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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 13". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ genesis-13.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 13". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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Abraham went up out of Egypt
The believer learning from his great enemy
It is an old saying that “It is lawful to learn from an enemy.
” The patriarch had sojourned in the world’s kingdom, and had learned those solemn lessons which, as it too often happens, only a bitter experience can teach. He returned a sadder, but a wiser man. The believer who has fallen into the world’s snares, or comes dangerously near to them, learns--
I. THAT IT IS NOT SAFE TO LEAVE THE PATHS MARKED OUT BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
1. While we are in the path of Providence, we may expect Divine direction.
2. When we leave the paths of Providence, we are thrown upon the resources of our own wisdom and strength, and can only expect failure.
3. Every step we take from the paths of Providence only increases the difficulty of returning.
II. THAT THE FRIENDSHIP OF THE WORLD INVOLVES DEEP SPIRITUAL LOSS. In Abraham’s ease--
1. The delicacy of the moral principle was injured.
2. There was actual spiritual loss.
III. THAT THE SOUL’S SAFETY IS BEST SECURED BY REVISITING, IN LOVING MEMORY, THE SCENES WHERE GOD WAS FIRST FELT AND KNOWN.
1. He is aided by remembering the strength and fervour of his early faith and love.
2. Memory may become a means of grace. It is well for us to look backwards, as well as forwards by the anticipations of hope. What God has done for us in the past is a pledge of what He will do in the future, if we continue faithful to His grace. We may use memory to encourage hope.
IV. THERE MUST BE A FRESH CONSECRATION TO GOD. Abram went at once to Bethel, where at the beginning he had pitched his tent, and built an altar to God. There he “called on the name of the Lord.” This implies a fresh consecration of himself, and points out the method by which we may recover our spiritual loss. Such a fresh consecration is necessary, for there are no other channels of spiritual blessing, but those by which it first flowed to us. There is no new way of restoration. We must come back to Him who first gave us our faith and made reconciliation. This renewed consecration of ourselves to God involves--
1. The acknowledgment of our sin. It was sin that made, at first, our reconciliation with God necessary, and fresh sin renews the obligation to seek His face.
2. The conviction that propitiation is necessary to obtain the favour of God.
3. The open profession of our faith. (T. H. Leale.)
Abram’s return, etc
I. THE RETURN OF ABRAM.
II. THE REQUEST OF ABRAM.
III. THE REWARD OF ABRAM.
1. Forgetting the earthly inheritance.
2. Foreshadowing the heavenly inheritance. (W. Adamson.)
Abraham and Lot
I. THE PERFECTNESS OF GOD’S RESTORING GRACE.
1. God brought him back to Bethel.
2. The effect on Abraham. We find him no longer self-seeking and self-dependent. He asks counsel of God; he defers to others; is meek under provocation; and leaves himself wholly to God.
II. A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF A PIOUS RICH MAN. You will observe two things about Abraham as a rich man.
1. His conduct in relation to God.
2. His conduct toward Lot.
1. In regard to God, he worshipped Him in every place (Genesis 13:4; Genesis 18:1-33). This involves more than at first sight appears. Abraham was living in the midst of idolaters. To worship God was a bold act. It was also a public act. It was one which involved much expense.
2. In regard to Lot. His conduct displays disinterestedness, love to his nephew, and firm faith in God. From this narrative we may learn two subordinate truths--
1. The children of God may come to acquire much worldly property.
2. The saints of God may possess property.
III. THE FOLLY OF SELF-SEEKING. We see this in the case of Lot. (T. G.Horton.)
1. God’s saints delay not to follow God’s Providence, opening a way to them from the place of trial.
2. God knoweth how to deliver His fully, that nothing of theirs shall be wanting (Genesis 13:2).
3. Weight of riches in the world is sometimes God’s portion given to His.
4. Not possession of wealth, but inordinate affection and abuse of it, is the sin (Genesis 13:2).
5. Riches cannot hinder believers from going after God where He calleth them.
6. Saints breathe after their first communion with God, after distractions from it (Genesis 13:3).
7. No place contents a gracious heart but where God may be enjoyed.
8. The name of the Lord is that which draweth the hearts of saints from all enjoyments, to delight in it, publish it, and call upon it (Genesis 13:4). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
By retracing his steps and returning to the altar at Bethel, he seems to acknowledge that he should have remained there through the famine in dependence on God. Whoever has attempted a similar practical repentance, visible to his own household and affecting their place of abode or daily occupations, will know how to estimate the candour and courage of Abram. To own that some distinctly marked portion of our life, upon which we entered with great confidence in our own wisdom and capacity, has come to nothing and has betrayed us into reprehensible conduct, is mortifying indeed, To admit that we have erred and to repair our error by returning to our old way and practice, is what few of us have the courage to do. If we have entered on some branch of business or gone into some attractive speculation, or if we have altered our demeanour towards some friend, and if we are finding that we are thereby tempted to doubleness, to equivocation, to injustice, our only hope lies in a candid and straightforward repentance, in a manly and open return to the state of things that existed in happier days and which we should never have abandoned. Sometimes we are aware that a blight began to fall on our spiritual life from a particular date, and we can easily and distinctly trace an unhealthy habit of spirit to a well-marked passage in our outward career; but we shrink from the sacrifice and shame involved in a thoroughgoing restoration of the old state of things. We are always so ready to fancy we have done enough, if we get one heartfelt word of confession uttered; so ready, if we merely turn our faces towards God, to think our restoration complete. Let us make a point of getting through mere beginnings of repentance, mere intention to recover God’s favour and a sound condition of life, and let us return and return till we bow at God’s very altar again, and know that His hand is laid upon us in blessing as at the first. (M. Dods, D. D.)
Abram was very rich
Wealth in both worlds
Abram, whilst “very rich,” was TRULY GODLY.
II. Whilst “very rich,” Abram was VERY godly.
III. Abram, whilst “very rich,” highly VALUED “A GOOD NAME.”
IV. Abram, whilst “very rich,” TAUGHT HIS CHILDREN TO TRUST, not in uncertain riches, but IN THE LIVING GOD who gave them richly all things to enjoy.
V. Whilst “very rich,” he was VERY GENEROUS.
VI. Whilst “very rich” Abram did not forget that his riches were NOT HIS OWN.
VII. Whilst “very rich” in earthly possessions, HE SET NOT HIS HEART UPON THEM. Conclusion:
1. It is a very noticeable and suggestive fact, that the thought of the earthly riches of Abram has a very limited place in the minds of men.
2. Rich or poor in this world, we all need to be poor in spirit.
3. Rich or poor, we may have “durable riches” through Jesus Christ. (Joseph Elliot.)
Riches to be made useful to others
Wherefore doth the Lord make your cup run over, but that other men’s lips might taste the liquor? The showers that fall upon the highest mountains should glide into the lowest valleys. (T. Secker.)
What can wealth do?
The following story is told of Jacob Ridgeway, a wealthy citizen of Philadelphia, who died many years ago, leaving a fortune of five or six million dollars. “Mr. Ridgeway,” said a young man with whom the millionaire was conversing, “you are more to be envied than any gentleman I know.” “Why so?” responded Mr. Ridgeway; “I am not aware of any cause for which I should be particularly envied.” “What, sir!” exclaimed the young man in astonishment. “Why you are a millionaire! Think of the thousands your income brings every month!” “Well, what of that?” replied Mr. Ridgeway. “All I get out of it is my victuals and clothes, and I can’t eat more than one man’s allowance and wear more than a suit at a time. Pray can’t you do as much?” “Ah, but,” said the youth, “think of the hundreds of fine houses you own, and the rentals they bring you.” “What better am I off for that?” replied the rich man. “I can only live in one house at a time; as for the money I receive for rents, why I can’t eat it or wear it; I can only use it to buy other houses for other people to live in; they are the beneficiaries, not I.” “But you can buy splendid furniture, and costly pictures, and fine carriages and horses--in fact, anything you desire.” “And after I have bought them,” responded Mr. Ridgeway, “what then? I can only look at the furniture and pictures, and the poorest man, who is not blind, can do the same. I can ride no easier in a fine carriage than you can in an omnibus for five cents, without the trouble of attending to drivers, footmen, and ostlers; and as to anything I ‘desire,’ I can tell you, young man, that the less we desire in this world, the happier we shall be. All my wealth can’t buy a single day more of life--cannot buy back my youth--cannot procure me power to keep afar off the hour of death; and then, what will all avail, when in a few short years at most, I lie down in the grave and leave it all forever? Young man, you have no cause to envy me.”
Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first
Abram’s journey to the place of the altar
HIS LOVE TO THE LAND OF PROMISE, WHICH ALL THE ATTRACTIONS OF EGYPT COULD NOT EXTINGUISH OR OVERPOWER.
II. HIS VENERATION FOR THE PLACE WHERE GOD FIRST APPEARED TO HIM. There may be in the journey of life many inviting scenes, many fertile spots, but there is no place like the place of the altar. From this spot nothing that Egypt and the intermediate countries could offer was able to divert Abram. He came back prosperous, but his heart was unchanged. Time is apt to wear out the sense of mercies. Many in their travels leave religion behind them.
III. HIS CONCERN WHEREVER HE WAS TO ERECT HIS ALTAR. Wherever we go we must take our religion with us.
1. As a public profession.
2. As keeping up family religion. Wherever he had a tent God had an altar. (T. H. Leale.)
The place of the altar
1. It commemorated Divine communications (Genesis 12:7-8).
2. It expressed a practical faith. He took possession of the land, not by issuing a decree, etc., but by thus acknowledging God.
3. It attested an unchanging piety. He had grown rich (Genesis 13:2) but did not forget God (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).
4. It denoted a wise householder’s forethought. At the first he built the altar near the tent (Genesis 12:8). Now he pitched his tent near the altar. Man’s home and God’s house should be contiguous.
5. But these old altars are obsolete. It was intended for sacrifice. “Henceforth,” etc., comp. Hebrews 10:26, and Hebrews 9:11-14. This sacrifice final. No altar now needed. As the altar was a place of meeting, so the word is now applied to Christian sanctuaries, which are--
(1) places of sacred communion;
(2) of Divine worship;
(3) of Christian fellowship;
(4) of neighbourly gathering. (J. C. Gray.)
There was a strife between the herdmen
Strife between brethren
AS TO THE CAUSES OF IT.
1. Worldly prosperity.
2. The mean ambition of ignoble souls associated with us.
3. The want of the obliging nature.
II. AS TO THE EVILS OF IT.
1. It destroys the sacred feeling of kinship.
2. It exposes true religion to contempt.
3. It brings spiritual loss to individuals.
III. AS TO THE REMEDIES OF IT.
1. The recognition of the obligations of brotherhood.
2. The yielding temper.
3. Confidence in the promise of God, that we shall suffer no real loss by obedience to His command. (T. H. Leale.)
Abram and Lot
I. THE CONTENTION.
II. THE CONSOLATION.
3. Unearthly. (W. Adamson.)
I. THE CHURLISHNESS OF THE HERDSMEN.
II. THE SELFISHNESS OF LOT.
III. THE UNSELFISHNESS OF ABRAM.
IV. THE GRACIOUSNESS OF GOD. (W. Adamson.)
1. Wealth means--
2. Abram manifests--
(3) Forgetfulness of self.
3. Worldly love means--
4. God manifests to Abraham--
(3) Faithfulness. (W. Adamson.)
