Genesis 19

19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
(Genesis 19:1-38 NIV)

Recapping the story from Chapter 18, we see three visitors arrive at Abraham’s tent and announce the birth of a son via Sarah within a year.  As the visitors leave, we see the Lord taking Abraham into His confidence and sharing what He is about to do in Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham pleads with God to spare any righteous persons if they can be found.  God agrees to do so, and they part ways.

As we begin Chapter 19, we see two visitors (identified as angels) arriving at the city gates of Sodom.  Lot recognizes the men as visitors, and he immediately invites them to his home as his guests.  Lot knows the evil of the city, and its dangers after dark, so he insists that the strangers stay with him so he can protect them and provide for them.  Lot shows the men hospitality, as is the custom of his family and ancestors.

But by evening, word had spread around town about the strangers staying with Lot, and the men of the city gathered at Lot’s house like a crazed mob wanting to have violent sex (more like gang rape) with the two visitors.

Here we see the lack of Lot’s character, as he offers his virgin daughters instead of the two guests.  Lot is to be praised for protecting his guests, but not for offering his daughters as alternatives for the mens’ sensual pleasure.

The guests then reveal that they are from the Lord, and that they will destroy the city because of its sin.  The Lord had heard the cries of its victims (presumably those who had been used and abused by these Sodomite men before), and was about to administer justice for their sins and lack of repentance.

The angels pleaded with Lot and his family to leave, and had to physically drag them out of town by the hand to get them to go on their way.  Lot and his family had gained much wealth; now they were being told to flee for their lives and live as paupers.  Lot’s priorities were clearly focused on material possessions, not family or his relationship with the Lord.

Lot’s lack of relationship with the Lord was also evident in his request to flee to a small town rather than to the mountains like the angels commanded.  He was depending on his own strength (or lack thereof) rather than the strength of the Lord to carry him through.  Lot’s wife disobeyed the Lord and looked back (and maybe even turned back) to Sodom and paid the price with her life.

God destroyed the entire plain – the people, animals, even the vegetation, but spared Lot, not because of his obedience or righteousness, but because of Abraham’s plea.  Abraham witnessed the Lord’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah from afar, where he had pleaded with the Lord to act justly and not destroy any righteous people in the land.

The next thing Moses records is Lot and his two daughters moving to the mountains and living in a cave out of fear that the Lord would strike again.  Lot had not passed on any element of faith to his daughters, as they refer to their desire to have a family as a human custom rather than a God-ordained plan.  The daughters know their father’s moral values and also his weakness for wine, so they devise a plan to start a family via incest.  They get their father drunk, sleep with him, and have babies that will grow up and form two godless people groups that will plague the Israelites for years to come.

And this is the end of Lot’s life as recorded in the Scriptures – we never hear from him again, except for a few anecdotal references to his choices in life.

May we stay focused on the Lord and not our own customs, material possessions, community stature, or anything else.

May we walk in faith like Abraham, rather than in our own strength like Lot.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 17

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan,where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
(Genesis 17:1-27 NIV)

In Chapter 16, Abram was 86 when his son Ishmael was born.

In Chapter 17, 13 years have elapsed, and God revisits Abram and reaffirms His covenant with Abram.  As part of this visit, God names Himself “El Shaddai” (“God Almighty”) to remind Abram that nothing is too hard for Him.

Abram’s response was to immediately fall face-down and worship the Lord.  God changed Abram’s name from Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of multitudes”) as part of this covenant affirmation.

God also gave Abraham the sign of circumcision as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and all his descendants.  This sign was not just to Abraham, but to all males in his household or under his jurisdiction – his son Ishmael, servants, slaves, all males.

God also changed Sarai’s name from Sarai (“princess”) to Sarah (“mother of nations”).  God also promised a son by Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  God had many times promised Abraham a son, but this time, God specifically promised this beloved son through Sarah.

Abraham bowed down and worshipped again, but also laughed to himself about the idea of he and Sarah having a child in their old age.  Abraham wished for God’s promise to be fulfilled in Ishmael, rather than be misled by God and ultimately disappointed and broken-hearted over not having a son by Sarah.

