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Dear Christian friends,
This was not a good week. That’s not a good way to start a sermon that is supposed to lift you up, but you can’t deny reality. In our own town I was particularly disturbed when I heard about a shooting in a Kroger’s parking lot inStone Mountain. Two men got into a gun fight but a two year old child was hurt critically. The details went like this. A man tried to mug a woman and a Good Samaritan tried to stop it. The perpetrator, who is still on the loose, started shooting at the Good Samaritan’s car. He took fifteen shots and wounded the Good Samaritan’s two year old child in the abdomen. What’s going on here?
Now let’s travel to Washington DC. This is supposed to be the city that has our nation’s best. The Supreme Court, by a single vote, overturned the result of an entire state’s election to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Now that which is clearly a perversion is being rubbed under the nose of both God and his people. As one person wrote to me this week, we had better start planning for the day they take away our tax exempt status. They will make the case on law now that we discriminate because we call a sin by what it is.
Let’s go to a third. It is something I read. Our present administration is trying to get rid of any references to God in our military. A superior told an Air Force major to remove a Bible from his desk that he kept there for 23 years. An Army lieutenant colonel instructed his subordinates to recognize the “religious right in America” as a domestic hate group like the KKK and Neo-Nazis. An Army master sergeant with 25 years of service faces punishment for serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party. Should we be outraged? You bet we should. But don’t become self-righteous. We are sinners through and through too. We join Abraham’s road trip again today and we that “Even the Godly Quarrel.” 1) There is a reason; 2) There is resolution.
Christians don’t live life on a constant spiritual high. The longer I live, the more I believe that a person who seems happy and positive all the time is covering something. Let’s talk reality. Our Christian lives go up and down like a roller coaster. But just because we might be down, doesn’t mean we aren’t on the roller coaster any more. It doesn’t mean we don’t have faith any more.
Abraham was at a low point when he told his wife Sarah to say that she was his sister rather than his wife so Pharaoh wouldn’t kill him. He might also have lied to Pharaoh about this but that didn’t mean he was faithless. If that last thing that happens to me in my life is that I die in a severe car accident, just because I said a word or a series of words in pain that I would never want to say in the presence of God doesn’t mean I suddenly stopped believing in Jesus.
So it was with Abraham. After Egyptlife went on. As life goes on so do the challenges to our faith. “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 quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s.” Fighting temptation is a 24/7 task. There are the things that are very certainly sinful. There are certain parts of town, certain TV channels, and certain parts of the internet that we must never explore. But it is amazing that even blessings that God gives can and often are sinfully abused.
Abraham and his nephew Lothad been together for a number of years. All the while God made Abraham a rich man, but Lotwas enterprising too. He had his own business as he accompanied his Uncle Abraham. There were lots of herds and people. God had indeed blessed them. After the Egyptfiasco, they moved back to Canaan. There was a problem. The Bible says “the Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.” That made it hard to graze the herds of animals they had. “And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s.” God blessed them, but the shepherds sinned as they showed their selfishness. They began to bicker and bark; there was rivalry and arguments instead of thanksgiving.
Food is a blessing, but we sin when we eat too much or even too little. Money is a blessing to do all kinds of good with it, but we sin when gold and silver become the focus of our lives instead of the treasure stored up in heaven. A good name is a blessing unless we use the possible power with it to manipulate people instead of letting it reflect our core beliefs about Jesus Christ.
The herdsmen of Abraham and Lot weren’t connecting their words and actions with the Lord that Abraham had worshipped at the altar at Bethel. Remember that is where he built an altar and publicly worshipped there.
Sin is what happens when we fail to connect what we learn here with every day living. It is easy to see that life is indeed to be connected with Jesus when we are in these circumstances and sitting among our Christian friends, but we need to take what we learned here out there when we hit the road like Abraham andLothit the road. That’s hard! Our core, our sinful heart makes that hard.
Thankfully the weak Abraham of days gone by changed to a shining example of a godly man as the evidence of his faith soared on that roller coaster. “So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 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.’
I am using the NIV 2011 version. If you have been following the complaints against it, they decided to make an effort to be gender neutral as much as they could. They have gone overboard. Here is one of those times. They translate ‘we are close relatives’ when it should really read ‘brothers.’ But how can that be? Abraham wasn’t Lot’s brother, he is Lot’s uncle, so isn’t close relative correct? The point is when he refers to brothers as the original says, he is speaking like godly people do with one another. We have a greater relationship than being blood kin; we have been washed in the blood of Jesus. We have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. In the Old Testament, even though that lay in the future, it was as good as done. We are God’s family. We are on the same side.
While it is true that even God’s people quarrel among ourselves because we are sinful and have disagreements, we are still members of God’s family. We must never think that whatever the disagreement might be cannot be more important than the salvation that we share. We must never think that there is something in this world that is more important than where we will ultimately be… together in heaven.
So how did they resolve the issue? Abraham took the lead. He was the bigger man. Lot, you choose where you want to go and I will go the other. “Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (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.”
We see two ways to make a decision – one is godly and the other seems sinful flesh driven. Lotwas given the first choice…so he chose. Yet he could have shown a lot more respect to the uncle that had been looking after him all these years. Lotwas hardly a child, but his choice was immature like that of a child. He could have shown more respect for his elder. Do you hear that kids?
There was something else that seems to be even more troubling. “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” These verses seem to intimate why many believe that the cities ofSodom andGomorrah are on the bottom of theDead Sea. What Abraham andLot saw then is not what is there now.
He mentions that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed yet. The plain of theJordanthat he is referring to here was well-watered like it was inEgyptalong theNile. In fact is even compared to the Garden of the Lord – Eden. That’s not true anymore. He is speaking about the area around theDead Sea. Something happened there and did when the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even though it was a well-known fact,Lotchose to live there anyway. The problem most demonstrably displayed is thatLotmade a decision without the Lord as part of the equation to get to the conclusion.
We make decisions everyday. How much does the Lord and his Word figure into them? Do you ask how this might affect your relationship or the relationship of others to the Lord? Do you think thatLotthought if he was going to live there, he needed to have a plan to do mission work so these people would repent? I don’t think so. I think he only saw the lush green pastures. What do you learn fromLot’s bad decision?
Let’s look more closely at Abraham. “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 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 went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.”
There are promises that God gave to Abraham. First, he assured him that the day was coming when all the land would be given to his offspring, the Jewish nation. In fact, one of the things God told Abraham to do was to kick the tires. Go on an inspection tour and see the length and the breadth. It would be theirs forever. Actually, that is how the NIV does the translation. That really means for the indefinite future. Nothing in this world is really forever. One day it will all burn up with fervent heat. Besides, because of their unfaithfulness down the road they would lose the land as in the Babylonian Captivity.
What is most important for us to hear is this promise of God: “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.” That promise of a nation was still coming. Even though Abraham was in his eighties and Sarah her seventies, God would keep that promise. That promise would include the Hebrew nation; that promise included Christ who came from them. He forgives all the bad decisions we make that were not done with the Lord in mind
The book of Proverbs says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail.” It is silly to make plans without including the Lord in them in the first place. He says that his purposes will prevail anyway. So why quarrel about things when 1) too often they are in just stuff that will one day burn up with fervent heat; 2) the Lord will use ultimately for his purposes anyway.