1. Walking with saints in their hardest ways usually brings God’s outward blessings on them.
2. Great families and possessions God can give His saints in the land of their pilgrimage (Genesis 13:5).
3. Great straits may befall the saints of God in their greatest abundance.
4. Much wealth may prove an occasion of dividing the very saints (Genesis 13:6).
5. Great riches among the best may prove causes of great contentions.
6. Bad servants may be incendiaries to put good masters to strife.
7. The large territories of the wicked may straiten the godly in earthly places.
8. Wicked enemies of the Church are apt to watch all opportunities to destroy the saints by their own divisions (Genesis 13:7). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Gracious hearts hasten to quench any flame of contention rising in the Church.
2. Grace will make the greater move to the less for avoiding strife among saints.
3. Grace will make men beg for peace and to abolish strife in the Churches.
4. Gracious masters are solicitous to avoid contentions raised by ungracious servants.
5. Grace will put masters upon healing their servants faults. So Abram.
6. Strife is unseemly between brethren in the flesh, in religion and condition (Genesis 13:8).
7. Grace is willing to part with its own, and all too, in some cases, to brethren.
8. Grace will make God’s servants part in place, to keep one in affection.
9. Grace is self-denying to remove strife from the family of God.
10. Grace is content with anything below, so it may honour God, and keep peace with the saints (Genesis 13:9). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Quarrels about money
Thus early did wealth produce quarrelling among relatives. The men who had shared one another’s fortunes while comparatively poor, no sooner become wealthy than they have to separate. Abram prevented quarrel by separation. “Let us,” he says, “come to an understanding. And rather than be separate in heart, let us be separate in habitation.” It is always a sorrowful time in family history when it comes to this, that those who have had a common purse and have not been careful to know what exactly is theirs and what belongs to the other members of the family, have at last to make a division and to be as precise and documentary as if dealing with strangers. It is always painful to be compelled to own that law can be more trusted than love, and that legal forms are a surer barrier against quarrelling than brotherly kindness. It is a confession we are sometimes compelled to make, but never without a mixture of regret and shame. (M. Dods, D. D.)
Religion without the blessed life
In this story of the blessed life nothing can be more striking and instructive than the contrast which it presents between the career of Lot and that of Abraham. See at the outset how differently the two men come before us. “Now the Lord had said unto Abraham”--or, as Stephen declares: “The God of glory appeared unto Abraham.” Thus God had come into this man’s life, its centre and strength. “And Lot also, which went with Abram”--this is the man whose religion is second hand--he goes with the man who goes with God. Nothing is easier than for many of us to do as Lot did. The age is one in which respectability and social position rather like a little religion. Nothing can quench the fire of our selfishness but the clear shining of the Sun of Heaven upon our hearts. The God of glory appeared unto Abraham--that thrust the world back into its right place; that kindled the desires and ambitions of the man; that loosed him from the tyranny of the seen, the narrow prison of the present, and set him at liberty for God. The fadeless glory of that vision ennobled and elevated all the life. But Lot only went with Abraham. Never do you read that he built an altar unto the Lord that appeared to him. The religion of Lot is a religion without the vision of God. For us all the great question is this: What can we do to make the blessed life our own? This is the only answer: Tarry waiting upon God until there be a heart communion with Him. Let us follow the story. And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. That sojourn in Egypt was damaging to Abraham; but it was fatal to Lot. He had seen a land that had kindled his greed; the possibility of his growing rich had seized him and mastered him. That which attracted him in Sodom was that it was like the land of Egypt, well-watered everywhere. The heathenism of Egypt had prepared him for the grosser wickedness of Sodom. His wife and daughters had seen the glitter and gaiety of a company that made the quiet of Abraham’s encampment seem very dull. And worst of all, they had seen a good man without his altar and his God; why then need they be so particular? So when the opportunity came, Lot was quite prepared to avail himself of it. “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle.” Lot saw what it pleased him to see. Let us see what the love of gain, which was the ruin of Lot, did for him.
1. It put out the eyes of his generosity. The love of money always does. Abraham gave Lot the choice, and he took it, of course. “Really uncle Abraham is so unworldly and easy going about these things that he does not think of them at all. Besides, he is so very well off that it cannot make any difference to him; but I am only beginning, and it is very important that I should have a good start.” Generosity--is it not scouted from the market place? “Business is business, my dear sir; a bargain is a bargain, you know. Generosity is all very well in its place, of course; but this is not its place.” Where then is its place? Does any man really believe that he can occasionally put out the eyes of his love--be hard, pitiless, grasping--and then put them in again? He is hardening his heart, toughening it, and narrowing it, and tying it with a double knot every day, like a Judas’ leather purse.
2. Again, the love of gain blinded Lot to the very meaning of life. The greatness of Abraham lay in this one thing, that he suffered God to show him the path of life. Each had land, but by the very method of procuring it the one gave up that which abideth, and the other secured it. The one man set the land first, and lost all. The other found all in God. Lot came out of Sodom stripped of his goods, and the man himself more empty and blind than when he had gone into it. This is the great lesson of this Book--that whilst we think of making a living, God is thinking of what our living makes us. That the man is more than all gain. This is the idea of life which runs through the New Testament--it is faith, the service of God, the utter surrender of all to Him. This alone can make life worth living. Choose anything, everything else; live for it, grasp it--and what then but die? Surely we do not need to cry aloud to the Lord for the anointing that we may see aright.
3. And yet further: the god of this world blinded Lot to the true good, whilst it cheated him with the promise of goods. Lot lifted up his eyes and saw the land of Sodom. That bounded his vision. But Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a promise that stretched through all the ages, and through all lands, a stream of blessing. To Abraham the words were: “To thee and to thy seed”; “I will bless thee;. . .thou shelf be a blessing.” The faith of all those after years has found an inspiration and a triumph in the example of faithful Abraham. But, alas! how sharp, how dreadful is the contrast as we turn to Lot. He comes forth from Sodom without a soul having any faith in him. “He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law.” The only good in life is doing good. That which alone makes life blessed is not what we get from others for ourselves, but in what others get from us. Lot thought he could make the best of both worlds, and he failed alike in each. For Abraham there were not two worlds, but one only: as for every man of God: that is where the will of God is done as it is done in heaven. (M. G.Pearse.)
Lot’s separation from Abram
I. THE CAUSES OF THE SEPARATION. These were two classes: those which operated on man’s part, and those which lay in the Divine plan of Abram’s career.
1. On man’s part. The narrative mentions the wealth of uncle and nephew as the ground of their parting (Genesis 13:6).
2. On God’s part. Lot might be detached from his uncle, and Abram might be set wholly free from family complications, and might stand forth as the sole inheritor of the promises (Genesis 13:14).
II. TRAITS OF CHARACTER WHICH ABRAM DISPLAYED IN THE SEPARATION.
1. Great peaceableness (Genesis 13:8). Abram, whatever he may have thought, restrained himself, and did not utter one single word of reproach. He is willing to lay a costly sacrifice on the altar of peace.
2. Large-hearted generosity (Genesis 13:9).
3. Heavenly wisdom. Although Abram, by the Divine blessing, was “very rich,” he had not come into the land of Canaan to be a prosperous flock master, and thus we find him acting here as one who knew that the Lord would provide, all the while that He was fulfilling His own purposes towards him. “Either hand for Abraham--either the right hand or the left: what cared the pilgrim of the Invisible for fertile lands or rugged sands?”
III. ABRAM’S REWARD IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SEPARATION. It was a trial to the patriarch to be left alone; but God’s voice came to him to comfort him for the loss of his nephew, and to reward him for his beautiful generosity (Genesis 13:14-18). The promise of the seed which had been given him in Haran (Genesis 12:2-3), and that of the land “which had been added at Shechem (Genesis 13:7), are now confirmed and extended. LESSONS:
1. The changes of life, and especially such as are in the direction of increasing worldly prosperity, are a decisive test of character.
2. We need a faith and a piety which are practical, which are content to tread the common earth, and regulate the details of business and social life; and that is the kind of religion which God approves.
3. “If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men” Romans 12:18).
4. It is dangerous for a man to cut himself off from religious privileges, and, for the sake of material gain alone, to expose himself and his children to the risk of moral contamination.
5. A Christian may sometimes do wrong by insisting on his rights; but he will always profit, sooner or later, by every sacrifice which he makes for the sake of peace (Matthew 5:5; 1 Timothy 4:8). (Charles Jordan, M. A., LL. B.)
The separation between Abram and Lot
Observe the causes which rendered necessary this separation.
I. PROSPERITY. The enlargement of a man’s possessions is very often the contracting of his heart. We learn from this the great doctrine of compensation; for almost every blessing must be paid a certain price. If a man would be the champion of the truth, he must give up the friendship of the world. Be sure of this, there is no rich and prosperous man we look at who has not paid his price--it may be in loss of domestic peace, in anxiety, or in enfeebled health; be assured that every earthly blessing is bought dearly.
II. THE QUARRELLING AMONG THE SERVANTS; and this quarrel arose partly from disobligingness of disposition. Here we find the Christian community resembling the Jewish. There is a constant strife now among servants as to whose duty it is to do certain things, arising from the same indisposition to oblige one another. Then observe how by degrees Lot and Abram are drawn into the quarrel, and how again we find human nature the same in all ages. The bitterness between child and child, between husband and wife, are often to be referred back to the bitterness between domestic servants. Again, the scandal of this disagreement passed on through the land; the Canaanite and the Perizzite heard of it. Here is a lesson both for Christian masters and servants. Our very doors and walls are not sufficient to guard domestic secrecy; if there has been a scandal in a place, that scandal is sure to be heard. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Separated from Lot
1. Who was Lot? One of those men who take right steps, not because prompted by obedience to God, but because their friends are taking them. The Pliable of the earliest Pilgrim’s Progress.
2. The necessity of separation. We must be prepared to die to the world with its censure or praise; to the flesh, with its ambitions and schemes; to the delights of a friendship which is insidiously lowering the temperature of the spirit; to the self-life, in all its myriad subtle and overt manifestations; and even, if it be God’s will, to the joys and consolations of religion. All this is impossible to us of ourselves. But if we will surrender ourselves to God, willing that He should work in and for us that which we cannot do for ourselves, we shall find that He will gradually and effectually, and as tenderly as possible, begin to disentwine the clinging tendrils of the poisoning weed, and bring us into heart union with Himself.
3. How the separation was brought about. Quarrels between servants.
(1) Abraham’s proposal was very wise.
(2) Very magnanimous.
(3) Based on faith. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Separation rather than strife
I. THE DISPUTANTS.
1. They were related to each other.
2. They were professors of the same religious faith.
3. They differed in the relative amount of their power.
II. ABRAM’S CONDUCT.
1. It was just.
2. It was statesmanlike.
3. It was magnanimous. (Homilist.)
Abram and Lot
I. THE CAUSE OF THE SEPARATION OF ABRAM AND LOT.
1. The indirect cause: an over-abundance of wealth.
2. The direct cause (Genesis 13:6-7).
(1) This strife must have been serious.
(2) This strife is not unexpected. (a) The Canaanites and Perizzites owned and occupied most of the land, and thus made the pasturage for the flocks of Abram and Lot comparatively very limited.
(3) This strife is a sample of an occurrence by no means infrequent, not only among herdsmen, but among those professing better things.
(4) The strife among the servants did not alienate the masters.
II. THE SPIRIT OF THE SEPARATION.
1. On the part of Abram this separation was one of generosity.
2. This separation was executed in the interests of peace.
III. THE RESULTS OF THIS SEPARATION.
1. To Lot seemingly advantageous to worldly prosperity, but spiritually a loss.
2. To Abram seemingly disadvantageous, but most blessed in its ultimate issues.
1. The separation of friends is not an unmitigated evil; it may be an occasion of good.
2. Whether, when compelled to separate, or when permitted to have fellowship one with another, the grace of God should teach us to be generous, courteous, and consistent. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
1. Effect of increase of substance. The keeping a cause of perplexity. Not room in the land. If poverty has its cares, so has wealth.
