both were overruled by God for His own glory. We refer to them here in the inverse order of their mention in Genesis.
"And Sara, Abramís wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband, Abram, to be his wife" (Gen. 16:3). During their stay in Egypt, Sarah took unto her the maid, Hagar. The strife, the jealousy, the trouble which Hagar introduced into the patriarchís household is well known, the climax of it all being seen in Ishmael (Hagarís son) "mocking Isaac" (Gen. 21:9) and his subsequent expulsion from Abramís tent.
The second thing which Abraham seems to have obtained in Egypt was great earthly possessionsó"And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Gen. 13:1, 2). This is the first time we read of Abramís "cattle," and it is deeply significant that shortly afterwards these very flocks and herds became the occasion of strife between him and his nephew. It also deserves to be noticed that this is the first mention of "riches" in Scripture, and, as now, so then, they pierced their possessor through with "many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:10).
"And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents" (Gen. 13:5). Till now we hear nothing of Lot since he left Haran, but he appears to have been one of Abramís family and to have gone with him wherever he went. The characters and careers of Abram and Lot present a series of sharp antitheses. Throughout the biographical portions of Scripture we find the Holy Spirit frequently brings together two men of widely different character and placing them in juxtaposition so that we might the better learn the salutary lessons He would teach us. Abel and Cain, Moses and Aaron, Samuel and Saul, David and Solomon, are well known examples of this principle. In almost every respect Lot compares unfavorably with Abram. Abram walked by faith, Lot by sight. Abram was generous and magnanimous; Lot greedy and worldly. Abram looked for a city whose builder and maker was God; Lot made his home in a city that was built by man and destroyed by God. Abram was the father of all who believe; Lot was father of those whose name is a perpetual infamy. Abram was made "heir of the world" (Rom. 4:3), while the curtain falls upon Lot with all his possessions destroyed in Sodom, and himself dwelling in a "cave" (Gen. 19:30).
The history of Lot is a peculiarly tragic one and for that reason full of "admonition" for us upon whom the ends of the ages have come. We attempt nothing more than a rapid sketch of it, considering:
1. Lotís Departure from Abram.
This is described in Genesis 13: "And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together, for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdsmen of Abramís cattle and the herdsmen of Lotís cattle" (vv. 6 and 7). How often "strife" between kinsmen has been brought about by earthly possessions and wealth! The record is very terse, but there can be little doubt as to who was to blame. The subsequent conduct of Lot and the Lordís rewarding of Abram indicate plainly that it was Lot who was in the wrong. Nor is the cause far to seek. Lot had brought with him out of Egypt something else besides "herds and flocks"óhe had contracted its spirit and acquired a taste for its "fleshpots."
"And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or, if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (vv. 8, 9). Abram foresaw there was danger of a falling out between himself and his nephew, that what had begun with the servants would probably end with the masters. Deprecating the thought of friction between brethren, he proposed that they should separate. The wisdom which is from above is first pure and then peaceable. In spirit, Abram carried out the letter of the Divine admonition: "As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
The proposal made by Abram to his nephew was exceedingly generous, and in his greed, Lot took full advantage of it. Instead of leaving the choice to Abram, we read: "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east, and they separated themselves the one from the other" (vv. 10, 11). Observe, that Lot "Lifted up his eyes and beheld." In other words, he preferred to walk by sight, rather than by faith. How impossible then for Lot to remain with Abram! How can two walk together except they be agreed? Abram "endured as seeing him who is invisible," while Lotís heart was set upon the things of time and sense. Hence, we are told, "they could not dwell together" (v. 6)óit was a moral impossibility.
