Christ Our Sanctifer
If you have your Bibles, turn in them, please, to Genesis chapter 13, Genesis 13. We're obviously in the middle of the season of Advent, a time that should be characterized by worship and adoration towards the Lord in most things. But sadly, Even though a lot of times we yearn to have that worshipful spirit within us, we can find ourselves getting caught up in family issues around the holidays.
We end up with tension and strife over material things, especially when the kids give you a Christmas list which seems bigger than Amazon itself.
For some, the holidays can be a difficult time because The stand we take for our faith. Maybe we're the only ones in our family who truly follow Christ, and we end up being perhaps a little separated from the rest of our family because of that in our text today. In our story today, we're going to see a story about Abraham, similar situation, how he had conflict With one of his family members, and he had the choice to make of whether to walk towards the things of the world or walk away from the things of the world and walk towards God.
And that is a choice we all have to make. Do we want to walk towards the world or do we want to walk away from the world and towards Christ? Now where we are in the story of Abraham. And there's nothing up there.
Oh, I know. But it's going to get a crick in my neck the whole time, but we'll deal with that. Where we are in the story of Abraham. Abraham has been called by God to uproot everything he had. His to leave his home, his family, his property, all of that. And to follow God into this new land. And when God called Abraham to this new land, He didn't tell Abraham where.
Abraham was like where is this? And God simply said, the land I'm going to show you where the land I'm going to show you where you'll know when you get there. That's a step of faith right there. And then once Abram, Abraham landed in the land, God gave him three tests to see how his faith would develop in this new calling.
The first test was when there was a famine in the land. And Abraham had to make a decision of what he was going to do. There's a, there's this land that God called me to, and yet there's no food there. So he and his wife, Sarah, went down to Egypt. And if you remember the story, they get near the border there.
And Abraham gets a little nervous because he's looking at his wife and goes, you know what? If they know we're married, they very well might kill me and just snatch you away and marry you. So just say you're my sister. And then let me handle all the negotiations. Didn't work out too well because Pharaoh is the one who looked at Sarah and go I think I'll bring her into my harem.
And because of the events that developed there, Abraham basically got frog marched out of Egypt. But with a whole lot of stuff. He was made rich by Pharaoh in his disobedience to the Lord. In this second test, the one we're going to look at today, Abraham is back in the land, but once again he's going to find an issue with being able to support his family.
Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, and the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock.
Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were then dwelling in the land. Abraham's back on track, worshipping the God of promise with this newly revitalized faith. However, arriving back in the land, his hopes of being able to settle down And follow this God and live a peaceful life really don't last too long because he's overtaken with new problems that are basically rival claims to the land that God had promised him.
Strife arises within his own family, within the person of his beloved nephew, Lot. And by the way, for any of us who live a life of faith, and we think that being the recipient of divine promises mean we can just settle down and everything's going to be nice and smooth,
doesn't always work that way, does it? There's not necessarily always a life of quiet repose for those who follow Christ.
Next slide. One writer said, The hopes generated by the divine assurance of nationhood and national territory seem to be in perpetual danger of miscarrying. Reality always falls short of the promise. Yet the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, and the hand of providence is ever present, delivering His chosen ones.
Once more. Abraham must face the issue of whether he can trust God to provide for him in the land. And this time, however, the issue is not too little food. The issue is an abundance of wealth. And everybody's getting crowded in the area. By the way, quick riches, which is what Abraham got, can usually end up being a sign of strife in the midst of families.
With everything they got from Egypt, all the new flocks, all the new herds, Abraham and Lot's shepherds find that there's not enough room for them to coexist. And twice the narrator says that the pastureland was unable to sustain them. And the word there is, as one. They were no longer able to be one in the midst of this land.
And this gives strife and contention between the shepherds. There's also that note about the Canaanites and the Perizzites also being in the land. So basically, the land's pretty crowded. And here's Abraham and Lot with everything, trying to coexist with each other. And there's very little open space to go around.
So what happens? For the second time in scripture, Abraham's going to speak. Then Abraham said to Lot, Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Kindly separate from me. If to the left, then I will go to the right, or if to the right, then I will go to the left.
Abraham is quickly growing in his faith, and the experience he had in Egypt has matured his faith, because he knows more and more every day that he can rely upon this God who has called him to this foreign land. Abraham is the reasonable peacemaker, the man conscious of family bonds in the midst of an alien landscape.