2. The herdsmen jealous for their respective masters. Such carefulness commendable. Not very common.
3. They would have done well to have seen their masters before they quarrelled. Prevention better than cure.
4. Their strife might have led to serious consequences. The Canaanite, etc., were in the land. They might have taken advantage of this strife. It might have extended to their masters, and resulted in a family disrupture. (J. C. Gray.)
A quarrel in the kitchen
Things got mixed. The cattle ran together so that sometimes the herdmen could not tell which was which; the count was always wrong at night; and the noise got louder and louder as the herdmen became fretful and suspicious. It was a quarrel in the kitchen, as we should say nowadays. The masters seemed to get along fairly well with each other, but the servants were at open war. Small credit to the masters, perhaps! They had everything nice; the lentil soup and the smoking kid were punctually set before them, and mayhap the wine flagon was not wanting. But noise travels upward. It gets somehow from the kitchen into the parlour. It was so in this case. Abram heard of the vulgar quarrel and was the first to speak. He spake as became an elder and a millionaire: “Lot,” said he, “you must see to it that my peace be not broken; you must lay the lash on the backs of these rough men of yours and keep them in cheek; I will not stand any noise; the lips that speak above a whisper shall be shut by a strong hand; you and your men must all mind what you are at, or I will scourge you all to within an inch of your lives.” And when the lordly voice ceased there was great fear amongst those who had heard its solemn thunder! Now it so happens that the exact contrary of this is true. Abram was older than Lot, and richer than Lot, and yet he took no high airs upon him, but spoke with the meekness of great strength and ripe wisdom. His words would make a beautiful motto today for the kitchen, for the parlour, for the factory, for the Church. (J. Parker, D. D.)
It was untimely contention when Monarchists and Republicans in France disputed with each other, while the German armies were hemming them in on all sides. It was untimely contention when Luther and Zwingle disputed together, while the Roman hosts were assailing the newly-erected structure of the Reformation. It was untimely contention when Liberals and Conservatives disputed amongst themselves, while the Russian hordes were advancing on Constantinople, and intriguing with Afghanistan. It was untimely contention between Judah and Israel, when the Syrian and Assyrian powers were watching for an opportunity of attack and conquest. It was untimely contention between French and English Canadians, when Indians were on the alert to lay waste homes and settlements with fire and sword. And so it was untimely contention between the servants of Lot and Abraham, when surrounded by heathen tribes. (W. Adamson.)
Beginning the peace
To one who made the first overtures towards a successful reconciliation, his ante-opponent remarked, “I began the quarrel and you began the peace, therefore you are the nobler man.”
Strife foolish before the world
The unseasonableness of the strife betwixt Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s is aggravated by the near neighbourhood of the heathens to them. “And there was a strife” (saith the text) “between Abram’s herdmen and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle; and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in the land.” Now to fall out whilst these idolaters looked on, this would be town talk presently, and put themselves and their religion both to shame; and it may for our parts be very well asked, Who have been in our land all the while the people of God have been scuffling? Even those that have curiously observed every uncomely behaviour amongst us, and told all the world of it; such as have wit and malice enough to make use of it for their wicked purposes. They stand at tiptoes to be at work, only we are not yet quite laid up and disabled by the soreness of these our wounds, which we have given ourselves, from withstanding their fury. They hope it will come to that; and then they will cure us of our own wounds by giving one, if they can, that shall go deep enough to the heart of our life, gospel and all. Let us then consider where we are, and among whom. Are we not in our enemies’ quarters? so that if we fall out, what do we else but kindle a fire for them to warm their hands by? It is an ill time for mariners to be fighting, when an enemy is boring a hole in the bottom of the ship: the sea of their rage will weaken our bank fast enough, we need not cut it for them. (J. Spencer.)
Avoiding a quarrel
Saul was anxious to pick a quarrel with David, but in vain. We all know who came off best in the end. Gotthold quaintly says, “It is not disgraceful to step aside when a great stone is rolling down the hill up which you are climbing, and let it rush past.” He who provokes a quarrel sets the stone rolling, and he who steps aside to avoid it does not disgrace himself by so doing. (J. Spencer.)
Fontaigne says that religious contention is the devil’s harvest. And this is true, where the contention is unseemly, untimely, and unnecessary. But all religious contention is not the devil’s harvest. To contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints is not doing Satan’s work; but the contrary.
1. To contend against the pirate seeking to plunder the English merchantman is not doing the pirate’s work. To contend against the adversary who is eagerly endeavouring to sow tares in my wheat field is not doing the adversary’s work. To contend against the wolf, which, arrayed in sheep’s clothing, is seeking to enter in to the sheepfold where the lambs are bleating safely, is not doing the wolf’s work.
2. When Noah, the preacher of righteousness, contended against his ungodly contemporaries, he was doing God’s work. When Jeremiah, the melancholy seer of Jerusalem’s overthrow, contended against the hireling shepherds of Jehoiakim’s reign, he was doing God’s work. When Paul withstood Peter at Antioch on the theme of circumcision, when John contended against prating Diotrephes, when Athanasius maintained the truth against Pelagius, when Cranmer and Luther struggled in conflict with the papal priests and princes, they were doing God’s work.
3. Only the contention must be conducted in method and manner, by mean and medium, with precept and principle, strictly Christian. There is, however, a happy contention. Lord Bacon says it is when Churches and Christians contend, as the vine and olive, which of them shall bring forth the sweetest fruit to God’s glory; not as the briar and thistle, which of them shall bear the sharpest thorns. (J. Spencer.)
How to prevent quarrels
In most quarrels there is a fault on both sides. A quarrel may be compared to a spark, which cannot be produced without a flint as well as a steel; either of them may hammer on wood forever, no fire will follow. Two things, well considered, would prevent many quarrels; first, to have it well ascertained whether we are not disputing about terms, rather than things; and secondly, to examine whether that on which we differ is worth contending about. (C. Colton.)
Francis I of France was in counsel with his generals, as to the way they should take to lead the army to the invasion of Italy. Amaril, a fool, who, unseen, had heard their propositions, sprang up and advised them rather “to consider which way they should bring the army back out of Italy again; for it is easy to engage in quarrels, but hard to be disengaged from them.”
Contending about trifles
In the year 1005 some soldiers of the Commonwealth of Modena ran away with a bucket from a public well belonging to the State of Bologna. The implement might be worth a shilling; but it produced a quarrel which worked into a long and bloody war. Henry, the king of Sardinia, for the Emperor Henry the second, assisted the Modenese to keep possession of the bucket; and, in one of the battles, was made prisoner. His father, the emperor, offered a chain of gold that would encircle Bologna, which is seven miles in compass; but in vain. After twenty years’ imprisonment, his father being dead, he pined away and died. His monument is still extant in the church of the Dominicans. The fatal bucket is still exhibited in the tower of the Cathedral of Modena enclosed in an iron cage.
Is not the whole land before thee?
The goodly land in prospect
In many respects the earthly Canaan was typical of the heavenly. The heavenly Canaan is--
I. A LAND OF PROMISE (1 John 2:25; Revelation 21:7; Revelation 22:14).
II. A LAND OF LIFE (1 John 3:15; Revelation 21:4).
III. A LAND OF LIGHT (Revelation 22:5).
IV. A LAND OF PLENTY (Revelation 7:16; Revelation 22:2).
V. A LAND OF FELICITY AND JOY. This joy will be complete; perfect, full, everlasting (Psalms 16:11; Isaiah 35:10). Application:
1. Have I a title clear to heaven?
2. The way to eternal life open to all.
3. Jesus Christ is the way, the living way, the only way.
4. As human life is so uncertain, all should strive at once to make a full preparation, and seek to get that meekness requisite for the inheritance of the saints in light. (H. Dingley.)
Abram’s proposal to Lot
I. THIS PROPOSAL SHOWS THAT A GOOD MAN LOVES PEACE RATHER THAN WEALTH.
1. Because strife hardens the heart.
2. Because strife destroys a man’s happiness.
3. Because strife hinders one’s spiritual progress.
II. THAT A GOOD MAN HAS CONFIDENCE IN THE RULER OF THE UNIVERSE.
1. Abraham had confidence in God’s wisdom.
2. He had confidence in God’s love.
III. THAT A GOOD MAN HAS HIGHER INTERESTS THAN WORLDLY PROSPERITY. (Homilist.)
A peaceable spirit
I. HOW DESIRABLE A THING IT IS TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH OTHERS. We are commanded to live at peace. Contention undermines the welfare of all.
II. THERE ARE ALWAYS SOME MEANS OF MAINTAINING PEACE. Unselfish yielding of rightful claims. A friendly separation need be no schism. (F. Hastings.)
Magnanimity of Abraham
1. How different he might have acted. The whole land was his. He was most powerful and wealthy. He might have decided without consulting Lot, and simply have announced his decision. How many would have stood on their dignity, and vindicated their rights.
2. See what he did. Took his nephew to a rising ground, whence the whole land might be seen. Offered him the first choice. Was willing to abide by Lot’s decision, and take what he left.
3. This was the result of a peaceful spirit and a firm faith in God. (J. C. Gray.)
The excellence of a peaceable disposition, exemplified in the conduct of Abraham towards Lot
I. WE PROPOSE TO CONSIDER THE FACTS RECORDED. The conduct of these two good men, on the occasion to which the text refers, had certainly many shades of difference. In the one, the religious principle was in lively and adapted operation, it governed the passions, and its effects engage our approbation; in the other, that principle seems to have lain dormant, while feelings of jealousy or ambition appear for a time to have controlled the heart; their fruit however was disappointment and sorrow. We feel no difficulty in knowing which to condemn and which to censure; but if the conduct of Abraham be deemed so worthy of admiration, let us imitate; if the conduct of Lot be deemed improper, let us avoid following his example. Such should be our aim and our practice in reading the excellences or the defects of men.
II. LET US DEDUCE SOME PRACTICAL INFERENCES FOR THE PURPOSE OF PERSONAL APPLICATION.
1. We may learn how honourable and happy it is to be a promoter of peace.
2. Let us cultivate the dispositions necessary to be exercised in preserving or promoting peace; particularly that meekness which is careful not to take offence, and which is as mindful not to give offence.
3. We may learn the danger of judging merely from appearances, and of preferring what is great or splendid in circumstances, to those situations in life which are friendly to religious improvement. This Lot does not seem sufficiently to have regarded.
4. We may ascertain with what confidence we may commit our temporal interests to the care and goodness of providence, while we are walking in the path of holy obedience. If true religion guide us, it will be found that her ways are pleasantness and peace. Those who honour God He will honour. (Essex Remembrancer.)
