“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.” Genesis 13:11a.
Have you ever thought about how many decisions you have to make in a lifetime? What colour of socks to put on, what breakfast cereal to eat, which woman to marry. We must make literally millions of decisions over a life-time. How do you know if your decision is a wise one or not? It’s especially hard to make a wise decision in those areas where God cuts you lots of slack. God doesn’t tell which socks to put on, which cereal to eat. However, there are some decisions in life which clearly demand a bit more thought.
There is a major decision confronting Lot in the text before us. So it will do us good to investigate what’s going on here. There was a bit of strife happening between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. So Abram, the father of the faithful, put a proposition to Lot. Genesis 13:9, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me, if you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left”.
“Okay Lot, my nephew”, says Abram. “Which hand do you want – left or right? It’s your decision.” Lot’s going to have to live with what he chooses. He is going to have to live with the consequences of his decision.
There they are in the Promised Land. The land is still full of false-god-worshipping, child-sacrificing, sodomizing non-Christians. Do you get the picture? So you would think that Lot would seek wisdom as to what to do. It would seem that he was too quick to saddle up the horses and hitch up the wagon train. Think carefully before you make a life decision as you may live to regret it.
“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.” Why did Lot choose what he chose? Well, first off let’s see if we can figure out how this situation arose. We need to know why Lot had to make his choice. We know that there was a bit of friction between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. And we’re told back in Genesis 13:6 that the land was not able to support them. Both Abram and Lot had great possessions, we’re told. It’s like when you or I collect that much stuff that we’ve got nowhere to store it. So we need to get a bigger house for all our stuff!
When Dorothy and I were first married we bought a small house. I remember thinking to myself, as I drove the little rental removal van, “We don’t have very much stuff. Everything I possess can be packed into one tiny little van!” When we moved from Brisbane to Hobart, Tasmania we needed a much bigger van! And then when we moved back to Brisbane we needed an even bigger van again! But Abram and Lot have got that much stuff that a huge tract of land is not able to support them.
So what is really going on here what’s at the back of all this? So what if there’s a bit of strife between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. Couldn’t they have just ordered their men to stop fighting or be fired? Couldn’t they have just got rid of some of their stuff so that the land could support them? What was really happening here? Well, sometimes we get so caught up in things that we forget to look at God. What did the LORD say to Abram as recorded in Genesis 12:1? “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house to a land I will show you.” Abram bought his kindred with him, didn’t he? He brought his father who died back in Haran. And he brought his nephew Lot. Kindred! Abram loved his nephew Lot a lot. He loved him enough to risk his own life for him. But how much did Lot love his uncle Abe?
At this time Abram wanted Lot to split. Do we hear Lot make a heart-rending plea to Abram like Ruth to Naomi? “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go I will go and wherever you lodge I will lodge your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Where you die I will die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you and me” Ruth 1:16-17. Is this how Lot felt about Abram? Lot and Abram had so much stuff that even the lush green land couldn’t support them. Ruth and Naomi had nothing. They were in a barren land in the middle of a severe famine. Ruth lifted her voice and wept! Did Lot lift up his voice and weep at the thought of being separated from his uncle? “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go towards Zoar.”
Lot saw that the land was like the delta of Egypt, fertile as anything. “I’ll have that,” he said like one of those people on a game show, you know, where all this stuff is paraded before your eyes on a conveyer belt. “Gimme the fridge, the antique clock, the stereo, the TV!” The Price is Right or is it? It all might look pleasant to the eyes, but what about the soul – your soul? The heavy choices you make have to be made with your eternal soul in view, and we’re not talking about those neutral things like fridges and clocks and stereos. We’re talking about the mechanisms behind our decision making. We’re talking about the impulses in your soul which cause you to choose the things you choose.
So then, why did Lot choose what he chose? What caused him to make the decision he made? Did the devil make him do it? Was he free to choose the left hand or the right? Of course he was. But does sin and sinful nature have any bearing on our decisions?
When we lived in Canada we used to get the odd postcard from Dorothy’s brother who lived in Brisbane. There I was digging through ten feet of snow so that the mail-man could deliver to our house. We’d get these photographs of Dorothy’s brother on the Gold Coast or somewhere, sun, sand, surf, and palm trees! I’d like to say we came to Australia as missionaries or something. But instead I have to say that I just wanted to come in out of the cold!
Was Australia noted for its exemplary ethics and moral behaviour? Was it a land that honoured the living God? Did I really care about these things? As the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was pleasant to the eyes, so the land of the Bronzed Emu and the Red Kangaroo was pleasant to my eyes! We flew south-west into the sunset. Lot journeyed east towards the sunrise. Lot chose what he chose to satisfy his flesh and not his soul. Lot was looking at the temporal and not the spiritual. He was looking after his own “felt needs.”
