Summary: God's promises make it so that we don't have to cut others off to get ahead. We already have heaven so we can afford to be generous to others.
We’ve all seen those drivers—the ones that keep changing lanes because they believe this will catapult them ahead of traffic so they arrive at their destination a whole two minutes faster! These lane weavers put others at risk because of their self-centered drive to get ahead. Not everyone drives like that though. Many even kindly let others merge in ahead of them when there is construction ahead. As we continue our sermon series on Abraham and trace his journey of faith we’ll rejoice to see how he was not intent on cutting others off to get ahead. Instead, Abraham set what we might call a peacemaker pace. Let’s find out what that is and why it’s God’s will for us too on our journey of faith.
So do you remember what happened to Abraham in our sermon last week? He hit a speed bump with that severe famine in Canaan. But instead of turning to God to find out how to handle it, Abraham went off to look for food in Egypt. That wasn’t wrong in and of itself, but by going to Egypt, Abraham put himself and his wife Sarah in danger. Because of her beauty he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him to get to her. So Abraham had Sarah lie and say that she was his sister. Because of this the Egyptian pharaoh took Sarah to be his wife and lavished Abraham with wealth as if for a finder’s fee. Thankfully God intervened to reunite Abraham and Sarah.
When they returned to Canaan, Abraham made a beeline for Bethel where he had first built an altar. There he publicly rededicated himself to the God who had never left his side. Like Abraham we have a daily need to go back to the altar—but not to one we’ve made. No God designed this altar and placed his Son on top of it like a lid to extinguish the fires of hell. We have a need to daily return to the cross because, like Abraham, we often trust our own smarts rather than God’s promises. We also have put our comfort first not caring what happens to others. But every time we come back to this altar we are assured of forgiveness. That’s because God’s love doesn’t depend on our obedience. Look at Abraham’s case. He came out of Egypt a very wealthy man. It’s not what he deserved, but it’s what God gave him. That’s grace—getting the opposite of what you deserve. We might not possess the riches of Egypt, but we do have God’s lavish forgiveness which promises heaven.
Bolstered by this grace Abraham was now determined to live according to God’s Word. I’m happy to report that Abraham followed through with his resolve. We see it in the way he handled a different speed bump. This one came not as a result of a famine, but because of riches. By now Abraham and his nephew Lot, who was travelling with him, had so much livestock that there wasn’t enough grazing land to support both groups. Because of this, quarrelling broke out between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s.
Now before I continue with what happened, let me just point out how this event reminds us that it’s not easy being rich. Sure, we all think that being rich would take away our problems. But little do we realize that with wealth comes its own set of challenges and responsibilities. Because Abraham and Lot had so much livestock, it was clear that they were going to have to move away from each other. Dear Christians, don’t think that more money or a bigger house and a nicer car would lessen your struggles. It might just increase them, as you would have more things to look after and more people wanting to take what you have. The Lord has given you just what you need right now. If you are lacking anything, he will provide it in his time. Don’t make it your life’s goal to become rich in possessions. Make it your goal to be rich in faith.
So how did Abraham handle the tension between his household and Lot’s. He could certainly have cut off Lot to get ahead by saying that since he was the elder and since he was the one God had promised to bless, Lot should get lost. Instead Abraham adopted a peacemaker pace and approached Lot with this proposition. “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 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” (Genesis 13:8, 9).
Abraham did not want to strain his relationship with Lot over this matter. Nor did he want the inhabitants of the land to see these worshippers of Jehovah quarrelling. And so Abraham doesn’t dictate to Lot, but offers a solution that was generous and born from a heart of faith. Abraham said: “You choose where to take your flocks, and I’ll go the other way.” Abraham knew that he could afford to be generous. He knew that he didn’t have to claim the best part of the land for himself because no matter where he ended up, God would be there to care for him as he had been doing since the beginning!