Many good reasons might have been given by Abraham for claiming the first right of choice for himself. For one thing, he was the older man, and naturally might have expected that Lot would defer to him. For another thing, he might have reminded Lot that it was not he who had accompanied Lot, but Lot who had accompanied him, when together they had left their Chaldean home, and might have insisted that, simply on that ground, it was Lot’s place to yield the preference to him. But no! he gave up all such claims of priority, and in a manner at once chivalrous and disinterested said, “Is not the whole land before thee?” Now, when we ask how Abraham came to act in this way, we see at once that his conduct was the outgrowth of his faith in God. For observe, in this very connection, indeed in the very middle of this history, it is said, “The Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt then in the land.” Now these were idolatrous and selfish tribes. They were at that very moment filling up the measure of their iniquity on account of which the land was taken from them and given to Abraham. It would never do, therefore, for the worshippers of the true God to quarrel before them. That would only give them occasion to blaspheme Jehovah’s name, and so bring His worship into contempt. Therefore, out of regard to the honour of the Lord, Abraham was ready to sacrifice his worldly interest rather than do anything which would tend to compromise the religion he professed. Moreover, the Lord had promised to provide for him. Ever since he had left the far land of Ur, he had looked upon himself as the ward of God, and he was quite sure that God would take care of him. So, without either hesitation or misgiving, he made this proposal to his nephew, and as a proof that he had not miscalculated, we are told in the concluding verses of the chapter that God appeared unto him, renewed the promise of the land of Canaan, and guided him to the plain of Mamre, near to that city of Hebron which today bears in its name El-Khulil--the friend--the memorial of his connection with its neighbourhood. But now, rising from this old history and looking over the face of modern society, what “envying, strifes, wraths, back-bitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults,” might be prevented in households, neighbourhoods, churches, nations, by acting on the principles which animated Abraham here? There, for instance, are two men in the same business, and there is not enough for both; but the one happens to have more capital than the other and so he commences to undersell him by putting down his prices to a figure that is absolutely dishonest, and then, when he has closed his neighbour up, and secured all the trade for himself, he begins to reimburse himself at his leisure. In the good old days of the fathers, the maxim used to be, “Live and let live,” but now, in the selfishness of competition, men trample each other down, and virtually say, “Die, that I may live.” Or look at it in another sphere: there are two railway companies, each connecting the same great centres of commerce with each other. There is enough probably for both, if they were only to be mutually considerate. But so far from that, each wishes to have the larger share; and so they run each other down and down, until shareholders are ruined, and employees are ground to the lowest farthing; and then! such scenes as were lately witnessed in the land come to alarm and appall. Nor is this evil confined to commerce. To the disgrace of our Christianity, there is the same suicidal rivalry among churches. Is it so, that neither business can thrive nor churches be advanced without selfishness that tramples others down? What is your faith in God worth if you can believe that? (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Abram met the danger as promptly and resolutely as the brave Hollanders, in days gone by, threw up their dykes against the encroaching sea. But how did he meet it? We might expect him to say, “Why this strife? Rebuke thy servants--they must yield to mine--I am the elder--and to me the land is promised.” Would this have stopped the strife? It ought, certainly; all the right and authority were on his side, but the assertion of right does not always win the side that is in the wrong, and Abram chose a surer dyke to stop the threatening torrent. Did what he did say stop it? Yes, but not in the way we might have hoped. If Lot had said, “Nay, dear uncle, I cannot forestall thee--choose thou first,”--that would have been a complete victory. But when we yield up a right for the sake of peace, we must not expect to be met with corresponding generosity; we must be prepared to be taken at our word, as Abram was. (E. Stock.)
An instance of the practical effectiveness of Mr. Sherman’s preaching is narrated thus. In one of his Monday evening lectures to teachers, the subject was the parting of Abraham and Lot: in the course of which he spoke of the magnanimity of Abraham, and as a contrast to it, said that he had just visited a family belonging to the congregation that was rent by discord about the ownership of an old iron bedstead. It happened that amongst his hearers was a man who had not been in Surrey chapel for years. He was greatly amused by the illustration. As he left the chapel, he called on an old friend, and told him that he was at the very time arranging the distribution of some property left by a relative, amongst which there was an old bedstead, which had been matter of dispute: but the effect of the address upon him was such that the bedstead difficulty was soon amicably settled. (Old Testament Anecdotes.)
Of such as have been great lovers and promoters of peace
There are no greater instances of the folly and wicked disposition of mankind, than that their favourites have been clad in steel; the destroyers of cities, the suckers of human blood, and such as have imprinted the deepest fears upon the face of the universe, are the men it has crowned with laurels, and flattered with the misbecoming titles of heroes and gods: while the sons of peace are remitted to the cold entertainment of their own virtues. Still there have ever been some who have found so many heavenly beauties in the face of peace, that they have been contented to love that sweet virgin for her own sake, and to court her without the consideration of any additional dowry.
1. The inhabitants of the island of Borneo, not far from the Molluccas, live in such detestation of war, and are so great lovers of peace, that they hold their king in no other veneration than that of a god, so long as he studies to preserve them in peace; but if he discover inclinations to war, they never rest till he is fallen in battle under the arms of his enemies. So soon as he is slain they set upon the enemy with all imaginable fierceness, as men that fight for their liberty, and such a king as will be a greater lover of peace. Nor was there ever any king known amongst them that was the persuader and author of a war, but he was deserted by them, and suffered to fall under the sword of the enemy.
2. At Tez, in Africa, they have neither lawyers nor advocates; but if there be any controversies amongst them, both parties, plaintiff and defendant, come to their Alfakins, or chief judge, and at once, without any further appeals or pitiful delays, the cause is heard and ended.
3. It is said of the sister of Edward III, the wife of David king of Scots, that she was familiarly called “Jane Make-peace,” both for her zeal and success therein.
4. The Lord Treasurer Burleigh used to say that “he overcame envy and evil will more by patience and peaceableness, than by pertinaey and stubbornness”; and he so managed his private affairs, that he never sued any man, nor did any man ever sue him, but he lived and died universally respected and beloved.
5. It is recorded of Servius Sulpitius, an heathen lawyer, that “he respected equity and peace in all that he did, and always sought rather to settle differences than to multiply suits of law.”
6. Numa Pompilius instituted the priests or heralds called “Feciales,” whose office was to preserve peace between the Romans and neighbouring nations; and if any quarrel arose, they were to pacify them by reason, and not suffer them to come to violence till all hope of peace was past; and if these feciales did not consent to the wars neither king nor people had it in their power to undertake them.
The folly of strife
An old writer tells of two brothers who went out to take a walls in the night, and one of them looked up to the sky and said, “I wish I had a pasture field as large as the night heaven.” And the other brother looked up into the sky and said, “I wish I had as many oxen as there are stars in the sky.” “Well,” said the first, “how would you feed so many oxen?” Said the second, “I would turn them into your pasture.” “What! whether I would or not.” “Yes, whether you would or not.” And there at once arose a quarrel, and when the quarrel ended, one had slain the other. Not less foolish have been many of the quarrels of modern times. One of the six things God hates is he that soweth discord among brethren.
Strife among brethren
I read a story the other day of an elder of a Scotch kirk, who at the elders’ meeting had angrily disputed with his minister, until he almost broke his heart. The night after he had a dream, which so impressed him, that his wife said to him in the morning, “Ye look very sad, Jan; what is the matter with ye?” “And well I am,” said he, “for I have dreamed that I had hard words with our minister, and he went home and died, and soon after I died too; and I dreamed that I went up to heaven, and when I got to the gate, out came the minister, and put out his hands to welcome me, saying, ‘Come along, Jan, there’s nae strife up here, I’m so glad to see ye.’” So the elder went down to the minister’s house to beg his pardon, and found in very truth that he was dead. He was so smitten by the blow, that within two weeks he followed his pastor to the skies; and I should not wonder but what his minister did meet him, and say, “Come along, Jan, there’s nae strife up here.” Brethren, why should there be strife below? Let us love each other, and by the fact that we are co-heirs of that blessed inheritance, let us dwell together as partakers of a common life, and soon to be partakers of a common heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan
Abraham and Lot
The lesson to be gained from the history of Abraham and Lot is obviously this: that nothing but a clear apprehension of things unseen, a simple trust in God’s promises, and the greatness of mind thence arising, can make us act above the world--indifferent, or almost so, to its comforts, enjoyments, and friendships; or, in other words, that its goods corrupt the common run of religious men who possess them.
I. ABRAHAM AND LOT HAD GIVEN UP THIS WORLD AT THE WORD OF GOD, BUT A MORE DIFFICULT TRIAL REMAINED. Though never easy, yet it is easier to set our hearts on religion or to take some one decided step, which throws us out of our line of life and in a manner forces upon us what we should naturally shrink from, than to possess in good measure the goods of this world and yet love God supremely. The wealth which Lot had hitherto enjoyed had been given him as a pledge of God’s favour, and had its chief value as coming from Him. But surely he forgot this, and esteemed it for its own sake, when he allowed himself to be attracted by the riches and beauty of a guilty and devoted country.
II. GOD IS SO MERCIFUL THAT HE SUFFERS NOT HIS FAVOURED SERVANTS TO WANDER FROM HIM WITHOUT REPEATED WARNINGS. Lot had chosen the habitation of sinners; still he was not left to himself. A calamity was sent to warn and chasten him: he and his property fell into the hands of the five kings. This was an opportunity of breaking off his connection with the people of Sodom, but he did not take it as such.
III. THE GAIN OF THIS WORLD IS BUT TRANSITORY; FAITH REAPS A LATE BUT LASTING RECOMPENSE. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)
A worldly choice and its consequences
That Lot was a good man in the ground of his character there is no reason to doubt. But good men have their besetting sins. Lot’s was worldliness, and it cost him dear.
1. CONSIDER SOME FEATURES OF THE CHOICE WHICH LOT MADE.
1. Worldly advantage was the chief element in determining his place in life. The volcanic fires, slumbering beneath, made the plain of Sodom so fertile that its riches had become proverbial; and the Jordan, which has now so short a course to the Dead Sea, then wandered through the plain, like the rivers of Eden. Lot’s eye regarded neither the dangers sleeping beneath nor the light of God above, but only the corn and wine and verdant pastures.
2. Lot’s choice betrayed a want of generosity. Abraham gave to Lot the selection of place, and had Lot been capable of appreciating his generosity he would have declined to avail himself of the offer. But he grasped at it eagerly and took the richest side. Such men are the most unsatisfactory of friends, paining us constantly by their selfishness, and failing us in the hour of need.
3. Lot’s choice showed disregard of religious privileges. The sins of the men of Sodom were of a peculiarly gross and inhuman kind; had Lot’s religion been warm and bright he would not have ventured among them. He may have excused himself to his conscience by saying that he was going to do good, but when he left Sodom he could not count a single convert.
II. CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOT’S CHOICE.
1. As he made worldly advantage his chief aim, he failed in gaining it. Twice he lost his entire possessions; he left Sodom poorer than he entered it. He was stripped of the labours of years, and dared not even look behind on the ruin of his hopes.
2. As Lot failed in generosity to Abraham, he was repeatedly brought under the weightiest obligations to him. He took an unfair advantage of Abraham, but ere many years had passed he owed all he had--family, property, liberty--to Abraham’s courageous interposition.
3. Lot’s disregard of spiritual privileges brought on him a bitter entail of sin and shame. His own religious character suffered from his sojourn in Sodom. This alone can account for the grievous termination of his history. His life remains as a warning against the spirit of worldliness. Both worlds frequently slip from the grasp in the miserable attempt to gain the false glitter of the present. (J. Ker, D. D.)
I. THERE ARE DECISIVE MOMENTS IN ALL LIVES. There are hours when character is fixed as by some powerful mordant, and thenceforth the writing is indelible. There are minutes in which destiny is determined, as one may step to this side or to that of the sharp crest of a hill. These are the times in which we make the choices on which our future lives depend. It is such a time in the life of the still youthful Lot that we are to consider. Such times come surely to us all,--not once alone, perhaps, though perhaps only once,--from the decisions of which henceforth we do not swerve. More often a few such opportunities come to a life, and they come chiefly in its youth.
II. CHOICE IS BOTH THE EXPRESSION OF CHARACTER AND ITS DETERMINATION. So Lot shows what was in him, as Abram reveals his character in the choice.
