The Life of Abraham: The Promise Confirmed
Abram and Lot have separated leaving Abram surely feeling a great loss and likely weaker defensibly against the hostile of the land. But God, in His great mercy, comes to Abram reminding him of the promise He had made to him. He reassures him of two things: a land that is promised and numerous descendants.
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. (Genesis 13:14-15)
God’s Comforting Word
As I said above, this departure had left Abram with a sense of loss and more vulnerable to raid by the people of the land. I’m sure he may have been experiencing a bit of depression, fear, and maybe even a bit of bitterness about his situation. But God steps in with words of comfort; a soothing balm for the wounds he has endured in this life.
We must remember this in our own lives. Christ has promised that if we love Him we will endure persecution and suffering in this life. We will loose friends and family will reject us. Our only true comfort is to be found in God’s Word.
O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,
According to Your word to Your servant.
May Your compassion come to me that I may live,
For Your law is my delight. (Psalm 119:76-77)
God’s Word brings us comfort in our times of distress. It encourages the saints and helps us to remember to keep our eyes on God and His promises and not on our circumstances and temporal sufferings.
“…the best remedy for the mitigation and the cure of sadness, is placed in the word of God.” ~ John Calvin1
There may be times in our life that we feel completely abandoned. We may feel all our friends have rejected us, all our family is against us, and there is no one to turn to for comfort and encouragement. In these situations, we can always trust that God is ready and eager to commune with us. It is often in these trying times that we grow even deeper in our relationship with God.
A Better Land
Lot had chosen the better land, the more fertile and productive land, the land that appeared to be an oasis in a famine-stricken land. Abram had been promised all the land but, for the sake of family unity and peace, he had forfeited the better part of the land to Lot. While this was very admirable, God comes to Abram to let him know that while Lot might have what now appears to be the better part of the land, the promise God has made to Abram is much better.
“That which God has to show us is infinitely better and more desirable than any thing that the world has to offer our view. The prospects of an eye of faith are much more rich and beautiful than those of an eye of sense. Those for whom the heavenly Canaan is designed in the other world have sometimes, by faith, a comfortable prospect of it in their present state; for we look at the things that are not seen, as real, though distant.” ~ Matthew Henry3
In this life we tend to see the unrighteous prosper so often while the righteous suffer. We see false teachers getting rich while leading the undiscerning into greater poverty and down a path that does not lead to God. But we know that the promise we have been made by God are better than anything this life may offer. We may be called foolish, we will likely be mocked and slandered, we may even endure physical persecution, but we know of a Promised Land that we will enjoy for all eternity.
While separating from Lot may have been painful, it was necessary. The promise was for Abram and his descendants, not Lot and his. If Lot had remained with Abram, this promise may have been misconstrued and greater disunity may have developed down the line. God providentially ordained this separation showing us that God brings good out of evil (Genesis 5:20, Romans 8:28)
We may not always know why relationships, jobs, churches end. They may leave us in confusion and despair but we can trust that God, in His Sovereignty, is in control and using every situation for our good in order to sanctify us. We may not know the reason for things, but we can find peace and hope in God’s Sovereignty.
I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. (Genesis 13:16)
It must have been both unbelievable and encouraging to hear this promise from God. Abram had no children and both he and Sarai were beyond childbearing years, yet God was telling him he would be the father to innumerable children.
Now, we see that this number not only included those who would be genetic descendants but would also include spiritual children, Jews and Gentiles. What a blessing to be counted among one of Abram’s descendants!
This analogy to the dust must have been completely mind-blowing to Abram. When he compared what he had to the number of grains of dust on the earth, there was virtually nothing that was similar. Yet, Abram had faith in what God said. Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, is what we base truth on.
This authority the Lord therefore requires us to attribute to his own word, that it alone should be sufficient for us.” ~ John Calvin1
My pastor has been walking us through Acts. Several times, he has pointed out that God prepares both the person who preaches the Gospel and prepares the one who is to hear the Gospel. This passage in Genesis indicates something very similar.
