God has rescued Abram and returns him to the promised land, to the very place where Abram made the first altar and called upon the name of the Lord. The blessings of God have fueled a problem. Genesis 13:5-7 record the problem. The land is unable to support both Abram and Lot with all the animals they have. This is causing strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdmen. Now there is plenty of room in the land God has promised. The issue is that they can no longer live together in the same place but need to separate themselves.
Lot Goes East (Genesis 13)
Now Abram and Lot are located in the center of the promised land, between Bethel and Ai (12:8). We need to understand this geography to properly grasp what Abram offers. They are not standing at the bottom of the Dead Sea when Abram makes this offer to go to the right or the left. Abram is not saying that he will go live in the land of Sodom if Lot chooses to live in the promised land. This is not Abram offering to Lot to forfeit the promised land. For us, when we give directions today, we orient everything to the north. Every map we have orients everything to the north. So when we speak of left and right, usually our left would refer to the west and our right would refer to the east. But in the Ancient Near Eastern culture, everything was oriented to the east. Therefore, as Abram offers to Lot to go to the left or the right, he is facing east from the middle of the promised land and is offering Lot to either choose the southern part of the promised land or the northern part of the promised land. But Lot does not say that he will go to the right, nor go to the left. He lifts his eyes up to the east and sees that the Jordan Valley was well-watered. Lot does not choose the promised land of Canaan but the valley.
Now the text goes out of its way to paint ominous signs that this will be a bad decision. First, verse 10 reminds us that Sodom will be destroyed in the future. Further, in verse 11 we see that Lot journeyed east. Going east in the book of Genesis thus far is negative. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden to the east (3:24). When Cain was expelled he was expelled to the east (4:16). Now Lot goes to the east. In verse 13 we are told that the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. From now, everything we read about Lot in the book of Genesis is disaster. Lot, who leaves the protective fold of the blessed patriarch, Abram, will lose the blessings that come from being in proximity and relationship to Abram. The greater issue beyond just leaving the land is that Lot is leaving the one through whom God said all families would be blessed. To state this another way, the problem is not that he chose fertile soil to live on. The problem is that he turned his back on the promised land for what he could see. That Jordan Valley land looked better than the land that God was giving. This is the danger of walking by sight rather than walking by faith. Life decisions that we make without any concern or calculation for God fail for we are walking by sight. We must not ask, “What is in it for me?” or “What benefit will I get from this?” as if we are to live for instant satisfaction. Rather, we must ask if this decision will enhance my relationship with God. The logic of Lot’s decision is sound. They have just experienced a severe famine living in this land. Move to a more fertile, well-watered land so that this does not happen to him again. The problem with the logic is simply that the land he was currently standing on was the land of promise. The promises and grace of God are to change the physical decisions we must make.
Thus, Lot leaves Abram and God reissues the promise to Abram. This emphasizes that Lot is not the heir of the promises. Abram is left without an heir, but God confirms that Abram’s offspring will be as numerous as the dust of the earth. Abram walks the length of the land, symbolically taking possession of the land. Thus, Abram settles in the land and worships the Lord.
Rescuing Lot (14:1-16)
As chapter 13 foreshadowed, the fourteenth chapter of Genesis opens with problems for Lot and his family. Kings from the east go to war with the cities of the plains. The cities of the plains are losing and in verse 12 we read that Lot is captured along with his possessions. A messenger escapes to Abram, explaining what happened. Abram gathers 318 trained men from his house and went in pursuit of them. Verse 14 indicates the Chedorlaomer king of Elam has pushed into the promised land. Abram and his forces attack at night, defeat these kings, and bring back all the possessions and people that were captured. Abram is already functioning as a blessing to the nations and families of the earth.
Contrast of Kings (14:17-24)
After defeating Chedorlaomer, two kings come out to greet Abram. The king of Sodom went out to meet Abram, as well as the king of Salem, whose name is Melchizedek (who is also a priest of God Most High according to verse 18). Melchizedek is the king of righteousness while the king of Sodom is king over wickedness. Melchizedek presents first to Abram. He blesses Abram by God most High, possessor of heaven and earth and also blesses God who has delivered the enemies into the hands of Abram. Melchizedek is noted as the superior because he offers the blessing upon Abram, and because Abram pays a tenth of all that he received in this victory. Abram shows his faith in the Lord by paying a tenth of what he had received. Doing this is recognition that God had given him the victory and the spoils of victory.
Then the king of Sodom says that Abram can keep all the possessions he won back in victory but give back the people. In verses 11-12 we read that Chedorlaomer took all the possessions, provisions, and people. The king of Sodom offers to Abram to take everything. But Abram will not take anything. He will not take the land that he has chased these kings out of. He will not take the possessions that he had a right to because he had won the war. The faith of Abram is seen in verses 23-24. Abram will not take anything so that no one will say that they made him rich. God is going to be his blessing. God is going to give him the land and he does not need to take it. God is going to give him the possessions he needs and Abram does not need to take any of it. Abram returns the possessions back to the people. Abram has only taken food as he went to battle, nothing more. God has blessed Abram with great victory over foreign nations. Abram responds with loyalty and devotion to God. Those who are joined with Abram also share in this blessing (14:24).
Give or Take?
Here is the point. God will give; I do not need to take. Taking is about trusting in self. Sin is all about taking for ourselves. We are saying that we do not trust God to give us what we need. So we need sexual satisfaction and we go take it for ourselves, committing sin. We need wealth so we go take it for ourselves from others. We take on the job. We take from our spouse. We take from our family. Taking is the act of selfishness. We are thinking about ourselves and taking what we want.
Notice what Abram wants to display to these foreign kings. Abram wants people to know that God is blessing him, not that he is taking. I do not have to take for myself. God will give me all that I need. God will keep his promises and I have faith that he will. Think about the movement of faith in Abram who first thought he needed to go to Egypt to care for himself. Now he knows that he does not have to take for himself. God will provide. God will give to him. He does not need to take.
How the world tells us that we must take for ourselves! Marriages are entered for what I will get out of it, not what I can give to it. Then we end the marriage because I did not get out of it what I wanted. As God is being ignored we are turning into a society of takers. There is no heart to give but just to simply take. We are able to shock people in this world by being givers rather than takers. Communicate to people that we do not need to take from them but will give to them because God gives to us. Part of walking in the footsteps of faith is to have the faith in God that he will take care of you and give you what you need.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31–33 ESV)
I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:33–35 ESV)
We do not seize the best land for ourselves as if God will not care for us. We do not take. It is more blessed to give. We will rest in the promise of God to give us what we need so that we can give to others. Let us have the faith to give and kill the selfish heart that desires to take.