There are a number of Old Testament stories that play like a movie in my head, and they have been playing in HD ever since I was a young pastor’s kid. Some because of the violence. In others, it’s the supernatural work of God that captures my attention. And in others, the heroic feats of men and women are what cast the drama.
So it’s a little weird that the story of Abram and Lot dividing up the land is so fixed in my memory. Maybe it’s because I saw a watercolor of the scene in one of the picture Bibles I owned. I don’t know. But I tell you, I can see Abram and Lot standing on a rocky precipice, looking in one direction at a beautiful land and then looking in the other direction at an inhospitable wilderness.
Their people can’t get along, so they have to split up and go separate ways. Now, if I am the one in this situation, I’m thinking about the view or about being close to running water so I can enjoy the sound in the quiet moments of the day. But these men are not thinking about those things. They are thinking about their livestock and their livelihood. A decision has to be made: who is going to take the land that doesn’t look all that great?
In the movie in my head, there is a very pregnant pause. And then Abram says, “You choose.”
What kind of person says “you choose,” knowing the other will choose the nicer land and leave you with the undesirable portion? I know my own heart well enough to know how hard that would have been. I would like to think I would done what Abram did. But I fear I’d have pulled rank and told Lot I was the one to whom the promises were made, and therefore I should have the good land.
But Abram did not do this.
Abram had no idea what was coming when he was left with what no one would freely choose for themselves. But he did have a promise made by God. He had the promise of Chapter 12, that God would bless him and take care of him. And I cannot help but think his strength to let Lot choose came from his faith in that promise.
There are seasons in our lives when we have been dealt the leftovers and have no idea what is coming. Maybe it’s sickness. Or loneliness. Maybe you’ve taken a miserable job so you can provide for your family. A loved one is dying. And you don’t know what is coming.
All you have is a promise.
And the promise we have is much fuller than what Abram had. Abram had Melchizedek for his priest, but we have Jesus Christ, the guarantee of a better covenant (Hebrews 7:22), the eternal priest who is seated at the right hand of God. Abram’s promise was covered in shadows. We get the promise in vivid HD detail, in the work of Jesus on our behalf.
When the proverbial good land has been denied to us and we do not know what is coming, we know we have forgiveness of our sin, and we also have God as a loving Father— all because of the cross. We have the promise that, even if the land we are walking through is the “valley of the shadow of death,” He will be with us. Not even death can separate us from Him.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond