GENESIS – SERIES NR 12 : For the sake of my brother
Scripture : Genesis 13
Chapter 12 ended with a disappointment and a surprise. The disappointment: That Abram – when famine raged – forgot about the Lord and made plans himself to survive by going to Egypt. The surprise: That the Lord did not forsake Abram, but brought him back to his calling and to worship. In chapter 13 he again builds an altar. And an altar was a symbol of: a) Atonement and forgiveness by the blood of a substituting sacrifice 2) Worship and friendship/relationship with God.
In fellowship with the living God, sin is always exposed. And sin-conviction leads to repentance of sin and forgiveness. Humility and selfdenial lead to liberating victory. And that, without a doubt, bears lasting fruit. One can see that in Genesis 13.
It is true that, with the reading of chapter 12, one feels as if Abram disappoints you so much that you cannot take him seriously any longer. His confession of faith suddenly does not sound very authentic any longer. But chapter 13 cancels out our pessimism, and allows us to see what a deep work God’s grace was actually doing in Abram’s life. His ACTIONS were perfect proof of the authenticity of his connectedness with the Lord. Because ACTION is always the fruit of a true meeting with the Lord – according to James 2. And in 1 John 3 the Apostle John says that someone who is truly born of God, cannot and shall not CONTINUE with committing sin. Yes, Abram DID fail, but he rose again, and in chapter 13 his aunthenticity is clearly visible.
In chapter 13, Abram once more finds himself in a faith-crisis. This time it is not a question of life and death as in chapter 12, but now a more subtle attack is made on his faith-trust. Namely, it is about the demonic temptation of riches and material wealth.
Material welfare never leaves a person unaffected. That is something which can imperceptibly weave a fine web around a human being, and later inject its poison into your veins.
We all suppose that we are protected against this poison. Measured by general standards, you and I may not really be materially very prosperous. But here it is not about the volume of wealth, but about the fact that every person’s possessions are his wealth – whatever it may be. It gets a grip on all of us, because we all so badly want to be possessors – yes to have something in our name provides such security – that is what we think. It makes us feel independant and selfsufficient. What is nicer than to be in control of things yourself?! Who wants to always look into someone else’s eyes for something?
The irony is that, in principle, the Christian-believer is a person who daily has to crucify his/her self and confess complete dependence on the Lord. But the inborn desire to possess and be independent, opposes this. It is a part of every Christian’s daily struggle – as Romans 7 explains it. That which you and I want to possess, so easily takes possession of us. And then the Holy Spirit does not control us. And His fruit does not come to the fore. But the person who is truly born of God, has the desire to be Spirit-filled, and is deeply unhappy and empty when it is not the case. But on the other hand he wants to possess material things and his heart clings to the world. It is the inner conflict Scripture speaks of. And Abram also knew it.
According to Scripture, Abram was a wealthy man. And so was Lot. Lot was his nephew. One can expect that conflict would arise due to the prosperity of these two men. And so it was. They found it impossible to remain together. But what is to be done? Will they now play the game according to the rules of life: “Every man for himself”? According to the rules of life every man fights for himself. Everyone has their rights. Because life is tough!
If Abram and Lot had chosen to take that course, it would have been to Abram’s advantage, because he was the eldest and the tour guide. At the time of the Egypt-episode Abram did indeed try to play according to the rules of life. And almost lost his God. But in the meantime his God held him safe in His covenant-love close to His heart and met with him anew. Abram’s life had changed by the power of the Lord. That is why he was then speaking a new language. Because you see, the love of the Lord came into his heart.
How do we know that Abram’s faith-trust and his filiation to the Lord were authentic? Because – with regards to possessions and prosperity – he made a choice which in no way agreed with fallen human nature. Rather, he made a choice which agreed with the heartbeat of God. He did not in the first place think about the gain or loss of possessions. He thought about the possible loss of a brother in the Lord. Because Lot was not only his nephew. Lot was also a believer. In NT-language therefore, he was Abram’s (spiritual) brother.
