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Bible Study

Genesis 13-14 – Faith to Start Over

April 17, 2019

Abram finds a way to start over

As you open your Bible, let’s go to our Lord in prayer. Father, as we read your Word today, we ask for insight into the life of Abram. Thank you for giving him a chance to return to his faith in you. It gives me hope. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Please pause to read Genesis 13-14.

A mowed section of grass indicates the path to take into the trees ahead. The sun shines in the distance, illuminating the way ahead.
When you wander off the path of faith, repentance makes a way to start over and find the path again.

Can you imagine the tension in the air when Sarai rejoined Abram? To some degree his plan worked – he gained wealth in Egypt – but it came at great cost to Sarai. Her heart must have tangled with a mixture of relief to be free again, and anger at her brother/husband. How would Abram rebuild his damaged relationship with God and Sarai?

He wandered for a while, but he returned to Bethel – and called on the name of the Lord. (12:7-8; 13:3-4)

It’s the only way to start over – go back to God and ask for forgiveness. We don’t know what Abram said to God, but we can see by his actions that he has gone back to his faith. He returned to both the land of promise and his altar and cried out to God. (I hope he also apologized to Sarai.)

It appears he also pondered his relationship with his nephew, Lot.

Remember that God’s directive for Abram included leaving his family? (12:1) His father detained Abram’s obedience by settling for a time in Haran, but eventually, Abram was free to continue the journey upon his father’s death. But his nephew Lot still tagged along. What about him?

It appears that Abram considered this and used the fact that their herds were very large to help them separate. Graciously, he gave his nephew first choice of the land. Lot chose the very best, and the two parted company.

The promise renewed

I find it interesting that God spoke to Abram after Lot left (13:14). Each time we take a step of obedience, God responds. In unending faithfulness, God clearly reiterated his promise to Abram, again adding more details.

Abram, look around you. As far as your eyes can see, this land is yours. It belongs to you and your offspring forever. There will be so many in your family, there will be no way to count them all. It would be like trying to count the grains of dust at your feet.  Go, look it over. Enjoy.

Receiving forgiveness and following it with obedience changes your life. It gives you the chance to start over, and the chance to marvel in God’s goodness.

So, Abram traveled throughout the land. When he finished, he settled at Mamre, a tree grove near Hebron. Life filled with anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promise. I hope Sarai forgave Abram and put her faith in the promise which saved her from life as a concubine of Pharaoh, but the Bible is silent about her at this point.

Chaos Enters the Picture

Abram lived as a nomad in the land among its people. People groups with their kings surrounded him on every side, each one striving to gain more power or wealth. Before long, a war broke out. A coalition of four kings began to take control of their neighbors, defeating them one by one. In desperation, five of the remaining kings formed an alliance in order to save their kingdoms.

Five kings stood their ground against the four invading kings, but their attempt to save their cities fell far short. The raiding army seized their possessions and left with all of their food supply – and some of their people.

Word came to Abram from one of the survivors: his nephew Lot had been carried away by the marauders.

Clearly Abram was prepared for battle. He gathered 318 trained men born in his household. Wow. These were servants, or staff who lived with him. (Genesis 12:5 indicates both Lot and Abram acquired servants in Hebron. They apparently lived with him and raised families who also served Abram.) Without a doubt, Abram had become an affluent man.

The army of one household traveled over 100 miles north, from Mamre to Dan, in pursuit of the army of four kings. I find it almost amusing that the outcome is simply, “He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.” (Genesis 14:16)

It really doesn’t matter how big the army is when God is on your side.

Choosing an Alliance

When Abram returned, two kings met him: the king of Salem and the king of Sodom.

Salem had not been part of the war, but it’s king came to greet Abram. Melchizedek was both king of Salem (later day Jerusalem), and priest of God Most High. Recognizing the hand of God upon Abram, Melchizedek blessed him. In response, Abram gave the priest a tenth of the spoils as an offering of gratitude to God.

This seems like a random addition to the story, but it is an important, precious hint toward the future. It is an unusual thing in history to be both priest and king. But when God fulfilled his promise to bless all the people of the earth through Abram’s offspring, he did so through another who received the honor of both priest and king: Jesus. (Hebrews 4:14; John 12:12-16; Revelation 17:14)

Abram responded very differently to the King of Sodom. We will see as we continue in Genesis, that Sodom was a wicked city. Abram knew this and was unwilling to even receive his own share of the spoils from the king of Sodom when he returned their goods and people. He explained, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High.” (14:22) In saying this, Abram clearly states that he is not aligning with Sodom in any way. Nor does he want the king of Sodom to claim he aided Abram in any way with his wealth. His wealth came from God alone. He made his choice to align with the Lord God.

Lot, on the other hand, returned to Sodom to stay. This too, is a clear indication of his alliance, even though it bothered his conscience to live there. (II Peter 2:7-8) We will soon see the consequences of this choice.

Life returned to normal, and the wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise continued. Abram’s decision to start over with God gave him the courage and faith to stand firm, even with kings. He would no longer compromise out of fear as he had with the King of Egypt.

Questions for thought:
  • Group discussion: What makes it difficult to start over with God? What kind of things stand in our way?
  • Application for your life: In what ways have you compromised with the world instead of standing in faith? It’s not too late to start over.
  • For further study: Many years later, Abram’s family, the Israelites, were enslaved by the Egyptians. When God miraculously rescued them and brought them to the promised land, he led them to the Valley of Eshcol, which was another name for Mamre – the very place where God told Abram the land would belong to his family 600 years earlier. Read the story in Numbers 13-14.
  • To learn more about the comparison between Jesus and Melchizedek, read Hebrews 6:13-7:28.

Comments

I know from a very young age I have sensed the presence of God in my life and truly desired to live for him, but not being able to let go of past hurts makes it difficult to start over again with God. For me the question is, do I really trust him? The fear of rejection will always cause me to shut down and retreat back into that place I have created as safe. I am just recently beginning to understand that when I choose to do that, I am then shutting myself off from God and everyone around me. For me, every day is a step of starting over again with God. Every day I must choose to TRUST him!!!

Mary, you have a beautiful heart! Having faith takes courage, doesn’t it?! I am trusting God to lead, trusting Him to keep me safe, trusting Him to be my defender, trusting Him to help me succeed at doing whatever He asked me to do. Without Him, I can do nothing!

Starting over with God…always a good choice. I have been drawn to learn about God from a young age. Fortunately there were many opportunities to do so and many key people along my path that have planted seeds for my spiritual growth. I have been lost at times, but thankfully my faith doesn’t leave me. Thankfully God is there to help me make my way back. Recently the path back was difficult due to me letting worry overtake me. During this time, I was trying to work on my relationship with the Lord. It took much prayer over time to grow my faith to a place of calm and trust. We always have room to grow 😀

Hi Shawna! I have missed your comments, and am happy to see you back! Thank you for your precious sharing. I totally agree. Worry can completely overtake me sometimes. I want to be able to do something to fix something. But faith trusts God and waits for instructions, instead of just jumping in to do the wrong thing – or stewing about it and making everyone around me miserable. I’m so grateful for God’s forgiveness, and the many chances He gives me to start over!

Thank you Lora, it’s good to be back. I let business overtake me at the end of the school year and getting into summer! So now I will play catchup 💞

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