In chapter twelve, Abram is beginning his journey of obedience to Jehovah. Just as our lives of faith have twists and turns, so too did Abram’s, as we saw him look for relief from Egypt when famine came to the Land of Promise. Despite Abram’s sin, God’s grace and protection were present, and he comes back from the Land of the Pharaohs with lots of stuff—excess baggage so to speak.
It’s hard to hear God when stuff gets in the way.
When God called Abram from his land and his people, Abram didn’t set out alone with only his immediate family. No, he included his nephew, Lot, plus servants, flocks and herds. These possessions (including servants like Hagar) multiplied in Egypt, and by the time he returns to the beginning, it’s getting crowded.
My gem for today is found in these first few verses of chapter thirteen:
So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land. Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”Genesis 13:1-9 ESV
Abram went back to Bethel, his beginning with the Lord in the land to which he’d been called. The altar he made there was still there, and at that place, Abram called upon the name of the Lord. However, we don’t hear about a conversation between the two of them. There is no further clarification of the covenant from God—just the sound of men arguing.
Sometimes we need to disengage from our excess baggage.
I’m not saying Lot was a bad man or that Abram didn’t love him, but God’s call on Abram’s life did not include Lot. The Lord separated Abram from his family on purpose in order to fulfill his purposes through him. Has God ever asked you to put a healthy distance between members of your extended family? When God calls, he speaks to us as individuals with unique gifts. There are times when a family member who does not follow Christ can hinder our ability to walk in obedience to the Father.
The Lord needed to separate Abram from his excess baggage and did so by making life difficult due to all their extra stuff. Riches can lead to more problems, not less, when they take our time away from our work for the Kingdom. Just as I questioned whether Abram would have left Egypt if Pharaoh had not kicked him out, I wonder if he would have separated from Lot if there had not been such problems between the workers. We don’t really know, but what we do see is that God gave Abram the wisdom to deal with the issue, whether he realized he was part of the problem or not.
God speaks when the noise is gone.
In a gracious and loving way, Abram offered Lot the first choice of all the land before them. He did this to bring peace and to maintain integrity before the pagan people of the land. He did not want their quarrelling to bring shame on their God.
Once Lot and his crew had moved toward the east, Abram once again had his spacious quiet place to hear the voice of the Lord. Verse 14 lets us know God was pleased with these developments, because he speaks once again to Abram.
“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”Genesis 13:14-17
Just as we sometimes have to say no to things that take our focus off the things of God, so too do we need a healthy distance from people and circumstances that create noise. What excess baggage is hindering you from worship and service of the One True God? He wants your full attention.
Grace and Peace