Abraham’s wish and hope was in the reality of his teenage son in front of him rather than in the promise of God for an unseen son that was impossible by human standards.

God was serious about the promise, and even gave Abraham the name for the child – Isaac.  The name Isaac means “he laughs”.  We often associate the laughter with either Isaac or with Abraham and Sarah, but the “he” actually refers to God here.  God was looking forward with joy to this blessed son, and knew that one day Abraham and Sarah would laugh in joy with Him (God) when this little one arrived.

For now, Abraham’s laugh was one of disbelief and incredulity, and God was implying “O ye of little faith – trust Me” in his naming of the child before he was even conceived.

God also heard Abraham’s request to make a great nation (singular) out of Ishmael, but Isaac would be the father of many nations (plural).  The blessing God intended would clearly be through Isaac.

In this blessing and promise, God pronounced seven “I will” statements about what He was going to do, signifying the completeness of His plan.

So what was Abraham’s response to this visitation from God?  Abraham immediately, on the same day, went out and circumcised his son Ishmael, his male servants, slaves, and had himself circumcised as well.  Abraham did not waiver or delay about obeying the Lord, which was a step of faith for Abraham.

As we look at this passage, may we see God as El Shaddai, the Almighty One, the All-Sufficient God.  Like Abraham, we must come to the end of ourselves, of our own planning and our own striving to fully experience God’s All-Sufficiency.  Yes, Abraham is old and his wife Sarah is well past the years of childbearing, but yet, God has promised a miracle baby.

May we come to the end of ourselves and say, “Not my will, but Yours, O Lord” and trust Him for His promises.

May we walk before God faithfully and seek to be more like Him each day.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 16

16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
(Genesis 16:1-16 NIV)

In Chapter 15, we saw God make His covenant, His promise to make Abram a great nation and to give them land, a place to call home and become a nation.

As we begin Chapter 16, we fast forward a bit – Abram and Sarai have been in Canaan for a total of ten years.  God has promised Abram and Sarai a family, with descendants too numerous to count.  And yet, they are still without children.

Sarai and Abram grow tired of waiting and decide to rely on cultural norms to have a family rather than trust the Lord for the seemingly impossible.  In Abram and Sarai’s ancient culture, it was perfectly legal to have children by concubines if the wife was barren for whatever reason.

Remember the problems with Abram going to Egypt?  Well, the problems from that ill-advised trip all those years ago resurface again in today’s story.

The narrator (Moses) fills us in on the details of the story – the slave girl under Sarai’s control is Egyptian, and she has a name:  Hagar.

Let’s observe as the drama unfolds:

  • Wife (Sarai) wants a child, so she tells her husband (Abram) to sleep with her slave girl (Hagar) in order to fulfill her (Sarai’s) desire to be a mother
  • Husband goes along with the plan – seems like a common-sense thing to do
  • Slave girl becomes pregnant; wife does not find fulfillment in slave girl’s pregnancy
  • Wife take her frustration out on husband and berates him – tells him this is all his fault
  • Husband caves in – washes his hands of the whole mess – tells his wife to deal with it however she sees fit
  • Wife takes her anger and frustration out on slave girl – mistreats her (most likely verbally)
  • Slave girl is hurt and confused and runs away from the family to die in the desert

And so the dysfunction relationships continue.

Abram had mistreated his wife back in Egypt, sacrificing her to save his neck.  She ended up having to sleep with the Pharaoh, then bear the indignity of being kicked out of Egypt.

Now the roles were reversed, and Abram has to bear the unfair accusations of his unhappy wife.  Rather than have a talk with Hagar and Sarai and work things out, Abram caves in and tells Sarai to deal with the problem.  Abram does not take responsibility for the child or the mother and does not support or help his wife during her meltdown.  Abram’s unwillingness to step up and help resolve the situation only adds gas to the emotional fire.

Sarai seeks fulfillment by less than God’s best, and is disappointed, angry, still shamed, frustrated, and is unable to process her feelings when her dreams don’t come true.

