Genesis 13:1-18 “So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 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 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD. Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 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. And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 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.’ 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, towards Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD. 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. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. 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. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’ 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.”
In the Christian life in this fallen and groaning world that put our Lord on the cross we will meet one obstacle after another. We are bound to, not because we are weak in faith but in order to strengthen our faith. An athlete in a gymnasium moves from one piece of apparatus to another under the directions of his personal coach to build up every part of his body. So too with us every part of our new life in God needs to be strengthened. We live under the commandment, “Be strong on the Lord and in the power of his might,” and that strength is attained only by exercising our faith. We are following the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, and his life as the proper man – as we read it in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – is the pattern for ours. We walk in his steps; he confronted one obstacle, and then another, and another, all his way to heaven and so will we. The only lives that do not meet obstacles are the lives of the dead – which just go on decomposing. The lives of unbelievers can be cosy, and tranquil so that we can even admire them and feel sorry for ourselves. But we have to remember that the devil never wants them to go off on pilgrimage following Christ, so he tranquilizes them and makes them contented with unbelief. Once you start to listen to the Lord and obeying him then the pattern is a life of challenge after challenge. This is set before us very vividly by John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian soon meets the Slough of Despond, to be followed by . . . Obstinate, Pliable, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Hill Difficulty, Vanity Fair, Apollyon, Enchanted Ground, Giant Despair, Doubting Castle, Mr. Talkative and so on.
Abraham, we have seen, has met his first obstacle in a severe famine that came to Canaan. He did not respond wisely to it and subsequently almost lost his wife to Pharaoh in Egypt, but God in grace restored him. In this next chapter in the Book of Genesis (chapter 13) we find him meeting his next obstacle.
1. ABRAHAM RETURNS TO TRUSTING IN GOD.
Abram had made a couple of disastrous decisions, to leave the land of promise, to plead with his wife to tell a lie (along with himself) in order for Abram to survive out of the will of God, but in mercy the Lord spared him, and Pharaoh himself sent him packing. Abraham has to learn that if he does not serve one Lord alone he must be the slave of many masters. What does Abram do now? What does a believer do when he has sinned badly and embarrassingly and is tempted to think, “I can’t be a Christian to have behaved like this. God doesn’t want a person like me to be in his service.” Abram could have become cynical and disillusioned and shrugged off his religion. He could have found looked for fulfilment in his new riches, and dismissed all his recently acquired religious zeal as ‘emotionalism’. Many do. They start off well; there is initial enthusiasm and evidence of life from God, but they are lacking roots, and they last only a short time. Jesus describes one such temporary believer; “When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away” (Matt. 13:21). Abram’s whole future hangs in the balance. What is he going to do now that troubles have come into his life? Is he going to deal with his sin and be restored to God, or listen to the voice of the tempter? Will he be ashamed of his folly and falls and give up following the Lord? How often do such dilemmas come into the lives of many Christians early on in their walk with Christ? What does Abram do? “Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev” (v.1). What did he do?
i] Abram returned to Canaan. In his weakness and disobedience he again clung to the promise of God. God was restoring his faith that this land was his land. He needed to be in that kingdom. Abram’s faith waxed and waned, but God’s promise was always “Yes!” and “Amen!” Abram left the place of compromise and deceit and cast himself on the provision of God. How did he return? He returned a chastened man. He returned a wiser man. He returned with his wife Sarai undefiled. He returned a rich man. God did not sigh and reluctantly took Abram back as the father of the promised Seed. God restored him with great riches. God had prospered him in Egypt when he deserved the very opposite, and some centuries later Abraham’s seed would again leave the land of Egypt ‘escorted’ out by Pharaoh’s army. They left Egypt loaded with the plunder of Egypt, payment for 400 years of forced labour under the north African sun. So here too Abram leaves with the plunder of Egypt, the dowry price for his beautiful wife from the sun-god of Egypt. Abram did not deserve it, but God never deals with us as we deserve. He makes sinners rich. Abram is returning to his vast land, and he does not deserve that either. God’s grace is abundant to us and he grants us far beyond all he could have imagined.
