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Sunday, November 3, 2019

posted Nov 4, 2019, 5:35 AM by Site Administrator

FAMINE AND ABUNDANCE

 

Genesis 12:10-13:18

Key Verse 13:12

 

Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.

 

First, “Abram called on the name of the LORD (12:10-13:4). Look at verse 10. Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. Wait a minute! Abram followed Gods guidance, then, he had a famine, even severe one?! Yes, thats what happened to him. Usually, we think that if we follow Gods guidance faithfully, everything will go smooth – no pain, no trouble, and no nothing, but only good things. But thats not true. What God desires is not that we live like chihuahua, well pampered in a family, but like lions and tigers in the field, maybe, hungry, but roaring and shaking the ground. As we live as Gods people, following his guidance, we too go through many challenges and difficulties. But in God, such challenges and difficulties have meaning and purpose that through all those challenges, we have a chance to meet God and experience Him, and thereby, we grow up in Him as mature people, developing godly characters and value system. So, the Bible says, “My son, do not make light of the Lords discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Heb 12:5-6)

 

When Abram made such a huge decision to give up his already secured life and cut off all human ties including his family ties, and went to Canaan, he must have expected something great in the promised land. But, instead, he had to live in a tent, as an alien, traveling here and there. Now, what was worse, there was a severe famineIn our terms, there was a great shortage of jobs that he could not get a job to support his family. Even native people were laid off in great scale. When he had such a challenge, he should have prayed to God for help, but nowhere in todays passage we see Abram praying to God for help. Why? It was because he did not know that kind of things – he was really a young sheep, not knowing God almost at all. Then, after experiencing more failures in finding a job and facing more financial difficulties in Canaan, he decided to go down to Egypt. In his eyes, that was the best option for his survival in the given situation. So he left the promised land and went down to Egypt. The idea of living as Gods covenant person was good; the idea of being a blessing for the whole world was good; thats what he pursued, even leaving his family ties and came to the promised land. Yet, lifes challenge was so great that he was blown away from the promised land

What Abram experienced in the promised land, the famine, is the fundamental challenge we face as we strive to live as the disciples of Jesus. Many people want to live as Gods covenant people, carrying Gods great vision for their lives; they want to serve God. But when they face this fundamental challenge - financial difficulty, they easily go down to Egypt, saying, Survival first. Instead of serving Gods mission wholeheartedly by entrusting their financial matter in Gods hands, they go after securing their future with a career. As a result, they fail to live as the disciples of Jesus, not because of any other reason, but because of their lack of faith in God. At the end of their life, all these people share the same testimony, saying, Ah, if I live again… Going down to Egypt for survival looks very practical, but it is never a good idea or right choice; it is not an option for Jesus disciples. Don’t be blown away by this challenge. Jesus understands how important this matter is to his disciples; thats why he talks about this matter extensively in 16 verses, in Matthew 6:19-34. Jesus conclusively, says, So, do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. As God hired us and sent us into his work place, we can be rest assured that He will not let us die for starvation - He is not a bad boss, but He is our good God; He is just and fair. We must believe that God knows our situation and that He will certainly help us with what we need. By faith in God, we must seek Gods kingdom purpose first, and then, we see that God provides us with everything we need. Thats how we can live as Jesus disciples; otherwise, we live as bread seekers just like all others in the whole world, and that is the cursed life. Stay in the promised land no matter what; endure hardship by seeking His kingdom first and in time, you will see God taking care of your practical needs.

 

How did Abrams life in Egypt go? When he was coming to the promised land of Canaan, he had his hearts complete confidence of what he was doing, because he was obeying Gods command. Even though there were many obstacles such as the opposition from his family members, the inner pain of cutting the family ties, and the thought of never seeing them again, he had complete confidence in what he was doing; so, he packed everything and left, willing to give up literally, everything. He was unstoppable despite all odds. But now as he was leaving the promised land, he was not confident of what he was doing. It was not Gods will for him to leave the promised land no matter what. When this confidence of Gods will upon his life was gone from his heart, he became fearful. He was thinking about the worst scenario possible. Then, he begged his wife to say to others that she was his sister, not wife so that, even if she might be someone else wife, he might be treatedwell. What a terrible husband he was! When Adam lost Gods mission, he blamed his wife for his own wrongdoing. And now when Abram lost Gods mission, he tried to utilize his wife to save his skin! When brothers lose Gods mission, they become strange; they do not look like rulers of the world any longer, but really silly people who want to utilize their wives for their selfish gain. No lady values such silly men. Who are the best husband candidates? Those who have God’s mission! Those who have real faith in God! Those who obey God! They are cool, powerful and awesome. 

