Chapter Five

Next, Abram entered a desert.

Genesis 12:9-13
9. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. 10. And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. 11. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: 12. Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

Severing Ties

The Negev was a desert area of the region that one day would be in southern Judah and is today in the southwest of Israel. As he continued traveling south, Abram found himself between a rock and a hard place.

The rock was the Promised Land. It was certain and blessed for God does not renege on his unconditional promises. But it was hot, dry and hard for “there was a famine in the land.” (Gen 12:10) Should he return to the north even though the Canaanites were there? Should he push further south? Where could they find relief? Even as we would have, Abram probably vacillated in his decision.

What about Lot? He could have pulled away at this time, seeing that the land Abram claimed God promised him was a dry waste, but he remained loyal and true. He was not a deserter.

In a sense, Abram was a deserter, for he knew that if he went to the hard place, Egypt, he would have to pull away from his wife. The Egyptians would see her beauty and kill him in order to possess her if he did not.

Which would it be? The rock or the hard place? Abram chose the latter, perhaps because he felt a keen responsibility for his servants and animals, not to mention Lot and his possessions. Could he really expect these who belonged to him or were closely associated to sit still in these conditions? Survival depended on finding pastures and food in Egypt where the Nile River assured fertility.

Of course, he had a responsibility to his wife as well, to care for her and to lead her in safe paths, but it can be so easy to overlook the one who is closest to you. Sometimes she gets in the way, and can be easy to take advantage of or to dismiss.

14. And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 15. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

Exactly as predicted, Pharaoh’s officials saw Sarai, praised her to Pharaoh, and took her into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram’s wealth was increased.

From a metaphoric standpoint, this was a foreshadowing of Israel’s descent into Egypt. Abram and Lot symbolize Israel’s early days of security in Goshen as the family took up residence near Joseph who was Pharaoh’s vice ruler, and Sarai prefigures Israel’s latter days of slavery.

Did Abram miss Sarai while she was in Pharaoh’s palace? Or was he so busy counting his newly acquired possessions that he did not notice her absence? Perhaps the generous payment given in her exchange made him pause to wonder if he had received the bad end of the bargain. Maybe he asked himself, “If they thought her worth all this, did I think too little of her?”

But there was not much time to reflect, for very soon the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his household with life-threatening diseases, and the truth that Abram had lied became known.

17. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. 18. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 19. Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
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What an embarrassment! Time to return to the place of God’s provision! Pharaoh sent him away with all that was his, and Lot went, too. His destiny was bound up with Abram’s.

The exodus of Israel from Egypt repeats the pattern of this earlier tale, emphasizing what it teaches. When we have wandered or been displaced from our promised land, God’s design is to draw us back to the place he has prepared and reserved for us, by his grace and power. The Promised Land is the kingdom of God on earth for us: His loving care, protection and presence.

Neither Sarai nor the Israelites could have been freed from their captivity unless the Lord had intervened and caused Pharaoh to let them go. Likewise, we need the Lord to provide our deliverance from sin and evil. We are unable to free ourselves. And when we are freed from sin, we are led forth with great gifts. The Israelites plundered the Egyptians, leaving with articles of silver and gold, clothing and whatever they asked for. (Ex 3:22; 12:36). Abram left Egypt having become “very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.” (Gen 13:2)

Similarly, when we are revived, we enter our renewed life with the gifts of God’s love, grace and the riches of his wisdom and all things which he grants us in Christ; things far better than gold and silver. Of course, in Abram’s case, the analogy is much weaker since he gained his spoil by deception. If one will reflect, he gained it by his wife’s obedience, and this has been true of many a man.

If Lot had a wife at this time, she is not mentioned. What might have been his thoughts when his uncle gave Sarai, his sister (see Family Tree), into Pharaoh’s hands? Did it cross his mind to rescue her? Probably not. At this time in history, women were viewed as men’s possessions, and a wife was not necessarily a prized possession.


Read Genesis 13:1-5.

1. And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. 2. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. 3. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; 4. Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. 5. And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

No doubt the experience in Egypt created a need in Abram’s heart for reconciliation with the Lord, which he did seek by returning to the altar where he had called on the name of the Lord. But Lot had not made so great an error and he did not gain the consequent joy of repentance and rest. He was simply following, and waiting to see what would happen next.

Now, Abram was home, but it was not like before. Though he was at peace with God, a certain dilemma needed to be resolved. You see, with all his newly acquired animals and with Lot who also had flocks, herds and tents, there were too many people for the land. This, too, was a result of the decision to go to the hard place. Sometimes it is better not to wander even though the place of God’s provision be a desert.

6. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. 7. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. 8. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. 10. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. 11. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

Abram was in his land and at peace with his wonderful God who had made such rich promises and had given him back his beautiful wife in spite of his conveniently disposing of her. What difference did it make to him which portion of this land he settled in? It was all blessed, whether flat or hilly, well watered or dusty.

