Genesis 13-17
(Patience is a Virtue)
January 4th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Updated 2021

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High.

He blessed Abram with these words:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
the creator of heaven and earth

- Genesis 14:18-19 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

Chapters 13-14 focus on the relationship between Abram (as he was called at that time) and Lot. Abram had gone to Egypt and then returned to the Negev with his immediate family and his nephew, Lot. They were both very successful in breeding and expanding their flocks of sheep and herds of other animals, but they had a prosperity problem: Not enough land for both families. Therefore, Abram offered to split all the land before them – giving Lot first choice.

Lot chose the plains of Jordan, and Abram took the other part of the land – Canaan. God promised to Abraham that this land would forever belong to his infinite offspring.

Sometime later a war developed between neighboring kings, including the king of Sodom, where Lot lived. Lot was captured by the opposing forces and taken away. Abram organized a rescue team to save Lot, returned him to the King of Sodom, and refused any reward. Subsequently, Abram was blessed by Melchizedek, King of Salem, and an ally of Sodom. The book of Genesis says that Melchizedek was a “priest of God Most High (Gen 14:18 - NIV)" who served bread and wine and blessed God and Abram.

Chapters 15-17 record God’s promise to Abram regarding his immediate offspring. God told Abram he would have offspring that are as numerous as the stars, but there would be a 400-year period of enslavement by another nation. Abram and his wife Sarai had been childless for many years so they became impatient while waiting for the LORD’s promise to come true. Therefore, Sarai told Abram to sleep with Hagar, her maidservant, and they had a child named Ishmael.

The LORD spoke to Abram again to reiterate his promise of future offspring. He named him as Abraham (father of many) and renamed his wife as Sarah. God commanded that the male offspring must be circumcised on the eighth day or else the child “will be cut off from his people (Gen 17:14 - NIV).” God also said that Sarah will finally have children, despite that fact that she was 90. The Bible reports that Abraham had an emotionally charged reaction to this proclamation:

    Abraham fell flat on his face. And then he laughed, thinking, "Can a hundred-year-old man father a son? And can Sarah, at ninety years, have a baby?"

    - Genesis 17:17 (MSG)

Therefore, because of this reaction, God decreed that the child shall be called Isaac (he laughed). We learn more about Isaac and his offspring in the subsequent chapters.

Reflection and Application

This group of chapters is another important section of Genesis from which more than one topic is referenced throughout the whole Bible and into our modern times.

First, Abram accepted his portion of land, then known as the land of Canaan, which on today’s geopolitical map would equate to Israel, Palestine, and western portions of Syria and Lebanon. The Israelites who exited Egypt with Moses sought to reclaim this land and the current generation of Israelites point to this scripture as part of their historical claim to territory that is disputed with other nations.

Abram could have dictated who gets what land, but he put the needs of the extended family above his own, preferring a peaceful agreement with Lot to one that only served him. This is a good model for us when we have to divide up some set of assets.

Remember the name Melchizedek – we won’t read it again for a while, but he is mentioned in the Psalms and is mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews, a book we will be studying 11 months from now. In fact, the author of this letter devotes chapter 7 of Hebrews to describe Melchizedek.

    This “King Melchizedek of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him”; and to him Abraham apportioned “one-tenth of everything.” His name, in the first place, means “king of righteousness”; next he is also king of Salem, that is, “king of peace.” Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

    See how great he is! Even Abraham the patriarch gave him a tenth of the spoils. And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to collect tithes from the people, that is, from their kindred, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man, who does not belong to their ancestry, collected tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had received the promises.

    - Hebrews 7:1-6 (NRSV)

Who was this man named Melchizedek? Some experts have said it's Jesus, in an earlier appearance on Earth. We know that he existed since the beginning of time, long before he appeared as a baby on the first Christmas. But it's not clear from the scripture exactly who he was. This mysterious priest of the Most High (who came from Salem – later called Jerusalem) suddenly enters Abram’s life story without any explanation of his past and does not appear again in this book. Likewise, in our lives we may encounter servants of God who touch our lives in a special way and are never seen again. Let us be alert to these divine incidents.

The other part of this group of chapters is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible – the promise from God to Abraham and the story of his two children. This is an important section to read carefully and remember so that we are prepared to recognize it in other texts in the Bible.

Note Sarah’s impatience. God had promised offspring, but they did not come according to Sarah’s timing, so she made an impetuous decision that she later regretted. How many times have we made the same mistake – expecting God’s timing to match our own? If so, we made need to pray for patience so that we accept God’s will and timing and don’t act impetuously.

Has God spoken to you the way he did to Abraham, inviting you to engage in some type of dialog? If so how did you react to his words? With praise, astonishment, or disbelief? If you find his instructions to be unrealistic, then rest assured that you are in good company with Father Abraham. If Abraham had been using text message language with God, he would have typed ROTFL (Rolling on the floor laughing) when God told him about the baby to be born. Clearly, God did not hold this skepticism against Abraham, but nevertheless we should take seriously whatever God tells us.

As we continue to read through the whole Bible we will obtain a better understanding of the dialog that God wants to have with each of us.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What examples can you think of where someone unexpectedly came into your life and was a blessing to you?
    2. What examples come to mind when you think about a gap in expectations between your plans and God's timing?
    3. In what ways have you sensed God speaking to you? What messages have you discerned and how have you responded? If you have not sensed any messages yet, be faithful, keep reading, and believe it can happen.
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in Heaven, please help us to bridge the gap between our expectations and your timing.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Couples expecting children

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 18-20 (Sodom and Gomorrah).

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