|This is a continuation of yesterday’s study, Genesis 12 & 13. We left off with Abram finally in Canaan, camping between Ai and Bethel
Genesis 12 Verse 8 tells us. And he moved from there to the mountains east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.
Now AI means – heap of ruins (AI was on the east)
Yesterday the Holy Spirit reminded me, that the Holy of Holies in the Temple was toward the West, and the door to the Temple was toward the East. So, when we enter the temple from our Ai’s we leave the heap of ruins and move toward the Holy of Holies in the West – which is the House of God. Abram was still sort of straddling, between the two, but I find it so interesting that the Temple layout is sort of hinted at here.
It seems that God has been testing Abram. The first test was the fervor of Abram. Would Abram get up and leave his country and family. He passed but just barely this test because, while he left his home, he brought along his father and Lot.
Now we come up to the second test that God gave Abram – and he didn’t do too well in this test, in fact, the failure in this test still has repercussions for today. The test was how much did Abram rely on God. At this point in his life, Abram did not do so well, but later he will learn from this lesson and score 100.
The test: Famine. Genesis 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there for the famine was severe in the land.
He did not trust God to provide food for him in a land suffering from famine, so he goes south to Egypt. Often in the Bible Egypt is a synonym for sin, and it is in Egypt that Sarai will acquire a handmaid named Hagar, which will profoundly affect history.
I think that when times are tough for me, I too often seek out an Egypt solution for my problems. It seems like I need to “do” something, grasp at straws. While God does not want us to idly wait for people to help us, He does like us to consult Him first about what we should do.
Abram also did not trust God to protect him while he was in Egypt, and had Sarai lie and say that she was Abram’s sister. Now a woman who is over 70 years old must be very beautiful if she is attracting the eye of Pharaoh. She was taken to Pharaoh’s house, but God protected her in her obedience to her husband. Genesis 12:17 “But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife?”
God must have revealed to Pharaoh that Sarai was Abram’s wife. Why did God plague Pharaoh, not Sarai and Abram, for this deception? God had to do this because Sarai was to birth Isaac, and Isaac was part of the Messianic line – Sarai’s womb could not have been polluted by a pagan Pharaoh. Yet, because of Sarai, Abram was treated well – coming away with sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys and camels. After Pharaoh discovered the deception, he sent Abram away with all that Abram and his wife had.
It seems, on the surface, that Abram did very well with this deception, and in fact he will use the lie again in similar circumstances, and get rebuked for it. The problem is, this detour of his netted nothing productive. A person does not sin against God alone (miss the mark), Lot also came down to Egypt with Abram, and Lot too received lots of possessions. Instead of relying on God, Lot will choose the easy, quick way to success, choosing to reside in a city (but that is for later). And of course one of Sarai’s handmaidens was Hagar – who will later birth Ismael. Abram’s well-intentioned move to Egypt to flee famine will have many negative repercussions. But before I can point a finger at Abram, I have to look at myself and see how often I have fled to Egypt to save myself from an uncomfortable situation. It is so easy to get caught up in appearances instead of relying fully on God.
By the way, Abram was not exactly lying about Sarai being his sister. Genesis 20:12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. She was his 1/2 sister. It is a half-truth, but another name for half-truth is lie.
Well, Abram gathers Sarai, Lot, and his many possessions and servants and moves on up (north) and guess where he lands.
Genesis 13:3-4 And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
Right back where he started. This reminds me of a funny CD by Anna Russell, who tells the stories of many of the Operas, explaining them, but in a way that has you rolling on the floor laughing. This is the closing line of her description of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, that after so many hours, they end up back where they started.
In an opera comedian’s CD that is funny, but really it is sad, for the time that Abram spent in Egypt was wasted. Anytime we take a detour in our lives to Egypt, we waste time. And I am, with my age, learning that there is precious little time to waste. It still saddens me that I spent 40 years in an Egypt. But God was gracious and brought me back to Bethel in spite of myself.
When we look at our lives and realize that we are in Egypt, we sometimes have to return to where we lost the mark, where we last camped with God, and seek God there. Letting Him direct our steps. God will patiently wait for us to come back to where we are supposed to be.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes it is easier to receive the call from God and act on it than it is to stay where God wants you to be once you get there? The excitement of the adventure of getting to where you are called is fun. The day-to-day grind of living out that call is tough. It is tempting to move, but if God is not in the move, it is easy to get lost. I have to learn to stay in Canaan, not to stray.
It is also interesting that some things that people will consider a blessing (all the goods and servants that Abram brought back from Egypt) are not a blessing for others. God knows what we need, and it does not always correspond to what we want, or to what the world deems is necessary.
All those possessions that were brought back from Egypt caused strife in Canaan.