ii] Abram retraced his steps. You can trace Abram’s true faith and repentance in the route he takes. He had recently taken this journey in the opposite way, going south to Egypt, out of the land of promise into the land of carnal doubt, from the place over which the Lord reigns to the place over which the sun-god of Egypt reigns, but now he is going north, back over the border into the promised land, from Egypt into the Negev, and on and on. Abraham was retracing his steps, and you must do that when you have fallen into rebellion. You must go to the place where you defied God and you must make good there. The Gadarene demoniac wanted to follow Jesus, but our Lord told him to go home and tell them in that place what great things God had done for him. When Zacchaeus repented of his sin he went to the people he had robbed and paid them back with interest. Saul of Tarsus began to preach that
Jesus was the Son of God in the synagogues where he had once denounced Jesus as a blasphemer (Acts 9:20). When Saul went back to Jerusalem he knew that he could not be a loner. He had to join the disciples there, like us all though initially they were terrified of him and thought he was a spy. There in the city where he had been well known as the ‘inquistor-general’ and denouncer of Christians he “moved about freely, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:29). Saul went back, and you must go back and apologize and do works of restitution if any are needed, and put things right. I received a letter from a lawyer in London who has been helped by my sermons on line and uses them in his Bible studies. When God recently saved him he went back to some of the women he had treated so shabbily and apologised humbly to them for what he had explaining what had happened in his life. It was not easy but it had to be done. Abram went back to Canaan.
iii] Abram went to the place God had met with him. We read this; “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” (v.3). He goes back to the centre of the land which he had left months earlier when he had set off on the long journey to north Africa. He came all the way back to where he belonged, to the place the Lord had appeared unto him. Abram was confident in the vastness of the mercy of the Lord. God would not reject him. A broken and a contrite heart God would not despise. You too after your fall must come back to the people of God. We know our own hearts. We too have done terrible things that God has veiled from you. Our only hope is that our Lord came to seek and to save that which was lost. We say, “I the chief of sinners am but Jesus died for me.” Returning sinner, you are welcome to join us in the presence of the Saviour who says, “He that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Trust in the power of his grace. Go to the place where God has met with you in past and he will receive you. Who would not love such a Master, worship him and confess his goodness? He comes and kisses us welcome again. Peter Stuart was a Scottish preacher of 200 years ago. He was examined by some ministers in Edinburgh to see whether he was wise enough for this new responsible work instructing young Christians. He was posed this question, “Which is stronger, grace or holiness?” He answered at once; “Grace is stronger, for Adam had holiness and he fell, but Joseph had grace and he stood.” Abram had grace, and so Abram was restored.
iv] Abram reestablished his devotion to the Lord. We are told that he went “where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord” (v.4). He found it standing there where he had built it. God had prevented any Canaanite smashing it to pieces. Did he make sacrifice there? We are not told. It would seem strange if he did not, but we are told that there he called on the name of the Lord. Abram expressed his trust in the mercy of God. Though his sin had been great, God’s grace was greater. There at that altar he expressed his confidence in the power of God, his own helplessness and his dependence on God for mercy. It was maybe twenty blocks of stone arranged as an altar. It was humble. There was no saving power in the stones or in the location. This was no Tower of Babel proudly claiming it could reach heaven. It was a place of sacrifice. Its message was that the one who made an offering for his sin was announcing to all who saw him that there was no way he could possibly reach heaven apart from the salvation of God. It was a humble monument to grace. It was a plea to the Holy One of heaven to come and meet with him there, and God did. When we call on the name of the Lord from our hearts he hears us. He always hears us. There has never been one sinner who has gone to God in the name of the Lord and called on his name in sincerity and the Lord has refused to hear him. There between Bethel and Ai God came and met with him again. Abram met again the King of heaven, the one true and living God, the Lord of hosts. Abram worshipped him and acknowledged him to be sovereign. There he again confessed his faith in the promises of God and in the relationship that God had initiated back in Ur and Haran all those months earlier. Abram was fully restored to faith and to the good graces that God had established with him. Abram was back where he should always have been, not through being a smart judge of theology, but because God himself restored him.
