Who are you? If you had to submit a written answer for this question, what would you write? There are many ways we go about identifying ourselves. You might identify yourself as the father/mother of so-and-so or American or a teenager. You might identify yourself with your social standing (“I’m one of the popular ones”) or your past (“Because of what I’ve done, this is who I am”).
Different people cobble together a sense of their identity in different ways. As we look at Genesis 13:2-18, we can fortify our sense of identity. It’ll help us biblically answer the question, “Who am I?”
Abram Returns to Canaan
At this point in the story, Abram has left Egypt and is going to Canaan. We pick up in verse two:
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.
– vv. 2-4
God was proving faithful to Abram in His promises back in Genesis 12:2: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great …” Abram was severely rich and was going to the land God had promised to give him.
But, there’s a problem.
Issues Between Abram and Lot
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, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were dwelling in the land.
– vv. 5-7
Lot went with Abram to Canaan where the Canaanites and Perizzites were dwelling. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room to support everyone, and problems arose between Abram’s people and Lot’s. But Abram has a solution to this:
Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
– vv. 8-10
Was this a good decision because it made peace between Abram and Lot? Was it a bad decision because God told Abram the land belonged to him? The Bible just doesn’t say.
Lot & Abram Separate
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.
– vv. 10-13
Abram allowed Lot to go wherever he wanted, and he chose a fertile area near Sodom. This seems like a good decision – then the passage mentions that the people in Sodom were wicked and were eventually going to be destroyed.
Now the Lord enters the story:
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
– vv. 14-17
Here, God restates His covenant promise to Abram. He was 1) going to have land for himself and 2) his offspring were going to be innumerable. And God invites him to walk through the property as the owner of it all. “So Abram moved his tent … and built an altar to the Lord” (v. 18).
The Lesson for God’s People
What are we to make of this? All of God’s Word is breathed out by Him and profitable for His people to grow. So what are we to take from this?
Just looking at the facts, it’s a little ambiguous whether Abram’s decisions were good or bad, wise or foolish. This is because the stories in Genesis are not there to give moral lessons. They’re the history of God and His people. So the best way to understand Old Testament passages like this is to figure out what it must have meant for the people who originally received it – in this case, the Israelites.
For the Israelites, it must have meant, “Remember who you are and how you fit into God’s purposes.” As they were preparing to conquer the Promised Land, this would have reminded them that it was their land given by God. It would have convinced them that they were God’s people, set apart for His purposes. It would have affirmed God’s faithfulness and given them courage to proceed.
So the question for us is, “Where do we fit into God’s purposes?” The New Testament tells us that we are part of the innumerable offspring of Abram/Abraham and the fulfillment of God’s promises to him (Galatians 3:7-9). We are also waiting to enter a Promised Land – not Canaan, but the “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:1-4).
Who are you? Do you define yourself by the temporary trappings of this world, or do you define yourself in light of what God is doing? As Christians, we are part of the movement of all movements. We’re part of Abram’s innumerable offspring, the special nation God has been building for generations, citizens of the New Jerusalem. Whatever you go through this week, remember that if you are a Christian this is who you are.
How did God show his faithfulness to Abram in this story?
What are your thoughts on Abram and Lot separating?
What would this story have meant to those who originally received it?