Genesis 13 Our Life’s Journey

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on January, 17, 2022

Genesis 13 Our Life’s Journey

Our Christian lives are not a course to take but a journey to travel.

Abraham left the perishable to obtain that which is imperishable. When we come to know the Lord, we often think the initial acquaintance with God and the promise of eternal life is all there is. But like Abram’s calling, that is only the beginning of a beautiful life journey.

God richly blessed Abram’s faith. In Genesis 15:6, we read “Then he believed in the LORD, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Paul quoted this OT passage in Gal. 3:6: “Even so Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” People all over the world are greatly blessed because of Abraham’s faith.

Genesis 12 recounts the beginning of Abram’s journey: he bravely left the great city of Ur, even though facing obstacles along the way. Genesis 13 records how Abram recovered from one of these setbacks to move further ahead in his walk with the Lord.

(1) Recovering From Mistakes (Genesis 13:1-4)

1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him. 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. 3 He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4 to the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord” (Gen 13:1-4).

Chapter 13 is about God’s means to refine Abram’s rough character. We, like Abram, are like rough clay lumps begging refinement in our Master’s hands. The end of chapter 12 leaves us with Abram making a colossal faith-less mistake, no doubt leaving deep-rooted marital mistrust.

Abraham’s waywardness

The opening verse (13:1) surprisingly shows Abram returning from Egypt back to the Promised Land (from Egypt to Negev). Something went drastically wrong. Abram took a detour that God mercifully unraveled (see the end of Genesis 12).

In weakness and disobedience, Abram slipped up in his faith and went to Egypt. He believed things would get better by going to Egypt, but that is not what happened! But this is what I love about Genesis 13. It focuses on the part of his journey where God enables Abram to pick up from his mistakes and move on.

This is where God wants us all to be—ready to move on away from our mistakes. This situation would not be his last downfall, but he went on in the right spirit. Again, it’s a journey—a life journey that requires many steps.

Though a gift of God, guilt, is often misused by the evil one. Many of us in situations like Abram, feel horrible about our mistakes. Satan uses that guilt to perpetuate our guilt; God, however, uses that guilt to lead us to repentance. How do we handle those guilty feelings? Just confess that we don’t deserve forgiveness, but God is merciful and will help us pick up the broken pieces; He’s calling us back home.

The underlying problem

1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, he and his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot with him.”

Genesis 13:1 says, “and Lot with him.” The Scriptures identify one of the key underlying problems Abram faced. By underlying, I mean it became a layer of problems underneath the Egyptian debacle.

When we read Genesis 12:1, the situation becomes clearer.

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you.’”

Abram should have left his relatives behind. It’s here that he struggled and gave in, taking his nephew Lot with him.

Genesis 13 records for us a significant time in Abram’s life because he finally stepped out in full obedience—he separated from Lot. Our discussion is not about his nephew, Lot; that is a discussion for another time (Genesis 14, 18,19). This lesson centers on Abram taking Lot with him on his faith journey. As long as the heavy baggage of disobedience hung around his neck, God couldn’t freely work in him.

God wants to work deeper in our lives, but it takes time. Disobedience exacerbates the time needed and trouble endured, but God still patiently works in us. Philippians 1:6 unabashedly states that God not only starts that work in us but continues it.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).

We give up on people—our spouses, our children, friends—even our own lives, but God didn’t and doesn’t.

Learning from Abram’s life

Before continuing, I want to elaborate on getting Christian life principles from Old Testament characters. Believers might wonder how proper this is. I doubt there are problems with bad examples from the Old Testament. Paul, speaking about the wilderness wanderings, states, “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1 Cor 10:6). But Paul also speaks positively about Old Testament incidents that we can learn from:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

For had the Old Testament written for us. Abram and others, like us, held varying degrees of faith. Abram was the father of faith. Genesis 15:6 is used in the New Testament to signify the righteousness he gained by faith (Gal 3:6; Rom 4:23-24). The way God used Abram’s faith is the same way He uses ours—to gain Christ’s righteousness! For him and for us, the beginning of faith marks a life journey of faith. In Abram’s case, we see this seed of faith early on when he left all to pursue a faraway land that God would lead him to.

