“And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. . . . And there was strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle . . . and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.”
And Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom.
And after a while you find him living in Sodom: in Sodom, that type and example of the world that passeth away, and the lust thereof; Sodom, the world ripe for the final outpouring of the wrath of the holy God.
Meditate on it, O Christian, and take warning!
Yes, Lot was a child of God. For the apostle Peter tells us that Lot had a righteous soul that he vexed there in Sodom. And to be sure, Lot was saved, too, but only because “the Lord knows how to deliver his own.” And you may indeed envy Lot’s salvation, and strive after it. But never envy the bitter and painful way in which Lot was ultimately saved. For Lot was saved as through fire! And never envy Lot’s choice: for Lot was a. child of God, a righteous man, who for a time chose the world. And he had to learn by bitter experience.
There was strife: strife between Abram and Lot, and thus strife between the herdmen of Abram and the herdmen of Lot.
Strife between brethren it was, and such strife as there may never be. Strife there may be, and strife there must be, between the church and the world. For they are not brethren. And what concord is there between Christ and Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel, the sons of God with the men of Sodom? Moreover, strife there may be and must be, even between brethren, when there is a principle at stake, whether that be a principle of the truth of God’s Word or a principle of Christian ethics and of a godly walk. God’s people may not avoid strife and sharp conflict when their calling is to do battle in the cause of the Son of God, the cause of the truth, the cause of righteousness. Then indeed they may never flinch when the trumpet calls them to the battle. And there is no truce in that warfare!
But strife of another kind, strife in. the sense of partisanship and contentiousness, there may never be between brethren. For it is contrary to the mind of Christ that is in them. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. . . .” Phil. 2:3-5.
And of this other, this evil kind was the strife between Abram and Lot.
For there was a conflict of interests between them which had become very serious. It had not begun with the herdmen: they were but servants, doing the bidding of their masters. But it had already worked through to the herdmen of Abram and Lot: for they quarreled and strove with one another, land very likely came to blows. No, it had begun between Abram and Lot. For does not Abram plead with Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen?” Moreover, the occasion of the strife lay in the fact that both Abram and Lot had become very rich; possessed great herds and flocks, so that the land, that is, the immediate grazing land in that vicinity could not bear them, could not supply sufficient pasture for the flocks and herds of both. This may have been true objectively; it may also be that Scripture presents this facet of the account from Lot’s’ viewpoint. However that may be, there was strife.
Nor did this strife have its source in Abram. For did not Abram plead with his nephew that there be no strife between them?
And were not his actions entirely consistent with his pleadings? Was he not quite willing to deny himself and his own interests completely, to look not on his own things, but on the things of the other, to esteem the other better than himself, in Christian lowliness of mind, acknowledging that all that he had was not of himself, but of his God? And was not the Friend of God quite prepared to commit his cause to Him that judgeth righteously, believing His promise that to him and to his seed He would give, the inheritance?
And were not Abram’s reasons right and sound? We be brethren, he said. Not only were uncle and nephew of the same blood. But in the spiritual sense they were brethren. They had .the same calling. They served the same God, Jehovah. They worshipped at the same altar, and had undoubtedly more than once called together on the name of the Lord. Pilgrims and strangers together in the same land were they. And to glorify the same Lord was the purpose of their calling. And how can that be when brethren strive? Besides, was not the enemy present round about them to witness their strife? The Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. They were enemies: enemies of God and enemies of God’s people. And do not the people of God become a spectacle to that enemy when they strive with one another? And do they not bring shame and reproach on the name of the God whose cause they represent when thus they strive? And do not they themselves, become spiritually weak, exposing themselves needlessly to the attacks of the enemy, when they do things through strife) and vainglory?
But to all this Lot was oblivious, willfully oblivious!
The trouble was that Lot in his soul separated his own interests from those of Uncle Abram, his brother in the faith. After all, he had riches and cattle and herds and flocks of his own! He was rich in his own right! What became of Abram was not his concern; nor could he allow his uncle’s interests to stand in the way of his own. He needed pasture for his flocks and herds just as well as Abram did. Meanwhile, he ignored the fact that it was Abram whom the Lord had called out of Ur, that it was Abram, who had the promise of the covenant, that it was Abram to whom the land truly belonged, according to the Lord’s own promise. He ignored the fact that he, Lot, had merely gone along with Abram. He overlooked the fact that he had shared in Abram’s blessings. He forgot that in the riches of Abram he shared. He was not mindful of the fact that those riches were blessings of the covenant God of Abram. And above all, he lost from sight the fact that those riches were after all nothing in themselves, but typical of the heavenly riches of the heavenly country and the heavenly city that hath foundations; and he began to look, on those riches as an end in themselves, something to, be sought for their own sake.
