THE STRIVING OF THE BROTHER
After passing through the experience in chapter twelve, it might be easy for Abraham or for us to say, “Praise the Lord, I have learned the lesson!” But some tests are needed to prove whether or not we have truly learned the lesson. One test is the striving of the brother (13:5-13). Abraham had become rich by trying to sell his wife, and these riches caused him some trouble. He became too rich. Lot also acquired riches, and the land was too small to bear them both. In 13:6 we are told that “the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.” So there was “strife between the herdmen of Abraham’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle” (13:7). This became another trial for Abraham. Many times the second trial comes out of the blessing of the first trial. You may say, “Praise the Lord! When I was walking out of Egypt, I didn’t have the face to thank the Lord, but now after three months I can praise Him for His goodness to me. He preserved my wife and has given me all of these riches.” If you say this, you may soon find yourself in trouble, for the second trial will come from the blessing of the first trial. This is our experience.
Chapter thirteen indicates that Abraham had learned a lesson. This time he did not fail; he was prevailing because he had learned the lesson in the first trial. If you read carefully, you will see that in this case the fault was not with Abraham but with Lot. Abraham learned the lesson of not striving for himself and of having no choice for himself but of trusting in God’s care. He knew that he was in the hand of God and under the care of God. There is no hint in chapter thirteen of any kind of failure on the part of Abraham. He was completely successful. “And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left” (13:8-9). Abraham seemed to be telling Lot, “Lot, we are Hebrew brothers, the only Hebrews in the land. All of the others are Gentiles. They are looking at us. There should be no strife between us, for that would be a shame to the God in whom we trust. Lot, look over the land and choose the place where you would like to be. I will not strive or have any choice.” Deep within, Abraham must have said, “My choice is with God. I have learned the lesson by going down to Egypt. Now I know that I am under the care of my God and that under Him everything is mine. I don’t need to choose. I will let Lot make his choice.” Lot made his choice, departed from Abraham, and “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” not caring about the wickedness of Sodom (13:12-13).
It was not a small thing for Abraham to be left without Lot. Abraham did not have a son. His nephew, Lot, a very close relative, was just like a son to him. I believe that Abraham treated Lot as his own son. So when Lot left him, he was alone. But at this point God appeared to Abraham again. In Egypt, God dealt with Pharaoh in the plagues, but He did not appear to Abraham because he was in the wrong position. In Egypt, Abraham was in God’s keeping grace, but he did not have God’s appearing. Now in chapter thirteen Abraham was not only in God’s keeping grace but, having come back to the original place, was also in the right position. Furthermore, he did not strive for himself or choose for himself. As a result of the discipline he underwent in Egypt, he learned that his future and everything were in the hand of God and that he was under God’s care. So God appeared to him and said, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” (13:14-15). Abraham told Lot to take his choice of the land. Then God came in and seemed to tell Abraham, “I do not allow you to choose. I am giving all the choices to you. Look northward, southward, eastward, and westward—all is yours. You gave the choice to Lot. Now I am giving everything to you.” We must learn from this never to strive for ourselves in the church life. Let your brother have all the choices. If you give the choice to your brother, God will come in and give all the choices to you.
This time in His appearing God confirmed the promise concerning the good land in 12:7 and the promise concerning the increase of his seed in 12:2. Our prevailing over any trial always confirms God’s promises to us. This happened to Abraham. Moreover, Abraham’s prevailing over this trial ushered him to the peak of his experience of God. He removed his tent and came to dwell in Hebron (13:18) where he dwelt for most of the remainder of his time in the fellowship with God (18:1).
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)