A. How many of you have enjoyed watching the TV show “Let’s Make a Deal” over the years?
1. It has been on and off the air since its beginning in 1963.
2. The longest running and best known host was Monty Hall, but Wayne Brady has been hosting the show since 2009.
3. We can picture the host saying, “You can keep your money and prizes or you can trade it all for what’s behind door number 3. What’s your choice?”
4. The audience and viewers watch as the contestant twitches nervously while thinking: “What’s behind that door? Is it a new sports car? Or is it a year’s supply of dog food? Should I risk it all or hold on to what I have?”
5. Meanwhile, some of the audience members shout, “Go for it!” While others shout, “Don’t be a fool! Hold on to what you have!”
6. Inevitably, some contestants made the right choice, while others made the wrong choice and got “zonked.”
B. But as we all know, life is no game show.
1. Every day we are faced with all kinds of choices; some big and some small.
2. The consequences of the choices we make can lead to marvelous blessings or painful zonks.
C. Today, as we continue our study of the life of Abraham, we will explore an episode where he and his nephew, Lot, have some decisions to make.
1. As we will see, Lot chose door number 3 and it didn’t work out so well for him.
2. I hope we can learn from Abraham and Lot how to best to follow after God in the choices and decisions of life.
I. The Story
A. Before we jump into today’s segment of Abraham’s story, let’s be reminded of the developments of the story of Abraham that we have studied so far.
1. God called Abraham when he was living in Ur of the Chaldeans and said to him: “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:1-3)
2. Abraham left Ur along with his father, Terah, his nephew, Lot, and his wife, Sarah.
3. Unfortunately, Abraham traveled only about half way to Canaan, but stopped in Haran, and stayed there until his father died.
4 After Terah died, God renewed the call to Abraham and he resumed the trek to Canaan.
5. But not long after being in Canaan, a severe famine struck the area.
a. Abraham faltered during his first crisis, and rather than trusting in God, he fled to Egpyt and reverted to his default coping strategy – falsehood, rather than walking by faith.
6. From all of this we come to realize that faith begins tentatively and imperfectly, and that God uses our experiences to help us grow stronger in faith.
B. Our story today begins in Genesis 13.
1. The Bible says: 1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD. (Gen. 13:1-4)
2. Let’s be reminded of the fact that much of Abraham’s wealth had come from Pharaoh in Egypt after Abraham had failed to trust God.
a. How gracious of God to grant Abraham such undeserved riches and to compound his wealth so quickly.
b. It is likely that these blessings that were bestowed upon him rather than the punishment he deserved from Pharaoh or from God, helped Abraham to be genuinely humble.
3. Did you notice how the narrator makes a point of portraying Abraham’s return from Egypt as backtracking?
a. Abraham traveled up from Egypt, through the barren Negev region, and back to Bethel, where Abraham had built his last altar.
b. Abraham came back to the place where he had last gotten it right.
c. He arrived back at the place where he’d been on track, he worshiped the Lord there again.
d. It was as if with his completed return from his faithless trip to Egypt, Abraham was ready to start over.
C. Let’s notice the next verse of the story: 5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. (Gen. 13:5)
1. Up to this point in the story, we haven’t heard much about Abraham’s nephew, Lot.
a. We learned earlier that Lot’s father had died while they still lived in Ur before heading for Canaan.
b. Abraham had likely became a surrogate father for Lot in his own father’s absence.
c. So when Abraham prospered in Egypt and became wealthy, Lot benefitted as well.
2. Thus far, Lot had not caused any problems for Abraham, but that was about to change.
D. The Bible says: 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. (Gen. 13:6-7)
1. I know we think prosperity is easy, but prosperity often brings its own challenges.
a. Expanding flocks and herds require increasing amounts of food and water.
b. Another reality likely included the fact that the land may not have recovered from the earlier famine, so available resources were not enough to sustain both men’s families and livestock.
c. The narrator also mentions that they had to contend with the existing inhabitants of the region – the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
2. So all the necessary elements for a family conflict were brewing.
a. When the vegetation and water became insufficient for everyone, that’s when Abraham’s and Lot’s servants began to clash.
b. We are not told exactly what the conflictual scene looked like, but the NIV calls it “quarreling.”
c. Many other translations call it “strife” and the Living Translation calls it a “dispute.”
E. What was Abraham to do about this?
1. He could have done what many of us do when there is conflict – ignore it. We often put our head in the sand to hide from it, or ignore it like the proverbial “elephant in the room.”
