The Character of Everyday Choices
Dr. Mark Bailey, Chancellor – Dallas Theological Seminary
Alexander Whyte writes in his book Bible Characters about the choices made by Abram and Lot, recorded in Genesis 13 and 14, “What a man chooses, and how a man chooses, when opportunities and alternatives and choices are put before him – nothing more surely discovers a man than that.”
In Genesis 13 we have a great example of the choices of the flesh and the choices of faith. Lot has eyes that are drawn to the externals of what can be seen, while Abram is asked to have eyes of faith, to see what is not yet visible. Both lifted their eyes, but each saw something different.
The occasion that prompted their choices was the conflict between the herdsmen of Lot and those of Abram. To use an American Old West expression, each thought “this town is not big enough for the both of us.” So, Abram graciously gave Lot the opportunity to choose a portion of the land on which he would settle, and Abram promised to go in the opposite direction.
What can we learn from these respective choices?
First, let’s look at the choices of the flesh made by Lot.
Lot “looked around” and chose the Jordan Valley, which at the time was very fertile and well-watered. Ironically, it brought back the visual memories of Egypt and Eden. Lot settled in the cities of the valley and located himself and his family near the wicked city of Sodom. All of these were self-serving choices based on self–satisfaction, sight and security.
On the other hand, we see the choices of Abram. In reality, these are actually God’s choices. In Genesis 13:14-15, God tells Abram, “Look around from where you are,” and look in all four directions. “All the land you that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.”
In this section, we see a reaffirmation of the covenant. Abram is promised a land not yet his, and generations of descendants not yet here. These promises of God required great faith to believe.
The text is specific in Genesis 13:8, that the Canaanites and Perizzites were still living in the land. The conquest and settlement under Joshua would not happen for another 400 years. Furthermore, no child has yet been born to Abram. But God gave Abram a physical symbol of His promise. When He commanded Abram to walk the length and breadth of the land, He fulfilled an ancient practice that symbolized the receipt or appropriation of a land acquisition. Walking in faith, Abram obeyed.
What do these choices actually reveal?
The details of Genesis 13 may be more significant than casual reading may produce. The characterization of Lot opens with a statement of discontent and struggle between his and Abram’s servants, along with Lot’s self-serving choices. It ends with Lot settling in Sodom, mentioning the city’s extreme wickedness. By contrast, the discussion of Abram begins and ends with sacrifice and worship, first at Bethel and then at Hebron (Genesis 13:4, 17).
When we turn the page to Genesis 14, these same themes of sacrifice and worship by Abram continue. This time the struggle is not within the clan of Abram, but between a coalition of kings and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. The coalition of forces under the leadership of Kedorlaomer, King of Elam, captures Sodom, which includes Lot and his family. At risk to himself and his own men, Abram engages the conquerors and rescues his nephew.
Upon the conclusion of his successful rescue mission, we have the fascinating account of Abram being blessed by Melchizedek and Abram paying tithes to him. By refusing any reward, even as little as the lace of sandal from King of Sodom, Abram knows God is his protector, the keeper of all His promises, and that every blessing comes from Him. Genuine worship is the rightful recognition of the value and worth of God in our lives.
God’s command to Abram to look in all directions to see what God would give him reminds us of another passage, Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:18 – 19, that they “may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Surely, God’s promises are always better than the choices we make for ourselves. May our eyes be lifted to see what God has promised to us, and may our choices match His choices.
“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” – John C. Maxwell
Dr. Mark Bailey
Chancellor – Dallas Theological Seminary
Dr. Mark Bailey, member of the BSF Board of Directors, is the Chancellor and Senior Professor of Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, where he has served for 35 years. Prior to assuming the seminary’s presidency, Dr. Bailey served as Professor of Bible Exposition and Vice president for Academic Affairs and Provost. Alongside college and seminary teaching he pastored for twenty years in Arizona and Texas. He was seminar instructor for the Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for 20 years and is in demand for Bible conferences and other preaching engagements. He is currently on the teaching team at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth Texas.