The relationship of Lot to Avram is an intriguing one when you look at the covenant God makes with Avram.
In Genesis 12, God speaks to Avram: Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3 ESV) Here we see that it is Avram by himself who is addressed.
- Avram is the one who has to leave to go and possess the land; and
- he is the one whom God will bless; and
- he is the one by whom blessings or curses will come upon others; and
- he is the one through whom the whole world will be blessed.
But immediately after God has spoken to Avram, we are told:
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. (Gen 12:4 ESV)
Now Lot is not a member of Avram’s immediate family, but he is Avram’s nephew, the son of Avram’s deceased brother Haran.
There are three sons of Terach that we are told about – Avram, Nachor and Haran. Now rather than attach himself to Nachor, Avram’s other brother, Lot attached himself to Avram – perhaps because Avram was the oldest sibling. Whatever the reason, we are told that Lot went with Avram and continued to travel with him. We read later that Lot travelled with Avram as he walked through the land of Canaan, when he went down to Egypt, and when he came back from Egypt.
We lose sight of Lot for a while in chapter 12 as the story focuses on Avram in Egypt and the rescue of Sarai from Pharaoh.
But at the beginning chapter 13, Lot appears again with Avram, coming up out of Egypt, loaded up with all sorts of goods and livestock.
So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD.
And Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together, (Gen 13:1-6 ESV)
If we look at the relationship between Lot and Avram, what seems clear is that Lot, not being part of Avram’s immediate family is nonetheless one who blesses Avram and so is blessed by God because he blesses Avram. This seems to be how their relationship works in the light of God’s promise to Avram.
But then in chapter 13, verse 8, Avram tells Lot that they should separate and go their separate ways.
Their combined wealth has grown so great that disputes are occurring over who owns what. In order for Avram to remain faithful to God’s promise, he must “walk before God and be blameless”; that is, he must walk on his own and be free from strife within his own household. So now Avram sacrifices his pride of place in the land for the sake of family harmony. He invites Lot to pick part of the land to settle in, and Avram will settle elsewhere. This brings us back to the underlying theme that we have seen running through all the stories in Genesis so far. The promise of God to restore the world, ha-aretz, to its original goodness and wholeness. We are told that Lot lifts up his eyes and sees “that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, (Gen 13:10 ESV)”.
“Like the Garden of the Lord”
So now Lot sees his chance to return to the Garden, to live in the abundance and wholeness that God intended from the beginning and was in the process of restoring. And Lot grabs this opportunity with both hands and opts for the plains and cities around Sodom. He no longer needs Avram, because he has found the way back into God’s presence, into the Garden of Eden.
But he has forgotten that “the Canaanites were in the land. (Gen 12:6 ESV)“. We are shortly told that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD. (Gen 13:13 ESV)”
God’s plans are not ready for their final fulfilment yet, and so His people must wander as strangers in a land that they will only possess at a later time. They are to walk in faith before God, as blameless servants, ready to give up all they have to possess something which is so much greater – the “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it.
When God created the heavens and the earth, he not only created length and breadth and depth, but He also created time. And God uses all of these four dimensions to bring about His promises.
The land may look like the Garden of the Lord, but if the time is not right, then it’s not the Garden of the Lord, but rather a place devoid of God, and full of violence. Again and again we see through these stories how God uses time as a key instrument in bringing about His purposes.
So what of Lot’s relationship with Avram, which was where we started from?
It would seem to me that when Lot opts for Sodom, he is in effect cursing Avram, or “holding him lightly”.
Lot sees Sodom as the new creation, something he can obtain apart from Avram – so Avram is now redundant, no longer needed, discarded. He has shown contempt for the promises of God through Avram and opted for paradise through his own means. And this can not end well for Lot, as the later story shows.
It is only through the promised one, at this point in time being Avram, that true blessing can come from God.
Avram is the one through whom every spiritual blessing is obtained.
When we pass on several centuries to the birth of the real Messiah, Jesus, we see the same principle brought to fullness. It is only in Jesus the Messiah, that we obtain every spiritual blessing, Paul tells us. If we refuse to come to God through Jesus, then there is no path into the presence of God that does not lead to death. Lot found this out later in the story, and we discover the same truth today.