 

In Egypt, Sarai, Abrams wife, was taken into Pharaohs palace to be his wife, and Pharaoh treated Abram well and gave him sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. At this, should Abram laugh, or should he weep? When he left Gods promised land, the worst scenario possible he had thought about came true; there, after losing his wife, he was sad and angry; but there was nothing he could do. He was hopeless.

 

But God intervened into the situation. God inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household; Pharaoh figured out why such plagues were on him and his family, and brought Sarai back to Abram, rebuked him for telling him a lie in regard to his wife, and gave him an order to leave Egypt. In this way, God arranged things so that Abram could not stay in Egypt, but he had to leave Egypt and go back to the promised land. What was the outcome of this whole episode? Look at chapter 13:1-4. Lets read these verses together:

 

1So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. 3From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

 

Through this famine training and his journey to Egypt, Abram experienced Gods protection and provision personally in the practical matter - in his most difficult time, God helped him – that was an eye-opening moment. When he was called in 12:1-3, he did not know God personally yet. But through this famine training and his journey to Egypt, now his eyes were opened toward God. So, Abram came back to Canaan. Verses 3 and 4 shows that Abram made his journey all the way back to the original place where he had first built an altar to the Lord. This shows his hearts decision very well - he was going to start all over again in the promised land with a new hearts decision - from that time on, he would never leave the promised land no matter what. Before this time, even if he came to the promised land, still he was weak and naive, because he was not planted in the promised land yet. So, when a challenge came, he was blown away; whenever a temptation came, he would be blown away. But as he understood Gods will and made his hearts decision to stay in the place where God called him absolutely, he was planted in the promised land firmly. He became like a kernel of wheat that fell to the ground – he would not move around any longer no matter what. Then, God could train him and refine him freely, and Abram would grow up in God as a mature man of God.

 

So many Christians do not understand the importance of this first step – being planted in the place God called them to. As a result, they just live as church-hoppers, looking for a better church continuously. Or just they live as those who enjoy Christian things, never having a chance to do something really great, never having a chance to live up to their true potential. I know one man who is like that. Even in his fifties, still he is a zealous Christian in his own eyes. Has he done anything really good in his Christian life? Nothing! He has just wasted his life. Be a kernel of wheat that falls to the ground! Have a hearts determination and stay in the promised land by any means, and God will help you and bless you greatly. 

 

Second, Abram lived in the promised land (13:5-18).In chapter 13, we see Abram and Lot having a conflict, because God blessed both of them so much and they had a lot of flocks and herds that the land could not support them while they stayed together. Famine was a problem, and abundance became a challenge too. When Abram lived as an idol worshiper, nothing carried any meaning – they just came and went. But then, as he lived as Gods covenant person, everything carried meaning and purpose – famine or abundance. At this challenge, Abram suggested Lot to part company, saying, Lets part company. If you go to the left, Ill go to the right; if you go to the right, Ill go to the left. Abram could have chosen the best land first, because he was Lots uncle- he had seniority. But if he did so, possibly, Lot would not be happy with him, and their relationship would be damaged. But since Abram gave Lot the first choice to choose the best land, Lot had no problem at all. In this way, Abram valued his relationship with Lot more than securing the better land. 

 

What was Lots choice? Look at verse 10. 10Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)The expression, Lot… saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered… shows that his first concern in choosing the land was how to manage his flocks and herds. What about Gods will and plan for his life? He was not concerned about them. He did not think about Gods vision for his life or how to please God, but how to manage his material possessions properly. Thats his attitude in a selective situation. Also, verse 10 shows his mentality very well, saying, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. The phrase, like the garden of the Lordtalks about his desire for God. He wanted to live in the Garden of the Lord, enjoying Gods blessings, having fellowship with God, and serving Gods mission. He never thought about abandoning God. But at the same time, the phrase, like the land of Egypt indicates how much he had been influenced by the Egyptian lifestyles, when he went down to Egypt for survival from the famine - the Egyptians highly civilized life and their pleasure seeking lifestyles, such as enjoying parties, going to movie theaters, and watching sports games. He had been fascinated, and realized what he wanted. When the whole plain of the Jordan looked like the land of Egypt, he made his mind very clear. In the time of decision making, he chose to enjoy good things of both God and the world. That was the beginning of his compromise. In verse 12, we see a great contrast between Abram and Lot. Lets read this verse together:

 

Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.

 

Abram remained in the Promised Land, but Lot left the Promised Land to secure the seemingly better land. When this challenge arose, Abram took down deeper root in Gods calling, deciding to stay in the promised land, willing to swallow all related losses. But Lot was blown away from the promised land, because what he really loved was not God or Gods vision, but money, and his own materialistic and pleasure-seeking life. 

