I know, I know: I’m a couple of days behind. I’ve had a rich study week mapping out the next several months of messages from Matthew’s Gospel and didn’t want to interrupt the (all too fragile) flow of thought.
Genesis 13 has always struck me as a chapter of stark choices: Lot goes one way, Abram the other. Lot goes short term. Abram looks long term. Lot chooses by sight. Abram chooses by faith. Lot believes what his eyes show him. Abram believes what God’s word promises him.
Subsequent events in Chapters 14 & 19 will reflect on the folly and spiritual danger of the choice Lot makes here in Chapter 13: Lot will have to be rescued twice because of his association with Sodom.
Lot’s story is a sobering and cautionary one. Lot is drawn to the appearance of blessing and fruitfulness in the Jordan Valley: “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD….” (v.10). This is a fascinating and telling comparison: the beauty Lot beholds from a distance triggers something deep within him, evoking comparisons with Eden (which was also well-watered 2:10-14)–what once was and was lost by man’s sin. It’s the echo of Paradise lost that Lot hears and follows, but, as the narrative will soon clarify, it will prove a siren-song, a deadly mirage, an anti-Paradise. Verse 13 immediately alerts us to the folly and danger of Lot’s choice: “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.”
Subsequent chapters will show that, far from a return to Paradise, Lot is overcome by Sodom’s “gravitational pull” both geographically and morally. He starts out in Chapter 13 with his tent on the outskirts of the city. By the time we meet him again in Chapter 19, he is living within the city itself. The longer he lives near Sodom, the closer he moves into Sodom. This a cautionary tale, indeed: it is never safe to flirt with the outskirts of sin, to overestimate our strength to resist or to underestimate sin’s strength to overwhelm and undo us.
Abram is on the long path to Paradise, the path marked out by the Lord’s promises. This is the point of the Lord’s assurances to him in vv.14-17, when He commands Abram to survey the 4 points of the compass and summons Abram to believe (yet again) His promises that are utterly beyond Abram’s experience and capacity.
The Lord’s generosity to Abram here floors me. He shows Abram far more than he will actually see in his lifetime: something too large to be contained within the borders of his lifetime. It feels to me like yet another deliberate echo of 1:26-28. In effect, the LORD shows Abram the entire earth, assuring him that he will be multiplied, he will be made fruitful, and that his seed will in fact fill the earth. In Genesis 1, the Lord commanded Adam and Eve to do the multiplying, to be fruitful and to do the filling of the earth. Here, while the result will be the same, the path to that result has a different emphasis: it is the Lord Himself who will undertake to fulfill His original mandate for His image bearers. I call that sovereign grace, and it is wonderful. The mission is secure.
It is indeed a chapter of stark choices, of 2 radically different pursuits of regaining the Paradise that has been lost. As the writer to the Hebrews clarifies, Abram saw much further–and therefore much more clearly–than Lot. Abram gladly passes on Sodom, because the eyes of his heart were fixed on a different city: “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). It’s in that city–and only in that city–where citizenship has been purchased by Christ’s blood (Abram’s greatest Seed) for all who will trust in Him that Paradise will be regained.
May the Lord keep our eyes on the only City that will last. SDG