And the language in which he addresses Lot is very firm, very clear, very polite.
There's no guilt about what's going on. He presses forward and he has a much greater awareness at this time of who God is and how God will provide. His new wealth, although acquired through a lack of faith, has freed him from the need to maybe grasp for riches, or possessions, or acquisitions. Every word that Abraham is speaking here breathes out this gift of faith, this new faith.
And it exemplifies the whole idea of what biblical peacemaking is about. First, Abraham's the one who takes the initiative to settle the dispute. Doesn't wait for his nephew to feel the heavy burden of what is going on. He addresses Lot with dignity and grace, using the word please. Third, he doesn't allow this dispute to become just something to be resolved through intermediaries, their shepherds.
Abraham decides to deal with it himself. Ultimately, for Abraham, it's a matter between him and Lot. And if they settle it now, and if there's peace now, there won't be any strife farther down the road. And he gives motives for his actions. He says, For brothers we are. That's his intention here. To bring peace.
To keep peace with him and his nephew. So once this dignity has been established, Between Abraham and Lot, he is ready to propose the only solution that seems possible, and it is a painful one. He states it firmly, yet very politely, Please separate from me. And to remove the sting, from these words, he sandwiches them in with the idea that Lot gets to take first pick.
When my brother and I were growing up, and I'm sure if you had siblings growing up, something always happened along this line. If there was a piece of cake that needed to be divided between the two of you, my parents would always say, you cut it, and you get first pick. Can I get an amen if we had that before?
That, to an extent, is what Abraham is given in life. He says, you pick whatever you want. You get first choice. Even though the land had been given by God as gift to Abraham, in the maturity of his faith, is able to say, you take what you want first. You pick first, I'll take second. And Lott, man, that adrenaline's got to be going at this point because he's wow, I get the first pick of anything I want any disappointment he might feel at having to leave his uncle and their relationship disappears because all of a sudden he's got the freedom to choose whatever he wants.
What a rare opportunity this would be. That's like telling somebody who just graduated from college, By the way, write up your own job description, pay yourself whatever salary you want. It's yours. Lot's eyes must be just bulging out at this point going, Wow, I can take anything I want. So Lot takes in the view.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zohar. Narrator puts us in Lot's shoes. We see things the way he does. We see everything from his perspective.
He lifts up his own eyes. He observes the well watered and irrigated Jordan Valley. He sees this region that is filled with abundant springs that can create conditions like an oasis. And he's thinking, this is gorgeous. This is amazing. There is enough here that I don't need anything from anybody ever again.
I can be rich in this area. And then there's that nice little note that we were meant to catch. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But Lot thinks this is like the Garden of Eden. Everything I'd ever heard about the Garden of Eden, I can look at here and go, This is what I want. I can have what I want in life, and it will make me happy.
Except, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The first of many ominous signs that things might not turn out so well for this man lot. Next slide, please. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeying eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tent as far as Sodom.
Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly, sinners against the Lord. Lot. Chooses for himself. Reminds me a little bit of the Tower of Babel. They were the ones who said, We're going to make a name for ourselves. We're going to be able to do this on our own and nobody's going to be able to stop us.
Lot's got the same perspective. I've got everything I ever need. Everything I've ever dreamed of is mine. He chooses the best of all he can see. Everything. I want it all. And the pride and the greed that is driving him here is just so obvious to anyone. Basically, he's taking advantage of Abraham. He's like driving a bus right over Abraham and saying, I'm going to take all the good stuff and you just get the little.
crumbs over here.
He goes eastward to the very edge of Canaan, if not beyond it. And though offered a share of the land in Canaan, Lot is depicted as turning away from it.
In essence, Lot's choice shows him walking away from God. Now, Abraham is going to settle down in the land of Canaan. Lot is going to be in the cities of the valley, and he moves his tent as far as Sodom. Gives the sense that Lot is getting very dangerously close to walking away from everything that is important to him.
And we learn where all of this is leading. The men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly, and sinners against the Lord. Now this is called foreshadowing. This is a hint for us that something is going to come with us. There are no wasted words in Scripture. There's no extraneous detail in Scripture. This is a picture for us that, oh, this is not a good choice for Lot.
We don't see it yet. But we're going to, it's a hint of something to come. It was the Russian writer, Anton Chekhov, who said something along the lines, I don't know what the exact quote is, but when it came to writing a play, if you put a knife on the table in the first scene, you need to use it in the second scene.