Lot "lifted up his eyes." This was the commencement, outwardly, at least, of a decline which ended in the utmost shame. Eye-gate is one of the avenues through which temptations assail the soul: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16). Walking by sight is the cause of most of our failures and sorrows. So it was at the beginning: "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof" (Gen. 3:6). Mark, too, the confession of Achan: "When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them and took them" (Joshua 7:21). How significant the order here I saw, I coveted, I took! So it was with Lot: first he lifted up his eyes and beheld, and then he "chose him." How significant are the closing words of Genesis 13:10: "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere. . . . Even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt," which shows us that Lot was still attached to "Egypt" in heart. But how true it is that "the Lord seeth not as man seeth" (1 Samuel 16:7)! To the worldly eye of Lot all the plain appeared "well watered and as the garden of the Lord," but to the holy eye of Jehovah the cities of the plain were peopled by those who were "wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (v. 13); "before the Lord," shows us what it was that His eyes dwelt upon. We consider next,
2. Lotís Sojourn in Sodom
"Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed eastward: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom" (vv. 11, 12). The various steps in the downward course of Lot are plainly marked out. First, he "lifted up his eyes and beheld." Second, he "chose him all the plain of Jordan." Third, he "separated" himself from Abram. Fourth, he "dwelt in the cities of the plain." Fifth, he "pitched his tent toward Sodom." Sixth, he "dwelt in Sodom" (Gen. 14:12). Finally, we see him an alderman of Sodom, seated in its "gate" (Gen. 19:1) and his daughters wedded to men of Sodom. Behold how great a fire a little matter kindleth. From a lifting up of the eyes to behold the land and seek pasturage for his flocks, to becoming an official in the city of wickedness! Like leprosy, sin has often a seemingly small beginning, but how rapid its spread, how loathsome its issue, how dreadful its end! Similar was the course of the Apostle Peter: the denial of his Lord was no sudden, isolated act, but the sequel and climax of an antecedent chain. There was first the boasting self-confidence, "Though all shall be offended, yet will not I" (Mark 14:29). Then there was the "sleeping" in the garden when he should have been watching and praying (Mark 14:37). Then there was the following Christ "afar off" (Matthew 26:58). Then there was the seating of himself at the fire in the presence of his Lordís enemies (Matthew 26:69). And then, amid these evil associates, came the awful denial and cursing.
And what did Lot gain by his separation from Abram and sojourn in Sodom? Nothing at all. Instead of gaining, he was the loser. The men of Sodom were "wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly" and Lot was "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds" (2 Pet. 2:7, 8). Consider now,
3. Lotís Deliverance from Sodom
In the first place notice how, in His faithfulness and grace, God had given Lot a very definite warning. From Genesis 14 we learn that in the battle between the four kings with the five, "they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abramís brotherís son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed" (vv. 11, 12). Yet though Lot lost all his goods and seems to have been in imminent danger of losing his life but for the timely intervention of Abram with his armed servants, nevertheless, this experience failed to teach Lot the evil of being associated with the world, but he recovered his freedom and his property only to return unto Sodom. Alas! what is man? Even Godís providential dealings are insufficient to move his heart.
The contents of Genesis 18 and 19 are so familiar to our readers that no lengthy exposition is needed. The Lord Himself makes known to His "friend" what He is about to do; but no such revelation was vouchsafed Lot who was altogether out of communion with Jehovah. The "secret of the Lord" is only with them that "fear Him." The two angels who accompanied the Lord to Abramís tent, go forward to Sodom, the Lord Himself remaining behind, and with Him Abram intercedes on behalf of the righteous who may be in the doomed city.
The two angels found Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom and in response to his request that they partake of his hospitality, said, "Nay, but we will abide in the street all night." Their reluctance to enter Lotís dwellingóin marked contrast with their fellowship with Abramóintimates the condition of Lotís soul. Observe, too, that it was "in the heat of the day" (Gen. 18:1) that they visited Abram; whereas, it was "even" (Gen. 19:1) when they appeared to his nephew. The utter meanness and selfishness of Lotís character was quickly exhibited in the contemptible proposal to sacrifice his daughters to the men of Sodom in order to secure his own preservation and peace (Gen. 19:8). The powerlessness of his testimony appeared in the response made by his "sons-in-law" when he warned them that the Lord was about to destroy the cityó"he seemed as one that mocked" (Gen. 19:14); his words had now no weight because of his previous ways. The words "while he lingered, the men (the angels) laid hold upon his hand" (Gen. 19:16) show plainly where his heart was. The summary judgment which overtook his wife and the fearful crime of his daughters was a terrible harvest from his sowing to the flesh.