For had the Old Testament written for us. Abram and others, like us, held varying degrees of faith. Abram was the father of faith. Genesis 15:6 is used in the New Testament to signify the righteousness he gained by faith (Gal 3:6; Rom 4:23-24). The way God used Abram’s faith is the same way He uses ours—to gain Christ’s righteousness! For him and for us, the beginning of faith marks a life journey of faith. In Abram’s case, we see this seed of faith early on when he left all to pursue a faraway land that God would lead him to.

  • God is looking for a people of faith, who believe and follow Him.
  • Our faith not only has a God-initiated beginning but a God-sustained journey.
  • Our responses to Him, obedience or disobedience, either grow or cloud that faith up.

Back between Bethel and Ai (Gen 13:2-4)

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver and in gold. He went on his journeys from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai,o the place of the altar which he had made there formerly; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD

Abram came back from Egypt greatly humbled. On the one hand, he had all these riches—God gave them during the gutless betrayal of his wife. God couldn’t get through to Abram so the Lord spoke to Pharaoh. How embarrassing! When God rebukes a Christian by the world, know one’s sin has already gone way too far. Further humbling him, Pharaoh sent Abram away with much wealth. Abram knew his life should have been taken, but He came back with riches in hand: “rich in livestock, in silver and in gold” (Gen. 13:2).

You can call it a second chance; life doesn’t usually work this way. Abram learned marvelous truths about God’s mercy and sovereign ‘interruptions’ by how God reproved him.

Abraham, grieving his sin, returned back to his starting point in the land at Bethel and Ai, where he built the first altar and called on Yahweh (Genesis 12:7-8). He called on the Lord again. How gracious that God gave Abram another opportunity to start over.

Calling on the Name of Yahweh

“There Abram called on the name of the LORD” (Gen 13:4).

I see this ‘calling on the Lord” as a confession, “Lord, I’ve made some colossal mistakes. I’ve returned here to where I began. Forgive me.” He’s starting over.

I’ve talked with individuals who were scarred by their sinful decisions. But having found the Lord’s abounding mercy, they become all the more devoted to the Lord. This seems to be like Abram. “The Lord brought me back home! I’m alive!” Not only did he save his life, he had his wife, Sarah, restored and untouched; meanwhile, he also gained much wealth.

Starting points are critical. He went off the track and had to start over again to get his bearings. He knew He didn’t deserve another chance at this, but he took the chance that God was gracious to give him. This leads to another important refining point in his life, but first, let’s recap what has happened so far in his life journey.

Summary

Spiritual life journeys chiefly record what we learn about God. They give us insight into who God is and how He strengthens our faith. Sometimes, we do not sufficiently learn our lesson and need to revisit it—like Abram would need to do in the case of betraying his wife for his pride and fear. Abram’s deficient character is ever so evident. God might have found faith in Abram, but, like us, he was surely missing some needed character qualities of a godly man.

What did he begin to learn upon his return to Bethel and the altar?

What did he begin to learn upon his return to Bethel and the altar?

  • God earnestly desires to bless His people.
  • God sovereignly controls everything to bless us.
  • God is very patient and forgiving.
  • God is worth following.

I’m sure there are other things he learned, but this got him to where God could move him on—so he could learn another lesson! Remember, our theology is good only if it is ultimately practical. If your knowledge of God doesn’t guide, constrain, or otherwise direct your life decisions, your theology is still in the stage of infancy—no matter what courses one has taken.

Never underestimate the negative impact of sin nor the newness of life that comes with obedience. Nothing is so important as maintaining a vibrant faith in the Lord. Don’t get derailed like Abram. Many believers allow the evil one to trick them by holding onto bitterness. God commanded you to put it away. Forgiveness begins the Christian’s renewal. Following God is a whole life-long journey.

Blessings are sometimes encapsulated in trouble.

(2) Making Big Decisions (Genesis 13:5-13)

5 Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land. (Gen 13:5-7)

This second longer section, verses 5-13, shows the importance of how Abram overcame a long-gnawing sin. He had adapted to it, and it became a habitual sin that says, “It’s okay; it doesn’t matter that much.” But it does matter.

Getting serious

Starting in verse 5, Abram got serious with the Lord. He called on the Lord and the Lord got serious with him. Jesus tells us,

7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Mat 7:7-8).

