Have you ever “pushed the envelope?” Waited a bit longer to service your car than you should have or asked for an extension on a deadline? Left clothes in the dryer and pushed the “touch up” button hoping extra drying time would help the wrinkles fall out that have formed because you left the clothes in the dryer overnight? A little more time, an extra day, a curved grading scale, surely it can’t hurt anyone or anything.
By now you are familiar with Abraham; you know about God’s promises to him and the journey God took him on to fulfill those promises. There’s another interesting character in the story of Abraham whose ability to “push the envelope” amazes me: Abraham’s nephew Lot.
Lot accompanied Abraham on his journey to the land God was giving him and as their time together unfolded, so did their relationship. God blessed Abraham and his household (including Lot) so much that there wasn’t enough land for all their herds of sheep and cattle (Genesis 13:6,7). Their herdsmen began to argue over the issue; obviously the situation was intense for Abraham decided to approach Lot. The land where they were wasn’t large enough to sustain them and a decision had to be made to defuse the tensions that were building. Abraham told Lot to pick where to settle first; Abraham said he would take whatever Lot did not choose.
Genesis 13:8-11 NKJ “So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 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. And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of 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 toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.”
Lot chose what appeared to be the better land in the direction of Sodom, away from the Promised Land. It seemed Abraham got the “lesser deal” but it wasn’t until his nephew Lot left that the scope of God’s promise was revealed to him:
Genesis 13:14-17 NKJ “And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.’”
There are times when we need to choose between things like friendship, vocation, education, home, or social status due to the conflict of interest that arises when our herds attempt to share the same pasture. We assume being at peace with one another means we must be together but that’s not what we see here in the example of Abraham and Lot.
Lot’s eyes were set on what appeared to be the better land, in some commentaries it states that the land he chose was so lush it was reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. It was indeed beautiful land, but in it were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. As we know just a chapter later, in Genesis 14, Lot was captured by the kings of the area and needed a rescue. Just like a good uncle, Abram (later Abraham) rushed to his rescue, chasing off his captors.
Once Lot is safe, Abram returns home. On his way home, he meets with Melchizedek the King of Salem (who is later seen in the book of Hebrews who we know to be Christ Himself) and a covenant is made between Abram and God. Abram goes on to see God’s promises unfold in his life, but Lot always seems to be lurking in the background in need of a rescue.
While Lot was saved by Abram, he never left the land he had originally chosen and found himself living in the most depraved of societies of the time: Lot lived in Sodom. News reached Abram of God’s intention to destroy Sodom and it’s twin city, Gomorrah – and he interceded. His heart was never far from Lot, despite his ever-increasing need for rescue.
How must’ve Abram felt? He had his own issues he was working on, the mothers of his two children, Ishmael and Isaac, were not happy with one another at all, he had a vast estate to care for, and Lot always seemed to be in serious trouble. At this time, Abram had little he could do but pray for Lot.
In Genesis 19:1-29 angels sent by God arrived at Lot’s home to warn him and his family of impending destruction. As you read those verses, you’ll see that Lot did everything he could to push the envelope for as long as he could to stay in the city. One wonders why didn’t Lot leave the night the angels came? Why did he delay leaving until the next morning?
Finally, almost by force, the angels fled with Lot, his wife and daughters from the city:
Genesis 19:16 NKJ “And while he (Lot) lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”
Lot pushed the envelope for as long as he could, and was nearly destroyed in the judgment God brought on the city. It was only out of God’s Divine mercy that he survived. His wife, looking back, was turned into a pillar of salt.
What is so appealing to the lives we leave behind that causes us to delay obeying, to look back, to what is only meant for destruction?
The reason can be found in the differences between Lot and Abram’s relationships with God. Abram was familiar with God, he knew His voice, and throughout his life obeyed Him immediately without hesitation. Lot, on the other hand, is not recorded as even having had one communication of his own with God. He most likely didn’t even recognize his visitors that fateful night at his house were angels sent from God.
How can we recognize God’s voice? Know when He is giving us direction? By getting to know Him through spending time with Him. Abram was so familiar with God that he, while far from perfect, somehow kept on course to the promise that God had given him. God doesn’t expect any of us to be perfect, but He does expect us to spend time with Him for He knows exactly how frail we are:
Psalm 103:14 NKJ “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
We would do well to understand that we “are dust” and without Him, we are hopeless. If we could bear that in mind, we would endeavour, like Abraham, to spend more time with Him in His Word, in worship, and in prayer, and less time trying to figure life out on our own.
I’m feeling a bit dusty today. I need His Presence in my life to secure my feet to the ground so the winds of life won’t blow my dust away.