I have to admit upfront that I’m not sure how to explain the passage this morning. The story of Abram and Lot is one I recall being told as a child in Sunday school. The impression I always got was that Lot was greedy and left Abram with the land that wasn’t as good. Abram made out well in the end but not because of Lot, rather in spite of him.
2 Peter 2:7-9 tells us that Lot was a righteous man however.
“…and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
In Genesis 13 we are also introduced to a man named Melchizedek of whom we know almost nothing. Yet the book of Hebrews talks about him at length in comparing him to Jesus. As a matter of fact, Hebrews speaks more of Melchizedek than Genesis does.
So this morning we have two relatively minor characters who appear again in the New Testament. Despite their importance, it is difficult to know exactly what to say about them.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 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.
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.”
Abram is the peacemaker in this story. He is Lot’s uncle, so he should be the one to initiate any deal between them but I get the sense that it is more than just maturity that separates the two men. We should note that Abram and Lot were not fighting. This is not a case that they can’t get along and decide to part ways. Rather, they have too much wealth for them to stay in the same place. Their herds spread out too far and eat too much for them to stay together. There is no compromise to be found. It’s not as if Abram could say, “Have your herdsmen feed on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and mine will feed on Tuesday Thursday, Saturday. This way they won’t get in each other’s way.”
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.
Lot chose the land to the east which was best suited for herds. This is the land known as the Jordan River Valley. It forms the eastern boundary of modern day Israel. It was the boundary which the Israelites crossed over when they entered the Promised Land with Joshua.
We are given some foreshadowing of what will take place with Sodom and Gomorrah. It is noted that the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning against the Lord. It appears as if Lot is choosing a sinful lifestyle over what is best but this isn’t the case. Lot chooses what he believes is the best place for his herds and his family. Unfortunately it is located in an area that is overrun by sin. Lot had no desire to participate in the sin and was very distressed by it.
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.”
Although Lot appears to take the best land for herds, God reassures Abram that he will do just fine. God tells him that his descendants will possess the land in every direction, including the area that Lot had chosen.
God has already promised the land to Abram when He called him. This is a reconfirmation of that commitment as well as giving him an idea of how expansive his children’s inheritance will be. Several more times this covenant will be confirmed and God will specify more and more how far the land of Abraham’s descendants will stretch.
To this day, Israel has not occupied all of the land that God promised. The boundaries that God specified later extend all the way into modern day Iraq. This means that God is not finished with the nation of Israel.
There are two ways of dealing with the promises given to Israel today. Theologians more or less fall into two different camps. One group says that Israel has rejected their Messiah and so God has accepted the church in their place. Jesus warned the Israelites that they shouldn’t feel assured because they were children of Israel because God raise children of Abraham out of the stones. This view believes that all of the promises that were given to Abraham and his descendants are now passed on to the church. This means that certain passages must be spiritualized. For instance, David was promised that his seed would reign on his throne, meaning the Messiah. If you believe that God is done with Israel and that the church has taken its place, there is no literal throne for Jesus to reign on. Instead it is a spiritual reign within the hearts of Christians.
The more literal view is the one that I hold to. It looks at Israel and the church as two separate entities. Israel lost its position of favor so the speak but will regain it again. Without going into any detail, this is what Romans 11 says. The branch of Israel will be cut off from the olive tree but will be grafted back in later on.
This view believes that God is not finished with Israel. Currently we live in the church age but the church will be removed through the rapture. In the millennial kingdom God will complete all of His promises to Israel in a very real way, literally as they were given to Abraham and those who came after him.
There is another story of Lot that I want to briefly touch on. Without reading all of the details, Lot ends up as a prisoner of war. Five kings in the region that he lived were paying tribute to a group of four kings. They rebel but lose their war. In their retreat, Lot is captured.
For starters, we shouldn’t think of kings in this instance as we would today. A king would be much closer to a mayor today but because nations have not been firmly established, each city is like a nation unto itself. The cities war amongst each other in much the same way that nations would. Each city may only be a few thousand people but they are ruled by kings. The modern idea would be if the mayor of one city decided to go to war against a neighboring city. And by city I mean a town of a few thousand, not New York City declaring war on Chicago. Despite the smaller numbers, it doesn’t make what happens next any less impressive.
13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
No matter how small the kingdoms are that Abram goes up against, he succeeds with 318 men where five kingdoms had failed. We should note that Abram’s group is impressively large considering Abram does not have a family of his own. These are either other relatives that came along with Abram or they are children of servants and herdsmen. Whoever these people specifically are, it seems like a large number of people to be with Abram but it is a testament to how God has blessed him to this point.
Likewise, Abram succeeds not only because he appears to have a superior strategy but undoubtedly because God is with him in this.
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
From out of nowhere appears Melchizedek, king of Salem. He was a king of the region but was not directly involved in the fighting. He was likely effected by the fighting however and he was definitely aware of who Abram was.
I don’t break down the meaning of names too often, but there is a lot of significance here. King of Salem means king of peace. By no coincidence is Salem what would later be known as Jerusalem. So Melchizedek is king of peace, the king of Jerusalem. Likewise, the name Melchizedek means King of Righteousness.
Melchizedek is what is known as a type. He is a foreshadowing of who Christ will be. Melchizedek is both priest God Most High and king. This couldn’t occur in Israel because the priestly line was from Levi and the kingly line was from Judah. But it occurred in Jesus as the book of Hebrews speaks at length of Jesus as our high priest.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
Abram will not accept anything from Sodom for good reason. He knows their reputation. He wants nothing to do with them and he doesn’t want them to be able to take any credit for anything that happens to him in the future. God will be the one responsible for blessing Abram and God will be the one to receive the proper credit when that time comes.
Of course Sodom will show up in Genesis again later and Lot will be involved in the story as well. A second time Lot will be rescued but Sodom will get what the city has coming to it for its wickedness. That is a story for another time however.