2. Another thing Abraham could have done was to play the “You owe me card.”
a. He could have said to Lot, “Look, I’m the uncle, and you are the nephew. It’s been great, but you’ve got to go, young man. Besides, God gave this land to me, not you. I’ve been carrying you long enough, so take your flocks and herds and tents, and find your own land somewhere else.”
b. Perhaps Abraham had a right to do that and many wouldn’t criticize him if he had.
F. But that’s not what Abraham did and we can’t help but be impressed with his response.
1. The Bible says: 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 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.” (Gen. 13:8-9)
2. Notice that Abraham chose his words carefully making sure he affirmed his love for Lot while acknowledging the growing conflict and the proposed peaceful solution.
3. Abraham began by emphasizing that their relationship was most important and that he wanted to preserve harmony between them.
4. Abraham didn’t pull rank, but graciously treated Lot as an equal and unselfishly put Lot in charge of his own fate.
5. In many respects, Abraham’s attitude and action here is an expression of his growing faith in God.
a. In giving Lot first choice of the land, Abraham trusted that God would take care of him regardless of what happened.
G. Let’s try to get a handle on this by considering a fictitious, modern day example.
1. Let’s say that you and your brother own a business together, and for whatever reason you own 60 percent and he owns 40 percent.
2. The business is going great, but the two of you are very different and would like to do things differently.
3. The conflicts are beginning to take their toll on your relationship and you’re not as close as you once were.
4. So you decide it is time to separate and you make this proposal to your brother.
a. Let’s divide the company into eastern and western divisions that would be two independent companies.
b. And then when you roll out the map of the country and examine the sales figures, it’s clear that one division performs better than the other.
c. Would you, like Abraham, give away to your brother the first choice of the divisions?
d. As the majority stakeholder, you have the right of first choice, which presents you with an intriguing question: In what or in whom do you trust for provision?
d. There is nothing inherently wrong with choosing the better territory – it is your right as the majority stakeholder.
5. The choice you or I would make would reveal what we value and in whom we trust.
6. Abraham gave up his right of first choice for the sake of harmony with his nephew.
a. Perhaps he felt the freedom to do so because he trusted that God would provide for him regardless of the outcome.
H. Let’s take a look at the choice that Lot made and his decision-making process.
1. The Bible says: 10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD. (Gen. 13:10-13)
2. Lot’s selection of the most fertile territory revealed his true character.
a. What other choices might Lot have made?
3. First of all, Lot probably should have graciously deferred the choice to Abraham.
a. He should have said something like, “Uncle Abe, I owe you a great debt of gratitude. In fact, I owe you everything! You took me in when my father died, and you brought me along on this journey. I am a wealthy man because of you. Since you have been so gracious to me, I insist that you choose first and I will take what is left.”
b. Sadly, Lot didn’t do that, rather, he chose greed over gratitude.
c. Truth be told, most of us are more like Lot than Abraham.
d. If you don’t think so, just remember how things go when you are choosing which piece of pie or pizza you want.
1. We often look for the biggest and the best piece.
2. We don’t usually look for the smallest and worst piece and take it so others get the best.
4. And if Lot wasn’t going to defer, then he should not have taken the best land – the biggest piece of the pie.
a. Look how the narrator describes the land that Lot chose: “it was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.”
b. The area Lot chose had enjoyed the kind of fertility found in Egypt along the Nile and in Babylon beside the Euphrates.
c. But the narrator reminds the reader, “but all that was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” and “Lot pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.”
d. All this foreshadows future trouble for Lot – a lot of trouble for Lot!
5. The point is obvious: Abraham’s faith proved to be a better long-term decision and Lot’s greed and short-sightedness would cost him nearly everything.
I. I wonder what Abraham thought as he watched Lot take everything that was his and move on toward the best land near the Jordon River.
1. After Lot left Abraham, God graciously made another appearance to Abraham and gave him reassurance by affirming the promise.
2. The Bible says: 14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD. (Gen. 13:14-18)
3. God told Abraham to lift up his eyes and where did God tell him to look? Everywhere! To the north, the south, the east and the west.
a. All the land Abraham could see and even more that he couldn’t see was his – even the portion that Lot chose.
4. More than the land, God was also going to give Abraham offspring to inherit that land – more offspring than can be counted.
a. Perhaps the aging uncle needed this reassurance as he watched his nephew fade into the distance.
5. Abraham walked throughout the land as God had commanded and then settled in Hebron by the great trees of Mamre, where he would spend much of the remaining part of his life.
a. According to historians, this area offered good land – the soil is relatively fertile and a variety of fruits and vegetables grew there easily.
b. Hebron means “fellowship” and mamre means “fatness.”
c. There in the place of fatness and fellowship where Abraham’s soul was satisfied by God’s provision, Abraham put God’s stamp on the location by building an altar – yet another stone monument to memorialize his trust in God as his protector and provider.