2. ABRAM SHOWED THAT HE DID TRULY TRUST IN GOD BY SUBMISSION AND GRACIOUSNESS.
Now a new obstacle came to Abraham’s trusting in the Lord, but this time it did not come from a severe famine or the power of a Pharaoh but from within his own family, from his nephew Lot. They had long returned from Egypt and some years had passed. “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold” (v.2). Here was a tangible evidence of God’s favour resting upon Abraham. His nephew Lot had also increased in wealth with “flocks and herds and tents” (v.5). Remember that Terah was the grandfather of Lot and the father of Abram and the father of Sarai. Together these men had vast possessions, thousands of sheep, cattle, donkeys and camels. In fact their wealth became more than they knew how to sustain. They were like Peter, pulling up a catch of fish so great that the nets began to break. Initially they all stayed together as one large agricultural enterprise; at some time Lot had married and had two daughters. I am not sure when he married. Maybe it was back in Haran or perhaps in Ur, so that the young children had even gone back and fore to Egypt with him. Or maybe Lot had married a local woman; certainly his wife was to be of no help to Lot trusting in God.
So, here were childless Abram and his wife, and their married nephew Lot heading a booming farming business, and then tensions between the two bosses and their squads erupted. We are told that “the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot.” (vv.6&7). Each group of workers claimed grazing and watering rights in a territory that could not support both.
You have to remember that there were many non-believers in the land looking on at this powerful business as it had expanded year after year. “The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time” (v.7), but Abram, Lot and the Baal worshippers all got on well enough. Sadly it was amongst the followers of Jehovah that the tension was rife. They could share the land with the heathen, but they couldn’t get on with one another. It is not an unfamiliar phenomenon. A church member will get on with the people in his office, none of whom is a Christian, but he is a real discontent in his congregation. The increase in wealth became the catalyst for the subsequent division. We recognize the need to support one another in times of austerity; my parents’ generation would look back to the 1940s, the Blitz and the second World War, to the spirit of support and kindness that existed in the country in those dark days. There was little crime; one did not have to lock one’s front or back doors at night. Today how different things are; austerity kills its thousands; prosperity is killing its tens of thousands. So it was at this time, but when Abram had grown very wealthy, he also displayed great graciousness. True salvation does that to people; they do not serve God with their lips alone but with their lives. Knowing God makes us thoughtful and self-denying and kind people. If it fails to do that then are we Christians at all? We read that one day Abram took the initiative and he spoke to Lot about the problem: “‘Let’s not have
any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 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.’” (vv.8&9). I am sure that we’d all agree that it is a most magnanimous statement, that only a humble man of God would speak like that. The grace Abram has received from the Lord has made him a gracious man.
We are living in morally depraved days. The younger generation are under such peer pressure that they would not dream of going to a place of worship. They would lose such face in the eyes of their scornful companions who are more important to them than their teachers and even their parents. They would not be seen dead in church. They refuse to believe in God; they will not pray; they will not consider the claims of the Lord Christ. Yet those same peer pressures work the other way in a terrible costly way. For sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies and abortions, binge drinking and drug taking no country in all of Europe – and possibly the whole world – is worse than Wales. I can hardly believe that what I have just said to you is true, that the country I love stinks so highly in the nostrils of God, but that is what the statistics tells us. Our Principality is the most promiscuous and defiled society on earth. Of course we link the two statistics, the total absence of the fear and worship of God among the younger generation and their consequent depravity in conduct.
The authorities – the government, the school and the National Health Service – are all totally perplexed to know what to do to change things. The problem facing them is not information and warning and access to these young people. We as preachers and evangelists never meet young people, while they teach them daily in classrooms or consult with them in doctors’ offices. The problem confronted by the powers that be is a lack of youthful motivation. Why shouldn’t they indulge in excess, in violence, in promiscuity and inebriation? Why not? Life is short and without meaning. We are all going to end in the grave; “gather ye pleasures while ye may.” Why didn’t Abram tell his men to drive Lot’s men off, just take Lot’s possessions and finish the upstart’s life? Abram could have pleaded the covenant God had made with him and his seed. The land was his; it was not Lot’s. But Abram had no thought of acting like that. He had what people in our sick land do not have today; Abram had motivation to deny himself and be gracious to his nephew.