So when we get this idea that, oh, by the way, the men of Sodom were very wicked, and Lot is putting his tent there, that is a sign for us coming down the road in just a few chapters that things are not going to end well for him. We feel the poignancy of Lot's departure from Abraham's point of view.
A lot departs wrapped up in his mantle of dreams and his hopes of happiness only to be plunged into a depraved darkness from which only angels operating under divine command will be able to rescue him. By the way, that's in Genesis 19, if you wanna look at that's not one of the prettier stories in scripture.
But it's in scripture, and it's as much the word of God as anything else, and it needs to be dealt with.
But before Abraham has even time to contemplate what has happened, God breaks in. Next slide, please. And the Lord said to Abram after Lot had separated from him, Now lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward. For all the land which I give it to you and to your descendants forever.
There's a strong break in the story here. And we get the idea that we have a brand new beginning. And the timing of God's appearance, I think, is instructive for us. The Lord speaks to Abraham immediately after he exercises faith in something that he cannot see. And he allows Lot to go and choose what Lot can see.
And in choosing by faith alone, Abraham grows again in his faith. And he now has a greater capacity to worship the Lord. By the way, seeing in Scripture virtually always follows believing. It's not the other way around. Just as Abraham had been generous with Lot, so now the Lord will be generous with Abraham and infinitely more as Lot lifted up his eyes. Now, Abraham is being told to lift up his eyes and be able to see things with the faith of a man of God, rather than Lot, looking and going, I can make this decision purely on my own. God tells Abraham to look not only to the right or the left, but on all points of the compass, east, west, north, south.
It's a new lens in which Abraham is being able to view things. everything. All the land he sees before him, every single bit of it will be a gift, not only to him, but to his Children forever. That's the impressive term there forever. So we learned that when Abraham walks away
from the things of the world. When he walks away from conflict and refuses to grasp those things, which he very well could, he doesn't lose anything. Even when his rival chooses all the best, and seemingly leaves Abraham with nothing, Abraham still gets everything. His life is enlarged, and it's expanded beyond measure.
This is what true freedom is. In fact, in God's kingdom, you can give everything away a hundred times and never lose a bit. One writer said, there is room in God's plan for every man to follow his most generous impulses. By the way, this is what the Lord Jesus reassured Peter about. When Peter came to him and said, we've given up everything.
What is there for us? And in Mark 10, Jesus said, truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for my sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions.
And in the age to come, eternal life. God adds that the land is not only a gift to Abraham, but also to his seed. That's the second great promise, by the way, that God ever gave Abraham. The two great promises were the promise of land and the promise of seed, or descendants. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.
Earlier on, God promised that Abraham's seed would become a nation. No specific mention of size. By the way, nations in the ancient world are not the way they are today. We know the famous story in Joshua about the walls of Jericho falling when they marched around them seven times and the walls fell down.
We think of Jericho as this great, amazing city. Jericho, one of the biggest cities in the region, was about 10 acres. Perspective.
God tells Abraham that if anybody could number the dust of the earth then you can also number the seeds of Abraham. So numerous that nobody would be able to count it. By the way, it's the first time in scripture that the word count is used. I think there is some significance to that. And I think what God is trying to do here is seeking to expand Abraham's imagination past the breaking point.
Something like this from Revelation 7. Behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands, and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.
That's the seed of Abraham. It would have absolutely blown his mind to think what would have come from that. So once God is confirmed and strengthened his promises, he instructs Abraham to take a walk through the land. Check it out through the length and the breadth of it, as if he is symbolically appropriating it as his own,
arise. Walk about the land, through its length and breadth, for I will give it to you. Then Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord. So Abraham takes his journey through the land to preview everything that's his. The one who walked away from conflict.
The one who Walked away from the things of the world that were available to him is now to walk step by step into the vastness of everything God had given him. He pulls up stakes from where he is. He's in Bethel at this point. Travels south, arrives at a place called the Oaks of Mamre near Hebron. And this wandering nomad has finally found a place to settle down and put his roots.
And he done so in peace there by the oaks of memory, he builds yet again an altar to the Lord. Why is he walking through the land? Why is he building? By the way, that's a tradition for Abraham. Whenever God meets with him, Abraham builds an altar. From one standpoint, nothing's really changed in the land.
