Restorer. Notice how the chapter begins: “Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South” (vs.1). And so the dismal days of unbelieving, lying, self-protecting behavior that earned Abram a reprimand from an ungodly king were behind him. Interestingly, it’s as though the geography reinforces that idea. After all, Abram went – now watch how the text describes the locale – “to the place where his tent had been at the beginning” (vs.3b) and “to the place of the altar which he had made there at the first” (vs.4a). In back-to-back verses that specification is given. These historic reminders bring us back to Genesis 12:8 – the place where Abram built an altar and worshipped the LORD before going to Egypt. In one sense, yes, it was ‘back to square one.’ But it’s also as though Abram was getting a fresh start since he was back at the place where he was before he failed. Even though he faltered he would still become ‘the father of the faithful.’ A spiritual slump in Egypt didn’t send Abram into early retirement. You could say that here in Genesis 13 we get a kind of hint of what we would see so vividly displayed later on in redemptive history in the life of Peter – God is a restorer. Although sin is serious, it does not indefinitely sever a believer from usefulness. Peter, for example, was called to strengthen his brethren and feed the flock post his thrice denials (Lk. 22:32; Jn. 20:15-17). So there is indeed good news for failures like Abram, Peter, and us – God is a restorer. He can restore years (Joel. 2:25-26), nations (Jer. 30:17), joy (Ps. 52:12), and all things (Acts 3:19-21; Rev. 21:1-5) – including faltering patriarchs and stumbling saints.
Trustworthy. The issue that predominantly drove the events of this chapter centered around the strife that was occurring between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen (Gen. 13:7). Both Abram and Lot had many possessions, much livestock, and the land was not able to support both groups (vs.5-6). Something needed to be done. Abram stepped up and played the role of peacemaker because, I would argue, he knew that God was trustworthy. While we aren’t told what exactly went through Abram’s mind, having been given a promise of land in the previous chapter (12:1,7), he pleaded with Lot that there would be no strife between their respective herdsmen and he told Lot to choose whatever area of land he wanted (Gen. 13:8-9). If Lot chose the land to the right, Abram would take the land to the left; if Lot chose the land to the left, Abram would take the land to the right. This is quite different than Abram’s lapse of faith in Egypt. Here he was not taking matters into his own hands. Whether he walked to the right or to the left I think that he thought – God will make good on His promise. In fact, in an act of grace, after Lot chose his portion of land (13:10-13), the Genesis account records that God spoke to Abram and confirmed the promise (vs.14-15). God told Abraham to look over the land – to the north, south, east, and west (vs.14), to walk its breadth and width (vs.17), and, as it were – see the promise afar off. This was divine assurance of an assured inheritance. It’s as though the text quickly validated Abram’s trust and reminded the reader of God’s trustworthiness. Doubtless, Abram felt that way because, when he moved his tent and dwelt by the trees of Mamre, he built an altar to worship the reassuring LORD whose promises are trustworthy because He is.
Proper Perspective Bringer. Just as the reader begins to get a glimpse of what Lot saw – “all the plain of Jordan…was well watered everywhere…”(Gen. 13:10a), and right before that area is described as being “like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar” (vs.10c), we’re told that the land looked like this “before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” (vs.10b). It’s as though the text is setting Lot’s eyesight against the backdrop of literary foresight and redemptive historical hindsight. It’s as though God was providing perspective. What Lot saw looked beautiful but it was transient and temporary. We’d do well to remember that this world, along with its lusts are passing away (1 Jn. 2:17a; 1 Cor. 7:31), and so, rather than fixing our eyes on that which is fleeting, we, through lenses of faith, set our eyes upon what is unseen (2 Cor. 4:18), seeing the promises afar off (Heb. 11:13), setting our hearts upon things above (Col. 3:1-2), awaiting a coming Savior (Phil. 3:20-21), and, like Abraham, looking towards a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). And lest we be discouraged by our short memories, the Bible is replete with verse-after-verse reminders that demonstrate how God demonstrates Himself to be the ultimate proper-perspective-bringer.
The Biggest Variable in Decision Making. Now, granted this may not be an attribute in the same sense that others are, but, by virtue of who God is it is nonetheless true, and that reality is implicitly seen in this chapter. It’s interesting to contrast the decision-making processes of both Lot and Abram. Abram saw that it was not right nor prudent for the respective herdsmen of himself and Lot to have strife, and he essentially cast himself before the sovereignty of God by letting Lot decide which area of land he wanted. For Lot, however, it was a different story. In verse 10 we are told, “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.” Now we are not told that Lot did anything wrong. But we are told in verse twelve that he pitched his tent toward Sodom – a choice that would have dire consequences for the spiritual walk of both he and his family. The essential difference between Abram’s choice and Lot’s appears to be that Abram’s choice was by faith and Lot’s was by sight. Though not explicit, it is reasonable to assume that God was the biggest variable in Abram’s decision, while there’s no hint that God factored into Lot’s choice. This narrative can remind us that the way of wisdom calls us to trust in the LORD with all of our heart and to not lean on our own understanding (Prov. 3:6), and that foundationally begins with recognizing God as the biggest variable in the decision-making process.
The Providential Begetter of Obedience. I think it’s interesting to consider that God called Abram to separate from his kindred (Gen. 12:1), yet, as it relates to Lot, Abram, for whatever reason, did not. But nonetheless in chapter thirteen the strife between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen did indeed bring about a separation (Gen. 13:12). Now although we are not told the intentions behind the invisible hand of God’s providence in this matter, it is worth considering the way in which God providentially begets obedience in the lives of His people. What was overtly supernatural in the life of the prophet Jonah, i.e. how God used a storm and a great fish to beget the obedience that Jonah had ran from, is often quietly providential in the life of a New Testament believer. It can happen in the form of an IRS audit, an unbeliever breaking up with an unequally-yoked believer, a knock on the door that warrants both a proclamation and clarification of the Gospel, and much more. At the end of the day, the way in which God providentially puts His children in positions to obey Him – or to stop disobeying Him – speaks, I think, to His near, patient, kind, and loving fatherhood.