1. Abram looks to the Lord, and Lot looks to the land. It is the contrast of the prayerful with the worldly spirit.
2. Abram showed himself to be a man of peace. Lot let the quarrelling go on;--who knows but he may profit by it in the end?
3. Abram was generous beyond the demands of ordinary liberality. He gave up the rights of his seniority, of family headship; chose to give up his choice, and let the younger man take what seemed to him best. And Lot took it--thinking only of his own interests.
4. Abram was the faithful friend. The friend of God is always the friend of man as well. Prosperity in this case, as in so many others, tested their friendship and fidelity more than adversity. Poverty and loneliness might bring them close together. While Abram was growing very rich, and Lot, the junior partner, was catching the overflow and coming to the possibility of self-support, he would by no means leave his advantage. But now that he has come to independence and can get no more out of his association with his older friend, but rather lose by it, he is quite ready to sever the connection.
III. THE FOLLY OF A WORLDLY CHOICE. The man who leaves out God, God’s purpose for us and God’s calling, is never wise and never comes to true success. The man who makes his decisions on the mere ground of worldly advantage is never sure and never safe. The example we are studying is striking in this regard. It is shown, whether you consider it as a mere natural succession of causes and effects or as a matter of supernatural awards. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. The principles taught, and the example set, by the Lord Jesus Christ do not seem at first sight to be well adapted to present success. The unpractical character of other-worldliness is often contemptuously set over against the evils of this-worldliness. But it is a great mistake. The principles of Christ are exactly adapted to this world and to this life, not to a shallow and disappointing success, but to the real attainment of all which in this world is best and most enduring. Every Abram who gives up all to follow God, God takes in hand and guides more safely than he could have gone alone. (G. M. Boynton.)
Abram and Lot
I. This story shows HOW RICHES ENGENDER STRIFE. Oftener a cause of jealousy and estrangement than of increased attachment and magnanimity.
II. THIS STORY SHOWS ON WHAT FRIVOLOUS GROUNDS MEN BECOME ESTRANGED. For the sake of some small advantage they fling away the hearts whose love is more precious than gold; or they make them suffer from their ill-humour and their peevishness, until it can be borne no longer. A friendship that has been tested by years of experience and the strongest proofs of affection, is sometimes quenched by the merest trifle.
III. This story shows HOW A GOOD MAN AVOIDS IMPENDING STRIFE. Not by standing stiffly upon his rights, but by timely concession.
IV. This story shows THE SPIRITUAL PERILS OF SELFISHNESS.
V. This story also shows THE REWARD OF PIETY (Genesis 13:14-17). God gave Abram for a perpetual possession the land on which he gazed from the eminence of Bethel. He gave him His own friendship in the place of Lot’s, for whose departure he sorrowed. He made him also, then a childless old man, hopeless of any posterity to bear his name, and who had hoped, perhaps, that Lot would be to him in place of a son--God made him, in anticipation, the father of a great multitude that could not be numbered. Thus his reward for his integrity and piety was exceeding great. Choosing God and the land where God was found, he derived from this world and its life the best it affords. It is ever so. He who chooses God for his portion, has also the best of His gifts. (A. H. Currier.)
A worldly choice
I. IT WAS DETERMINED BY EXTERNAL ADVANTAGES.
1. External advantages are not the chief end of life.
2. External advantages are not the true happiness of life.
3. External advantages, when considered by themselves, tend to corrupt the soul.
II. IT WAS UNGENEROUS.
III. IT SNOWED TOO LITTLE REGARD FOR SPIRITUAL INTERESTS. (T. H.Leale.)
The character of Lot
I. BEFORE HE TOOK UP HIS ABODE AT SODOM. It appears that he was influenced by the same grace to leave his idolatrous country, and to share with Abraham the difficulties of a pilgrim’s life, that he might follow the guidance and join in the worship of the true God. We, therefore, find him a fellow traveller with Abraham (Genesis 12:4), and the Lord blessed him with an abundant increase of His substance. But how seldom does increasing wealth produce increasing happiness! He separates from Abraham; and what a wretched change does he make! “He pitched his tent toward Sodom.” By what motive was he influenced? Let us beware of the love of money, which is the root of all evil: “They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare.”
II. DURING HIS RESIDENCE IN SODOM. Preserved from the general contagion. A bold reprover of abominations. But one circumstance in this history is very remarkable. The very end for which Lot was induced to fix his residence at Sodom, was entirely defeated. Alas! how can we expect to prosper, when the love of gain is our principle? The Lord will, in mercy, disappoint His children, and bring them into trials to preserve them from apostacy. Behold Lot a stranger to comfort in Sodom. Grieved with observing the conduct of the wicked, as well as hated and persecuted by them! And what would avail him the fruitfulness of the soil?
III. AFTER HIS DEPARTURE FROM SODOM. He who was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, fell into the most abominable wickedness indeed. This proves two things--
1. When we do stand, it is by the power of God alone: to Him therefore we must ascribe all the excellence and perseverance of His people. Even Paul, in his most advanced state, is nothing: “Not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
2. When we are not upheld by Him, no place is secure; and any temptation, how small soever, is enough to overcome as. What other expedient, then, is left us, but,
(1) To be humbled under a sense of our great depravity and abominable corruptions. Instead of censuring the conduct of Lot, let us look into our own hearts, and we shall find abundant cause for humiliation. We are encouraged, however,
(2) To apply to the blood of sprinkling for its cleansing influence, and that we may appear before God with joy and confidence; having “washed our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” But still it behoves us,
(3) To watch and pray; remembering the dangers to which we are exposed, and that all our security from day to day must be in the power of God: “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto Thy statutes continually.” (Essex Remembrancer.)
I. HIS CHOICE.
II. HIS MOTIVE.
1. Not the expectation of better religious advantages.
2. Not the hope of benefiting others.
3. Evidently to advance his worldly interests.
III. WHAT HE GAINED. fit home in Sodom.
IV. WHAT HE LOST.
1. The helpful influence of Christian fellowship.
2. Moral tone in character--evidently on the downgrade.
3. His happiness.
4. His property; first in war, then by fire.
5. All of his adherents, and part of his own family, in the final destruction of Sodom. (The Homiletic Review.)
Abram’s generosity and Lot’s selfishness
I. THE GENEROUS OFFER.
1. Abram was a peace maker.
2. Abram was unselfish.
3. Abram was patient.
II. THE SELFISH CHOICE.
1. Lot was self-seeking.
2. Lot was worldly-minded.
3. Lot was hasty in his choice.
III. THE LARGE BLESSING. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
Lot’s unwise choice
1. Good men may be too hasty and solicitous for worldly advantage--as Lot.
2. The lust of the eye, covetous desire may misguide gracious souls sometimes in their choice.
3. Pleasant fruitful possessions on earth are apt to take up too much the care of the saints.
4. The pleasantest habitations are not always the best: if God grow angry.
5. God spares not to destroy the choicest places where sin abounds (Genesis 13:10).
6. Good men may be too selfish. He offers not Abram the choice.
7. God’s own left to their choice, may choose and possess the worst portion.
8. Brethren may be parted by choice of distinct portions, when ordered by God to higher ends (Genesis 13:11). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Grace makes a soul sit down contented with its promised portion. So did Abram.
2. The promised portion with all its inconveniences, is better than the most pleasant with sin.
3. Good souls may sometimes sit down with content in large and pleasant places without God.
4. Saints sometimes may meet with an hell, where they look for a paradise; so did Lot.
5. It is a soul blemish, for God’s servants to covet fruitful places, though never so sinful (Genesis 13:12).
6. Fruitful places are apt to have the foulest sinners.
7. The excess and height of sin is in obstinate opposition to Jehovah.
8. Jehovah will make known such to be sinners to the purpose and brand them, as here Sodom is notorious to all ages (Genesis 13:13). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
In the expression “Christian worldliness” there may be considered by some to be a formal contradiction in terms. But it is the plain epitaph written over the historical grave of one of the best known and worst reputed characters in the Scriptures.
1. To begin with, LET US ACCEPT THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THIS KINSMAN OF ABRAM WAS AN OLD TESTAMENT CHRISTIAN. A “righteous man” dwelling in Sodom is so palpably out of place in our conception of propriety that he needs the word offered in extenuation, namely, that, day after day, he vexed his righteous soul with the unlawful deeds he beheld around him. We must never forget that the question of his piety as an orthodox believer in God is settled for us (2 Peter 2:7-8). But now, with all this generous notion of him, it muss be calmly acknowledged that Lot was a very poor Christian.
2. In the second place, find an instant explanation of the failure; LOT WAS A MERCENARY CHRISTIAN. The very earliest inquiry is, How did he come to be in Sodom at all? We must remember that Lot did not go to Sodom directly, nor even at once. Men do not ever plunge into evil; they glide, they slide, or they drift. Lot only pitched his tent “towards” Sodom. He went close enough to hear how prices were ranging from day to day; he had a market for all he had to barter; there was gossip among his neighbours; oh, it was a good, nice place, not so very wicked, and always so lively! This is the way of the world, and that is the way of worldly believers now in the New Testament church. They make compromises with a very easy conscience. They do not go straight into wrong; they “pitch their tents towards” it. “Men fall,” said Guizot, “on the side toward which they lean.”
3. Observe, in the third place, THAT LOT WAS SOON EVIDENCED AS A BACKSLIDING CHRISTIAN. How do we know this? We notice that wherever Abram went in that wandering life of his, he set up an altar the first thing he did, and a regular service of worship made him known as a follower of Jehovah. A careful search will fail to reveal that Lot ever did anything to cause remark in this direction. The story of the life of that group of sons and sons-in-law is just downward, downward, as they grew depraved more and more in tastes, capabilities, and principles. First, they “walked in the counsel of the ungodly”; next, they were found to “stand in the way of sinners”; then they began to “sit in the seat of the scornful.” And the one great commonplace lesson for us to learn is this: even a believer who neglects his religious duty is moving forward in sin.
4. But pass on; for we need, in the fourth place, to look at LOT AS A SERIOUSLY UNHAPPY CHRISTIAN. He “vexed his righteous soul” there from day to day, in seeing and hearing the unlawful deeds of those indescribably vicious people; he detested their “filthy conversation.” Now, I know you will give me full sympathy when I say I am really glad this patriarch had a miserable time. I wish it had been worse. It is the only evidence we get of his sincerity as a child of God.
5. Once more; you are ready, in the fifth place, to find in this man LOT A MOST INEFFECTIVE CHRISTIAN. When you discover how worldly a man has become, you are not at all surprised to see that his religious usefulness is destroyed. So slight was the influence of this patriarch over those who knew him best, that even when he had received a visit from the angels sent from God in heaven, and came forth trembling and frightened to tell them that the city was soon to be destroyed, they jeered at him for a coward, and laughed at him for a fool. It was clear to them that the less he said about his interviews with God, the safer it would be for his credit; they thought he was joking.
6. It is somewhat cheering now, in the sixth place, to look upon Lot as A TRULY SAVED CHRISTIAN. And yet we are forced to go over into the New
Testament passage to get our proof; read again the text of Peter. This shows, not only that Lot was saved, but that his salvation, so graciously achieved, was of so narrow a sort that it could be given as one of the extreme examples of Divine mercy towards the undeserving; and that it must be taken in connection with the fact that all the inhabitants of the wicked city, out of which he was so hurriedly rushed, were “turned into ashes.” Furthermore, this passage shows that, while “the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly,” He knows how also “to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” One thing is absolutely clear; he never could have been saved in Sodom. The turning point in his career was reached when Sodom was set on fire. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The importance of a choice
We have seldom the choice put before us so dramatically and sharply; but it is as really presented to each. There is the shameless cynicism of the men who avowedly only ask the question, “Will it pay?” But there are subtler forms which affect us all. It is the standing temptation of Americans and Englishmen alike to apply a money standard to everything, to adopt courses of action of which the only recommendation is that they promote getting on in the world. Men who call themselves Christians select schools for their children, or professions for their boys, or marriages for their daughters, down in Sodom, because it will give them a lift in life which they would not get up in the starved pastures at Bethel, with nobody but Abram and his like to associate with. If the earnestness with which men pursue an end is to be taken as any measure of its importance in their eyes, it certainly does not look much as if modern average Christians did believe that it was of more moment to be united to God, and to be growing like Him, than to secure a good big share of earthly possessions. Tried by the test of conduct, their faith in getting on is a great deal deeper than their faith in getting up. But if our religion does not make us put the world beneath our feet, and count all things but loss that we may win Christ, we had better ask ourselves whether our religion is any better than Lot’s, which was second hand, and was much more imitation of Abram than obedience to God. Let teaches us that material good may tempt and conquer, even after it has been overcome. His early life had been heroic; in his young enthusiasm, he had thrown in his portion with Abram in his great venture. He had not been thinking of his flocks when he left Haran. Probably, as I have just said, he was a good deal galvanized into imitation; but still, he had chosen the better part. But now he has tired of a pilgrim’s life. There are men who cut down the thorns, and have the seed sown; but thorns are tenacious of life, and quick growing, and so they spread over the field and choke the seed. It is easier to take some one bold step, than to keep true through life to its spirit. Youth contemns, but too often middle-age worships, worldly success. The world tightens its grasp as we grow older, and Lot and Demas teach us that it is hard to keep for a lifetime on the heights. Faith, strong and over renewed by communion, can do it; nothing else can. Lot’s history teaches what comes of setting the world first, and God’s kingdom second. For one thing, the association with it is sure to get closer. Lot began with choosing the plain; then he crept a little nearer, and pitched his tent “towards” Sodom; next time we hear of him he is living in the city, and mixed up inextricably with its people. The first false step leads on to connections unforeseen, from which the man would have shrunk in horror, if he had been told he would make them. Once on the incline, time and gravity will settle how far down we go. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Abraham and Lot
1. Mark, on the one hand, the self-sacrifice manifested by Abraham, and, on the other, the selfishness by which Lot was characterized.
2. But, as another point of contrast, notice how Abraham took a long look forward, while Lot chose simply for the immediate future. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.”
3. Note, finally, the contrast in the after career of the two men. From this point on, there is evident a gradual process of deterioration in Lot. “Toward Sodom” soon became “in Sodom.” In Sodom soon developed into matrimonial alliances between the members of his family and the Sodomites. Then last of all, and worst of all, his own moral nature was hardened; the womanhood of his daughters was dishonoured; and the closing incidents of his life were such that we gladly draw a veil over their enormity, and sigh to think that, after so fair a morning, his sun went down behind so dark a cloud. But while Lot deteriorated, Abraham advanced. That which marked Lot’s point of departure from the right course was a milestone that indicated new progress in Abraham. The decision which he made over this dispute was another step in that upward ladder of self-conquest on the topmost round of which he stood when he laid Isaac upon the altar. It was an important decision for both, yet it was all over a very ordinary and everyday occurrence. We are continually having to make similar decisions in our common lives, and always we are tested by them. It is a very solemn question how we have stood such tests; and if we want to stand them as Abraham did, we must be partakers of Abraham’s faith; for that faith, as we have seen, animated the patriarch, not only in such great things as the leaving of his country and the sacrifice of his son, but also the actions of his life in his intercourse with his fellow men, (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. A CHOICE WITHOUT CONSULTING GOD.
II. A CHOICE WHICH DEPRIVED HIM OF A GOOD MAN’S COMPANY. Every worldly-minded man forfeits--
1. The sympathy of good men.
2. The assistance of the good.
III. A CHOICE ANTAGONISTIC TO THE GOOD MORAL TRAINING OF HIS FAMILY. Moral culture ought to be of greater importance in our estimation than wealth.
1. Because it is of higher value.
2. Because it elevates the man.
3. Because its beneficial results are more certain.
IV. A CHOICE WHICH EXPOSED HIM TO MANY DANGERS.
1. The danger of his sympathy with the good being narrowed.
2. The danger of looking upon sin in a false light.
3. The danger of losing his own soul. (Homilist.)
I. THE EVIL WHICH FOLLOWS AN ILL-ADVISED STEP.
1. That there are constantly before us opportunities of selection.
2. That that is not the most advantageous which at first sight appears so.
3. That any course entered upon without consulting the guiding of Providence is likely to lead us astray.
II. THE NATURAL TENDENCY OF AN UNRENEWED HEART. Looking to what is pleasant.
III. THE MERCY OR DIVINE PROVIDENCE. Lot brought trouble on himself, but God did not desert him.
IV. THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF PIETY: WITH SIN. (Homilist.)
Avarice has ruined more men than prodigality. (Colton.)
Avarice hindered in mercy
It is sometimes of God’s mercy that men in the eager pursuit of worldly aggrandisement are baffled; for they are very like a train going down an inclined plane--putting on the brake is not pleasant, but it keeps the car on the track. (H. W. Beecher.)
Lessons from Lot
I. THE EVILS WHICH MAY FOLLOW FROM ONE WRONG STEP IN LIFE. There are certain matters in relation to which our determinations must have special importance.
1. The choice of a place of residence.
2. The choice of a trade or profession. “What is likely to be the moral and spiritual effect of this pursuit on me?”
3. The choice of a life partner.
II. THE STEALTHY INSIDIOUSNESS OF SIN. There is a wide difference between the happy household that used to join with Abram’s in sacrifice at the Bethel altar and that which we read of in Sodom on the night before the destruction of that city. That divergence was not caused by any single volcanic upheaval of passion, but by gradual defection. We have the key to it in the question addressed by Lot to the angel, when, asking to be allowed to flee into Zoar, he said, “Is it not a little one?” Depend upon it, that was not the first time Lot reasoned in such a way. Most likely he did so on the very occasion of this first fatal choice. He saw Sodom in the plain, but he said within himself, “I need not go into the city, I can always keep myself secluded,” and promising this to himself he pitched toward Sodom. But after a time he became accustomed to the men of the place. He saw many advantages in the protection of their walls, as compared with his defenceless nomad life. Thus the temptation to go into the city, which he would at first have repelled from him with scorn, was entertained, and concerning it also the old argument was used--“No doubt the city is wicked, but I need not mingle with the inhabitants, and when I come to balance the matter I must not let a little thing like that prejudice blind me to my own interests”; and in this way he went into Sodom. In a similar manner he came to allow intermarriages between the families of the city and his own. All this illustrates the deceitfulness of sin. No one ever became very wicked all at once. The descent of the road that leadeth to destruction is made in single steps, and these not on a clear and well-marked staircase, but on an incline which seems to be but little out of the horizontal line. Be on your guard against the first temptation, and whenever an evil pleads with you, saying, “Am I not a little one?”
III. THE NECESSITY OF WATCHFULNESS AGAINST SIN THROUGHOUT ONE’S EARTHLY LIFE. Every time of life has its peculiar dangers. There are, as medical men will attest, certain critical ages at which the bodily constitution seems to pass through a severe ordeal, so that it either yields in death, or comes out unharmed; and what the issue shall be depends, under God, very much on what the person’s daily habits have been. If he have been what is called a fast, free liver, there is little likelihood that he will weather the storm; but if he have been moderate in all things, there is the greater probability that he will round the cape. Now it is similar in spiritual life. There are seasons of greater danger than others to the best interests of the soul. Youth is a perilous season, but the noon and afternoon of life are beset with dangers as great as its morning, and our only safety lies in perpetual vigilance. It is pitiful to think how often character deteriorates in later life. You cannot read of Noah without reflecting that the glorious reputation of a long career may be thrown into shadow at the last by a besetting sin. You cannot study the life of David without remarking how the purity of his character is eclipsed by the darkness of a sin which was that, not of a youth, but of a man past the meridian of his age. Ye men of middle life, and you who are verging toward old age, be on your guard. Remember Lot! and beware of allowing your conscience to be blunted with iniquity. Above all, beware of that seductive sin which is the parent of so many more--intemperance. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
1. The society of his best friend.
2. His intense hatred toward wickedness.
3. A due regard for the spiritual welfare of his family.
4. Religious influence over men.
5. His property.
6. Influence over his own children.
7. His children.
8. His wife.
9. His good name. (John A. Ewalt.)
A rough shell may hold a pearl, remarks Dean Law. There may be silver amongst much dross. Life may exist within the stem when leaves are seared and branches dry. The spring may yet be deep, while waters trickle scantily. A spark may live beneath much rubbish. So many heirs of glory live ingloriously. Heaven is their purchased rest, but their footsteps seem to be downward. In their hearts there is incorruptible seed, but sorry weeds are intermixed. They are translated into the kingdom of grace, but still the flesh is weak. (W. Adamson.)
1. A godly man in a rural village in Suffolk, where for generations the people had been highly favoured with a succession of earnest “winners of souls” to Christ, tempted by the offer of higher wages and greater scope in London, left his home and took up his residence in an ungodly neighbourhood in the East End. But the higher wages and greater scope were very quickly outweighed by the corruption of his children, etc.
2. Even religious men, says Robertson, sometimes settle in a foreign country, notoriously licentious, merely that they may increase their wealth. But very soon they find to their cost that God has terrible modes of retribution. In the choice of homes, of friends, and in alliances, he who selects according to the desires of the flesh lays up in store for himself many troubles and anxieties. Such was Lot’s experience.
3. How frequently, remarks Blunt, have men found that their greatest disquietudes and troubles have been the fruits of their own selfish selectings. Often that “vale of Siddim” which they have most anxiously coveted, has been the wellspring from whence has flowed the bitter waters of sorrow and distress. Far better, if God tries us by putting a blank paper into our hands, to fill in our free choice, humbly to refer the choice back to Him. (W. Adamson.)
A commendable choice
Mahomet, the false prophet, on viewing the pleasurable and delicious situation of Damascus, would not enter the city, but turned away from it with this exclamation: “There is but one paradise for man; and I am determined to have mine in the other world.” Mutatis mutandis--“making the necessary changes” of our position--how becoming for a Christian is such language in time of temptation. (Bishop Horne.)