Hagar has her part in the drama as well.  She rubs the fact of her pregnancy in Sarai’s face, rather than humbly accepting the role of surrogate mother to Sarai and Abram.

Thankfully, God intervenes in the situation.  God chooses life over death, love over hate, faith over fear, hope over despondency, humility over arrogance.

The first thing to notice is that God shows Himself (via an angel) to Hagar, a privilege that even Sarai had not had in her life.

Second, the angel calls Hagar by name.  Go back up and read the dialogue that Moses recorded.  Sarai and Abram refer to Hagar as “slave girl” (no name).  God shows mercy and gives Hagar dignity and value as a person by calling her by name.

Third, God offers a Hagar hope, promising life, blessing, descendants, and a future.  The angel gave Hagar instructions to return to Sarai and submit herself to her even though Sarai would continue to verbally abuse her.  Hagar’s future would be painful, and her son would be hard to live with, but God said she had a future – she did not need to die in the desert.

What was Hagar’s response?  She worshipped the Lord, and named the place of her encounter “The-God-Who-Sees-Me”.  Hagar obeyed the Lord, returned to Sarai, gave birth to her baby boy, and named him as God had instructed.

In this passage, I am moved by seeing God’s heart toward the mistreated and downtrodden, represented by Hagar.  Truly God sees the pain and brokenness of this world and hears the cries of those who have given up on life and feel they have no hope.

I am also reminded to be very careful in how I treat others that are of no consequence to me in my daily routines.   Hos do I interact with the supermarket person ringing up my groceries, the convenience store clerk when I purchase a bottle of water, or the wait staff at the local restaurant?

Do I treat them like nameless servants, or do I see them as image-bearers of their Creator, worthy of dignity, honor, and Christ’s love?

May we reflect God’s love toward others that cross our paths today – with something as simple as a smile, a kind word, calling them by name – to reflect God’s glory and show them He loves them just as He loves us.

May we rejoice with others in their successes without petty jealousy and anger when the Lord blesses others and not us.

May we humbly bear the blessings of the Lord and not become prideful, arrogant, or rub others’ faces in what the Lord has done for us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 15

15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
(Genesis 15:1-21 NIV)

As we take a quick overview of where we’ve been, Chapter 13 was Abram and Lot going their separate ways, with Abram showing love and grace to Lot; Chapter 14 was Abram rescuing Lot, with Abram again showing love and grace to an ungrateful Lot.  As we step into Chapter 15, we see God blessing Abram and making a covenant, a promise to him.

Remember in Chapter 14 how Abram rescued Lot, his family, and his possessions from their captors?  And remember how Abram did not accept the reward that the king of Sodom offered him (including its intended strings that would have made Abram “owe” a favor back to the king of Sodom)?

All those events did not make Abram a popular man; in fact, Abram made enemies that day.  With Abram’s fearful nature, he was likely worried about reprisal from either or both of those groups because of his decisions and actions.

So the Lord addressed those fears at the beginning of Chapter 15, telling Abram to not be afraid, that He (God) is Abram’s shield, Abram’s protector against his enemies.

God also promised to be Abram’s reward.   Abram was already a wealthy man; he did not want more material possessions – and he desperately wanted a son to carry on the family name as God had promised.  Abram was not being ungrateful – he was simply asking God to honor the promise that He had made to give him (Abram) a family, a son.

God was not going back on His promise to Abram.  God told Abram to go outside; God used the stars in the sky to illustrate His point that Abram would one day become a mighty nation, with descendants more than Abram could count, just like the stars in the clear nighttime sky.

When God took Abram outside and showed him the stars, Abram believed God.  Moses tells us that God counted Abram’s belief as righteousness.  Remember that Abram was not known as a righteous man like Noah.  In fact, this is the first time that Abram is associated with God’s righteousness.

To be clear, God did not equate anything that Abram did as being righteous; it was Abram’s faith and trust in God’s promise that God saw as being righteous.  Abram did not earn God’s favor by his actions, but rather by his faith.  The Apostle Paul further elaborates on this fact in Romans Chapter 4.  Note also that Abram did not put his faith and trust in some object or idea but in the person of God.

