It is notable that when Abraham came up from Egypt he made straight for the place where he had built an altar. He had been moving away from his Leader down in Egypt, but now he returned to God, who was his Home. But Abraham was a very rich man now, and Lot, his nephew, had shared in his prosperity, and here (for the first time, though not the last) wealth proved a source of trouble among relatives. Quarrels arose between their respective servants; there were clashings and bickerings, with perhaps the drawing of daggers, when the herds were driven to the wells at evening. And the Canaanites and Perizzites who dwelt around took no little pleasure in these herdsmen's quarrels, much as the world and its newspapers now are secretly delighted at any dissensions among God's professing people. Abraham saw that this could not go on. He was too wise and far too statesmanlike to tolerate it. He took Lot to a fair coign of vantage, showed him the country stretching away below them, and suggested in the interests of peace, that they should separate, each to his own domain. Then Lot, as all the children know, chose Sodom. He led away his flocks and herds to Sodom. And through all the ages that have come and gone since then, and amid the million choices they have seen, no choice is graven deeper on the memory than this so blind and tragic choice of Lot.
I. Now first let us note how magnanimous true faith can be.
Abraham was the older of the two; he was the uncle, Lot was the nephew. It was for Abraham, as the older man, to take the first place in the choice of territory. No one could have said he dealt unfairly, had he selected first, and given Lot the residue. In the East, even more than in the West, all would at once have bowed to that decision. But with a magnanimity that is very captivating, Abraham humbled himself before his nephew, and left the decision of the whole matter with him. Do you see the source of that fine generosity? Can you trace to its roots that large and generous treatment? It sprang from a deep and living trust in God. Abraham had learned that God was his Provider, and his future was sure when all was left to Him. It is thus that faith in the presence and power of God makes a man incapable of petty dealing. He is always more eager to insist upon the promises, than to insist on the assertions of his rights. He can sing:
'Not mine-not mine the choice In things or great or small;
Be Thou my Guide, my Guard, my Strength, My wisdom, and my All.'
II. Next mark how, sooner or later, the real man is discovered.
We must not forget that Lot, no less than Abraham, had gone out, not knowing whither he went. He had fared forth valiantly with Abraham, as if he, too, had had a call from God. Perhaps Lot had been even more ardent than his uncle; he may have displayed more eager enthusiasm in the journey. Had you seen the two pilgrims, as they moved towards Canaan, you might have thought that the younger was Greatheart. But the hour came when the younger stood revealed. This choice declared the character of Lot. He proved unequal to the strain of this great moment, when Abraham offered him the land he might select. Such moments come to every traveller. God's heavenward way is ordered and guided so. If we have only been fired. by the heroism of others, and never heard for ourselves the call of God, the hour is sure to dawn when we shall fail. Nothing but faith (though it be as a grain of mustardseed) will stand the strain and test of journeying years, and hold a man true to the noblest and the best, when lower things (which are sweet) are in his grasp.
III. Again, observe how disastrous a choice may be when God is not considered.
Do my readers see what the mistake of Lot was? It was a mistake that is repeated every day. It was a choice that was made solely by the eye, without a thought of the interests of the soul. If life had been nothing but a matter of shepherding, the decision of Lot would have been fully justified. The valley of the lower Jordan was like Eden, and the pasturage was like the beauty_unsurpassed. But there is more in life than the outward and material; there are eternal interests, there is the soul and God; and all this was clean forgotten by Lot when his eye rested on the fair land of Sodom. There is not a hint that he asked God to direct him. There is not one sign that he ever thought of God. He was carried away by immediate advantages, spite of all that the companionship of Abraham had done for him, and he woke to discover, in the after days, that selfishness is a most tragic mistake. Do you think he ever would have chosen Sodom if he could have unrolled the curtain of tomorrow? Do you think he contemplated such marriages for his daughters, or the fiery destruction, or the pillar of salt? If only some angel had forewarned him of that, how he would have spurned the beauty of the plain! Learn then how foolish and fatal are all choices that take in nothing but the seen and temporal. It is always disastrous to ignore or neglect God.
IV. Lastly, note the supreme importance of a life's direction.
Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. There was no fault in the actual place of pitching; it was just like many another scene of bivouac; but it was toward Sodom-that was the evil of it and the tragedy lay in the direction. Remember then that there may be things and places which are not actually evil in themselves, and yet they may be dark and ominous if they indicate the direction of a life. It is not my actual achievement which is of supreme importance; it is the direction which my life is taking. Daniel opened his windows towards Jerusalem; Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom. In which direction, think you, are you traveling? Towards what are you making day by day?
Sermon By Dr. George