The great mistake of Lot’s life
He is the type of that very large class of men who have but one rule for determining them at the turning points of life. He was swayed solely by the consideration of worldly advantage. He has nothing deep, nothing high in him. He recognizes no duty to Abram, no gratitude, no modesty; he has no perception of spiritual relations, no sense that God should have something to say in the partition of the land. Lot may be acquitted of a good deal which at first sight one is prompted to lay to his charge, but he cannot be acquitted of showing an eagerness to better himself, regardless of all considerations but the promise of wealth afforded by the fertility of the Jordan valley. He saw a quick though dangerous road to wealth. There seemed a certainty of success in his earthly calling, a risk only of moral disaster. He shut his eyes to the risk that he might grasp the wealth; and so doing, ruined both himself and his family. The situation is one which is ceaselessly repeated. To men in business or in the cultivation of literature or art, or in one of the professions, there are presented opportunities of attaining a better position by cultivating the friendship or identifying oneself with the practice of men whose society is not in itself desirable. We fancy perhaps that to refuse the companionship of any class of men is pharisaic; that we have no business to condemn the attitude towards the Church, or the morality, or the style of living adopted by any class of men among us. This is the mere cant of liberalism. We do not condemn persons who suffer from smallpox, but a smallpox hospital would be about the last place we should choose for a residence. Or possibly we imagine we shall be able to carry some better influences into the society we enter. A vain imagination; the motive for choosing the society has already sapped our power for good. Many of the errors of worldly men only reveal their most disastrous consequences in the second generation. Like some virulent diseases they have a period of incubation. Lot’s family grew up in a very different atmosphere from that which had nourished his own youth in Abram’s tents. An adult and robust Englishman can withstand the climate of India; but his children who are born in it cannot. And the position in society which has been gained in middle life by the carefully and hardily trained child of a God-fearing household, may not very visibly damage his own character, but may yet be absolutely fatal to the morality of his children. Lot may have persuaded himself he chose the dangerous prosperity of Sodom mainly for the sake of his children; but in point of fact he had better have seen them die of starvation in the most barren and parched desolation. And the parent who disregards conscience and chooses wealth or position, fancying that thus he benefits his children, will find to his life-long sorrow that he has entangled them in unimagined temptations. But the man who makes Lot’s choice not only does a great injury to his children, but cuts himself off from all that is best in life. We are safe to say that after leaving Abram’s tents Lot never again enjoyed unconstrainedly happy days. The men born and brought up in Sodom were possibly happy after their kind and in their fashion; but Lot was not. His soul was daily vexed. You cannot forget the thoughts you once had, the friendships you once delighted in, the hopes that shed brightness through all your life. You cannot blot out the ideal that once you cherished as the most animating element of your life. Every day there will be that rising in your mind which is in the sharpest contrast to the thoughts of those with whom you are associated. You will despise them for their shallow, worldly ideas and ways; but you will despise yourself still more, being conscious that what they are through ignorance and upbringing, you are in virtue of your own foolish and mean choice. There is that in you which rebels against the superficial and external measure by which they judge things, and yet you have deliberately chosen these as your associates, and can only think with heart-broken regret of the high thoughts that once visited you and the hopes you have now no means of fulfilling. (M. Dods, D. D.)
Lot the self-seeker
I. LOT’S EARLY YEARS were spent in Ur of Chaldea, northeast of Damascus. His father, Haran, died while he was yet a youth of tender years, and he was placed in the family of his uncle Abraham, who appears ever to have acted towards him the part of an affectionate father; while Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is supposed to have been the sister of Lot. To have been the foster son and companion of so royal a man as Abraham was a privilege which ought to have left a stamp of distinction on the young man that no after-years could efface.
II. Let us look at LOT’S CHOICE in its nature and results, and learn the character and end of the self-seeker; remembering, meanwhile, the representative character of Lot, and gathering lessons of wisdom from the ashes of his ruined hopes.
1. First, then, there was in that choice, as there ever is in the conduct of the self-seeker, a disregard of delicate moral obligations and the interests of others involved.
2. But in this choice of Lot was also a disregard of his own highest interests. He seems not to have paused to consider the effect of his decision upon his own character and future well-being. The material good in that tempting scene blinded his eyes to every other good, and to the dangers of the choice. It is related in ancient history that the inhabitants of Oenoe, a town upon a dry island in the vicinity of Athens, bestowed much labour to draw into it a river to water it and make it more fruitful. But when the work was completed and the passages were all opened, the water came rushing in so furiously that it overflowed the whole island and drowned all the people. So, in the accomplishment of their ambitious ends, men do not pause to consider contingent results: and when the channels of desire are fully open and the long looked for tide of prosperity rises, lo! its streams come rushing in with a fearful, fatal force, whelming the soul in ruin and destruction.
3. Lot may have flattered himself that he had made a capital choice; let us see what it involved.
(1) Separation from a devoted friend and benefactor. He might have remained in such proximity to Abraham as to have shared his companionship and counsel. It is a critical day for a young man when he severs his connection with the friends of his early years.
(2) He not only separated himself far from Abraham, but became the companion of the wicked Sodomites. (C. H. Payne, D. D.)
Pitching our tents towards Sodom
Alypius, a friend of St. Augustine, had a great horror of the bloody combats of gladiators, one of the favourite amusements of that age. Being urged by his companions to be a spectator of these brutal sports, he obstinately refused, and they drew him to the amphitheatre against his will. All took their seats, and the games began. Alypius resolutely shut his eyes that he might not witness the horrible spectacle. “Would to God,” said Augustine, “he had also stopped his ears!” Hearing a piercing cry, curiosity got the better of him, and he incautiously opened his eyes to see what had happened. One of the gladiators had received a dreadful wound; but no sooner had Alypius discovered the bloody stream issuing from the wretch’s side, than his finer sensibilities were blunted, and he joined in the shouts and exclamations of the noisy mob about him. From that moment he was a changed man--changed for the worse; not only attending such sports himself, but urging others to do likewise. Very trifling circumstances show the bent and bias of our minds. A feather, floating on the breeze, may indicate the direction of the wind which is to determine the fate of a squadron, and involve the downfall of an empire. Something closely allied to this may be observed in the moral world. Traits of character, and prevailing tendencies of mind and heart, are distinctly marked by actions which, in themselves, are the merest trifles. When the sacred penman tells us that after Lot’s unwise separation from Abraham he “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” we discover much more in the simple statement than appears on the surface. It would be simply absurd to pass a sweeping censure upon the world, and its pursuits and pleasures; for these, within lawful limits, are well and right. No one in his senses, however, will deny that there is such a sin as worldliness, and it is one which all consistent Christians will strive to keep clear of. Worldliness, be it remembered, is determined by the spirit of our lives, rather than by the objects which occupy us. There may be much apparent conformity to the world, without any real violation of the Divine law or neglect of duty. The Lord Mayor of London, who, while presiding over the festivities of Guildhall, withdrew long enough from the scene of gaiety and splendour that he might attend family worship in his own house, was an example of a good man living in the world without yielding to evil influences or forgetting his higher obligations to God. Our daily papers often contain advertisements like this: “Wanted, a boy to attend bar!” It might as well read, “Wanted, a boy to be ruined, body and soul.” Let the bright, earnest lad, standing on the threshold of life, shun such tempting offers as this! Even the innocent pleasures of the world, if found amongst evil associations are not as the waters of the Nile, leaving, when they are gone, the germs of fertility and beauty to bud and blossom, and causing the heart to rejoice; but like those unwholesome streams, polluted by the washings of poisonous minerals, depositing the seeds of disease and death for all who taste them. It may be a question of life, or death, with us--the life, or death, of the soul--whether, in any of these ways, we have pitched our tent toward Sodom. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)
The well-watered plain of Jordan is a great prize for any man, and Lot has made sure of it. His estate is large, and is favoured by the sun and the clouds. Is there, then, any drawback? Read: “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” A great estate, but bad neighbours! Material glory, but moral shame! Noble landscapes, but mean men! But Lot did just what men are doing today. He made choice of a home, without making any inquiry as to the religious state of the neighbourhood. Men do not care how poor the Church is, if the farm be good. They will give up the most inspiring ministry in the world for ten feet more garden, or a paddock to feed an ass in. They will tell you that the house is roomy, the garden is large, the air is balmy, the district is genteel, and if you ask them what religious teaching they will have there, they tell you they really do not know, but must inquire! They will take away six children into a moral desert for the sake of a garden to play in: they will leave Paul or Apollos for six feet of greenhouse! Others again fix their tent where they can get the best food for the heart’s life; and they sacrifice a summer house that they may now and again get a peep of heaven. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Lot chose for himself. He took things into his own hands, and put himself at the head of his own affairs. What became of his management we shall see presently. He asked no blessing; will the feast choke him? He sought no advice; will his wisdom mock him and torment him bitterly? He snatched at good luck; will he fall into a pit which he did not see? O my soul, make no model of this fool for thine own guidance. Perhaps his honour is but for a moment. Commit thy way unto the Lord, and choose nothing for thyself. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths. Oh rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Seek not high things for thyself, nor take thy life into thine own keeping. O my soul, I charge thee live in the secret of Christ’s love. Walk in the way of the Lord: seek Him always with eager heart, and whether the road be long or short, rugged or plain, it will lead thee into the city where the angels are, and the Firstborn, and the loved ones who left thee long ago. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Riches or heaven?
Mrs. Jameson gives a very pretty apologue relating to St. John, which is sometimes included in a series of subjects from his life. Two young men, who had sold all their possessions to follow him, afterwards repented. He, perceiving their thoughts, sent them to gather pebbles and faggots, and on their return changed these into money and ingots of gold, saying to them, “Take back your riches, and enjoy them on earth, as you regret having exchanged them for heaven!” This story is represented on one of the windows of the cathedral at Bourges. The two young men stand before St. John, with a heap of gold on one side and a heap of stones and faggots on the other.
But the men of Sodom were wicked
The ministry of nature
We here behold the wickedness of man in strange conjunction (verse10) and contrast with the beauty of nature.
I. HUMAN DEPRAVITY AS DISCOVERED BY THE LIGHT OF NATURE.
1. The wealth of nature, and the poverty of man.
2. The cleanliness of nature, and the filthiness of man.
3. The order of nature, and the lawlessness of man.
4. The generosity of nature contrasted with the selfishness of man.
5. The joy of nature contrasted with the misery of man.
II. THE INABILITY OF NATURE TO RESTORE MAN TO PIETY AND HAPPINESS. Consider--
1. Those nations which dwell amid specially fair or splendid scenery. We have a striking illustration of the moral inefficiency of natural scenery in the text. The land is “as the garden of the Lord.” But the people? South speaks of sinners: “Who first turn grace, and then nature itself, out of doors.” This is descriptive of the inhabitants of this beautiful land. Again, we have an example in the Canaanites. And have we not examples in modern times of the inefficacy of nature to exalt man? The magnificent South Sea Islands and their inhabitants. Everywhere the glory of nature is stained with the scarlet of human sin, and nature can do nothing to purge that stain away. Or, consider--
2. Those individuals who live in special communion with mature. The sailor, the shepherd, the peasant--are these remarkable for refinement of taste or morals? We think not. But it may be said that these are only door keepers of the Palace Beautiful; well then, what of the High Priests, who draw near the inmost shrines of nature? The poet, the painter, the philosopher--what of these? Are these exceptionally good? We think the common verdict would be against them. No. The great and glorious globe is impotent to regenerate. It charms the eye, feasts the imagination, but it has no power to reach the deep places of our nature and fill us with purity and strength. Nature may make a good man better, but it cannot make a bad man good.
III. THE NEED AND PRECIOUSNESS OF THE GOSPEL. The lovers of nature remain corrupt and workers of iniquity, but the gospel changes the hearts and lives of those who accept it.
1. There is a lesson here for those who wish to substitute science for the Scriptures. Science, we are told, is to refine, moralize, spiritualize the people. Much of this is delusive. Scientific and philosophic knowledge has no power of itself to create right and truly religious feeling.
2. Another lesson is here for those who wish to open museums and picture galleries on Sunday. Contemplating marbles and pictures, do men gain the whiteness of the one or the beauty of the other? Let the moral statistics of Paris and Rome answer.
3. A final lesson is here for those who seek to substitute the temple of nature for the temple of grace. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Flee from unholy company
Darest thou come where such ill scents are to be taken as may soon infect thy soul? Of all trades, it would not do well for the collier and the fuller to live together. What one cleanseth the other will blacken and defile. The Spirit of God hath not washed thee clean, that thou shouldst run where thou will be made foul. (W. Gurnall.)
It is related of William S. Stockton, the father of Frank Stockton, that he would cross to the sunny side of the street on a hot summer’s day so as to avoid the shadow of the Arch Street Theatre, such was his intense hatred of it. (H. O. Mackey.)
