Abram’s Unbelief Turns to Faith

Abram’s Unbelief Turns to Faith

Genesis 13:9b – “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.”

In this section, Abram and his close relative, Lot, had become so prosperous that they needed to separate because the land could not accommodate them both with all their households and animals. Their affluence is evidence of the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless Abram and to cause others to be blessed by him. Abram allowed Lot to select which portion of land he would choose.

The link between these two accounts is God sparing Abram from himself. God had promised to give Abram both offspring and the Promised Land and, in the nearly giving away his wife to Pharaoh and the Promised Land to Lot, Abram would have ruined all that God had promised him. Fortunately, God did intervene and, through inflicting diseases on Pharaoh and his household, and causing Lot to choose land other than the Promised Land, God made good on His promises in spite of His servant.

While we cannot be certain, it appears that Abram acted in unbelief with Pharaoh. But, after doing so, Abram called on the name of the Lord in worship in Genesis 13:4, which may have refocused his faith back to God after a time of repentance. Since he did so at the place of his earlier worship where he began in faith, it is likely that Abram’s return to the place at which his faith was first evidenced in worship was also his return to trusting God by faith. This seems likely because, after his worship, we see Abram go from faithless with Pharaoh to a man of faith with Lot, trusting God to give him the Promised Land.

The central theological point in these accounts seems to be that, while God’s servants are imperfect, it is His sovereign protection which saves us from ourselves and makes His promises become reality. Additionally, those who do belong to the Lord quickly learn from the unbelief, as Abram did with Pharaoh, and trust God by faith, as Abram subsequently did with Lot.

Since Abram was older than Lot, he would have had the right to choose the best land first, but it seems that Abram allowed Lot to choose first in faith that the Lord would give him the Promised Land by pure grace and no effort of his own. This same pattern of Abram relying solely on the Lord to provide for him again appears in the next chapter where, in Genesis 14:22-24, Abram rejects riches in favor of receiving it solely from God. Therefore, at least for the time being, Abram apparently learned his lesson with the Pharaoh and returned to a life of radical trust in God to protect and provide, which enabled Abram to live humbly so that the Lord could exalt him, just like He did Jesus.

Abram’s actions of allowing Lot to choose his portion of the land seems to be a foolish mistake, but it allowed God’s promise of the Promised Land for Abram’s line to be fulfilled. Like Abram, how have you seen God save you from yourself like in 2 Timothy 2:13?

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Mark Driscoll
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