Abram therefore, was looking for a solution that would be to Lot’s advantage and would promote good relationships. Even though it could lead to a loss of wordly possessions. The free choice that Abram gave Lot, could have undoubtedly lead to loss for himself. But all that mattered to him was that the quarrelling had to end – “for we are brothers”. For that reason he was prepared to step back and be the least. It is always easy to battle out tension. That is how the world does it and that is how the fallen human mind operates. However, it is a completely different ball game to bow down and subject yourself to the choices of other people – for the sake of the glory of God, the will of God and obedience to God and love for God. Particularly if you can find yourself at the losing end.
It is very clear that it is only the cross of Christ that has to do a deep work in one’s heart in order to get you THERE where Abram was at that stage.
That is why we do not really want to talk about Abram. Because his behaviour casts a judgment upon us. We would rather talk about the proud, selfish, materialistic, ungrateful Lot. Because then we can judge HIM and hide ourselves. Abram’s Christ-likeness puts us in a corner. Lot’s typically human behaviour puts HIM in a corner – and we can stand back at watch. Thus: About whom would we rather speak? About Lot, of course! But about whom would the Lord speak? About Abram, naturally!
But we glance over towards Abram and hear him say: “Lot, we are brothers in the Lord. You choose the land you want, and I will have what you do not want”. And then we think: “How very foolish. What a gamble. How can the man be so naive?”
But that is not the way Abram thought about it! Because the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ was busy doing a deep work in his heart. The Lord was busy operating on him. And Abram chose to steadfastly walk with his God. And a man who lives with the living God, cannot live in enmity with his brothers and sisters in Christ (or actually with anybody). Such a man cannot place himself above others. Because Christ himself chose to leave the beauty of heaven to become human and die on a curse-cross and humiliate Himself unto death to save and redeem sinners.
Self-interest and the burning desire to possess, and to possess more and more and more – do not only destroy one’s spiritual life, prayer-life, and strength and life. It also destroys relationships, and it destroys other people. It is the attitude of Lucifer who thought to himself: “I am not satisfied with the position in which God created me – as bright morningstar – to lead all the angels in worship. I want to rise higher and put my throne ABOVE God”. And the result was that Lucifer lost everything, and in the end will be in the hell of a burning inferno for eternity.
Finally the choice was made and Abram remained behind by himself. Lot departed after choosing the best part of the country for himself. And there was Abram. …
But then the living Lord appeared on the scene.
And the Lord said: “Abram, lift up your eyes”. Perhaps Abram’s head was on his chest. The loss of the fertile plain of Jordan probably did not sit well with him.
But the Lord had something to say to Abram.
Take careful note of what was happening there: The Lord came to connect Himself to Abram all over again. And He connected Abram to Himself. Abram might have lost the plains of Jordan. But he gained God himself. The Lord’s blessings were poured out over him in great measure.
“Lift up your eyes, Abram. You have no reason to feel depressed. You are a man with a future. The entire land belongs to you. Because the earth belongs to ME – and the fullness thereof. And you, Abram, you who are trying to walk and live with Me, you are a child of God because I have made you so. You are heir of your Father. And your Father will take care of you. Look up, Abram. Look with the eye of faith-confidence and faith-expectation”.
At one stage a great temptation to possess and be independent was laid before the Son of God – Jesus Christ – also. We read about that in Matthew 4. All the kingdoms of the earth were presented to Him. All He had to do in return, was to think only of Himself for once. If He had given in to the temptation for only that moment, He would not have been able to be our Saviour. But, as our substitute, He told satan NO. When He denied Himself that day and placed God’s glory above everything – it was in your and my place. His victory is our victory. And it is already accomplished! He humiliated Himself by being obedient unto death onto the cross. It is this heartbeat that the Holy Spirit “transplants” onto everyone who becomes a child of God through repentance and trust on Jesus.
When Abram put His spiritual brother first that day, he was – unknowingly – a living prophecy of who Jesus would be on earth and was to do centuries later. Yes, Abram already had the attitude and spirit of the cross inside himself. But, by his behaviour he was also a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-5, he did not give us an impossible or inhuman law. He made an appeal to the riches which were already present in the life of every regenerated person’s life. The riches just have to come to the fore, that is all.
Listen to what Paul wrote:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Translated by Marthie Wilson