Meditations in the life of Abraham : 18. Family Tensions
Gen 13:5-7 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
In our language we have a phrase about “chickens coming home to roost” meaning we’re about to pay the consequences for something we’ve done or not done that shouldn’t have been. Now I say this because these verses have that feel about them. Back in 12:1 we read the Lord’s instructions to Abram that must have been given back in Ur: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household”. Now Lot had been part of his father’s household but when Abram left his father at Haran, Lot came with him and presumably had been with him all the time since. Up until now that hadn’t been a problem which is perhaps why Abram had gone along with it. Remember he is only a very young believer even though he is seventy five (12:4). Maybe the fact that he was seventy five when he left Haran meant that he felt somewhat old and appreciated having the younger man around. Perhaps he just didn’t have the courage to tell Lot that he had to go on alone, but whatever the reason, it now presents a problem.
Now in some ways this is a good problem – they are both rich with flocks and herds. The Lord has obviously blessed them both from Haran and from Egypt, as we saw before, and they are both ‘men of substance’. That much is good, but wealth brings with it a variety of difficulties and the particular difficulty that they are now struggling with is that the grass of the land is not sufficient to support the herds and flocks of them both. Of course they are sufficiently well off that they both have men working for them looking after the flocks and herds, and it is at this level of management that the tension comes out. Suppose Abram has a number of herdsmen and his chief herdsman will be looking out for his master and so seeks to ensure he gets the grass that is around. Unfortunately, Lot’s chief herdsman would be doing the same thing and before long they are arguing over who gets the limited supply of what is there. If Abram had come to the land on his own and become this prosperous, that wouldn’t have been a problem for there was sufficient grass for one man’s animals, but he hadn’t come alone and so now they have conflict.
The basic principle at work here is a common one: if you don’t obey the Lord fully, the consequences of your partial obedience (?disobedience) will eventually come back and bite you. I have observed a number of situations over the years where people, initially at least, appear to ‘get away with it’, but eventually over a longer period things start going wrong and the cause was the thing not dealt with years before.
Sometimes it may be a broken relationship and we harden ourselves not to do anything about it. We get by, especially as the other person is not physically near us, but eventually something happens and there is upheaval and it all stems back to the original offence or breakdown. This sort of thing can take many forms, especially in families; we fail to take action to stop a particular behaviour pattern in our children and it seems to be all right, until later in life their ill-discipline comes out into the open in a major way causing upset all round. Beware not dealing with conflict issues, because the longer they are left, the bigger will be the fallout.
Such things were not uncommon in the Bible. Isaac and Rebekah having favourite sons, later caused a family split. Israel making Joseph his favourite eventually meant Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Eli failing to discipline his sons eventually meant death and the capture of the ark. In every situation the basics are the same: a wrong situation is tolerated until eventually it all goes wrong.
Abram should have had the courage to tell Lot to stay back at Haran, but he hadn’t and so now, eventually, because they have both been blessed so much, they have a problem which now MUST be resolved. This it is; if you leave the issue, there will come a day when it will be forced on you and you will have to do something about it, but now it will be far more difficult to deal with. Be obedient and wholehearted and deal with problems as they come along.