Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord. – Genesis 13:8-13
Have you ever played the “One Divides, the Other Chooses” game? It’s not a game, really, but a means by which squabbles and claims of unfairness can be prevented. My mom would use that on my sister and me in our younger days. If I got to divide, I’d try to do it in such a way that the smaller piece actually looked more appealing than the larger one. I don’t think it worked very well.
Abram uses that tactic with Lot when it becomes clear that they would have to separate. He offered the division: right or left, this area or that. Then he asked Lot to choose. I don’t know if he was strategic in asking at the moment that the land that Lot chose appeared to be more desirable, or not. I don’t know whether Lot knew about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah or not. But the choice was Lot’s. And Lot chose the Jordan valley. In all appearances the better choice; the more desirable location.
There is some foreshadowing here. Moses tells us that Sodom and Gomorra have not yet been destroyed by the Lord. But everything else about the land of the Jordan valley appears lush and green, desirable and attractive. This isn’t the case of the forbidden fruit in the garden: Good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desirable for wisdom (cf. Genesis 3). But it might serve as a reminder to look beyond the outward appearances when making life choices.
I’m thinking of everything from the car you buy to the home you live in. From the job you take to the church you attend. If you look only on the outward appearances you will be in danger of choosing the fools gold of the world’s false riches.
If you’re reading this account of Abram and Lot for the first time, you don’t know exactly what it means that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed – apart from the fact that this is somehow related to the fact that they are described as extremely wicked and constantly sinning against the Lord. Did Abram know this? Was lot aware of it? Was the allure of the glitz of the ancient near-eastern equivalent of Sin City so powerful that Lot couldn’t resist? Might this be a time for him to pray, “Lead me not into temptation” rather than seeking out a place where temptation lurked nearby?
Diane and I walked through a casino once. Bells, lights, money pouring into the slot machines, dice being thrown on the table, the roulette pill clattering, conversations abuzz… I was fascinated. Diane was repulsed. Better her reaction than mine. And I’m thankful for it. For while I’m not the gambling sort, the lure of glitz and glamor can distract me. Lot may not have chosen his land based on that appeal. But in any case, he will need to be rescued by his Uncle Abe.
Meanwhile Abram journeys on. In faith. Willing to trust God with his future. Perhaps this is a moment of resolute humility after his debacle with Pharaoh and Sarai. Perhaps it’s a renewed conviction of God’s goodness. In any case, he offers the choice and will live within God’s protection and provision…for a time.
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