Evil to be shunned
Sir Peter Lely once said he never looked at a bad picture if he could help it, as he found it “tainted his own pencil.” (H. O.Mackey.)
The impious lives of the wicked are as contagious as the most dreadful plague that infects the air. When the doves of Christ lie among such pots, their yellow feathers are sullied. You may observe that in the oven the fine bread frequently hangs upon the coarse, but the coarse very seldom adheres to the fine. If you mix an equal portion of sour vinegar and sweet wine together, you will find that the vinegar will sooner sour the wine than the wine sweeten the vinegar. That is a sound body that continues healthful in a pest house. It is a far greater wonder to see a saint maintain his purity among sinners than it is to behold a sinner becoming pure among saints. Christians are not always like fish, which retain their freshness in a salt sea; or, like the rose, which preserves its sweetness among the most noisome weeds; or, like the fire, which burns the hottest when the season is coldest. A good man was once heard to lament “that, as often as he went into the company of the wicked, he returned less a man from them than he was before he joined with them.” The Lord’s people, by keeping evil company, are like persons who are much exposed to the sun, insensibly tanned. (T. Secker.)
Danger of contamination
Sophronius, a wise teacher, would not suffer even his grown-up sons and daughters to associate with those whose conduct was not pure and upright. “Dear father,” said the gentle Eulalia to him one day when he forbade her, in company with her brother, to visit the volatile Lucinda, “you must think us very childish if you imagine that we should be exposed to danger by it.” The father took in silence a dead coal from the hearth, and reached it to his daughter. “It will not burn you, my child; take it.” Eulalia did so, and behold her beautiful white hand was soiled and blackened, and, as it chanced, her white dress also. “You cannot be too careful in handling coals,” said Eulalia, in vexation. “Yes, truly,” said the father. “You see, my child, that coals, even if they do not burn, blacken; so it is with the company of the vicious.” (From the German.)
All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever
The saints comfort in solitude
THE DIVINE VOICE IS MORE DISTINCTLY HEARD.
1. We need this consolation to confirm our faith.
2. We require a renewed sense of the Divine approval.
3. We require comfort for the evils we have suffered on account of religion.
II. THE DIVINE PROMISES ARE MORE CLEARLY APPREHENDED.
1. We are more free to survey the greatness of our inheritance.
2. We have an enhanced idea of the plentifulness of the Divine resources.
III. WE ARE LED ON TO PERCEIVE THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE.
1. Our senses deceive us.
2. Our youthful hopes deceive us. Let us learn, then, that “there is nothing sure but heaven.”
IV. THE SPIRIT OF DEVOTION IS STRENGTHENED.
1. When God speaks to the soul, our sense of reverence is deepened.
2. When God speaks, our sense of duty is deepened. (T. H. Leale.)
I. GOD ALWAYS COMES NEAR TO HIS SEPARATED ONES.
God’s promise to Abraham
II. GOD WILL DO BETTER FOR THOSE WHO TRUST HIM, THAN THEY COULD DO FOR THEMSELVES.
III. GOD BIDS US APPROPRIATE HIS GIFTS (Genesis 13:17). (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
1. Saints who hang loose, and are indifferent for the world, have the best appearance of God.
2. God is not forgetful to comfort His, who are willing to bear injuries from men for His sake.
3. God hath a speech to make His own to understand His mind. So God said to Abram.
4. When creature comforts leave God’s servants, usually He comes Himself to them.
5. God singles out souls to whom He speaks comfortably in His promises; a stranger intermeddleth not with their joy.
6. Sensible demonstrations God sometimes affords of future mercies unto His.
7. Large bounds God hath allowed for the typical inheritance of His Church here, which note larger in the heavenly Canaan.
8. God’s demonstration of mercies sometimes precedes His donation and infers it (Genesis 13:14).
9. God is free and full in allotting the inheritance of His Church.
10. Jehovah hath what He giveth, therefore He giveth surely; He cannot deceive.
11. God’s promise to Abram is fulfilled to his seed, through many generations.
12. God hath His ever in making covenant with His people according to His will; which it concerneth God’s covenanted ones to know (Genesis 13:15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Earth taken with meekness
There is nothing lost by meekness and yielding. Abraham yields over his right of choice: Lot taketh it. And, behold, Lot is crossed in that which he chose, Abraham blessed in that which was left him. As heaven is taken by violence, so is earth with meekness. And God (the true Proprietary) loves no tenants better, nor grants larger leases to any, than the meek. (J. Trapp.)
The Christian’s wealth consists in God’s promises
Men use to reckon their wealth, not by what ready money they have only, but by the good bonds and leases they can produce. A great part of a Christian’s estate lies in bonds and bills of God’s hands. (J. Trapp.)
God’s promise unchangeable
In commercial crises, manhood is at a greater discount than funds are. Suppose a man had said to me last spring, “If there comes a pinch in your affairs, draw on me for ten thousand dollars.” The man said so last spring, but I should not dare to draw on him this autumn. I should say, “Times have changed; he would not abide by it.” But God’s promises are from everlasting to everlasting; and He always stands up to them. There never was a run on heaven which was not promptly met. No creature in all the world, or in lying, audacious hell, shall ever say that he drew a draft on heaven and that God dishonoured it. (H. W.Beecher.)
I will make thy seed as the dust
God’s word of promise to Abram
1. Promise to promise, seed to land, God adds to His covenanted friend Abram, for his good.
2. God’s word of promise calleth things that are not, as if they were that is, puts into being what is not.
3. God’s word of promise putting into being is irreversible. He speaketh and doth it.
4. Innumerable issues, as the dust, sand, and stars, can God raise out of dead bodies (Hebrews 11:22).
5. Children are God’s gift, when and to whom He pleaseth (Psalms 127:1-5).
6. Man’s reach of understanding is too shallow to compass the works of God’s promise (Genesis 13:16). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Walk through the land
1. Double demonstrations of mercies, and double promises, will God give for the support of the faith of His servants.
2. God enjoins experience sometimes for the help of faith in His promises.
3. God would have His saints reach the utmost dimensions of His promises Ephesians 3:19).
4. God showeth good things to His people which He purposeth to bestow on their succeeding generations.
5. God’s promise to the head is performed in the seed.
6. Free promise should provoke souls to get experience of the good things to come. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mature, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.
Mamre is the first village that comes before us distinctly in any authentic history. If Ararat was the cradle of the races of our world, Mamre was the cradle of the Church.
I. MAMRE WAS A CHURCH AMONG THE TREES.
II. IT WAS A REFUGE FOR FAITH. Abraham and the patriarchs were emigrants; they left for the honour of God. The East is full of traditions concerning Abraham and his hatred to idolatry, and how he forsook the worship of the fire and the sun. He had come from the neighbourhood where the Babel society was founded--faith, not in God, but in bricks--it had all ended in confusion, but the sacred memories of Mamre, where Abraham reared an altar to the Lord, these linger and send out their influence still. A high faithfulness ruled the life of Mature, the life of domestic piety--the first story given us of the life of faith, where Abraham raised an altar and called upon the name of the Lord.
III. The village of Mamre was THE VILLAGE OF SACRED PROMISE. What night was that, when among its moorlands the Lord appeared unto Abraham in a vision and consecrated those heights by the glowing promises which we still recognize as true? In that little mountain hamlet was given the promise of the Messiah’s reign.
IV. Mamre: WHAT GUESTS CAME THITHER? Here was that great entertainment made, “where,” says quaint Thomas Fuller, “the covert of the tree was the dining room, probably the ground the board, Abraham the caterer, and Sarah the cook; a welcome their cheer; angels, and Christ in the notion of an angel, their guests.”
V. At Mamre are THE OLDEST AUTHENTIC GRAVES OF THIS EARTH--among them the grave of Abraham, the friend of God. (E. Paxton Hood.)
Abram’s altar was intended--
1. As a public profession of religion in the midst of enemies.
2. As a constant memorial of God’s presence.
3. As a tribute of gratitude for His mercies.
4. As expressing a sense of obligation to His love, and a desire to enjoy His presence.
5. As a sign of his determination to be fully dedicated to God. (T. H.Leale.)
1. Faith gives immediate obedience unto God’s advice.
2. Grace will untent souls anywhere, to go where God will have them.
3. God sometimes scatters brethren in the Church to carry saving knowledge to strangers; so here with Abram’s motions.
4. God sometimes makes the places of His Church’s habitation memorable.
5. The faithful cannot sit down quietly in any place without God.
6. God’s promise draweth out the saints’ worship of, and sacrifice to, Him.
7. Saints’ worship is such as is instituted by God only, a single altar.
8. God’s faithful ones desire to instruct others in the worship of
God, so Abram to Mamre.
9. Jehovah terminates all his saints’ worship and obedience. It is all to Jehovah (Genesis 13:18). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
From Bethel, Abraham travelled southward till he pitched his tents in the oak grove of Mamre, at Hebron, situated in a cool and elevated region, and commanding a fertile region; about twenty-two Roman miles south of Jerusalem, and belonging to the later territory of Judah. Hebron was one of the oldest towns of Palestine; it was built seven years before Tanis in Egypt; and was early the residence of a heathen king. However, it was, by Joshua, appointed as one of the cities of refuge, and assigned to the Levites; it thus assumed the character of a holy town where vows were taken and performed; and David chose it as his abode when he was king of Judah, during seven years and a half. These circumstances suffice to explain the interest evinced for Hebron in the history of the patriarchs; Abraham resided here when the angels made him the happy announcement of the birth of a son; here he acquired the first territorial property in Canaan; and here was the burial place of himself, of Isaac, and of Jacob, of Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah. The town was, therefore, appropriately distinguished by the erection of an altar (verse 18). Later, it was fortified by Rehoboam among many other cities; it is still mentioned after the exile; it then belonged to the Idumeans, who were, however, expelled from it by Judas Maccabaeus; in the Roman war, it was captured and burnt by the enemies, without, however, being destroyed. In the period of the Crusades, after having, for a time, suffered from heavy attacks, it was made the seat of the bishopric of St. Abraham (in 1167), but returned already in 1187 into the possession of the Moslems, who have ever since retained it, though it was several times assailed and plundered by rebellious pachas or lawless chiefs. In the fifteenth century, it was distinguished by a magnificent hospital and general charity for the distribution of bread and other necessaries to strangers. The present Hebron is a large village rather than a town; it counts among its inhabitants about a hundred Jewish families, living together in a separate quarter; as, in fact, Jews, though often ill-treated, oppressed, and insulted, seem always to have lived in the town, with few interruptions; but it is not unimportant in its commerce, though it is chiefly celebrated for its glass works, which form the principal articles of export. It is surrounded by elevations, containing the highest peaks in the range of the mountains of Judah. Its blooming vicinity, with its vineyards and orchards, its wells, its rich pastures and numerous flocks and herds, is one of the proofs that the care of the agriculturist may still convert Palestine’s desolation into smiling prosperity. The tombs of the patriarchs and of their wives, situated at the eastern end of Hebron on the slope of a ravine, attracted continually the visits of travellers; over the cave of Machpelah, called Al Magr by the Arabians, and surrounded by a high and strong wall, a mosque was erected which the Moslems regard as one of the four holiest sanctuaries of the world, from which Christians are excluded, and which stratagem only has enabled a few Europeans to enter. The town itself was, from that structure, called the Castle of Abraham, and received, therefore, from the Mohammedans the name of Bet El-Khalil, that is, the house of the “Friend of God,” which is the honorary title given to Abram by the Arabians. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)