God has prepared a land for His people and He will provide the people for the land. We will see this again in a future passage where Abraham tells Isaac that God will provide the sacrifice. We see in Genesis 3 that God had already planed that the seed of Eve would crush the serpent. God has provided His Son for our salvation. To those He has chosen, He gives them a new heart and the ability to believe, have faith, and repent. He has prepared eternity for us and He is preparing us for eternity. Nothing God does is without purpose.
“The same God that provides the inheritance provides the heirs. He that has prepared the holy land prepares the holy seed; he that gives glory gives grace to make meet for glory.” ~ Matthew Henry
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17)
It may have seemed a little demeaning to have Abram walk this land he was promised but at the time had no claim to. But God was calling on him to exercise his faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” This land was what Abram was hoping for and was convicted that his descendants would one day possess. Even though he would not see this come to full fruition, he had faith in God’s promises.
When we are planning a vacation, we collect books on the area, we watch documentaries or travels shows about the area, we may study the language, we look at people’s photos, we make plans for what we will do there, we day dream of all the fun we will have. As Abram walked this land, I’m sure he imagined about what all his descendants might do with that land.
As Christians, we do the same thing when thinking of our eternity. We read the passages that speak about the new heaven and new earth, we think about the songs we will see in praise to our King, we long for the days when there is no more sin and no more suffering. We have assurance for the things we are hoping in and we are convicted that we will experience those things that we have been promised but have yet to gaze upon.
It is important to also remember that this was a hostile area with hostile people. The Canaanites were not known for their hospitality and generosity. The same is for us: this world is not our home. We face adversity and persecution on a daily basis. Yet, God has ordained that we continue to walk through this unwelcoming land comforted only by God’s holy and sufficient Word.
“Let us therefore walk through the world, as persons debarred from all repose, who have no other resource than the mirror of the word.” ~ John Calvin1
Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord. (Genesis 13:18)
God commanded Abram to walk the land, and as a man of faith, Abram obeyed Him. He packed up his belongings and, once again, became a pilgrim. Abram trusted in God’s Word, he was comforted by it, and encouraged. He was restored once again to eager obedience.
“…because he had obtained a medicine so seasonable and suitable to his present grief, that he rose with collected energy towards heaven.” ~ John Calvin1
After his journey through the land, Abram settled for a time in Hebron. Here he built an altar to the Lord to praise and thank Him. John Calvin1 , discussing this part of the passage, pointed out that Abram worshiped God in his heart but that he built this outward altar as a public profession before the pagans of the land.
How we live is a testimony to what we preach. If we say we are Christians but do not live as such before the world, our profession is worthless. As we journey through this land among people who worship false gods, let our speech and actions toward both fellow believers and unbelievers be a testimony worthy of the name Christ.
When life gets difficult and our suffering seems more than we can bear, we find comfort in God’s Word and our hope is renewed. We keep our eyes on the promises of God and continue our walk through this wilderness. We are not home yet, our rest has not come, but we know our destination and we continue our sojourn.
I’ll leave you with the following portion of Psalm 119. This part is almost as if Abram had written it himself. It is also something we should remember all the days we have been given to walk this land.
Remember the word to Your servant,
In which You have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
That Your word has revived me.
The arrogant utterly deride me,
Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
I have remembered Your ordinances from of old, O Lord,
And comfort myself.
Burning indignation has seized me because of the wicked,
Who forsake Your law.
Your statutes are my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.
O Lord, I remember Your name in the night,
And keep Your law.
This has become mine,
That I observe Your precepts. (Psalm 119:49-56)
1. Calvin, J. (n.d.). Genesis 13 – John Calvin’s Bible Commentary – Bible Commentary. [online] Christianity.com. Available at: http://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=clvn&b=1&c=13.
2. Gill, J. (n.d.). Genesis 13 Commentary – John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible. [online] Bible Study Tools. Available at: https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-13/.
3. Henry, M. (n.d.). Chapter 13 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Bible Gateway. [online] Biblegateway.com. Available at: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.13.1-Gen.13.18.