 

Since Lot started his life of faith together with Abram, leaving his country, his people and his fathers household, he could have been blessed by God greatly just like Abram. But in todays passage, we see Lot compromising and leaving the promised land. At this time, he never intended to live in the city of Sodom, because the city had a notorious reputation - as a worshiper of God, it was never his intention to live there. But once he gave into his desire for a materialistic and pleasure-seeking life, this one compromise led him to another compromise, and then, another compromise, and then, another compromise. Then, very soon, we see him living in the city of Sodom in the next chapter. And eventually, he would lose everything, including all his money and wife, and end up living in a cave, bearing very shameful fruits. Once he left Gods promised land, really terrible things were waiting for him. But now, he did not know whats ahead of him because he was blinded by his desire for money and success

 

The Bible uses these two men, Abram and Lot, as a metaphor, teaching us how we believers should live our life. For the believers, there are two ways of life – the lifestyle of Abram that holds on to Gods promise and stays in Gods promised land without compromise, and the lifestyle of Lot that compromises here and there with the pleasures and things of this world. It seemed that Abram was too exclusive and stubborn, insisting in one way of life, whereas Lot was generous in his life of faith being able to communicate with others freely, and wise to enjoy good things of God and the world at the same time. What is really sad is that, today, the trend among Christians is Lots way of life; the absolute majority of believers walk in the footsteps of Lot. And it is very rare, very difficult to find even one believer who walks in the footsteps of Abram, holding onto Gods calling and pursuing Gods vision wholeheartedly. And since all believers are living in Lots way, sometimes we are confused if we too must follow the trend. Lots lifestyle is considered normal, whereas Abrams lifestyle is considered weird and abnormal. When a Christian boy decides to live like Abram, his Christian parents do all they can to stop him. Surely, the world is pervert and corrupt. The Bible says, Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.Christians, do not love the world, for when you love anything in the world - pleasure-seeking life or wealth, fame or your successor just a happy family life - it will lead you to compromise and eventually to a totally different life than God designed for you. Walk in the footsteps of Abram, accepting Gods calling and living according to Gods will and purpose, and God will bless you greatly.

 

After Lot had left him, God visited Abram. Look at verses 14 through 17. Lets read these verses responsively:

 

14The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17Go walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.

 

Gods counseling for Abram had two points. The first was about the land. God said to Abram, Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. Even though Abram gave Lot the first choice in choosing the land, he felt sorry and suffered from the sense of loss when practically, Lot chose seemingly the best land - the whole plain of the Jordan. It was like you turn down a dream job offer for Gods mission, then, one of your classmates got it. Ouch! Even though Abram let go of that chance by faith, still it hurt. At that time, God appeared to him and assured him of the vast land. Indeed, God was sensitive to his sheeps condition. Jesus says, I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields-- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mk 10:29-30) The second point was about his offspring. Since Lots father, Haran, died earlier and Abram didnt have any children, Abram regarded Lot as his son and loved him dearly. But Lot didnt regard Abram as his father. When a practical benefit was concerned, Lot left Abram, saying, “Thank you. Good bye.” Abram felt abandoned and was sure that he must have his own son. God told him, I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. God was Abrams shepherd who knew his sheep very well. After confirming his promises about the land and his offspring, God told Abram, Go walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you. Its not good for him to stay in his dark tent entertaining all kinds of dark thoughts. So God took him out, and let him check out what a great land God was giving to him. 

Often, we are like Abram, being sad or even depressed because of a certain thing, sometimes, the land, sometimes, a son, sometimes, sheep; we hope that God may help us by giving us those things. As shepherds, we want God to bless us with sheep. But instead, God gives us his words of promises, saying, “I will give you many sheep, “You will be fruitful.” His point is that, by believing in Gods promises of blessings, we may pursue it continually. Then, as we do so, God comes to have a chance to bless us greatly. When? At the right time, when we are ready. God wants us to live by faith in Him, even when there is no sign, even when there are no sheep in the pen. God will bless you and give you the land and the sheep abundantly. So, seek Gods kingdom and Gods righteousness continuously.

 

Verse 18 reads, “So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.” At Gods direction, Abram packed things and moved; he traveled from Bethel all the way to Hebron - Jerusalem area; he practically checked out the land and found that it was indeed vast and fertile. Then, he was very thankful for Gods promise of the land that he built an altar to the LORD, expressing his thanks to Him. Nothing in Abrams presentsituation had actually changed; Lot still had the seemingly better and vast land, and Abram did not yet have a child. But, when Gods word of promise came to Abram, and when Gods vision became real in his heart, everything changed. The sense of loss was gone from his heart. Instead, he was happy and thankful to live as Gods covenant person in the promised land. 

 

One Word: Be Planted In The Promised Land

 

 

 

 

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