i] Abram was committed to brotherly love: “‘Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers’” (v.8). I would be with a gang of boys and girls in school, and I would hear a boy saying something filthy to a girl and I would loudly protest to him, “Come on Dai! She could be your sister.” You don’t talk to a sister like that. Those born from the same womb and nurtured at the same breast have a special tenderness toward one another. They don’t always agree with one another, but they do try to put one another in the best light. “We mustn’t quarrel and say evil and cruel things to one another. We mustn’t entice one another to crime, for we are family.” So too we know that all men and women are all made in the image and likeness of God, and we are to do all we can to enhance and magnify and respect that image.
ii] Abram was a man who called on the name of the Lord (v.4). This account of Abram’s gracious offer to Lot follows from the reference to his worship. Abram hungered for God more than anything else. To know God’s blessing on Abram’s life, to know God’s protection and help and grace day by day was all Abram wanted. A hunger for food motivates us to buy some, and prepare and cook and eat it. Hunger for God’s fellowship drives us to love our neighbours as ourselves because behaving like God is one way of getting close to God. Why do young people act as they do? Because they are imitating the men they idolize. Young boys imitate their older brothers. Gang members do what the leaders of their gangs do. They try to get closer to them by behaving like them; they want their favour and approval; they are attempting to share their lives. So it is with us and the Lord Jesus. We walk in his steps because his example is everything to us. No one ever lived like Jesus and we want to live as the true and proper man lived. He never abused women, or got drunk, or fought with others, or used foul language, or threatened or hurt people. I want to live like him, a good and noble and courageous life – the best of all lives, for his glory. That is my motive in daily conduct.
iii] Abram was a man conscious of his debt to God. He was so thankful for what God had done in his life. He would still be an elderly businessman in Ur of the Chaldees if God had not met him there and summoned him to Canaan. God had taken an interest in him, spoken to him, spent time with him, and how Abram appreciated all of that. Abram would have lost his darling wife in Egypt if God had not delivered him. He would have been a wreck, but instead he was loved and delivered. He would be a poor man if God had not made him rich. He would have no hope for fatherhood and a progeny if God had not promised him that he would have a son. Abram owed God. “What can I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?” he could have thought. What gratitude Abram felt to God for the rest of his life, and so he lived to please the Lord.
iv] Abram trusted in God. His faith told him, as it tells us, that he belonged to the Lord. God told him that he was going to have a son and a vast progeny. All the nations of the earth were going to be blessed by the line of Abram. He was going to inherit this whole land. That was always at the back of Abram’s mind. Abram had not responded by saying, “That’s impossible. No one in the world believes in the Lord these days” and then go off with the crowd. That is how people behave today, but Abram trusted what this God had said to him and went on believing it, thanking God for choosing him and for all that God had promised him. The rich promises of God to Abram made him generous. Faith made him act in the light of how God had intervened in his life in Egypt. When he would talk with Sarai about that escapade he didn’t say to her, “Weren’t we lucky to get away from Pharaoh? We might never have seen each other again.” No. Abram said, “Wasn’t the Lord good in dealing with me so mercifully when I was so unbelieving and stupid in going down to Egypt and lying to Pharaoh?” Abram trusted in God, and even on the days when he didn’t feel very close to God he knew how he ought to live, in a brave and kind and godly way. Abram kept reminding himself whose he was, remembering who had accepted him and who loved him. He saw himself through the eyes of the Saviour he believed in. It is like that with every believer. We are motivated to live not for the quick fix and the easy thrill but to please the God we trust in all through our lives.
So when his men and Lot’s men began to get their knives out and curse and fight Abram immediately responded as a true believer should. “‘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’” (v.9). “You make the choice,” he said to the younger man. It was a staggering, princely gesture. God had promised this entire land to Abram’s descendants, but here he is saying to Lot, “Take anything, up to half my kingdom, and you take what you judge to be the better half.” The wealth was nothing. God would supply all Abram’s needs accordi
ng to his riches in glory in the promised Messiah. The Lord could always provide more.
