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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Lift up your eyes to behold the promises of God
Text:Genesis 13:12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2016-06-19
Added:2016-06-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 125:1,2

Psalm 119:44

Psalm 111:1,3,5

Psalm 73:8

Psalm 25:7

 

Read:  Genesis 13

Text:  Genesis 13:12

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Like many of you, my family likes to go camping.  When we camp we try to get off the beaten track and find a quiet place in the outback, on the banks of a river or, more often,  on the beach.  But when we get to our destination and it is time to set up camp, it normally takes a little while to decide where to place our camper, just where it should be positioned.  And it is not so much the wind that is the determining factor for us, but the outlook, the view.  We want it that when we sit up in bed in the morning and look out the window or when we come out of our tent that what we see is that beautiful white beach, the ocean or whatever it is that we came for.  And in the evening we love to sit in front of our tent or our camper, cup of tea or glass of wine in hand and watch the sun set over the horizon.  And so we pitch our tent towards the ocean or the outback that is calling to us.

But what about you?  Where have you pitched your tent?  What are you looking towards?  What is your focus?  And now I am not asking this so much with your favorite campsite in mind, but figuratively speaking.  What is your outlook on life?  What attracts you, what is drawing you in?  What is most important thing to you – and how does that influence what you do?

We read together from Genesis 13.  Genesis 13:12 says that Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain.  And then it says this:

“and [Lot] pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.”

Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom.  That’s what he – and his wife and daughters – saw when they woke up in the morning.  And that’s what they were looking at when the sun set over the horizon every day again.  Sodom.  Where the men “were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.”  (Genesis 13:13) 

But Abram pitched his tent somewhere else.  Abram lived in the land of Canaan.  And, more importantly, where Abram pitched his tent, he built an altar and there he called on the name of the LORD.  And so whereas Lot lifted up his eyes to behold the wicked city of Sodom, Abram lifted up his eyes to behold the wonderful promises of God. 

And that’s what I wish to preach to you about this morning.  I do so under the following theme:

Lift up your eyes to behold the promises of God.

  1. What Lot saw by sight.
  2. What Abram received by faith.

 

1. What Lot saw by sight.

In Genesis 13 we not only see a stark contrast between Abram and Lot, but we also see a stark contrast between Abram now, in chapter 13 and Abram in Egypt in chapter 12.

In Genesis 12 the LORD had commanded Abram to leave all that was near and dear to him and go to the land of Canaan.  When he arrived in Canaan the LORD appeared to him and said,

“To your descendants I will give this land.”  (Genesis 12:7)

And Abram believed God, he built an altar to the LORD and he worshipped Him.  But then there was a famine, and Abram’s faith faltered.  Abram went down to Egypt and when he was there it appears as though he forgot all about God’s promises; indeed he forgot about God Himself.  But the LORD was gracious and he rescued Abram as well as Sarai, and Pharaoh sent them back to Canaan.

And then comes Genesis 13.

“Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot went with him, to the South.”

And reading on in verse 3,4:

“And [Abram] went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first.  And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.”

Abram had failed in Egypt and his faith had faltered.  But the LORD had restored him and now Abram went back to where he had first worshipped the LORD.  It is beautiful how the Bible describes this.  Abram was a man of faith, but the Bible does not gloss over the times that his faith failed.  But the Bible also teaches us about God’s grace, how Abram was restored and how he then turned and worshipped the LORD once more.  And so Genesis 13 describes how Abram’s focus was back on the Lord, how his tent was pitched towards him.

There are two other points to take note of in the first verses of Genesis 13: that Lot was with him and that both Abram and Lot were very rich. 

The first time we read about Lot is in Genesis 11 where we learn that Lot was the son of Haran, Abram’s brother.  Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.  And Lot went with Abram and Sarai, as well as Terah his grandfather, to go to Canaan. 

  The Book of Genesis does not give us a very favorable impression of Lot and chapter 13 presents him as a greedy and a self-centred man.  Be that as it may, however, the New Testament teaches us that he was a believer.  2 Peter 2:7,8 describes Lot as a righteous man who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked men of Sodom, and whose righteous soul was tormented from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.

  So Lot was not a godless man.  He was, however, a weak man in many respects, a man who lost everything on account of his sinful foolishness, and a man who would have lost his own soul had it not been for God’s saving grace.

Now after Abram’s father Terah died, Lot remained with Abram, and he went with Abram from the city of Haran to Canaan.  Genesis 12:4,

“So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.  And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”

And as Lot accompanied Abram from Ur to Haran to Canaan and later to Egypt and back to Canaan, he shared in the blessings of Abram.  Lot was blessed so much, in fact, that not only does Genesis 13:2 say that

“Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold”

but, verse 5,

            “Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents.”

But that led to a problem.  Verse 6 and 7.

“Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell 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.  The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.”