Imagine Lot’s shock. It would never have occurred to him to separate and to go his own way. He was a follower, not a leader. He had no desire or vision for a personal settlement apart from his uncle. After all, he had come along believing that Abram knew or would be shown where they were going. He trusted in him. If he had wanted to build his own kingdom he would have dug in his heels at Haran or at any of the many points along the way, but that desire was not in him. He did not feel the call.

That he “lifted up his eyes” may indicate that he had been staring at the ground, too hurt to look Abram in the eye.

Lot usually is envisioned as a worldly man who greedily chose for himself the best land, but is that a fair appraisal? Perhaps he chose that land as an angry retaliation against Abram for severing their tie. He may have felt that after showing such loyalty, the thanks he got was a divorce proposal from the friend whom he had faithfully attended. If that was the gratefulness shown —the pleasant good bye that came like a slap without a warning, he would gladly go his own way— to the best territory. That would serve Abram right! Of course, Abraham had not intentionally slighted him. His decision was logical. As well, Lot’s reaction was not godly, and he would suffer for it.

12. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. 13. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

Lot was not a loner; he enjoyed the fellowship of other men. But there were not many men like his uncle. “The men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” (vs 13) He saw this, but what could he do? It had not been his idea to go it alone, separating from his family, his anchor that now was a distant lighthouse. But he had no choice except to abide by it. It may not have been what he wanted, but then, this was a new time in his life.

He had never before been free to explore the foreign enticements and delights of life without restraints. He had been with his family, mostly with his uncle, the man under the protection of the true God. Even when Abram went in wrong directions, God was there to rescue him from evil and the destruction of his house, and Lot benefited from this association. Now that he was cut off from it, would he try to walk in the way he knew was right, or would he stray and change beyond recognition? Who was he? Didn’t Lot belong to God, too?

14. And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. 17. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. 18. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

That Abram was told to lift up his eyes at this time may indicate that he felt sad and downcast after Lot had departed.

Though he had chosen to move only in the direction that would alleviate the overcrowding of his flocks and herds with Lot’s, God promised to give him a full circle of territory from where he stood, for it is not possible to forfeit what God has ordained to be ours by being generous, as Abram was with Lot. Yet we may lose it by being careless or sinful, at least for a time.

To commemorate this gracious assurance of his inheritance, Abram built an altar. Worship is the right response to every turn of our way in life.

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Intrusive Change

Now yoked together after a late August wedding and honeymoon, the newlyweds began the process of meshing their lives while completing their studies. Soon, Mandy realized that her yoke mate was not a fellow ox but a prize bull. One of his first purchases for the two of them was a very large, powerful, white BMV motorcycle. A friend of his had a black one. They —he and his friend, that is— enjoyed racing on nearly abandoned highways late at night. Jack was a daredevil who often wandered into danger zones.

At speeds over 100 MPH and not always in a sober frame of mind, the motorcyclists would defy fate, and God graciously permitted their folly. What sort of madness drove their behavior? Was it only their youth, or was it an obsession to cheat death? Of course, God was the one who would make that call. Usually he let Jack play with fire without getting burned. But not always.

One night Jack and some friends went “down south” for some revelry. The college was in a “dry” town only a half hour from another town that sold beer. While “south” they encountered a notorious gang of brothers who had a reputation as roughnecks to uphold. They were not college boys. Whatever was said—it may have had to do with Jack’s height— a brawl ensued, and Jack could barely walk up the stairs to his second floor apartment later that night. He had been badly beaten and kicked hard and steadily in the groin area. There was some question as to whether he would be able to resume his married life. However, things worked out all right because by the time they graduated, Mandy was expecting their first child.

In the fall, they both went to work as school teachers in the town where our parents lived, but this settled lifestyle only lasted a year despite their happiness in it. Jack especially liked coaching and was well loved by his students, and Mandy was popular as an art teacher. Our mom became the daycare provider.

Meanwhile, Jack’s parents had sold the liquor store and moved to Florida. Their tales of the life there and enthusiastic invitations lured the young marrieds, with their first daughter, MariLynn, to the paradise. MariLynn was a garden of delights, but Florida held no resemblance to Eden. It was a good life for retirees, but for young working people, the pay scale and job opportunities were unhelpful.

Jack taught school and, on the side, sold motorcycles and cleaned palm trees—a risky job since rats would sometimes build nests in the leaf clusters. Mandy stayed home with the baby.

After a year of the heat and one hurricane, they took off for a vacation in the Smoky Mountains near where they had honeymooned. While there, a Realtor of no mean skill suggested they move to the area. Jack could certainly sell mountain land with his knack for salesmanship (the man was a quick study), and as they could see, Western North Carolina was truly paradise.

Having now broken the hearts of two sets of grandparents in two states, they settled in the Smokies which became the vacation site for years to come of both families, not so much to see the blue mountain ridges, but the blue eyes of the three granddaughters who were born at three-year intervals. But that is getting ahead of the story.

Until they settled in North Carolina there had been little time for deep reflection. New experiences clamored for attention; first, being newly wed, then newly pregnant, then first-time school teachers, then first-time parents. The new Florida environment, new friends and new activities held them on the surface of life, not permitting time for reflection.