The deliverance of Lot was a remarkable instance of Godís care for His own. Lot was living far below his privileges, and manifestly was out of communion with the Lord, yet he was a "righteous man" (2 Pet. 2:7, 8) and therefore was he snatched as a brand from the burning. Blessed be His name, "He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself"(2 Tim. 2:13). Just as a shelter was provided for Noah, just as Israel was protected from the avenging angel, so with Lot. Said the angel to him, "I cannot do anything till thou be come thither" (Gen. 19:22).
We cannot leave this section without noticing the obvious connection between Lotís deliverance from Sodom and Abramís intercession for him. The particular word employed by Abram in his supplications was deeply significant. Said he, "Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" (Gen. 18:23, and compare verses 24, 25, 26, 28), which is the very word which the Holy Spirit employs in 2 Peter 2:8! May we not also see in Abram here a type of our blessed Lord? Lot was delivered from the kings by Abramís sword and from Godís judgment upon Sodom by Abramís supplications. And are not these the instruments (if we may so speak) employed by our Savior! He delivers His own from the (defilements of) the world by the Wordóthe swordósee John 13, and when they sin He acts as their Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).
It only remains for us now to point out a few of the leading lessons brought out in Genesis 13 and 19. Let us notice:
1. The Certain Accomplishment of Godís Purpose.
Mysterious are the ways of Him with whom we have to do. The "strife" which God permitted to arise between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot was designed for the carrying out of His own counsel. The declared purpose of God was to separate Abram from the land of his birth and from his own kinsmen, in order to educate him and his in the knowledge and obedience of Jehovah. God called Abram "alone" (Isa. 51:2), yet at least two of his relatives accompanied him when he left Ur of the Chaldees. But, in the end, Godís purpose was realized. Terah, Abramís father, died at Haran. Lot accompanied him into the land of Canaan, but it is obvious that a worldly spirit like his, together with his own separate and large encampment imbued, no doubt, with the spirit of its chief and over which it would be difficult if not impossible for Abram to exercise authority, could not help forward the Divine purpose. In the separation of Lot from Abram, then, we see the departure of the last of his kinsfolk, and now Abram is left "alone" with God! Verily, "There are many devices in a manís heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord that shall stand" (Proverbs 19:21). Let us consider,
2. The Magnanimity of Abram.
The proposal which Abram made to his nephew was exceedingly gracious and beautiful. Abram was the senior, and the one to whom God had promised to give the land (Gen. 12:7), yet, he generously waived his rights, and "with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering," he forebore with Lot in love. Note carefully his words, "Is not the whole land before thee" (Gen. 13:9). Gladly did Abram surrender every claim and forego every right to put a stop to this strife between "brethren."
In the waiving of his rights Abram foreshadowed that One who was made, according to the flesh, "the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). He who was in the form of God and thought it not robbery to be equal with God voluntarily waived His rights and took upon Him the form of a servant. All power in heaven and earth was His, yet He suffered Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and though He had the right to summon twelve legions of angels to come and do His bidding, He waived it and refused to give the command. Though He did no sin, had no sin, was without sin, and as such death had no claim upon Him, yet was He "made sin for us" and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Yes, He "waived His rights" and He has left us an example that we should follow His steps.
3. The Warnings Pointed by Lotís Failures.
We mention three without dwelling upon them at any length: First, his choice of residence. Surely this needed lesson is writ large across the story of Lotís life. He preferred the "well-watered" plains above Abramís "altar." He regarded temporal advantages only, and had no regard for his spiritual welfare. Alas! how many believers are there now who, when seeking a location for themselves and family follow his evil example. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness ought to regulate our every decision.
Second, his yielding to the spirit of worldliness. Lot seems to be a type of that class of Christians who aim to make the best of both worlds, who are really occupied more with the things of earth than the things of heaven. Lot was a man who sowed to the flesh, and of the flesh he reaped corruption. Temporal prosperity was what he sought, but in the end he lost even his worldly possessions. His life on earth was a wretched failure, made up entirely of "wood, hay, stubble." There was no witnessing for God and no blessing of God upon his family. Lot is a concrete warning, a danger signal, for all Christians who feel a tendency to be carried away by the things of the world.
Third, his miserable end. Wretched, indeed, must have been the closing days of Lotócowering in a cave, stript of all his earthly possessions, his sons-in-law destroyed in Sodom, his wife turned to a pillar of salt, and he left face to face with the fruit of his own awful sin.