God then reminded Abram that He had given Abram the land for his promised offspring, a place to call their home.  Abram, being an old man, asked the Lord for a sign, a promise that God would, in fact, give him and his descendants a place of their own.  Abram could not defend a land that big on his own; and with no descendants yet, there was no one to help him manage the land and take over when he died.

The Lord addressed Abram’s fear and gave Abram a view of the future for him and his descendants.  The view included a tremendous blessing and inheritance, but also included incredible suffering.  The book of Exodus is the fulfillment of God’s promise of enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians, the suffering of the Jewish people, and the Jews’ return to the promised land and God’s generous provision and reward.

God then makes a covenant, a promise with Himself on behalf of Abram, a promise for land that Abram’s descendants can call home.

Notice in Chapter 13 verse 15 the Lord had said, “I will give you this land…” (future tense); in chapter 15 verse 18, the Lord said, “I give” (NIV) or “I have given” (NASB) “this land…”.  With the covenant, the promise, God has already declared something in the future to be true in that day.  The promise would be 400+ years in the future, but the deal was sealed as Abram watched that evening.

Remember Noah’s blessings and curses to his sons, and how Ham’s descendants would serve Shem’s descendants (chapters 9 and 10)?  The Lord reiterates Noah’s proclamation in verses 19 – 21 of chapter 15.  Want to see for yourself?  Cross-reference the names of the tribes in 15:19-21 with those in 10:13-18.  There are a few name differences, but the majority there are the same.

May we be like Abram and trust God even in our fear, following the Lord in faith.

May our faith for the present and the future not be in blind faith itself, or in a sign, an idea, or a thing, but in the person of God, in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 14

14 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomerking of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew.  Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
(Genesis 14:1-24 NIV)

As we ended Chapter 13, we saw Abram and Lot part ways, with Abram showing Lot grace by being a peacemaker and allowing Lot to pick where he wanted to live.  We also saw Lot’s heart for the first time, focused more on greed and selfishness than on the Lord and what God had in store for him.

As we step into Chapter 14, we see the first record of a physical war.  Obviously, there has been a spiritual battle in Chapter 3; now the physical battle was a natural outcome of the spiritual battle lost many generations before in the Garden of Eden.

God had given people the command to fill the entire earth, and yet here are all these kings, bunched together and fighting over a few patches of land in one region.

When we concluded Chapter 13, Lot was living in his tents outside the city of Sodom.  As we pick up his story in Chapter 14, we see that Lot has moved from his tent outside the city into a house inside the city.  Lot’s faith has weakened and his greed strengthened to the point of assimilating into the evil culture and moving in rather than focusing on the Lord and staying separate from the evil.

Lot is now in trouble, having been carried off by the raiding kings.  Lot’s heart was captivated by greed and selfishness; now his person and family and possessions are being held captive as a result of his greed and selfishness.

One person manages to escape and tell Abram of Lot’s predicament.  Abram immediately rallies his men and goes out to rescue Lot and his family.  Abram certainly didn’t owe anything to Lot, especially the way Lot disrespected Abram before they parted ways.  Abram showed God’s grace to Lot, just as God had shown Abram grace in Egypt.

After Abram routed the bandits and recovered Lot, his family, and their possessions, there was a victory celebration.  Two kings are highlighted in this celebration – the king of Sodom, and Melchizedek, the king of Salem.

Melchizedek offers refreshment to Abram and his men, notably bread and wine.  Moses tells us that Melchizedek was a priest of God as well as a king.  Melchizedek offered worship and praise to God and blessed Abram.  Melchizedek demanded nothing; Abram gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek for his kindness.

The king of Sodom offered Abram wealth and power by telling Abram to keep all the material possessions but give him the people back.  Abram refused, knowing the evil nature of the king and his desire to have Abram be in his debt.  Abram saw through the king’s evil plan and refused any supposed generosity, with all its hooks and snares.

Melchizedek’s generosity and blessing as priest and king were a model, a shadow of Messiah yet to come, Jesus, who would be both priest and king.  The king of Sodom typified all the “best” that the world had to offer, complete with its demands to be recompensed, to be repaid in full with interest for what was given.