At the time of Christ Jerusalem was crawling with man called Pharisees. Pharisees were the all-time experts at looking out for number one. Pharisees could take something spiritual, like God’s Moral Law, and use it for their own selfish gain. The Moral Law is the God-given guide on how to love God and your neighbour as yourself. The Pharisees used the Law as a back scratcher with which to pat themselves on the back. The Pharisees were oblivious to the spiritual nature of the Law. Their actions betrayed the deadness of their hearts! They didn’t even keep God’s Law outwardly, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for an example of that.
As Jesus said to the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It stands to reason therefore that if one is born again one can see the kingdom of Satan. If you can see the kingdom of God in the world, by way of contrast, you can see the kingdom of Satan. But in order to see the kingdom of God you must look for it. You must seek it and its righteousness. Therefore you have to look deep into things.
Lot just had a superficial look, “Looks good, let’s go!” Abram had his eyes on the kingdom of God. He let Lot do the choosing. He knew that whatever Lot chose would be fine with him. But more than that, Abram knew it would be fine with God. For Abram knows that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.
By doing what he did Abram was making his calling and election sure. As the Apostle Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:10-11.
Abram was getting the hang of it, but Lot, it would seem, had a lot more to learn. Take the Pharisees for instance. When the Pharisees looked at the Law of God they saw only tablets of stone. Therefore their hard-hearted actions betrayed what they saw. They weren’t looking at, nor could they see, the Spirit in the writing on the stone. “Looks good! Let’s go!” said the Pharisees, but their souls were like dried walnuts, and they had rocks in their heads, because that is all they saw! They weren’t looking at the kingdom of heaven. They needed the Spirit in their hearts in order to discern things of a spiritual nature, such as the Decalogue.
But just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t have the odd rock rattling around in your head. Look at Lot! But it does mean that you CAN make choices with the Kingdom of Heaven in view. However, sometimes we get distracted with the things of the world like Lot, especially those things that are pleasant to the eyes, like the well watered plains of the Jordan, like Tasmania or sunny Queensland! But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
Beware of getting it the wrong way round, because it will affect all your decision-making, because you make all your choices according to what you see. You’ll always win in the end if you make your choices with the glory of God in mind. Because even your wrong decisions, those decisions that seemed so right at the time, those choices that brought you nothing but hardship, will have come from a pure heart. But know this, that in any resulting hardship your conscience will be clear. Why? Because you made your choice with the glory of God in mind, the Kingdom of Heaven at heart. But if you make your decisions any other way you choose, then you lose. Because as Jesus said when He rebuked Peter, “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” Matthew 16:23b.
So then, Lot is behaving a wee bit like a Pharisee might behave. As he gazed at the Jordan Valley he saw only the temporal and not the spiritual. Do we see any indication that Lot put God and his neighbour, even his uncle, first? No. What about Abram? Did Abram put God and his neighbour first? Of course he did. But Lot was putting himself and his own wellbeing first, wasn’t he? The proverbial juicy carrot was dangled before him and he went for it. And in so doing he was playing a game of chance, a game of Lotto!
The choice was easy. It was a simple little choice. Choose which hand you want, the right hand or the left? Choose which tree you want, the tree of life, or, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, before you do, remember that you’ll be stuck with the consequences of your decision!
Lot played the game of Lotto and he lost. Why did he lose? It’s all to do with the LORD isn’t it? It’s all to do with providence God’s invisible hand. Lot wasn’t making a minor decision here, “Should I put on my blue socks, or, just keep on the one’s I’ve got on?” Lot knew all about God calling Abram. He knew all about God appearing to Abram. He knew all about the famine God sent upon the Promised Land. He knew all about God plaguing Pharaoh’s house on account of Sarai. He knew all about God delivering Abram and Sarai out of the land of Egypt. So why didn’t Lot say to Abraham, “Let’s take this matter before the LORD”? Why didn’t he head toward the altar Abram had built and seek an audience with the LORD? Do you think that perhaps Lot was a spiritually dead man at this point? Well you should note that Genesis 13:8 mentions the strife that was between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. Abram was head and representative of one house, and Lot was the head and representative of the other. But there is no mention of any strife between Abram and Lot. In fact if you look at the end of Genesis 13:8 you’ll see that Abram says to Lot, “We are brethren.”
Now, it’s quite possible that Abram was saying to Lot, “We are brothers, we are relatives, we are kindred, therefore let us not fight.” This would of course fit with what the LORD said to Abram in Genesis 12:1 “Get out of your country, from your kindred.” And, make no mistake, God is separating Abram from his flesh and blood kindred, i.e., Lot. But let it be known that Abram and Lot are also kindred in spirit. They both serve the same God, i.e., the LORD who called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans.
