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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 13

 

 

Verse 10-11

THE WORLDLY CHOICE

‘And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where.… Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan.’

Genesis 13:10-11

The lesson to be gained from the history of Abraham and Lot is obviously this: that nothing but a clear apprehension of things unseen, a simple trust in God’s promises, and the greatness of mind thence arising, can make us act above the world—indifferent, or almost so, to its comforts, enjoyments, and friendships; or, in other words, that its goods corrupt the common run even of religious men who possess them.

I. Abraham and Lot had given up this world at the word of God, but a more difficult trial remained.—Though never easy, yet it is easier to set our hearts on religion or to take some one decided step, which throws us out of our line of life and in a manner forces upon us what we should naturally shrink from, than to possess in good measure the goods of this world and yet love God supremely. The wealth which Lot had hitherto enjoyed had been given him as a pledge of God’s favour, and had its chief value as coming from Him. But surely he forgot this, and esteemed it for its own sake, when he allowed himself to be attracted by the riches and beauty of a guilty and devoted country.

II. God is so merciful that He suffers not His favoured servants to wander from Him without repeated warnings.—Lot had chosen the habitation of sinners; still he was not left to himself. A calamity was sent to warn and chasten him: he and his property fell into the hands of the five kings. This was an opportunity of breaking off his connection with the people of Sodom, but he did not take it as such.

III. The gain of this world is but transitory; faith reaps a late but lasting recompense.—Soon the angels of God descended to fulfil in one and the same mission a double purpose: to take from Lot his earthly portion, and to prepare for the accomplishment of the everlasting blessings promised to Abraham; to destroy Sodom, while they foretold the approaching birth of Isaac.

Illustration

‘As in the simple pastoral age of Abram and Lot, so in this modern complex age, the relation between riches and righteousness remains a great question to be prayerfully considered and settled in accordance with God’s word. Not money but the love of money is the root of all evil. It is a serious question, however, whether the inordinate love of money, either for its own sake or more often for that ‘success’ which it seems to bring, is not becoming the peculiar fault and folly of this period. Abram and Lot are still making their choice, though nowadays they speak English; and Sodom with its glittering prizes and its seductive Vanity Fairs still attracts the morally unstable and earthly minded. The choice must be made between God and mammon.’

SECOND OUTLINE

The way in which Lot’s character develops, as shown by his history, is an impressive illustration of a wrong choice.

Show how Lot came to emigrate from Ur (Genesis 11:31), and to come into Canaan (Genesis 12:4). You find in his history these three facts, which have a special meaning for every young person looking forward to independent life:

I. A choice is necessary of place, aim, occupation. Up to this time Lot had made no independent choice. He had gone with his uncle, and had become rich by keeping the same position as though he were a son in Abram’s house. But the crisis came, and with a man’s responsibilities he had to choose a man’s life.

Think of the different ways in which life-choices are made. Sometimes it is the result of studied prayerful consideration of fitness, of greatest usefulness, of determinatiom to do worthy service at any cost. Oftener circumstances seem to settle it. The lad needs work, opportunity is offered, the first step opens the door to another, till the man finds his place and work decided, and hardly knows that he has made a choice. But in every case the man himself has made the decisions which fix his life and destiny. All his past life enters into his choice. What Lot is will decide where he will go; and what Lot is, he has been deciding by hourly choices through all the years.

II. An opportunity is open for good or evil choice. It was unrestricted on the moral side. Lot might have sought Abram’s good first, as Abram sought Lot’s good. He might have looked for a place to build an altar instead of a place to feed his cattle, and might have found both. But he had the opportunity to ignore religion, kinship, courtesy, gratitude, and he chose it. What was in him expressed itself. In Haran, in his journeyings, in Egypt, he had been preparing for his choice.

Many complain that in these days youths have no chance in life. As a rule, they never had greater ranges of choice than now. When a lad compares his possessions with those of his playmates, wishing he could add theirs to his: when a girl frets because her companions, whose parents are richer than hers, wear more fashionable dresses than she, both are preparing to make Lot’s choice. When a young man thinks much of what he can do with what he has to make others nobler and happier, he is preparing to make Abram’s choice.