That should not have happened.  Someone was at fault here, and that was Lot.  Remember that Lot was Abram’s nephew.  Further, it was Abram – not Lot – who received both God’s call and His promises.  Lot, who accompanied Abram, had effectively been piggy-backing on the blessings that came to Abram, and so Lot should have deferred to Abram.  If there was strife between Lot’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Abram, Lot should have clamped down on this, apologized to Abram and done all he could to make things right.  But Lot did not do so, and the impression that you get from what came after is that Lot was driven by his desire to become even richer than he already was.  And so it was that the blessings of God became the very thing that divided them and Abram felt obliged to part ways and separate himself from Lot.

It was Lot’s wrong doing, his greed and his failure to honour his uncle Abram that led to this situation, but it was also God’s will that this should happen.  When the LORD had first called Abram He had told him to leave his father’s house because the LORD would make him, not Lot, into a great nation, a new people, separate from all others. 

And then Abram said to Lot in Genesis 13:8,9

“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; of, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”

That was an incredible thing for Abram to say.  Abram was the uncle, he was the one to whom God had given His promises and all that Lot had was on account of him.  Abram could have said many things.  He could have insisted that whatever Lot had was really his.  He could have given Lot a stern warning, commanding his herdsmen to stay away and not to cause trouble.  He could have sent Lot back to the South, the Negev, or even back to the city of Haran or to Ur of the Chaldeans.  But he did not do this.  Instead he pleaded that there be no strife between them, and he invited Lot to take the best part of the land.

And there we see that although Abram was rich, he did not set his heart on his riches, he did not pitch his tent towards them.  Instead he had set his heart on God and on living peacefully in the land.  Abram lived by faith and not by sight.

But not Lot.  Lot was greedy.  Lot wanted to be rich.  And now that he was rich, he wanted even more.  And he wanted that more than he wanted to submit to his uncle Abram and live at peace with them.  He would assert his dominance, he would permit – or even encourage – his herdsmen to get the best grass and water for his animals.  And that is why there was strife between them.  That is why there was trouble between the herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abram.

But Abram was different.  Abram looked to God, the One who had blessed Him.  Abram trusted in God’s promises.  Abram walked by faith and not by sight.  And Abram, Hebrews 11 tells us, confessed that he was a stranger and a pilgrim on earth.  By faith Abram desired a better country, a heavenly one.

And it is amazing how that changes your outlook.  When your focus is on God and on His eternal promises, when your tent is pitched towards Him, then you will not be insisting on your own rights and on getting what you can, squeezing the last cent out of the person you have a conflict with.   Then you will be more than ready to listen to what God says in 1 Corinthians 6:7,

“Why do you not rather accept wrong?  Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?”

Because a love for God and a refusal to let anything get between you and Him will enable you to let go of the things of this world.  You see, the less energy we spend on ourselves, getting the best things for ourselves, getting what we consider to be our right, the less energy we spend on these things, the more energy we have to spare for better things.  And then the more we will look forward to those better things.  I do not mean to say that Christians should be door mats: there are times when, for God’s glory, for our neighbour’s good, and for the pursuit of justice, that we must speak out.  But if our focus is on God, on loving Him and on the good of our neighbor, then we will be prepared to suffer loss for Christ’s sake.

But Lot did not think in these terms.  Lot lifted up his eyes and he saw the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, that it was like the garden of Eden and like the irrigated parts of Egypt.  Lot saw it, he saw that it was good, and Lot wanted it for himself.  Genesis 13:11,

“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east.  And they separated from each other.”

What Lot saw by sight was a well watered land that would solve the problem of how he would feed his ever-growing herd of animals.  What Lot saw by sight was a land that would give him everything he wanted.  What Lot saw by sight was a land that would make him rich.  And so Lot went.  But he walked by sight and not by faith.  Because if he had walked by faith, Lot would never have gone there.  If he had walked by faith he would never have separated himself from Abram, the one through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed.  If he had walked by faith he would never have left the altar which Abram had made and where Abram had called upon the name of the LORD.  But Lot walked by sight.  And so he left Abram and he went down into the green and fertile Jordan valley.  And Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and he pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 

But there were no believers in Sodom.  Rather, Genesis 13:3 tells us,

“the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.”

There were no believers in Sodom; just green grass for Lot’s sheep and cattle.  Lot was a righteous man, the Bible tells us, but right now he did not make a righteous decision.  Lot was not thinking about God, nor was he thinking about God’s promises to Abram.  Lot may have believed in God but right now the things of this world were far more important.  And so Lot turned his back on God’s altar and he pitched his tent towards Sodom.

And it is so sad to see what happened to Lot, his wife and his family after that.  It all started with Lot lifting up his eyes in Genesis 13:10 and seeing that the land around the Jordan River was green and well watered.  It all started with him setting his heart on that, and not being concerned about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah.  From there Lot moved down and pitched his tent on the outskirts of Sodom.  But it did not end there.  In Genesis 14:12 we learn that Lot dwelt in Sodom and in Genesis 19, when the two angels came to Sodom, they found him sitting in the gate.  Although he still had his morals and he was troubled by the filthy conduct of the men of Sodom, Lot had joined them at the city gate; he had become one of them.  And when Sodom was destroyed, Lot escaped by the skin of his teeth but he lost his wife, he lost his house, he lost his money, he lost his animals.  He lost it all.