Genesis 13:6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Cannanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.
Well this is God’s Test Number 3, how would Abram deal with Lot. Abram passes with flying colors – showing humility and trust in God’s provision. But notice – the strife occurred because of the abundance of livestock-where did they get the livestock? Egypt. So that detour of Abram to Egypt still had repercussions even though Abram was back in Canaan. Often, while we get right with God, we still have consequences that we have to deal with because of our straying from God’s plan for us.
Abram has been building a lot of spiritual muscles. He has 1. Listened and obeyed the call of God, 2. Learned that in trials it is God’s faithfulness we need, not leaving for Egypt. 3. That you have to beware of Egypt in your life, that it will just cause you problems, sometimes far reaching. 4. Faith is not a single journey to a place, but it is a continual relationship with God. and 5. You don’t sin alone. Sarai brought back Hagar, and Lot brought back a taste for possessions.
I was not certain about the line Canaanites and Perizzites – Canaannites seem to dwell in land, Perizzites belong to a village but beyond that I don’t know. Sometimes God puts a line in that is puzzling – I suspect there is depth of knowledge there, but I haven’t found it out. One thought that crossed my mind is that those people in the land were witnesses to Abram’s and Lot’s conflict. They would observe that outward behavior, and maybe draw false conclusions about God. Our actions with each other do impact non-Christians, and it is good to keep in mind that even when you don’t realize it, people are watching how a Christian would deal with a troubling situation.
What blesses me is how God uses this strife between Lot and Abram to effect His purpose. I don’t like strife personally, and we are to learn to live peaceably, but this is a good example of what satan meant for evil, God turns to good. Remember, God’s original instruction to Abram was to leave family and home, and go where God wants him to go. Abram brought along his father and Lot. Well Lot will now make an exit. This strife will cause Lot to go one way (in more ways than one), and Abram to go the other. FINALLY, Abram is in full obedience of the first directive of God. Now He can take the next step. Here is where Abram’s humility and trust in God’s provision kick in.
Genesis 13:8-9 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen: for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”
Here is where the conditioning of Egypt kicks in for Lot. Genesis 13:10-13 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.
We will later see that Lot sits at the gate in Sodom, and will have to be rescued from there before a massive destruction. Notice – Lot saw the easy, watered land with cities. And chose to go there. He moved EAST – remember east is the way towards the heap of ruins (exactly what Sodom would become). Notice that Lot’s criteria for picking was also that it was like the land of Egypt.
SODOM means Burning
Oh, Lot is going to Zoar for sure, because his line of descendents will end up in insignificance. He really bought the deception of Egypt, and will end up suffering for it. Perhaps that is why God wanted Abram to leave Lot and move to Canaan. Perhaps it was because Lot had this materialistic bent, but it could also have been to protect Lot from Egypt. It always amazes me how much God has things in control. He guides things to the correct outcome, in spite of our choices. I just wish I could learn to trust Him more and make the right choices, instead of landing in Egypt so much.
Notice, God then will speak to Abram after Lot splits. Sometimes God cannot show us things until certain unsavory circumstances are out of our life, sometimes the vision or thought is for us alone. Even Jesus spoke in parables that He later explained to the disciples, but many were not aware of what Jesus was teaching.
Genesis 13:14-18 And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are –northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise and walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you. 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.
MAMRE means vision, strength, fatness, an oak grove, vigor
And what was the thing that Abram built, an altar. He will leave the surface of the land populated with altars. Now, Abram was to travel and walk the land, claiming it for him and his descendants. So often God gives us land (spiritual land and physical ministries) but we don’t fully walk them. We plop ourselves down in a spot instead of moving out and claiming the whole of what God has for us. I also think that right now there is such a push on Israel to give up the land to Palestine – this is not God’s plan. I don’t think Israel ever fully claimed the land that God gave them, and they certainly did not obey God in destroying all the opposition – and today that has come back to haunt them.
I have to give Abram and Sari kudos for their faith and trust in God. It must be hard to visualize descendants as much as the dust on the earth when you are old and your wife is barren. To his credit, Abram did lead a nomad’s existence, but even in that there are still many lessons for him and us to learn from his experiences.
God will lead him to wander the land and in that wandering He will refine Abram in much the same way that God led the Israelites around the wilderness to prepare them for conquering the Promised Land. Even though we don’t always understand the path God has for us to take, there is a purpose in it. But I don’t trust that enough, I still want a detailed roadmap, with rest stops clearly marked. God has other ideas.
I was just proofreading this and was blown away by how much God was showing me today. This could be a life-work for me, to try to live out this teaching, and I fail so much at doing that. I am sure glad God is there guiding, for without Him I could get so lost in the wilderness or caught in Egypt.
Hope you have a great week.
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