Abram’s new start released God to start work in this other troublesome area of his life. This situation gets more sticky because it deals with people, family, and relationships. Abram was insecure.

I know we never like trouble between family members and business arrangements. Problems never end! But just as God sovereignly worked in the situation with Pharaoh by bringing the plagues (Gen 12:17), now the Lord is allowing stress and arguments to rise between Abram’s men and Lot’s men.

If your knowledge of God doesn’t guide, constrain, or otherwise direct your life decisions, your theology is still at the infant stage.

Blessings are sometimes encapsulated by troubles. Before Yahweh the Lord could greatly bless Abram, He had to trim off some weights of sin (Heb 12:1). Hebrews 12 pictures how weights drag down a Christian’s life. If you want to run faster, drop some weights from your life!

There was not enough room for both Abram and Lot to live as herdsmen together in the same region. God was blessing them, and they needed more space, providing Abram extra incentive to make his needed decision.

This incident plays an important role in Abram’s spiritual growth. Abram was insecure; he liked having Lot and his men around him when he moved to the Promised Land. This extra show of force brought Abram some peace, making him less dependent upon the Lord. He couldn’t learn about God’s ability to take care of Him.

Going singularly into a strange land is risky; the narrative repeatedly tells us the Canaanite were in the land, “Now the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling then in the land” (Gen. 13:7). But God desired this risk-infused environment; He wanted Abram alone so that he could learn more of God’s character and faithfulness to His promises—“I can take care of you.”

Many of us want more wealth and security. But be careful. These are the very things that interfere with our ability to know and trust God. It’s what leads to a lukewarm church (Rev 3:17). If God told you to give half your wealth away or to immigrate to a hostile land, would you feel unsettled? But earthly things are secondary to the more important place of trusting God.

These lessons are so valuable because they prepare us for the next world. Theology is no good unless it becomes genuine faith. Theology is not what I say I believe but what I genuinely believe and live my life according to. God uses difficult circumstances to expose areas that He wants to work in.

Don’t panic if your world is rocked by health problems, loss of wealth (unstable stock market), loss of home or job, etc. Thank the Lord that He hasn’t changed and that He is challenging you to gain a stronger and more blessed faith.

A little history

Obedience to the Lord always—ALWAYS—leads to the best life—even though it might be painful.

God’s command to Abram was, “Go forth…from your relatives and from your father’s house” (Gen 12:1). Did Abram do that? Well, no, not completely. Verse 1 tells us that he brought Lot with him. And this is why, the section starts with, “Now Lot…” (Gen 13:5). All the troubles that Lot faced escalated as we read through Genesis. Lot might have begged Abram to take him along; it met a need for security for Abram. But like a young tree, it proliferates and is hard to take down.

God knew better. Lot would not only lose all he had with the destruction of Sodom, but Israel’s two chief enemies would come from Lot’s descendants: Moabites and Ammonites (Gen 19:37-38). Never delude yourself into thinking that disobedience is easier, safer or wiser; those thoughts are straight from the devil.

The decisive moment

8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.” 10 Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. 11 So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord” (Gen. 13:8-13).

Delayed obedience requires more challenging decisions later on. If you, are like me and defer hard decisions or procrastinate, get wise. I’m doing better now. Many times, over the years, I have learned my lessons. I tell myself, “If it’s hard to do it now, it will be more difficult later.”

These character lessons; are good but secondary. More importantly, they are faith lessons that teach us to trust God and His Word. Do what He says. We are so slow to learn and will never get where we should be unless we first obey the Lord.

Abram’s humble step

So what did Abram have to do? He had to separate from Lot—that was clear, but how? This last calling on the Lord indicates Abram was bold enough to trust God for protection without Lot by his side, even though the enemy was still in the land.

Abram, though the elder, gave his nephew the pick of the land. This goes against natural and societal expectations, and yet Abram set up the best deal for Lot so that he would split up. I guess that they talked about it several times before, but it never worked out. Here was a great deal that Lot and his men couldn’t squabble about.

When Lot saw the green, lush valley below, he was attracted and agreed to move on, leaving Abram with the mountains and less grazing land. “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt…” (Gen 13:10).

