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Monday, August 8, 2022

The Parting of Abram and Lot

Usually at church, we learn about building new relationships and reconciling broken ones.  We don’t often talk about parting ways.  Didn’t Christ come to bring us together and not divide?

Unity is certainly a huge part of Jesus’ Gospel.  But we sometimes forget Jesus also said people would be divided by whether or not they chose to follow Him.  He said in Luke 12:52, “From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.”

Disagreements and separation are sometimes an unfortunate necessity in our broken world.  Friends fall out.  A family leaves a church.  People quit a job.  Even husbands and wives sometimes divorce. 
So, over the next four Sundays, I want to study four Bible stories where people parted ways.
I believe God will speak an important word to each of us that may help us just where we are.

The first story is the story of Abram and Lot.  God called Abram to leave his homeland and family and go to a new land.  Abram (AKA Abraham) is revered by three major world religions as a made famous for faith.  He trusted God enough to leave what he knew for what he didn't know, believing God's promise to bless him.  Abram’s nephew, Lot, went with Abram.

Genesis 13:5-7
Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.)

Herding Sheep
Abram and Lot were living as nomads.  They didn’t live in cities.  They left a great city named Ur because God called Abram to leave his homeland.  So now, Abram and lot are wandering from place to place in the “wilderness”, living in tents, herding their livestock from pasture to pasture where there was enough water and grass for the animals to survive.  Now, we don’t have any sheep farmers, but I know we have some here who raise cows (or have raised cows).  Can you imagine herding your cows from place to place while also taking everything you own with you and moving from place to place every few months?

It’s always a challenge living together.  Too many people living together can cause serious problems--even in the best of situations.  Anyone who has lived with teenagers may understand the tensions that can be part of a household where people disagree about the rules and the right way to live together.  

“Politics” is a word we usually associate with negative connotations.  Everyone says they hate politics--especially politics in the church.  I think what we really mean is we hate dirty politics.  The definition of politics is just the art making decisions in groups.  People have to live together in groups, because we are social creature.  However, this also means individuals have different ideas about what is best.  Living together means learning to compromise and get along.  But what do we do if our core values or goals are so drastically different we cannot compromise?

One tragic solution people have used is war.  They will fight it out until one side wins and forces the losing side to do what the winning side wants.  How much suffering has been caused over the millennia, how many millions have died because of war?  Is there any other way?

Abram was a man of God.  He saw a better way so resolve his conflict with his nephew, Lot.

Genesis 13:8-9
Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”

Abram was Gracious
Rather than continuing to fight, Abram proposed a separation.  Separating was hard.  It meant Abram and Lot—who were close relatives—would not be living together in the same camp.  And this would also affect everyone in the camp, because all the shepherds and extended family involved were friends and relatives who had lived together for a long time.  They’d traveled many mile together for decades. 

So there were friendships and good times together that would come to an end.  There were also probably many long running disputes and arguments that would go unresolved.  Nobody would be the final “winner”.  Separating meant just, “letting it all go”.  Furthermore, Abram’s proposal gave Lot and his side the pick of the land (and maybe there were many on Abram’s side who thought, “Why do they get the pick of the land?  Shouldn’t we get to pick first?”)

However, Abram is famous as a man of faith.  Abram’s solution relied on his faith in God.  Abram always believed God would take care of him.  God had promised to bless Abram.  Therefore, Abram could be generous and gracious and give Lot the pick of the land, knowing God would take care of Abram and his household. 

I’m also sure Abram loved his nephew, Lot, even if they’d had their disagreements.  So, Abram was gracious and he let Lot pick which way he would go.  Abram trusted God to work it all out in the end.

Genesis 13:10-13
Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the 
Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.

The Easy Way Isn't Always The Best Way
We see some great life lessons in this story.  We’ve already seen how Abram’s deep faith in God allowed him to be generous and offer Lot the first choice of where to live in the land.  Abram’s generosity was gracious and sparked goodwill between his clan and Lot’s clan that helped preserve relationships and fostered continued cooperation between their groups, even as they separated.

But there’s another lesson to learn.  Lot chose the easy way.  He chose to settle near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  You probably know how Sodom and Gomorrah came to represent decadence and sinfulness and immorality.  Sodom and Gomorrah were surrounded by rich, fertile land that led to their prosperity.  This in turn led to their decadence, pride, rejection of God, and ultimate decline and destruction.

The easy life, the path of least resistance, where we simply gratify our immediate impulses and avoid all hardships is rarely good for you.  That way of living makes you soft.  It leaves you weak and can start you sliding down a path to destruction. 

We have to learn in life to take the harder roads.  Rather than borrowing money to get what we want now, we must learn to earn and save for what you need before we buy.  Rather than resting on our laurels and coasting off past accomplishments, we must keep pushing to become better and do more good in the future.  We should under promise and over deliver.  And above all, we must always trust God to take care of you—not because you are blessed with a lot—but because He can take care of you even if you only have a little.  Learn to live with less instead of always wanting more.

Closing Meditation
As I close, I invite you to contemplate and pray about these questions:
Where do you see a fork in the road in your own life?
Are you involved in some relationships or behaviors that are not healthy for your soul?
Is it time to part company with some of these people or things? 
Is it time to let go of some relationships that are pulling you away from God?
How might trusting God help you to be generous and gracious, even as you say goodbye?
How can you learn to trust God more in every situation, and not lean on your own understanding or depend on the easy way of doing things?
How could trusting God help you to be more generous and gracious—even to people with whom you disagree?

May God guide you as you make your own decisions.

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