One of the interesting notes in this passage is the conspicuous absence of Lot’s appreciation for being rescued.  Nowhere does Moses tell us that Lot was thankful for Abram’s time and expense and risk for rescuing him from his captors.  And also noticeably absent is Lot’s change of heart from the experience.  As we shall see, Lot did not move out of Sodom, nor did he repent before the Lord.  He went right back to his old ways in his old place.

May we be like Abram, choosing wisely the ways of God and not be enticed by the temporary riches and ensnarements of this world.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 13

13 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.

Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.
(Genesis 13:1-18 NIV)

In Chapter 12, Abram launched out in faith, following the Lord to a new homeland for him and his eventual family.  The Lord appeared to Abram and promised him the land on which he stood as his inheritance to him and his promised offspring.

We saw Abram’s faith quickly dissolve into fear and flight when a famine came across the land.  Abram did not seek the Lord, but simply packed up and went to Egypt on his own accord.  Abram’s fear then turned to foolishness as he made Sarai his wife lie to the Egyptians and say that she was his sister, not his wife.  Abram was more concerned about his self-preservation and making a name for himself than protecting his wife and obeying the Lord.  The Egyptian Pharoah, believing Abram and Sarai’s lie, gave gifts to Abram for her bride-price and took Sarai as his wife and slept with her.

When the Lord inflicted all kinds of diseases on the Pharaoh and his household, it didn’t take long for him to figure out what had happened.  The Pharoah gave Abram a thorough tongue-lashing, then promptly kicked him and all of his entourage out of Egypt.

As we begin Chapter 13, we see Abram heading back to where he was before.  Granted, Abram was wealthier leaving Egypt than when he had arrived, but at great cost to his integrity, his marriage, and his walk with the Lord.

When Abram arrived back at Bethel where he had previously built an altar to the Lord, he must have had a mini-revival in his relationship with the Lord, as Moses tells us that Abram called upon the name of the Lord again.

Abram’s nephew Lot had been with him this whole time, from Haran to Canaan to Bethel to Egypt to the Negev and back to Bethel.  The famine was likely still going on, and Moses tells us that the land could not sustain the pressure from all the animals grazing it.  Obviously, the flocks of Abram and Lot had increased; also, the extra burden of livestock that the Egyptian Pharoah gave Abram didn’t help matters.  Finding grazing land for flocks of sheep and goats was relatively easy; finding grazing land for cattle was much harder, as they required so much more vegetation to feed them.   The Pharoah might have gifted Abram with the animals, but Abram had to make sure they were fed and watered – not an easy task in a drought-stricken land with limited vegetation and water.

Moses tells us that there were four groups of people in the area trying to care for their livestock:  The Canaanites, the Perizzites, Abram, and Lot.  The Canaanites and Perizzites were on the land first, so they had first dibs.  Any remaining grazing land and water were open to whoever claimed it first or was willing to share.

As the story unfolds, we see the true nature of Lot’s character unfold.  In Abram’s and Lot’s culture, the accepted norm was for the elder relative (Abram) to have first rights and priority over the younger relative (Lot).  Instead, Moses records that word came back to Abram and Lot that their herdsmen were fighting among themselves over grazing spots. Lot didn’t call off his herdsmen and tell them to move further out to find graxing land.  In this, we see Lot’s selfishness and greed come out.  Lot had gone along with Abram’s faith and relationship with the Lord but had never made that relationship with the Lord his own.

In contrast, we see Abram learn from his mistakes in Egypt and offer his nephew Lot grace as God had shown him grace.  Abram tells Lot that he does not want to fight with him, and gives him first pick of grazing land.  Whatever direction Lot picks, Abram will automatically pick the other direction.  Abram likely remembered God’s promise to give all the land to him, and knew that God was sovereign and would work all this out in the long term.