And we won’t get into a debate as to when Lot was converted. Second Peter 2:8 tells us that Lot was “a righteous man.” Therefore it is God’s invisible hand that is sovereignly separating Abram and Lot. He is doing so for a purpose to which neither Abram nor Lot are privy. God is working all things for good and yet Lot is getting to make a choice with which he has to live. So again we see the sovereignty of God in all things, and we see the responsibility of man for his own actions. And clearly Abram had a grasp of these deeper things of God. Abram could just about have written the Proverb which says “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the LORD” Proverbs 16:33.
“Okay, Lot, if you choose the left hand I’ll get the right. And if you choose the right then I’ll get the left. But whatever one you choose will be fine with me. Why? Well, whether you choose heads or tails I win. God has already taken care of the decision!”
The LORD has already told Abram to separate from his kindred in blood. Therefore Abram is simply being obedient to the revealed will of God. This is why Abram isn’t running around like an Ecumenical trying to keep everyone together at any and all costs! This passage helps us understand why the LORD permits so many different denominations in the church at large. The LORD would eventually split the descendants of Abram into twelve tribes.
Abram and Lot serve the same God, but the LORD would have them split like a cell and multiply – (Abram in particular). The LORD would eventually split Abraham’s descendants into twelve tribes. And since the time of the Reformation we’ve seen the same thing in the Church – cells splitting and multiplying. But if you think that there can be no unity in plurality then you need to look again at the triune God, the God who is multiple Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but one God: Plurality in Unity.
There are many different denominations around today. And there are even denominations who deny that they are a denomination! We have been separated because there is strife among the brethren. It is paradoxical, I know, but all these separations are for the sake of unity, and of course it complicates the issue, when some denominations are sectarian. It’s a complex issue. But, as did Abram and Lot, so all serve one and the same Master, albeit to a greater or lesser extent, as the case may be. Lot was far from perfect in his understanding, and so are some denominations!
Which of the two denominations would you align yourself with: Abram’s or Lot’s? Well, what were the Corinthians like? “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ” 1 Corinthians 3:4. Then Paul asks if Christ is divided? And we have to reply, certainly not! Were Abram and Lot not following the same LORD? If Abram and Lot followed the same LORD and yet were separated by the LORD, what is wrong with having different denominations? The whole idea is that we all should follow Christ! But truth be known, like Abram and Lot, some have their eyes on the LORD more than others. Therefore if you were going to align yourself with either Abram or Lot you’d choose Abram. Why? Because he’s focused on the kingdom of God and not his own felt needs!
When Lot had a major decision to make he forgot to include the LORD, it would seem. He saw the things he wanted and he sought after them with gay abandon. How many times have we rushed in because the place just looked so inviting? “Oh it’s the house of my dreams.” So you buy it only to find that termites love the house too! It all looks good on the surface, but lean upon a wall and your hand will go through it. “Oh let’s go to Australia. It’s so sunny there!” Then you learn about the major skin cancer problem! And you’re afraid to let your little kids go out in it. We have to live with the results of a bad decision: For better or for worse in sickness and in health.
I was one of those people who’re converted from time to time just from reading the Bible. As a brand new baby Christian the first choice I had to make was, which church? Which denomination, (or non-denomination as some like to style themselves)? I’ll have you know that it’s a minefield out there. Choose the wrong one and you could be a looser for the rest of your Christian life! You cannot just close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears and hope for the best. If you do that, you are in danger of killing yourself spiritually. How many Christians do you know who are still playing around in the shallow end when they should be deep-sea diving? How many are still on milk when they should be chewing solid food, (on the meat of the Word). How many are still chasing after “signs and wonders” when they should be looking at Christ? As a brand new Christian I even found myself in the Kingdom Hall of the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses one Sunday. Brand new Christians have not got a clue! I know because I used to be one. What price might I have paid for that choice? God is gracious.
What was the price that Lot would have to pay for his choice? Let’s see, the Apostle Peter refers to Lot living among the depravity and debauchery of Sodomites in Sodom. Peter in 2 Peter 2:8 says of Lot, “For that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” As well as having to live with his own tormented soul, Lot would get to see the whole plain he chose destroyed by fire and brimstone pouring out of heaven. Lot would get to see his own wife become a pillar of salt. His own two daughters would think nothing of indecently assaulting him! O Lot, it might look like the Garden of Eden with its four river-heads, but there’s a venomous serpent hanging from EVERY tree in this garden!
Lot don’t treat life as a lottery. Consider what might be the consequences of your action. Life is not a game of chance. It’s not Lot’s Lotto. Life is not, “Yez spin the wheel and yez take yer chances!” No! You seek the will of God for those weightier decisions.
Dear reader, search the Scriptures., for only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Lot should have sought counsel instead of “Looks good! Let’s go!” Remember the forbidden fruit in the Garden. What looks like a pineapple may actually be a grenade! To sum it all up in a verse of Scripture “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.
Abram let Lot make the choice. He trusted in the LORD to make the right decision. Lot trusted his own understanding and he lost out in the deal. Therefore let us all think carefully before we make a life decision as we may live to regret it.