The Rest of The Story –

God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot

Genesis 11:27-12:10, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Genesis 13:1-18, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Genesis 14:8-24, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Genesis 18:16-33, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Genesis 19:1-29, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 67: Genesis 19:10-22, The Escape of Lot, by Peter Paul Rubens

More of the Rest of the Story

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Genesis 11:27-12:10, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot (7/30/12)

If the first chapter of the Bible is “Things Go Wrong,” this next section might be called, “God Tries Again.” I can sort of imagine God shaking his head about how badly people have gotten into trouble, and then thinking, “What if I choose just one family, and work with them to save all the others?” So God says to Abram, “Come with me, and I’ll bless you.” Sounds good to Abram, so he gathers up his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot and all their shirt-tail relations and employees, and off they go. Here’s our chart of the family of Abram and Sarai. You may want to refer back to it in the coming weeks.

I suggest that you memorize Genesis 12:1-3. The Bible refers back to these verses so many times that they have been called “the topic sentence of the Bible.” If you thoroughly understand the relationship between God and Abraham, it will help you understand God’s plan for salvation of the universe, which has three main points: Now, the question is, why did God choose Abram, and not his neighbor Ed up the street? Well, probably because Abram was listening and answered the call. The importance of Abram’s response to God’s call cannot be overemphasized.

Genesis 13:1-18, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot (7/31/12)

Yesterday I wondered why God chose Abram and not his neighbor Ed up the street, and I suggested that it might have been because Abram responded to God when he was called. Today I want to look at a slightly different question: Why did God choose Abram as opposed to doing nothing?

God had seen how much trouble we get into when we are left on our own—that’s what we read about in Genesis 3 to 11. Sin is like a tar pit: once you get in, you can’t get out on your own. And once you are a sinner, you can’t come into the presence of God. This is as much a problem for God as it is for you, because God loves you and wants you to be with him.

So God developed a plan for the salvation of humanity in which he was ultimately going to have to drag us out of the tar pit. This presented the next problem: how do you save all of humanity at once? They aren’t listening, because they are perfectly happy in the tar, thank you very much. So God had to develop a whole nation of people who would listen. Abram, who had demonstrated his listening skills, was God’s choice to be the founder of this nation.

Now, Lot, as Abram’s nephew, seems like a good candidate for co-founder. He’s a close relative, presumably with the same sort of background as Abram, and he’s willing to emigrate with Abram and Sarai from Haran to Canaan. This week we’ll see why Lot didn’t work out. His first mistake was choosing to separate himself from Abram and move to the city of Sodom.

Genesis 14:8-24, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot (8/1/12)

Well! There are so many interesting things about this passage that it’s hard to know where to start. But the most interesting thing to me is that I usually think of Abraham as a really old guy with a long white beard. Here we see him as a vigorous younger man – mighty in battle, with his own army and strong allies – who is proud enough and rich enough not to take any of the spoils for himself. He went after Lot and what belonged to him, and Lot and what belonged to him is all he’s taking.

Lot, on the other hand, doesn’t cut a very impressive figure. He left Abram and went to live in Sodom, which went out to war and lost. Lot and his family were among the captives, and the only reason they didn’t end up in slavery is that Abram went after him.

Pay some attention to Melchizedek, who was a priest of God Most High. Apparently Abram isn’t the only person God was talking to; a few others worshipped God at that time. Melchizedek is mentioned only here, in Psalm 110:4, and in Hebrews 5, 6, and 7.

Genesis 18:16-33, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot (8/2/12)

We’ve all read about how the messengers of God came to Abraham to tell him that Sarah would bear him a son, in spite of their old age. The next part of the story is important, too. God is on his way to investigate two wicked cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. His intention is to pass judgment on them if things are as bad as they sound. Abraham, with great respect, suggests that God should probably spare the city if even a few of the inhabitants are righteous. This conversation shows us two things: intercessory prayer on behalf of others can be really effective, and Abraham’s covenant obligation to be a blessing to other people was consistent with his own nature.

Genesis 19:1-29, The Rest of the Story: 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot (8/2/12)

Now, as we all know, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. Apparently there weren’t even 10 righteous people there. We normally think of the major sin of the Sodomites as being, well, attempted sodomy, and certainly many scholars and commenters agree with this. However, another very long tradition of Jewish and Christian scholarship holds that their primary sin was their violence toward the visiting messengers, i.e., lack of hospitality. Certainly Ezekiel 16:49-50 and Matthew 10:14-15 give support to that view.

I have to admit that lack of hospitality as a terrible sin, or even as a cultural no-no, was a puzzle to me until a few years ago, when I read an article in National Geographic (which I can’t locate now). In the Middle East, even today, hospitality to the stranger is just about the top of list of cultural values. If a stranger, even an enemy, comes to your door and you take him in, you absolutely must keep him safely in your home until he decides to leave. We think badly of Lot because he was willing to offer his virgin daughters to the mob, but by the cultural mores of his place and time, he was doing the right thing.

Even so, we have to ask ourselves, why was he there?? He chose to leave Abraham and move to Sodom, and then, presumably after meeting the neighbors, to live there! Lot lacked the spiritual discernment to realize that it’s better to work out some arrangement with a righteous man about flocks in the desert than to live in a town full of wicked men. This isn’t the last we hear of Lot; however, he is no longer a candidate for citizenship in the nation that God is building.

Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 67: Genesis 19:10-22, The Escape of Lot, by Peter Paul Rubens (9/2/15)

Sometimes my eyebrows go up a little bit when I read the International Standard Version, but I must say that the ISV and The Escape of Lot, by Peter Paul Rubens, share a sense of urgency that we can miss when we read the same old translation that we’re used to. When I was a kid, my sister and I were taught that if the house caught on fire, we were to get out as fast as possible – not stopping for anything. “Get you out of this place” (King James Version, vs. 14) is dignified, but “Get out of here!” is more appropriate for an evacuation, and it suggests that Lot and his family weren’t supposed to stop for anything. So I like the way the angels are pushing and dragging on Lot and his wife in the painting to move them along.

Previous Step. Next Step.
Escape of Lot. Click to enlarge.
"The Escape of Lot" by Peter Paul Rubens, from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.

More of the Rest of the Story

Week 1. Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 1. More on the Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Isaac…But not Ishmael or the sons of Keturah
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Jacob…But not Esau
Week 3. Joseph Preserves Two Nations
Week 4. Deliverance
Week 4. More on Deliverance
Week 5. New Commands and a New Covenant
Week 6. Wandering
Week 6. More on the Wandering
Week 7. The Battle Begins
Week 8. A Few Good Men...and Women
Week 9. The Faith of a Foreign Woman
Week 10. Standing Tall, Falling Hard
Week 11. From Shepherd to King
Week 12. The Trials of a King
Week 13. The King Who Had It All
Week 14. A Kingdom Torn in Two
Weeks 15 and 16. God's Messengers and The Beginning of the End
Week 17. The Kingdoms' Fall
Jeremiah, Prophet of the Exile
Story 19. The Return Home
Apocalyptic writings in the Old Testament
Story 21. Rebuilding the Walls
Story 22. The Birth of the King
Story 23. Jesus’ Ministry Begins
Story 24. No Ordinary Man
Story 25. Jesus, the Son of God
Story 26. The Hour of Darkness
Story 27. The Resurrection
Story 28. New Beginnings
James, Brother of the Lord
John and Jude
Story 31. The End of Time

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