Lot chose the plain of Jordan based on the lush vegetation – it looked like the fabled stories of the Garden of Eden – plenty of grass and water for all.  There was only one problem – the people of that area were exceedingly wicked and sinned greatly against the Lord.    Apparently, Lot ignored this major issue, putting material wealth ahead of his relationship with the Lord.  So Lot moved his herds and herdsmen and family into the Jordan plain and settled near the city of Sodom, while Abram stayed out in the boonies of Canaan near Bethel.

After Lot moved out, the Lord promised Abram all the land that Abram could see, and told Abram to visit the land in its entirety.  So Abram obeyed and walked throughout the land, settling near Hebron.  Abram, remembering the Lord as his protector and provider and sustainer, built an altar to the Lord and worshipped Him there.

In this chapter, we saw Abram’s faith and character grow, while we saw Lot’s true nature of greed and selfishness and lack of relationship with the Lord surface.

May we be growing in grace and faith like Abram, and not shrinking in our relationship with the Lord like Lot.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 12

12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and 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.

Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
(Genesis 12:1-20 NIV)

In chapters 6 – 10, we followed Noah, whom God called a righteous man.  Noah arrived on the scene righteous – we really don’t know any details of Noah’s journey to righteousness, only that God was pleased with Noah and counted him righteous.

As we begin the story of Abram in Chapter 12, God does not make any such statement about Abram.  As we will see, God hand-picks Abram and grows his righteousness over time – and we will have front-row seats for this transformation and growth.

Here is one writer’s comparison between Noah and Abram:

“God seems to command Abraham to become that which Noah was by nature!”
(Martin Buber, “Abraham the Seer”, in On The Bible (New York:Shocken, 1968), p. 33)

Abram’s story begins with a promise from God, along with a requirement for that promise to come true.  God required Abram to leave all that was comfortable and familiar in order to receive His promise to Abram.  Abram was not only to receive God’s blessing; Abram was also to be a blessing to everyone else on earth, through all peoples and generations.

So Abram leaves friends and family and heads out to where God was leading him – a destination that only God knew and Abram had to walk by faith to realize.  Along the way, God first appeared to Abram to reinforce His promise (vv. 4-9).

Soon after God visited Abram and gave His a promise of a homeland for Abram and his offspring, a test came along in the form of a famine.  Abram’s response was a natural one – go look for a place where there was food for him and his flock and family.  Moses makes no mention of Abram consulting God before leaving – he seems to just pack up and go.

Along the way, Abram knows the Egyptians and constructs a ruse, a story, a half-truth to protect himself at his wife’s expense.  Abram tells Sarai to tell the Egyptians that she is Abram’s sister so they don’t kill Abram to take Sarai as their own wife.

As we look back on this story, this seems unthinkable – a man willing to sacrifice his wife’s purity and fidelity in order to save his own skin, for his own self-preservation.

Well, the ruse worked… until it didn’t.

True to form, the Egyptians wanted Sarai for her beauty, and took her to be the Pharoah’s wife.  The implication was that Sarai had sexual relations with the Egyptian ruler.

The Lord intervened and judged Pharoah and his household with serious diseases because of Abram’s ruse.  When Pharoah figured this out, he called Abram out and read him the riot act for his deception.

And thus begins the rocky relationship between Egypt and God’s people – both friend and foe at the same time.

In all this, God was merciful toward Abram and Sarai by keeping Sarai barren.  Imagine what a mess that would be for Sarai to have a child by this Egyptian ruler!  Granted, this is a rather severe mercy, but a mercy nonetheless.

As we look at the beginning of Abram and Sarai’s life and walk with God, we need to ask ourselves some questions and think about examples where we might have done likewise:

  • What do we do to make a name for ourselves, rather than trusting God?
  • What do we do to protect our name or a promise God has given us, rather than trusting His provision and protection to bring the promise to reality?
  • What impact do our choices have on others, either good or bad?
  • Do we make choices out of self-preservation at the expense of others?

As we think through these questions and examples in our lives, what would those examples looked like if we had walked in faith rather than self-preservation?

May we learn to walk in faith and develop Godly character over time, and may we learn from our mistakes and bad choices along the way, allowing God to transform us to be more like Him each day, month, and year.

Blessings,
~kevin