Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. Tonight, is study #3 of Genesis, chapter 13 and we are going to read Genesis 13:5-10:
And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And 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. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. 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 wilt 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. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before JEHOVAH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of JEHOVAH, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.
We know the spiritual situation, since this is taking place in the land of Canaan. It identifies with the outward representation of the kingdom of God or the corporate church. We also know that Abram is a true child of God, justified by the work and faith of Christ. Lot also is a true child of God. He has a “righteous soul” that would later be vexed with the unlawful deeds of the wicked in Sodom. We know these two are elect and they are each heading up their own group of herdmen. The herdmen are taking care of the cattle and they had huge flocks and herds and tents, as it said in Genesis 13:5-6:
And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And 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.
We understand that this relates to the church age. We understand that during the 1,955 years of the church age God’s people were found within the churches, as typified by Abram and Lot and, perhaps, by the cattle and herdmen. So, we wonder why there is strife if both Abram and Lot are truly children of God. We began to realize the reason when we looked at the Hebrew word translated as “herdmen,” Strong’s #7462, and it is also translated as “pastors.” For instance, it says in Jeremiah 2:8:
The priests said not, Where is JEHOVAH? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.
Also, it says in Jeremiah 12:10:
Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
Let us look at one more in Jeremiah 23:1-2:
Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith JEHOVAH. Therefore thus saith JEHOVAH God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith JEHOVAH.
Here, the word “pastors” is also the word translated as “herdmen.” If I remember rightly, every time we find the word “pastors” in the Old Testament it is this Hebrew word that is translated as “herdmen.” Also, notice that in Jeremiah 23 the Lord speaks of the “pastors” feeding His people and then He immediately speaks of them scattering the flock. It is the “cattle” that are in view in Genesis 13, verse seven where it speaks of there being strife between the pastors of Abram’s flocks and the pastors of Lot’s flocks. When we put it in these terms, we can more readily see that this is a spiritual picture of the strife during the history of the churches. When we look at the history of the churches and congregations, right from the very beginning there was strife. There were disputes and doctrinal differences. This was continuous for almost two thousand years. Even though the strife was continuous, the Lord is providing a solution in our verses. Well, it is not really a solution, but more of a temporary fix so the churches could continue to function to some degree and not be ruined or destroyed early on. The temporary solution to the problem of “strife” that this passage gives us is “separation.” That is why Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.” It is an unseemly and ugly thing when there is strife between brethren. When we look to the Bible and we look at the word “strife,” for example, we will not find that the Bible has anything good to say about it. For instance, it says in Proverbs 17:14:
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.
The word translated as “contention” is the word that is translated as “strife” in Genesis, chapter 13. Leave off contention, before it be meddled with, so Abram is doing a wise thing when he sees the strife. It is just going to continue and get worse.
This was an especially serious problem during the church age. Yes, you have Abram and you have Lot and they are true believers and brethren. They certainly do not want to strive with one another, but Abram had his herdmen or “pastors” and Lot had his “pastors” and it was the pastors that were striving with one another over the watering hole or over the green pastures or whatever else they were disputing and a struggle was ensuing among the pastors. God says, “Leave off contention,” but the problem in the churches was that there were both wheat and tares within and the tares outnumber the wheat. And it was the natural tendency of the tares to strive. We know that because in Galatians, chapter 5 God outlines the “works of the flesh” and He says in Galatians 5:19-20:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
It continues, but “strife” is a manifestation of the works of the flesh. When strife is in evidence, we are seeing a work of the flesh. Of course, God contrasts the works of the flesh a little further on in Galatians 5 by listing some fruits of the spirit. I will read some of those fruits, in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
You cannot have strife as a fruit of the spirit because there is no peace in that. There is no gentleness. For the words “striving” or “strife” there are different Greek words in the New Testament, but in one case the word translated as “strive” is translated as “fight.” Certainly, you cannot fight or strive with another and pretend you are at peace or that you are being gentle. God commands us to leave off strife or contention in Proverbs 17, but He also tells us Proverbs 20:3:
It is an honour for a man to cease from strife…
Without question, that tells us it is a good thing not to strive and, therefore, it is not a good thing to strive. It is an honor for a man to cease from strife and that is what Abram is trying to do when he spoke to Lot and said, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee,” even though it was not the two of them that were striving, but it was a problem with the pastors. Abram came up with a solution to separate from one another: “We will still be brethren, but only from a distance.” That is what they did.
Before we move on from Proverbs 20, verse 3, after the Lord said it was an honor for a man to cease from strife, He added in the last part of the verse in Proverbs 20:3:
… but every fool will be meddling.