But what about you?  Where have you pitched your tent?  What is your outlook on life?  What is most important for you?  What do you hope to gain?  The devil wants you to believe that it is OK to pitch your tent towards Sodom, to look at and to become captivated with the sinful cravings of a godless world.  The devil wants you to think that its ok, that you can have all of this and God at the same time. But it is a lie!  You can not do this!  You can not pitch your tent towards God and pitch your tent towards the things that pull you away from God at the same time!  And so I ask you: where have you pitched your tent?  What do you want from this life?  What is most important for you?  Do not turn your back on God!  Do not neglect God’s promises nor His claim on your life.  Do not look towards Sodom, but direct your focus upon God!  Hold on to Him.  Stay close to Him.  Worship Him and trust Him.

2. What Abram received by faith.

When Lot left to go towards Sodom, Abram and Sarai were all alone.  The LORD had told Abram in Genesis 12:1 to get out of his country, from his family and from his father’s house, and now with Lot gone, the last thread, the last connection to his family and his old life in Ur of the Chaldeans had been cut. 

But Abram and Sarai were not really alone.  The LORD was with them, His blessing remained on them and His promises remained.  And so when Lot separated from Abram, the LORD appeared to Abram once again and He repeated the promises He had made before.  And so the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him:

“Lift your eyes now.”  (Genesis 13:14.)

“Lift your eyes now.”  In chapter 13:10 Lot had lifted up his eyes, had seen the well watered Jordan Valley and had left for Sodom.  But now Abram is told to lift his eyes and see the land.  And the Lord said further in verse 14,15

“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 as Abram lifted up his eyes and he looked from the place where he stood, he would have seen the land of Canaan all the way to Mount Herman in the north, the Jordan Valley in the East, the Dead Sea and the Negev in the South and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.   And as Abram lifted up his eyes and saw all of this, he heard God say to him, “Abram, I will give this to you and to your descendants after you.  All of it.  Forever.”

And concerning those descendants the LORD promised Abram saying,

“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.”

Lot may have gone and Abram and Sarai might now be all alone, separated from their family, but they would not remain alone: Abram would be the father and Sarai the mother of a great nation, so great that it could not be numbered.

And then God told Abram in Genesis 13:17,

“Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”

Walk in it, Abram!  Walk north and south, east and west and believe that it will be yours – all of it!  And so it would be!

And Abram believed God.  He trusted God’s promises to him, he took Him at His word. Abram moved his tents, he walked in the land and he went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron.  And there he built another altar to the LORD. 

And so Genesis 13 tells us about two men, Lot and Abram.  Lot lifted up his eyes and, walking by sight, chose the things that are seen.  But when Abram lifted up his eyes he walked by faith and chose the things that are unseen.  And for that, Abram would be blessed.   Not because he deserved it, nor because his faith was so strong.  But he would be blessed because God would keep His promises.

And how would God do that? 

Many years later there would be two others standing on a high mountain, lifting up their eyes and seeing the kingdoms of this world:  Jesus and Satan.  In Matthew 4, just before He was to start His public ministry and when Jesus was in the wilderness the devil took him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And the devil said to Him,

“All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

It may seem strange that Satan was offering the kingdoms of the world to Jesus.  Psalm 24 says

“The earth is the LORD’S and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.”

And the Lord Jesus had come, Psalm 2 tells us, to take the nations for His inheritance and the ends of the earth for His possession.  But since the world had fallen in sin and was therefore under the bondage of Satan, Satan now offered it to Jesus – if only the Lord Jesus would fall down and worship him.

  But God the Father had marked out another way for the Son to receive the kingdoms of the world.  The Son would receive all authority in heaven and on earth by the way of suffering and the way of the cross.  But now Satan was offering all of this without suffering, in a way that avoided the cross.  But Jesus would not listen; instead He said,

“Away with you, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

If Jesus had listened, if He had walked by sight and not by faith, if He had bowed down to Satan he may have received the world, but He would have received a world without us.  But Jesus went from there and he walked the length and the breadth of Canaan until He came to Jerusalem.  And there He died so that we might live.  It is because Jesus Christ was faithful to the end that Abram received not just the land, not just descendants, but He received all that was promised to him.  It is because Jesus Christ was faithful that he received what Hebrews 11 calls the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and that He could receive a better country – a heavenly one.

And because Jesus did this, because He was faithful to the end, when we also lift up our eyes to behold the promises of God, we will receive what He has promised.  So turn to Him, pitch your tent towards Zion, towards the heavenly Jerusalem, walk by faith and not by sight, and you will receive what God has promised.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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