There was a wonderful Christian leader in Barnstable, Devon, in the 19th century, admired by Spurgeon and loved by Christians everywhere for his extraordinarily loving personality. His name was Robert Cleaver Chapman. One day in his 90s (he died at 99 years of age) he was knocking on some doors in the town in a slum area called Derby and a little girl came to the door. He said to her, “Is your mother in, dear?” She called to her mother who was busy in the back kitchen, “There’s a gentleman at the door and he wants to see you.” “Who is he?” her mother called back. “I don’t know,” said the girl, “but he looks like Jesus Christ.” The Brethren Assembly they started grew and they needed a new building. They discovered a very suitable place on a plot of land right in the middle of the town and they were going to purchase it until they discovered that the Church of England also wanted to buy it. Robert Chapman would not compete with another group of Christians. He insisted that they withdrew their bid to allow the Anglicans to buy it. Then they had to wait a few years before they could get a suitable building. That is the spirit of Abram in our text. Let each one deem the other better than himself, and that is a costly command to obey.
3. THE HUMBLING OF ABRAM REMOVED ANOTHER OBSTACLE.
Let me tell you what exactly that new obstacle was facing Abram. You know that Abram was the one who had been promised a land. Abram alone. Not Lot and Abram, but until this point the land is being shared with Lot. Now Lot was to become the ancestor of the Moabites and the Ammonites, not of the Seed of the woman. So Lot had become the obstacle to Abram receiving God’s blessing – Abram alone was the seed of the woman. Only when Lot leaves the land voluntarily can Canaan become the sole inheritance of Abram. Only then are there no competing claims from other members of Abram’s family for Canaan. Lot was an obstacle to this land being Abram’s alone, but God did not tell Abram that he had to get rid of Lot by hook or by crook. In fact Lot was an obstacle that was unknown to Abram, but the obstacle was removed by God and not by Abram. Christian are often faced by obstacles which they do not see at first as being obstacles.
The great message of this passage is the manner in which the obstacle was removed. The means was the humbling of the servant of God, how Abram humbled himself before Lot, and before Sarai, and before Lot’s family, and all the workmen. Abram made himself of no reputation. He said to Lot, “You choose.” Abram was growingly confident in the strength and wisdom of God to work all things together for good to them that he had chosen. Out of that humbling great blessing came to Abram. The Bible says that he who humbles himself will be exalted. There are no better ways for the removal of those obstacles which prevent our reforming and building and expanding the church than by the Lord’s people humbling themselves by their whole daily lives.
We can see that Lot’s choice was purely material, and all who think in purely economic terms will applaud Lot and say, “Go for it!” He chose the plain of the Jordan, well-watered and fertile. It was a rich land that would support him and his agriculture business. Indeed it was like the garden of the Lord (v.16). Paradise could be regained by the free will of man, thought Lot. Man had been kicked out of the garden of God, but now by a simple wise choice of another man paradise could be regained. No fuss; no sacrifice, but then there is a jarring note – have you noticed it in verse ten? This land is also said to be like the land of Egypt, the bread basket of the middle east, the fertile Nile delta. But steady on, Egypt was the land of idols ruled over by the sun-king Pharaoh and those who looked in admiration to Egypt did not have faith in the providing Lord. Yet the plain of Jordan was chosen by Lot precisely because it reminded him of the impression of fertility the land of Egypt had made on him a few years earlier. Didn’t Lot remember what else happened in Egypt – far more important than the fecundity of the place? Didn’t he hear the alarm bells ringing?
But worse was to come. We are told that the land looked like a garden of the Lord just for a short time, only during the period before the Lord’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It had a temporary fruitfulness, but worse still is to come, that this land where Lot was heading, was near Sodom, and “the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord” (v.13). It all seemed so sensible and right to Lot, and yet there is a way that seems right to men but its end is death. Yet the worst thing of all was this seemingly innocuous and factual statement of verse 12; “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” The implications of that are not initially clear, but what they are telling us is this, that Lot had actually left Canaan, the land of promise and blessing. He had – by the pride of life and wisdom of the world – forfeited the privilege of staying there and benefiting from the great inheritance of this wonderful land. He had by his own free will turned his back on the word of promise, the good news focused in this land. Maybe there were retainers and workmen of both Abram and Lot who had thought that it would be through Lot that the Seed of the woman would come. “Will Abram adopt Lot, his brother’s son and the promised one come through him?” they had perhaps debated it around their camp fires under the Canaan stars. Not any longer. Lot abandoned the land. God was going to work a miracle and was going to provide another seed who knew the value of this promise. So Lot the obstacle was removed by the gracious self-denial of Abram; now a greater and clearer blessing will come upon Abram the sole inheritor of the land.