As the Bible defines a “fool,” it is the unsaved individual. He or she does not find any kind of comfort or joy in not pressing the point and “butting heads” with someone to prove they are right. They do not like to cease from argument and strife. The implication is that the fool will strive and this would tie in with a work of the flesh. Strife is a manifestation. It reveals that the individual is not in the spirit, but he is in the flesh. He is acting carnally or fleshly and, therefore, God calls him a fool.
It says in Proverbs 26:21:
As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Just consider what wood is to the fire. You have a little fire in the forest and right now it is small, but add some wood to the fire and what happens? It gets bigger. Eventually, given the proper conditions, there will be a forest fire with thousands of acres ablaze. God is saying that a little strife will do the same thing. A man that is contentious about the Bible will be like adding wood to a fire. If there is a little dispute or disagreement, then this individual comes in and he is going to just “blow it out of proportion.” It is going to be like the phrase, “Making a mountain out of a mole hill.”
During the church age, there would be an individual within a church and he would see something in the Bible he thought was true (but it was not true) and it went contrary to what that church was teaching, but he gathered a following. The rift began to grow within the congregation until they were divided – half of them were supporting his idea and the other half were remaining faithful to the former teaching. How could that congregation continue to worship side by side and coexist? The answer is that, typically, they could not continue together. What would happen was that there would be a split and that group led by that individual would form their own church and congregation. They would divide from one another. The former church would have less members, but it could work out to their benefit because many that were following a falsehood had gone away. And, yet, we should consider that when the new church turned into its own denomination God would often have elect within that church as long as they had not gotten to the point of becoming “another gospel.” That new denomination might have a “Lot” within, as they would have some “righteous souls” and a few of God’s elect among the many. And the former church would also have a few (elect) among the many. This is the teaching that God is showing us here.
It is interesting how in these verses in Proverbs, God is warning against “strife.” You know, there are some people…and we see it today within social media, like Twitter and Facebook, where people can easily communicate. You can be spread out over a country or over the world and, yet, people can still communicate. And that can be good and it can be a wonderful blessing, but it also means that people from all over the world can bring in their ideas and their understanding in to the mix. Given the nature of man, that is not always a good thing. For example, some people, for whatever reason, are drawn to one of EBible Fellowship’s groups on Facebook and they begin to post their ideas; they can post a text message; they can post an audio; they can link to a study they did; they can upload a video. There are so many ways to impose their messages into our group, but it is not faithful and true to the Word of God. Over the several years that EBible Fellowship has maintained these groups, we monitor these postings. At times, we must correct them. Or, we will tell a person, “Please do not do that or you cannot share that here. We do not want that posted here. You are free to post things that are faithful to the Bible, but you are not free to post things contrary to the Bible.” We feel that it is our duty as faithful stewards of the mysteries of God and the whole Bible is a mystery. We are not to allow people to post whatever they want or to teach whatever they want. This often leads to charges of censorship or people saying, “What are you afraid of? You are not allowing everyone to share what is on their minds.” Some people are so proud and they are so insistent upon their teaching. They are politely told, “Please do not post that again.” But, they post it again. So, after a couple of warnings, we remove them from the group. So EBible Fellowship has gotten the reputation among some that we do not allow for “free discussion” and we are “afraid” to hear what people have to say. I do not know how anyone could believe that because we open ourselves to questions and comments over five hours each week. We do so in live audio and we do so in the Facebook group and many groups. We encourage people to ask questions and bring up their verses. Some still accuse us of being afraid, but we are following the teaching of the Bible, because here is what God says in 2Timothy 2:23-24:
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
God directs us to avoid foolish questions. We will look at other things we are to avoid, too, but we are to avoid areas that will gender strife. When someone posts something contrary to the Bible and the child of God responds: “No – that is not correct. This is what the Bible says.” That person does not take correction, but they continue to insist on their position and there begins to be a “back and forth,” like a volley in a tennis match. What are we supposed to do? Are we to let that go on, endlessly? No – there is no benefit or profit to anyone in that kind of discussion. We tell them directly, “I am sorry.” We do not want to strive, picking up from Genesis 13: “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee.” No – we do not say that directly, but this is what is underneath our response. We say, “We will remove you from our group and you may go to your own ‘land’ or form your own group on Facebook and do what you please.” But, there must be separation. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” We cannot have strife. The servant of the Lord must not strive. We can make ourselves available and open ourselves up to whatever Bible question they want to ask, but as soon as an individual starts to veer off course and tries to use it as a platform to present their own teaching and ideas to get some followers, we cut them off. We do not want to get into that.
It says in Titus 3:9:
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
What is the Law? It is the whole Bible. We are to avoid these things. We are not to strive about the Law of God. We cannot convince anyone of the truth – that is God’s business. We can only present the truth. We can only declare what the Bible says. “This is what the Bible says. I am sorry you do not like it. I am sorry you are of a different opinion or mind, but this is what the Bible says.”