Several years ago, I was inspired by my husband’s recount of a pastor’s wife who read her Bible, from cover-to-cover, eight times each year. (Yes, eight.) No, my schedule does not permit me to do likewise; however, I decided to ‘up’ my Bible reading and finished both 2010 and 2011 having read it through 2 times per year. For 2012, my goal is a little different. I don’t know how many times I’ll make it through, but study is becoming a more focused part of my every-day devotional time. And, I’m diving into a different type of translation, too.
(Bear with me – the title does have a point.)
The Stone Edition TANACH* and THE POWER** are my Biblical reading choices for 2012. Obviously, I’m not too far into either one just yet. But, the Jewish viewpoint of scripture in TANACH is very interesting, and something said in the commentary stuck out to me during this morning’s reading.
Genesis 13 tells us about the numerous possessions of both Lot and Abraham (called Abram at that time), and how they made the decision to separate in order to better accommodate their livestock and personal possessions. Being the leader, Abraham could have easily chosen his settling ground first. But, he graciously offered ‘the pick of the place’ to Lot, his nephew. “So Abram said to Lot: “Please let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not all the land before you? Please separate from me: If you go left then I will go right, and if you go right then I will go left.” So Lot raised his eyes and saw the entire plain of the Jordan that it was well watered everywhere – before HASHEM destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah – like the garden of HASHEM, like the land of Eqypt, going toward Zoar. So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed from the east; thus they parted, one from his brother. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan while Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain and pitched tents as far as Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful toward HASHEM, exceedingly.” (Genesis 13:8-13, TANACH)
Note that last sentence. “Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful toward HASHEM, exceedingly.”
Lot had to have known that the people of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful. One doesn’t have to live within a city to know about its reputation. Granted, they didn’t have the ability to surf the net to view crime statistics, etc., but word of mouth travels pretty fast, and since hospitality was something people offered to travelers who passed by, ‘stories’ surely had a way of making their rounds. So, he knew what he was getting into by moving near ‘those kinds of people.’ He knew he was endangering the spiritual well-being of his family. His choices were less than stellar. I mean, seriously? The “entire plain of the Jordan…was well watered everywhere.” He knew that Abraham was older, but he didn’t care that it would probably make things difficult for his elder if he took the well-watered plains. “Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful toward HASHEM, exceedingly.” He had to know that his family values would probably suffer, but he didn’t care. It makes me wonder about his character and his relationship with God. Did he only serve God because Abraham did? How long did it take him to set aside the teachings about Jehovah? Did it take awhile, or was it something that happened as soon as he left his uncle’s sight?
Abraham, on the other hand, gladly went up to the land of Canaan, settling in the plains of Mamre. This was probably a less-fertile area simply by virtue of natural happenings. Any type of moisture from rains would seep downward (I am assuming that the plain was elevated simply because of the next part). But, scripture doesn’t record that Lot’s apparently selfish choice bothered him. Rather, it’s after the parting of Lot that God made a promise to Abraham: “…Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward. For all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth! For to you will I give it.” (Genesis 13:14-17, TANACH)
Lot’s decision was one of a degenerative nature. Obviously, I am assuming a bit, as I wasn’t there. But, it had to reduce his family’s exposure to the things of God, while opening up their minds and eyes to the evil nature of the people who lived close by. Pursuing the fertile plain opened a can of worms, so to speak: Evil and debauchery, the baser side of life; Worship of self rather than worship of God; Influx of stuff, rather than relying on God to supply his needs; Loss of a Godly leader in his life; Probably eventually allowing his friends to speak things into his life that shouldn’t be there. And, all memory of things Godly probably became very dim in his recollection of the past. As I read on, I saw that it led to the kidnapping of his family. And, from memory, I know that he later had to abandon his home within Sodom (while forcing his children and wife to accompany him). And, that’s another story in itself. I wonder how long it took him to move from ‘outside Sodom’ to a home within the city?
Abraham’s decision to rely on God to supply his needs got him a lifetime guarantee of promise: Descendants that could not be counted, through a miracle child born in his old age; Land – as far as he could see – that would be deemed his for all generations; Seemingly immeasurable blessings. And, to top it all off, God called him ‘friend.’ “…And Abraham believed in God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” and he was called a friend of God.” (James 2:23, THE POWER; Genesis 15:6)
Past the consideration of his livestock, Lot probably didn’t think that his decision was really that important. But, it ended up drastically changing the course of history for his family, and not in a good way. “But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26, NLT) Lot probably ruminated on past decisions made when he saw his beloved wife turned to salt, but I won’t go there. And there you go… another topic all by itself.
I’ll wrap up by saying just a bit more. It’s 2012. Decisions that we make will affect our future. Habits formed will help turn us into a better – or worse – person. Let’s make this one count for good, and for God. Be an Abraham, not a Lot.