Post Series on Genesis 13:1-18:
- Picking up the Pieces After Sin By Promise (Genesis 13:1-4)
- Leaning on God’s Sovereignty and Grace By Promise (Genesis 13:8-13)
- Living and Walking with God By Promise (Genesis 13:14-18)
When Lot chose the well-watered Jordan Valley over the land of Canaan in Genesis 13, disaster was averted for God’s covenant promises to Abram. God, in his sovereignty and grace, preserved Abram through his well-intentioned foolish offer to give the Promised Land to Lot, if Lot but chose it.
YHWH Confirms His Promises
But rather than scolding Abram, YHWH took the opportunity to reaffirm his promise:
14The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” 18So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD. (Genesis 13:14-18)
God’s grace and faithfulness is staggering. Every time Abram stumbles, falters, or slips, God takes the opportunity to proclaim again his promises to Abram. “I will give this land to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, unable to be counted. Go ahead and walk through the land, for I will give it to you.”
Such is the grace of God toward believers even today. When we come into the house of God Sabbath-day by Sabbath-day, God reaffirms his covenant promises to us verbally, by his word. He confirms to us again and again and again that he gave up his only Son, Jesus Christ, that we might be saved. He reassures us that the death Jesus died has paid for all our sins, and that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is ours through faith.
When the pastor greets us in the name of the Lord, God reassures us that his attitude toward us is “Grace and Peace.” When we bathe in God’s word through Scripture readings, prayers, and the preaching, God announces yet again though we are miserable sinners, he has loved us with an everlasting love, and his Son has died to purchase us for himself as a people for his own possession.
When we come to the Table of the Lord, God ministers the gospels to us in a palpable, tangible way: Christ’s body was broken for you! Christ’s blood was shed for you! And when the minister pronounces the benediction, God himself speaks blessings over us, and he puts his very name on us (Num. 6:27), binding us up into his very identity.
God’s Promises Form the Foundation of Our Mission
Hearing this assurance directly from YHWH, Abram continues on his mission: he builds yet another altar to YHWH. Just as earlier when Abram had called upon the name of the LORD between Bethel and AI, he again worships YHWH by sacrifice and proclamation.
Abram’s mission was to bless the nations, and he would do it through bringing them into the true worship of the living God. As he moves from place to place, building permanent altars to YHWH, he bears a light of witness into the darkened nation of idol worshipers. Ultimately, salvation would not flood into the nations at large until the coming of the Great Offspring of Abram, Jesus Christ himself, but Abram models for us the mission of the church of witnessing for Jesus Christ in a watching world.
Living and Walking with God By Promise
At this point, Abram’s spiritual state has run the gamut. He has been a complete rebel, distant from YHWH and worshiping idols in Ur and Haran with the rest of his family. He has been a courageous hero of faith, leaving his country and his kindred and his father’s house behind to follow God obediently to the land he would show him. He has been a weak man of faith, fleeing from God to Egypt at the first sign of a famine, and putting his own wife in jeopardy through a lie. In this last episode, he has been a man putting together the pieces, and then depending on God’s grace to preserve Abram’s possession of the Promised Land.
The single consistent thread throughout this story has been God and God’s promise. God has been faithful, even when Abram has not, and at this juncture, it appears that Abram is beginning to understand the scandalous economy of God’s grace.
Specifically, Abram is learning to walk with God by promise. Ideally, this means faithful obedience to what God has commanded on the basis of his promise. But it also means trusting that God will do for us what we fail to do ourselves as we learn to depend on God’s faithfulness–and to distrust our own.
In my own life, I can look back at so many close calls, near misses, and even utter failures that God has completely worked together for my good and his glory. God forbid that I should ever point anyone to me or my own faithfulness as an example of how to live. My life is a testament to God’s grace, pure and simple.
But my prayer is that God would be faithful to me by changing me that I might more and more walk by promise, just as Abram learned to walk by promise. For as much as I fail and continue to need the grace of Jesus Christ to cleanse me of every sin, I also need desperately to grow and be conformed to Christ’s image.
May God be faithful to finish the good work that he has begun in us–the work he has promised to complete.