For Abram, this was a powerful faith statement. He risked all by separating from Lot. He left his life in Lot’s hands. And, besides, the Canaanite was still in the land.

When we see how Lot decided, we understand why the Lord could not fully bless Abram until he parted from Lot and his men. They wanted the best of the land, while Abram wanted the best from the Lord.

What is it that you most long for? The world or the Lord’s blessing? Is there a change the Lord wants you to make so that He can more richly bless you? Do it voluntarily, now on your own, before you are chastised by Him to get you rightly positioned (Rev 3:19). Jesus says, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich” (Rev 3:18).

Nothing in this world can outweigh the glories of His blessings. This is exactly what we see in the following verses.

(3) Finding Awesome Rewards (Genesis 13:14-18)

14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” 18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (Genesis 13:14-18).

As we come to the end of Genesis 13, we will look at three significant aspects of God’s blessings: timing, reward, and worship.

Timing is everything (Genesis 13:14)

There are three timing aspects in this chapter.
When did God freely speak with Abram again? Verse 14 tells us, “The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes…” (Gen. 13:14). The Hebrew grammatical structure emphasizes God spoke after Lot separated himself.

  • Returning to God and Bethel enabled Abram to call on the Lord. He regained his original vision which stirred up his faith (Gen 13:1).
  • Calling on the LORD (4) brought him to a place where God could give him success over his long-term problem with Lot (5).
  • His separation from Lot freed God to speak with Abram and remind him how much He would greatly bless him (14).

Much of Abraham’s journey consisted of God correcting his missteps in life; he often did something opposite to what God said. (Doesn’t that sound like us?) The Lord told him not to take his relatives with him, but Abram took his nephew. It caused much pain, not just for Abram but for Lot. Wow, if we look into Israel’s future, we will see how the evil one multiplied those consequences to persistently trouble Israel through the Moabites and Ammonites, descendants of Lot.

Steps in faith protect us from much harm. The chief lesson here, is that it’s only when we repent from disobedience that we can find God’s true and open doors leading to blessing. Many have taken wrong turns. Instead of turning back to God, they condemn themselves to a life of mediocrity. Based on God’s Word, know for sure that if you turn, God will hear and restore. Does it mean there won’t be any future pain? No, Abram still had to deal with Lot; much sadness would yet come from this.

However, Abram’s life journey now runs at an entirely higher level. Living with open disobedience is like a car running with flat tires! God now spoke freely with Abram and assured him of His blessing.

His blessing is most desirable (Gen 13:14b-17)

God, at times, has sought out my heart, “What do you want most, this or my blessing?” It’s easy to say yes to what is in front of our eyes, but His blessings are for sure supremely incomparable. It tugs at what we believe about God. God wants to build such a strong faith in us that we will always choose faith oversight. Lot’s eyes followed his desires, but Abram grew to where he could trust God with how He would work out His promises—even when many enemies felt threatened by Abram’s growing presence. We need to reread God’s precious words.

14 …Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you” (Gen 13:14b-17).

The Lord is speaking to each of His children that come back no matter how far you have strayed. Forgiveness doesn’t make the past mistakes disappear—but they do reveal God’s patience and mercy with us and open God’s richer treatment of our lives.

Some say God isn’t speaking to me. Hmm, do you think it’s because there is something lodged between you and the Lord? It might not always be the cause, but one we should examine. Don’t let the fear that God will reject you persist even if it is. Repent and anticipate God’s open arms of blessings!

God promised Abram blessings that included some direction and clarity. They were not immediately answered, but their rewarding tone permeates all around so that he (and we) are totally convinced that walking in obedience is always best—even it takes a lifetime journey to see His promises fulfilled. I love how the Lord closed his words: “For I will give it to you.”

Our desired worship (Gen 3:18)

Like the Book of Revelation and the Psalms, walking with the Lord humbles us before the great throne of God, causing us to bless His great Name. This is where Abram ended up.

“Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD” (Genesis 13:18).

Abram moved from the Bethel and Ai region to the mountainous region of Hebron. Even though the grass was sparse, he evidently had more peace and safety there rather than right in the middle of two Canaanite cities, especially after his forces dwindled.

True worship springs from sincere faith.