II. The Application
A. So what can we learn from today’s segment in the life and journey of Abraham?
1. I believe we can learn some important principles about decision making.
2. In many respects, Abraham and Lot represent two different perspectives for making important life decisions.
3. Lot represents thinking and planning in a two-dimensional way – for Lot there was no “upward” dimension to consider.
a. When making his decisions, it doesn’t appear that Lot considered God as a factor in shaping his future.
4. Abraham, on the other hand, did his thinking and planning from a three-dimensional perspective – in addition to the two dimensions on an earthly plain, Abraham also considered the vertical, heavenly component.
B. Allow me to quickly share four principles that help us consider the vertical dimension as we make our decisions.
1. First, we must not be blinded by the positive benefits.
a. The positive is usually obvious and can be grasped immediately.
b. But the positive can blind us to anything else if we are not careful.
c. Satan isn’t stupid! He knows how to lure us with that which is shiny, and pleasing.
d. Consider the mousetrap…of course the cheese looks good and would be very tasty.
e. But we must not let the cheese blind us to the trap that is holding it.
2. Second, we must not underestimate the impact of negative consequences.
a. If we think about some of the bad decisions we have made in our lives, how many times do we discover that the positive benefits were not as good as what we had anticipated, and the negative impact was usually bigger than expected.
b. It’s so easy to downplay the negative because we are so enamored by the positive.
c. Lot saw how green the valley was and how much water flowed into it, and although he knew that Sodom was an evil place, he downplayed the impact it would have on him and his family.
3. Third, we must seek advice from the Lord and from other godly individuals.
a. How many times in the Bible do people get into trouble when they don’t inquire of God, or don’t ask for input from godly individuals?
b. Why do we often skip this step in our decision-making? We skip it because we don’t want or like the answer we know we will get from God and from godly people.
4. Fourth, we must ask a most important question: will this decision enhance my relationship with God?
a. If our decision is likely to compromise our walk with God, then it is a bad decision, regardless of the apparent positives.
b. There’s something more important than making more money!
1. There’s something more important than advancing our career!
2. There’s something more important than finding new romance!
3. There’s something more important than attending a better school!
c. None of those things will matter if they cause us to be disconnected from the Lord.
A. Allow me to end with an illustration from the life of legendary college football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, of Alabama.
1. After a tough loss on Saturday, Coach Bryant went to the barber shop for a haircut on Monday.
2. After a few moments of silence, the barber said with some disgust, “Coach, I don’t believe I would have put in that young quarterback just because the starter was not doing well. The turnovers made by that young quarterback cost us the game!”
3. Coach Bryant nodded and said, “Well, you know, if I’d had until Monday to decide, I don’t think I would have put in that young quarterback either.”
B. As the old saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.”
1. In hindsight, Lot would have made a different decision about pitching his tent near Sodom.
2. Hindsight is great, but foresight is better!
C. So how can we benefit from foresight, rather than just seeing things in hindsight?
1. For starters, we can apply the four principles we discussed earlier.
a. First, we must not be blinded by the positive benefits.
b. Second, we must not underestimate the impact of negative consequences.
c. Third, we must seek advice from the Lord and from other godly individuals.
d. Fourth, we must ask a most important question: will this decision enhance my relationship with God?
2. Additionally, we can keep in mind two important passages of Scripture that are both good guides for decision-making.
a. The first is our Scripture reading for today: Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6)
b. The second are words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:31-33)
D. You and I live in a world like that of Abraham and Lot, a world in which sin and materialistic values constantly clamor at us.
1. We are tempted to act selfishly, to grab the best for ourselves while we can.
2. We are tempted to seize what the world offers, the riches and enticements of the cities of the plain.
3. What will we choose? Left to ourselves and our two-dimensional thinking we will choose poorly.
E. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to ignore the vertical component.
1. It’s like trying to navigate without a map, being limited only to what you can see and hear in your immediate area.
2. When we focus on the Lord and tune into the vertical component, it is like having a GPS device with turn-by-turn instructions for life.
3. Not only can God see everything that we can’t, God wants to steer us through our dangerous world and bring us safely to our destination.
4. Like Abraham, the man of faith, let us trust God and allow God to make the choices for our lives – God is a better chooser and decision-maker than we will ever be!
Abraham – One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith, by Charles Swindoll, Tyndale, 2014.
Friend of God – The Legacy of Abraham, Man of Faith, by Ray Stedman, Discovery House, 2010.