III. A selfish choice has its consequences. Lot chose the best fields, and was willing to take with them the worst associations. In consequence he so shrivelled up his soul that only force could save his life by separating him from his wealth. His children became so dead to all sense of danger from living in sin, that, when he pleaded with them to save themselves, he seemed to them as ‘one that mocked.’ His wife became a monument to remind him of her sin. His children who remained with him disgraced him. Lot threw away his generosity, Abram enriched his. When Lot had lost everything, Abram fought for him, and won back for him his wealth. When Lot was in peril for his life, Abram wrestled in prayer for him, and prevailed. Which was gaining the most royal character?

Urge young people to choose the place, home, business, associations, that will most help them to serve God and their fellow-men. If then they can best serve God with wealth, He will give it to them. In any case they will have the blessing of His approval, of noble manhood or womanhood, and of everlasting life.

Illustration

(1) ‘The lesson is rich in practical teaching. Wealth does not necessarily mean happiness. It commonly increases care and multiplies envy. Most certain is it, that wealth as the sole end of life ruins existence. Men grow hard. They lose their power to enjoy friendship, nature, art, literature. They lose their spirituality. Ignoring God, they grow careless about goodness, and plunge themselves and their children into society that tempts to evil, and frequently drags them down to sensuality and crime.’

(2) ‘“Put God first and fee second,” is Ruskin’s advice. To do the former is to be a friend of God, to do the latter is to be a friend of the devil. No young man will do his best work, and make a success of life, who is always looking out for his own advantage. If we serve God we can trust Him. He will look after us. If we serve others as in God’s sight, they too will come to honour us. Though sometimes the friendship of men must be sacrificed, if we are to retain the friendship of God. To choose a friend may be to choose a destiny.’


Verse 18

TENT AND ALTAR

‘Abram removed his tent.… and built there an altar.’

Genesis 13:18

Here is Abraham’s life given us in these two words—his tent and his altar. Everything in that wondrous life of his, from the day that he left his fatherland, is connected with these two things. He was a stranger, and a worshipper. As a stranger, without a certain dwelling-place, he needed the tent; as a worshipper, he needed the altar.

I. These two still make up the life of a believing man.—With less than these we cannot rightly pass through our three-score years and ten; more than these we do not need. Of these two the altar is the more needful. We may perhaps do without the former; we may be homeless men, like Him who had not where to lay His head. But we cannot do without the latter.

II. Daily intercourse with Jehovah we must have; and we cannot have that without the altar.—Only there can God meet with us. Only there can we meet with God. At the altar is reconciliation, and forgiveness, and peace; for the blood is there—the blood of the everlasting covenant. On that sacrificial blood we stand; round that altar we gather for worship and for fellowship. Standing there, we see the fire of heaven coming down, and the fire of the altar going up. But they touch not us. We are safe. The fire consumes the Substitute, and reaches not the sinner. All is well with those who have accepted the altar as their place of worship. Theirs is ‘peace with God.’

Help us, O Thou whom we own as Lord, to walk here in the footsteps of Thy saints of old! Help us to live the believing life of peace, and communion, and service, pitching our tents beside Thy altar, and living our pilgrim life beneath the shadow of Thy cross! Lead us safely on, and give us pilgrim hearts for our pilgrim life!

Illustration

‘Mamre was a refuge for faith. Abram and the patriarchs were emigrants; they left for the honour of God. The East is full of traditions concerning Abram and his hatred to idolatry, and how he forsook the worship of the fire and the sun. He had come from the neighbourhood where the Babel society was founded,—faith, not in God, but in the vanity of bricks it had all ended in confusion; but the sacred memories of Mamre, where Abram reared an altar to the Lord, these linger and send out their influence still. A high faithfulness ruled the life of Mamre, the life of domestic piety,—the first story given us of the life of faith, where Abram raised an altar and called upon the name of the Lord.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 13:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/genesis-13.html. 1876.

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