They had been transients and starry-eyed graduates. Party people. Now they were residents without roots in a place where families could trace their ancestry back to the first settlers in the region. They were intruders, but they worked hard not to be. Mandy taught in the elementary school, Jack sold real estate, MariLynn went to day care, and they got to know their neighbors.

Life settled into a routine, and they began to feel at home. But something was missing... What was it?... Church! Yes, a lifetime habit ingrained from babyhood cannot be permanently broken. Mandy missed not going to church so she began attending the one Presbyterian church in the small town of 3,000 people. Jack enjoyed other pursuits on Sundays, sometimes working, or maybe hunting and enjoying the day with new-found friends. Jack never met a stranger.


The Presbyterian Church was different from the ones Mandy had been part of in the various communities where she had lived as a child and teenager. One lady boldly proclaimed, “I’m a Christian, not a Churchian!” The mountain folks were friendly and “on fire” for Jesus Christ. This may have been partly because they had a pastor who had become a believer in mid-life. He had attended the seminary in his late thirties, and was now a new pastor at around forty. He understood the difference between true faith and intellectual assent, and he preached from his heart, entreating his congregation to open themselves to really know Jesus Christ and make a full commitment to serve him. It made Mandy angry.

Here was a man who had been in the Church only several years while she had been in it all her life, and he wanted to know if she was certain she was going to heaven. Imagine the gall! He said that it was possible for people to know whether they would be with Christ when they died, and that if they didn’t have that assurance, then they were not Christians.

The assurance was not based on works or creeds, baptism or church going. It meant having a living relationship with God, made possible through accepting that his Son’s death on the cross gained a pardon for one’s own sins. And it meant surrendering one’s will to Christ.

This was not exactly a new slant on the message of faith Mandy had always heard from the pulpit. The sermons she had heard stressed various Scriptures and invited contemplation and obedience to Christ’s teachings, but the idea of having a living, personal relationship with Christ and making him Lord of her life was upsetting. Had she not been thinking right about God?

Around this time it also began to bother her that despite all she had to be grateful for, she was still empty inside. Now why, with her handsome husband, beautiful child and nice home, did she feel empty? Someone was opening her ears, causing her to see things in a new light.

After wrestling within her spirit for some weeks, she finally acknowledged to herself and within God’s hearing that she had no assurance that she would be with him at her death, and she desired to have that knowledge. However, as she prayed that God would do whatever was needed to bring her into a living relationship with himself, promising to submit herself to his lordship, she also added that she hoped she would not lose her husband over her new life in Christ. Somehow she knew that this new commitment into which she was entering would pull her in a higher direction, away from the lifestyle she and Jack enjoyed as a couple, what the apostle Paul would have called ‘living according to the flesh,’ not led by the Spirit.

God would honor this prayer. Not only did he give her a new life in Christ and assurance of her complete and eternal safety in him, he also gave her continual, fresh help and guidance to live with her husband who did not understand at all what had happened inside his wife’s mind and heart.

And he gave her a spiritual convert—me. While my commitment to Christ had been made in an elementary way, I was somewhat like the Apollos of Acts who spoke of the Lord “with great fervor” but “knew only the baptism of John.” (Acts 18:25) My admiration for Christ was immense and sincere, but I did not realize that he wanted to be in a relationship with me as my Lord and Master. I had never fully entrusted my life to him, even though I was convinced of his right to be worshipped and adored. There was an impasse which needed to be bridged by a new and deeper understanding.

Thus, when my sister challenged me as she had been taught, her pastor’s influence extended beyond his flock. Now, we were sisters in Christ, which is a far stronger bond than being merely siblings. Blood may be thicker than water, but the communion of saints is an even richer vein.

Among fellow believers, though miles may separate them, there is no distance at all between their hearts. There is a closeness that marriage itself cannot equal, unless both husband and wife are in Christ.

Together over the phone, during visits, and separately, we began praying for Jack to join us. But he was a very slow learner. He was slow of heart.

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“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer."

- John Bunyan (English Minister and Author, 1628-1688)

Comment on the Westminster Confession

How can we fail to arrive in the land? Not possible!

Westminster Confession Chapter 17
Of The Perseverance of the Saints
1. They, whom God has accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.
2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which arises also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

For further study and comment, go here.

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Pharoah and Sarah
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Abraham and Lot on the Journey with thei flocks

Abraham Parts from Lot

Abraham and Lot on the Journey with thei flocks

KEY VERSE: Genesis 19:29 "So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."

Introduction

About

Chapter One

What About Lot?
Further Study

Chapter Two

A Type of Christian
Further Study

Chapter Three

Westward Ho!
Further Study

Chapter Four

Time for Worship
Further Study

Chapter Five

Severing Ties
Further Study

Chapter Six

The Rescue
Further Study

Chapter Seven

The Promise Sealed
Further Study

Chapter Eight

Nearer to God
Further Study

Chapter Nine

The Covenant
Further Study

Chapter Ten

To Whom Much Is Given
Further Study

Chapter Eleven

God Remembered Abraham
Further Study

Chapter Twelve

A Good Ending
Further Study

Afterword

He Draws the Unwilling