Nothing's really changed for Abraham. He's got these great promises of land and descendants. However, he's still childless. He's still landless. The Canaanites and the Perizzites are still in the land. Business seems to go on as usual. The only time Abraham ever made any type of national news was when he was escorted out with an armed guard out of Egypt.
That probably made the local papers. And the only piece of evidence that left behind few piles of rocks by highways, the altars that he made. So on the one hand, nothing seems to have changed. But on the other hand, everything has changed. He has enlarged his faith. He has made the choice to walk away from the things of the world and walk towards the things of God.
God has given him new eyes. He is not lifting up his eyes like Lot did in order to see things from Lot's perspective. He is answering a command from God to lift up your eyes and see what it is that I am going to do.
And each time, Abraham would build another insignificant, to everybody else, pile of stones. To memorialize what was going on, these places become sacred and they have an influence on biblical history. He finds a place to settle down, nobody even notices. But this insignificant altar, these tents of him and his people become anchor points for so much else that happens in scripture.
Not far from this altar. is going to be a place where Abraham will buy his first part of the plot of land. And it becomes the cemetery, not only for his wife Sarah, but for all the other patriarchs as well. Several hundred years later, Hebron, which by the way would have been conquered by Joshua, Hebron becomes the place where David establishes His kingship,
thousand years after David's kingship and his monarchy, the Messiah comes to earth. Abraham doesn't have to wait to see all of this. Strictly speaking, from a human perspective, he's not going to be around for that. But he doesn't need to. Because he's clinging on to the promises of God. He enjoys all of this, seeing it all through the eyes of faith.
See this is the ultimate expression for us of what worship can do. It allows us to walk away from the things of the world and walk towards the things of God. It allows us to see things from the perspective of the Lord. rather than some simply by ourselves. Worship makes our world expand, not only geographically, but eternally too.
And the same it is for us. We know the promises of God, we cling on to the promises of God, and perhaps we can say everything has changed. But sometimes you look around and it's like nothing has changed. I want to close this morning with a story. That I ran across regarding missionaries in Romania after the fall of communism.
There's a small town in Romania called Samiria. Many from our church have fallen in love with the believers who live there. There are few in number, they have no money, and they live outside the circles of influence. While many in Romania seized the opportunity to build their own kingdom with money from the West, these humble saints simply walked away.
They don't possess a house of worship. Some of them don't even have homes to call their own. But out of their simple wells, they draw some of the purest waters of holy love in the nation. Nestled high above the village lies an obscure cornfield from which the surrounding countryside can be viewed.
Several years ago, I was sleeping in a tiny home by that field. When I woke on Sunday morning, I noticed my friend James headed out into the cornfield carrying his guitar. Where are you going? I asked him. He said, let's have church. So I gathered our hostess, some friends and several of the children. We were a small circle of 12 armed with only our voices and one guitar to worship in a cornfield.
Suddenly it seemed as if. Heaven descended and drenched us in a sea of love. Time stood still as we sang and wept, and when we returned for breakfast, I noticed the time was 1130. We'd been in the field for about two hours. No one could talk. No one wanted to eat. We had just had a feast. I related the incident to my friend, Ionatan.
He smiled and said it didn't surprise him at all. He explained that was the field where after he had proposed to his wife, his father in law had prayed over them and anointed them for marriage. He added that this home was the place where the Lord's army That was the name of their church. Held secret meetings for Bible study and prayer during the cruel days of communism.
He said angels would often come, angels would often come out from the cornfield to protect them from the secret police, the Securitate. You just walked into the field of angels, he said.
Everything has changed in our lives when we become believers. We have promises of God to hold on to. And the choice we have to make every day is, am I going to follow the way of Lot? Am I going to open my eyes myself and think, look at everything I could get if I only put the time in? Or are we going to walk away from the things that the world offers us and say, I, today, the things of the world, walk instead towards the promises of the Lord.
Let's pray. Lord, this is a mighty choice that we have. The things of the world look so exhilarating at times. And we want to be like Lot, enamored by it.
And say, I want to choose this and do it on my own. And yet, Lord, we know and we remember that even when we walk away from the most attractive, we lose nothing. Because we are part of the kingdom. You have come now and given us your son. You have indeed given us everything. Help us, Lord, to walk away and walk towards you.
You're going to be correct. Amen.