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Verses 1-18


At last Abram "went up," leaving Egypt behind and coming into the south of the land of Canaan. Again Lot is mentioned as accompanying his uncle Abram. But Abram had been greatly enriched in Egypt (v.2), and Lot also had been prospered. There are two distinct lessons here. Typically speaking, God will use even the history of our failure to result in spiritual blessing. Such is His sovereign grace. But on the other hand, literally speaking, temporal blessings do not mean spiritual prosperity.

But the grace of God leads Abram back to Bethel, "the house of God" (v.2). If we are to be properly restored after failure, we must return to the place from which we departed, and here it is emphasized that it was the place he had first pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai, the place of decision to leave behind his former life in favor of the interests of God. Besides this, further emphasis is given it as "the place of the altar," where he had given God the positive honor that belongs to Him. Here for the first time since his leaving that place do we read that he "called upon the name of the Lord" (v.4). Compare Chapter 13:8. Does this not tell us that we are not having true communion with God if we are away from His place


Now the wealth of both Abram and Lot raises a serious problem. Their possessions were too great to allow them to subsist comfortably together. Quarreling began between their herdsmen (v.7). At the same time it is noted that "the Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land." Is this not told us because they would be observers, and likely to mock at the friction between brethren, specially those who were believers in the living God? If believers today have quarrels, the world is quick to ridicule the testimony of the Lord rather than to be impressed by it.

Abram did not want to continue any such friction: he would not make this an issue with his nephew, but instead asked him that there should be no conflict between them or between their herdsmen, for they were brethren (v.8). He saw only one solution to the problem, that they should separate from one another (v.9). Lot had been in a good measure dependent on Abram's leading, and should have by this time learned to have such wisdom as to depend on the Lord for himself. But though he had not really learned this, it was time that he must be on his own.

His lack of faith is seen immediately when Abram offers him the opportunity to take the first choice as to where he wanted to dwell. Instead of his depending on the Lord, and therefore rightly giving the first choice to his uncle, "he lifted up his eyes" (v.10), but not high enough! He had no idea of asking the Lord's guidance. What tragic mistakes we can make by following such and example! He is guided only by what his eyes saw. The plain of Jordan was well watered everywhere -- though it is added "before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah." So indeed the world has been greatly blessed by God, but in spite of this the ominous shadow of coming judgment hangs over it!

Lot sees that it was "like the garden of the Lord," that is, Eden. Thus today, many people are deceived by what appears to be a virtual return to paradise in spite of God's having forbidden the possibility of this (Genesis 3:24) because of man's sin. Also, the plain appeared to Lot "like the land of Egypt." He had learned by his uncle's taking him down to Egypt that the world can be an appealing place to the eye. He had not been properly recovered from the mistake of his experience there.

Abram was willing to leave the choice with God as to where he should go: Lot was not. He chose for himself, and embarked on a downward course toward the east (the direction from which they had originally come). Abram dwelt in the more rugged areas of Canaan, reminding us of the rigorous exercise of the trials of faith through which the Lord sees fit to lead a believer who purposes to walk with Him. This is not an easy path, but it is by all means the most happy path, for the Lord is there to encourage and strengthen faith for whatever needs may arise.

Lot chose to settle "in the cities of the plain," drifting toward Sodom (v.12). He wanted the easiest circumstances, and of course in Sodom he found the people who love the easiest circumstances, those who were "wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord." If we seek only to please ourselves, we shall soon find company who have the same unwholesome inclinations. But it is unbelievers who throw themselves unreservedly into this kind of a life. Lot, as a believer, did have reservations, but allowed himself to settle among those with no such reservations. Thus it will be for a Christian who is only half hearted as regards his testimony for the Lord Jesus. Peter tells us concerning Lot, "that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds" (2 Peter 2:8).


Now that Lord had chosen for himself what he wanted, the Lord tells Abram "lift up you eyes" (v.14). This is just what Lot had done (v.10), but he had limited his sight to what appealed to him. God tells Abram to look to the north, south, east and west, for He would give Abram and his descendants all the land that he saw. How much broader is God's view than that of our natural selfishness! For the believer is told today, "all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come -- all are yours. And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). All is ours, but we do not have the headache of maintaining it. The Lord Himself is our capable custodian of it! And we are His!

More than this, God would increase Abram's descendants "as the dust of the earth" (v.16). The man of faith will always prove fruitful in the end. It may seem otherwise to us because of the long delay, as it did to Abram, but God's promise was absolute: it could not possibly fail. At this time God only speaks of "the dust of the earth," for He infers only an earthly people, primarily Israel, though later (Genesis 15:5). He tells Abram his seed would be as the stars of heaven, involving the great number called "sons of Abraham," whose inheritance is in heaven, as Galations 3:7 tells us, "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham."

On that occasion (Genesis 15:15) Abram was told that he would not personally have part in an earthly inheritance, but would go to his fathers and "be buried in a good old age". AlsoHebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:10 tells us, "he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." Verse 16 further describes the city as "a heavenly one."

Therefore the Lord tells Abram, "Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and he breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee" (v.17). He was not to settle down and take possession of any part of the land, but pass through all of it, as Stephen says in Acts 7:5: "God gave him no inheritance in it not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him."


Abram moves on then to dwell "by the terebinth (or oak) trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron," and there built his third altar to the Lord. Mamre means "fatness" and Hebron "communion." This appropriately follows the second altar, which was that of decision (between Bethel and Ai ch.12:8). True decision to put God's interests first will lead to fatness, that is, spiritual prosperity, which is found in communion with the Lord. This is therefore the altar of communion, for communion with God is based upon the truth of the person of the Lord Jesus (the altar), and involving also His sacrifice, for this was the purpose of the altar. There is no approaching God without this.

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