What do you say to those who’ve made a mess of their lives through bad decisions, and now things have become really complicated for them?
The answer, as we learned Sunday, is actually quite simple: Instead of doing the wrong thing at their next opportunity, they simply need to do the right thing. Of course, doing so doesn’t mean all our problems disappear; rather step-by-step movement in the right direction results in things slowly beginning to change, and God in his grace begins to bless those decisions.
From our study in Genesis, we know that Abraham made a pretty big mess of his life. He went to Egypt and promptly lied. Rather than trusting in God, he thought his own scheme would be a better idea, and instead it multiplied his problems. And this was alongside (and despite) his great wealth, which underscores the fact that lots of money and possessions don’t eliminate your problems — riches simply bring different problems associated with those riches. But after God rescued Abraham, at the beginning chapter 13 we see he traveled back to Israel — “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.”
This was a crucial moment for Abraham — and is a decision all of us can relate to in one way or another. When things go wrong or we sin, sometimes the best remedy is grabbing hold of our roots and calling out to God. What Abraham did reflects what his descendent David shared with us in his poem of repentance, Psalm 51:10-12:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
What Abraham was learning reflects the important point that Pastor Scott noted in his message Sunday: When you choose to trust the Lord, you always get the better deal! God’s way is always the best way.
In this chapter we also see that Abraham and Lot, amid disagreements over land, decided to go their separate ways. And this time it was Lot’s turn to make a bad decision, as verses 10-13 tell us that he liked what he saw east in the Jordan Valley. It reminded him of Egypt — again, references to Egypt in Scripture often mean a return to the world and its ways. And lo and behold Lot ended up moving his tent “as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Oh boy…
Instead of letting himself be guided by God, Lot let his eyes tell him what to do. And again, isn’t that just like us to varying degrees? How often have we gone after the more attractive option — the thing that would make us feel better or give us more pleasure — only to find that our choice was anything but beautiful?
As Pastor Scott emphasized, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the greener pastures of the Jordan Valley — it’s what they were next to. If that pretty thing we desire doesn’t itself bring us new problems, our woes may come from what resides right next to that object of desire.
On the other hand, Abraham trusted in Lord and learned that doing so always gets you the better deal. In verses 15 through 18, God tells Abraham “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.” And Abraham did so — and once again, when he settled, he “built an altar to the Lord.”
Indeed, Abraham was learning and progressing in his faith. And so can we — and it’s all about going back to our very beginnings of faith, trusting in God, and making a series of right decisions — ones we know are pleasing to the Lord, regardless of what they look like.
And just as God was only too pleased to give Abraham endless land and more offspring than he could possibly count, the Lord also wants to give you and me every good thing. In fact, he wants to do amazing things through us!
But it all starts with taking that single, right step of faith. Then another. And another. Won’t you put your best foot forward today in faith? It will be the start of something phenomenal!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6