4. THE LORD CONFIRMS THE BLESSING COMING ON ABRAM.
Because of Abram’s faithfulness and obedience the Lord comes and speaks to Abram in one of the longest divine speeches the old patriarch heard (verses 14 through 17). You might think, “Why doesn’t God speak to us today like that?” Then I would ask you, how often did God speak to Abram? The answer is eight times in a hundred years. That is all, sometimes Abram knew decades of silence, and often the conversations were not about the things we want God to tell us. Abram usually had no control over what was said. There were no Q&A times. I would take the Bible a thousand times before the brief words Abram received from God. I could not live for decades without the word of God. The Lord does speak to us in Scripture, and especially in the preaching of the word week after week. God answers many of our deepest questions in the Bible.
Here the Lord speaks thrillingly to Abram. He tells him how long his descendants would retain the land – for ever (v. 15)! Earlier God had made reference just to the land of Canaan coming to him, but now it is the land as far as Abram’s eyes could see, north, south, east and west, and that would include the land that Lot had chosen, the land outside Canaan. “Can you see it Abram? That’s all that matters.” “Yes, I can see it.” “Then that land I will give to you and your offspring.” God will even expand the promise further a little later recorded in chapter fifteen and verse eighteen, the land will be from the Nile to the Euphrates, this promised land is going to stretch out and out. In other words far beyond what Abram could hope to see from his high vantage point. What are we being told? That Abram must learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Abram is being introduced to the principle of ‘gospel fulness.’ God will not do merely what
he promised – which would be wonderful enough, but he chooses to glorify himself by constantly doing more than he promises, and more than we can ask or even think.
So it will be, as the God’s covenant fulness expands. The seed of Abram received the promised land of Canaan under Joshua, but then they know that there was more because of the fulness promised here in this thirteenth chapter. Under David the land was expanded, and under Solomon that land between the two mighty rivers promised in chapter fifteen was also theirs, but still God wasn’t done. Abraham is going to be the heir of the world, says Paul (Romans 4:13) and so that happens. God’s salvation has reached us in Aberystwyth at the ends of the earth. A vast innumerable multitude is being called out from every corner of the world, all the seed of Abraham. One day soon there will be a new heavens and a new earth of all those who worship the God of Abraham, and it does not yet appear what we shall be. This promise of territory is not to be confined to a little piece of real estate in the eastern Mediterranean that on a globe of the earth you can cover with your finger as you point and say, “This bit is the kingdom of God.” God gives far more and more and more. The Seed of Abraham sits on the throne of the universe and blesses all the families of the earth who believe in him. Those who are meek like Abraham are going inherit the earth itself.
As Abram heard God speak to him in these words before us he was just like all of us who must receive what God promised through faith. The land was full of Canaanites and Perizzites. Abram did not have the title deeds to a square inch of it yet. When he was offering to divide it up with Lot he was like a small boy and his brother dividing up the back garden into the section that belonged to one brother and what belonged to the other. Yet God told Abram to walk around it as if he owned it all, and to ignore the Canaanites and Perizzites because they were not going to be there for much longer. There “Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the Lord” (v.18). Abram is as good as dead and yet his offspring is going to be uncountable, and he worships the God who makes these promises. He is surrounded by enemies, but what God promises he can perform. Nothing can separate Abram from the love of God.
Let us be like Abram, humbling ourselves and trusting God. We have received far more abundant promises than Abram. We do not see it now but by faith we can fix our eyes on it. This inheritance is ours, secured for us by the sacrifice and power of Christ. What strongholds of Satan we see established on the earth, the various kingdoms of men, but Christ has already conquered them by his life and death, so let us walk through this world with the gospel confidently. What can they do to us? If they kill us we will rise again.
5th April 2009 GEOFF THOMAS[I am grateful to feed Bill Baldwin’s insights into this sermon.]