Strife there was,—sad strife. O Christian, do not emulate Lot!
Nothing Abram might say or do would turn Lot from his wrong purpose. For, once Lot had fixed his eye on “his own things” rather than on “the things of others,” the outcome was inevitable.
Abram, the Friend of God, is a striking contrast.
To be sure, he might have insisted on his position, because he had a divinely assigned right to the land. He had every “right” to tell Lot, “I will divide the pasture, and you will have to be satisfied with what I give you. Otherwise you had better go back to Haran.” But he did not. For Abram wanted no strife, He was willing to commit his cause to the Lord. Above all, he had his heart fixed on the heavenly fatherland, and was content to be a pilgrim and stranger even in the land of Canaan.
Hence, he denies himself and his own interests completely.
As far as Abram was concerned, it was better to separate than to fight, Hence, he makes. his proposal to Lot that they separate and that Lot take his choice: “if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Complete self-denial was this, and it should have shamed Lot’s contentious self-seeking. No, it was not wrong on Abram’s part to make this offer. He did not tempt Lot to go to Sodom. Was not the whole land before Lot? And how remarkable that Abram, who was the older man not only, but the one to whom the entire land belonged was willing to go the length of self-denial and to say to his headstrong nephew: “You choose first, and I will take what is left.”
O Lot, be careful! O Christian, consider well!
Take not one step without considering where thou goest. Have an eye for the consequences of every step thou takest—the consequences for thyself, for thy wife, thy children, thy children’s children. For not one step canst thou take that will not affect all these.
For Lot this was a moment of trial and a moment of decision.
The alternatives were evident. They were: the kingdom of God or a piece of the world. They were: seek the world and its riches and your own selfish interests, continuing in your present contentious state of mind and heart; or change your mind, live in peace with Abram, the heir of the covenant and promises of God.
But Lot was not to be stopped!
Not the fact that this choice involved separation from Abram, on whom were the promises conferred, not the fact that it involved separation from the church, from the organic line of the covenant; not the fact that he, weak Lot, needed the sustaining strength and the real, spiritual joy of Abram’s fellowship; not the knowledge that he could not be strong all by himself; not the fact that he was leaving the altar where Abram called upon the name of the Lord; not the awareness that he could not really build altars and call on the name of Jehovah apart from Abram; not the awareness that it would be impossible to build altars to Jehovah in the company of Sodom;—no, not all these could deter Lot.
Nor could the silent, but very vocal testimony of Abram’s self-denying conduct shame his contentiousness and humiliate him, as it should have. If only Lot had thought upon his way, he would have been ashamed that he had ever thought of acting as the lord of the land that belonged to Abram by divine right.
But greed, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, lust, pride, self-seeking,—these have temporarily blinded the eyes of righteous Lot. And to his greed and lust-blinded eyes the offer of Abram looked tempting. He accepted the first choice.
And all for a piece of the world, this world!
To the natural eye, the carnal, covetous eye, the eye that can see only the things of this world, the plain of Jordan looked the most desirable. It was lush, rich, well watered, as the garden of the Lord, and as the richest section of the land of Egypt which Lot had recently visited with Abram. Filled with luxuriant grass was this plain! Abundant pasture would it provide for Lot’s numerous herds and flocks. He would prosper and become richer than Abram!
And Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. . . .
And as inevitably as the moth is attracted to the flame, so irresistibly was Lot drawn toward Sodom itself,—Sodom, the heart of the world, the essence of what Lot had principally chosen. Spiritually his choice was all wrong. Perhaps he had good intentions and many excuses. Is not the road to hell paved with such good intentions?
The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly. Rich? Yes, indeed! Rich with the abundance of the wicked upon whom not the favor, but the curse of Jehovah rests. And remember: there is no common grace! But Sodom was depraved, totally depraved, openly, defiantly wicked, on the verge of destruction! And is not all the world?
Poor, blind Lot! The riches of this world blinded his eyes!
Yes, the Lord knows how to deliver the godly. And He delivered Lot too,—out of Sodom and out of temptation. He always provides the escape for His own. For He is faithful.
But a lesson Lot had to learn, a painful lesson what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
And how painful the lesson proved to be! Look ahead for a moment. When the Lord made him a captive, and Abram rescued him, Lot did not learn. When he had the painful experience of vexing his righteous soul in the midst of Sodom’s wickedness, he did not learn, though his conscience must often have pricked him as he saw things going from bad to worse. Finally the Lord must forcibly deprive him of all that he has,—of his wife, of his whole family (which became involved either actually. or spiritually in Sodom’s ruin), of all his riches! He is left a poor, wretched, lonely man.
Yes, but what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
O Christian, do not follow Lot’s example!