God greatly blessed Abram; he even built a militia and used it in Genesis 14 to help save others. He risked his security for Lot, though, and more importantly, still refused to take Lot back into his ranks.

It’s there in Hebron that Abram built the altar to the Living God. We don’t have any specific event instigating this except Lot’s safe, peaceful separation from Abram. The situation with Lot had created great tension in Abram. And so, perhaps we are right to conclude that peaceably parting with Lot and avoiding attacks by the Canaanites at his point of weakness, stirred him to build an altar to Yahweh, the covenant God who led him out of Ur, out from Haram, out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land.

Abram now more deeply understood who the Lord led him from Ur to this Promised Land. There would be much more to learn—learning these lessons define our life journey, but he could pause at this altar and celebrate God’s undeserved choice of him. He built an altar because his identity, security, and life were now wrapped up in the promises of the Living God.

Summary of Genesis 13

As Christians, we all have embarked on a faith journey like Abraham. This journey takes us through challenging circumstances that enable us to know Him even better. We sometimes fail, but there is great hope when we humbly come before Him for forgiveness. The faith which saves us is the same faith that drives us because it’s God’s sovereign work behind the scenes mapping out our journeys.

Faith is not a confidence in our knowledge of God but a willingness to obey Him.

Timing is everything! Note the Biblical connections relating how one act affects another.

Bible Study Questions on Genesis 13

  1. Where does verse 1 say Abram returned from? Glance back to the end of Genesis 12 and summarize what happened there.
  2. Can you remember coming back to God after having made a spiritual detour? Share about it.
  3. Read verse 2, consider what just happened in Egypt (Gen 12:10-20), and share whether you are surprised that Abram was richer than before. Why or why not?
  4. Where in the Promised Land did Abram return (12:4)? Read back to Genesis 12:7-8 and explain its significance.
  5. What did Abram do outside Bethel (12:4)? What does it mean to call on the Lord?
  6. Have you ever called on the Lord before? Explain.
  7. What happens right after Abram called on the Lord (starting 12:5)?
  8. Who returned with Abram (12:1)?
  9. Read 12:1-3 and see how bringing Lot, his nephew along, was unacceptable.
  10. Would you be insecure if you lodged between two big “enemy” cities like Abram (Bethel and Ai)? What does verse 7 add about the territory in which Abram lived?
  11. List the reasons why it was nice to have Lot with him and hard to part from him to obey the Lord?
  12. What is strange but bold about how Abram made the offer to separate from Lot?
  13. Why did Lot choose the valley?
  14. What happened once Lot separated from him? What is the significance of this?
  15. Is there anything in your life God is waiting for you to do so He can further bless you? Explain.
  16. How does the last verse indicate that Abram in Hebron had grown in his faith in Yahweh, the Lord?

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BFF’s Articles on Genesis

Introduction to Genesis

Outline and Genealogies

Genesis’ Chronologies (5 & 11)

Unified Themes of Genesis

Genesis 1-2:3: The Worship of the Creator

Creation Lessons on God.

God and the World’s Religions

Preparation for Man (Genesis 2:4-6)

Creation of Man (Gen. 2:7, 1:26-27)

Genesis 2:18-25: The Foundations of Marriage

Genesis 3:1-13: The Fall of Man

Temptation (Genesis 3:1-6)

The Fall (Genesis 3:7-13) |

Genesis 5-9: Genesis Flood

Genesis 05 Genealogical Chart

Genesis 10-11: Noah’s Sons

History Genesis 10:6-11

Tower of Babel Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis 12-22: The Call: Genesis 12.1

Genesis 12-16: Introduction

Place Detour: Genesis 12:10-20; 20

Person Detour: Genesis 12:13-14

Genesis 13 Our Life Journey

Procedure Detour: Genesis 16-17

Genesis 14:1-24: Three Steps to Spiritual Growth

Genesis 18-19: Cultural Woes of Sodom

Genesis 21-26: Isaac’s Model for Godly Marriages

The Testing: Genesis 22

Genesis 27-36 Jacob’s Life of Faith

Genesis 25-37: Influence of Sin

Genesis 42-47:12: The Big Picture

Genesis 37-50: Joseph’s Disillusionment

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