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Skeletons in the Closet
Scripture: Genesis 12:1; Genesis 13:1-18; 1 John 2:...
Track 4 of 11 in the Abraham series
More than wed like to admit, many of us have skeletons in our closets a decision, an event, an act, a memory from the past that suddenly haunts us in the present. In some instances its a skeleton that we created. For others its in our closet because someone else placed it there a parent, a marital partner, a friend, or some circumstance beyond our control such as a natural disaster.Unfortunately Abraham had a skeleton in his closet. As we read his lifes story, it is so well camouflaged, we hardly notice it. But there it is, clearly visible. In fact, Abrahams skeleton was alive and well...his nephew, Lot.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

A Skeleton in the Closet

As I watched the presidential debates, I was amazed how far back opponents will go in a personís life to expose all the weaknesses and personal flaws that person has. I donít know about you but if I were held accountable for what I believe in today compared to what I believed 20-30 years ago, I would be in deep trouble. Maybe it is just me but I think so much differently today than I did 30 years ago, even 15 years ago. There are some many things I would do different if I could go back 30 years ago knowing what I know now. But I canít imagine how if must be to be held accountable for what you said or did 30 years ago when today I feel totally different.

In politics the opponent is always looking for the skeletons in his opponentís closet to gain an advantage in order to win the election. The same is true in real life as well; more than weíd like to admit, many of us have skeletons in our closets Ė a decision, an event, an act, a memory from the past that suddenly haunts us in the present. In some instances itís a skeleton that we created. For others itís in our closet because someone else placed it there Ė a parent, a marital partner, a friend, or some circumstance beyond our control such as a natural disaster.

Any of you have skeletons in your closet? Would anyone like to share one?

Then there is the skeleton that we hardly recognize anymore. But when circumstances are just right, the closet door swings open and there it hangs for all to see. Unfortunately Abraham had this kind of skeleton in his closet. As we read his lifeís story, it is so well camouflaged, we hardly notice it. But there it is, clearly visible. In fact, Abrahamís skeleton was alive and well.

Any guesses what Abrahamís skeleton was? It was his nephew Lot.

Genesis 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, ďLeave your country, your people and your fatherís household and go to the land I will show you.

When God called Abraham to Canaan, he was told to leave his country, leave his own household and his relatives. His failure to make a clean break with his father resulted in at least a 15 year delay in going to Canaan. But when he was on his way again, his failure to leave Lot behind in Haran complicated his situation even more.

Why do you think Abraham took Lot with him when he went to Canaan. What was the reasoning? Why do you think God didnít want Terah or Lot to follow Abraham to Canaan?

God is omniscient. He knows the deepest thoughts and intents of our hearts. He knew Terahís heart and he knew Lotís heart and both were not compatible for the work God planned for Abraham. We know from scripture that Terah only delayed Abraham from entering Canaan sooner and we will see from our lesson today, Lot brought trouble to Abraham, trouble Abraham didnít need. However, we must remember, even though we donít follow God fully and mess things up; God still can use the bad for good and teach his servants a valuable lesson. In this case, Abraham will learn a very valuable lesson from the skeleton in his closet, Lot.

Genesis 13:1-7 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD. 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 Abramís herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

Do you sense here that God is out to get Lot? No I donít think so, in fact I think God wanted him to change his life and become like Abraham and be faithful to God. There is no doubt that Lot became wealth because he was with Abraham. We are not told exactly how this happened but some scholars suggest that it was due to the caring nature of Abraham as he shared all that he received from the Egyptians.

Do you agree with the scholars? Why would Abraham share his wealth with his nephew Lot?

I find it interesting that the Bible calls out 2 groups of people, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. What is important about this at this point in time?

Scholars believe that these people were the original cause of the quarrel. The Canaanites and Perizzites posed the land and when it came to herding sheep and goats, a lot of land was needed and careful replenishing of the land was required. But if lands were already taken by the pre-existing inhabitants, that left only unoccupied ground available for Abraham and Lot.

But this dispute also brought danger to the Abraham clan, a division within the family made it easier for a stronger force to come in and plunder them both. In addition, the example this new people demonstrated by their feud made a wrong impression on the neighbors causing them to mock the God they worshiped.

So here we see the door open wide and we see the skeleton hanging in the closet. What is the skeleton that is going to get Abraham in trouble?

We see that wealth can be both a blessing and a curse. It takes a much disciplined man to have the right attitude with wealth and still walk a straight path with God. Even those with great wisdom have difficulty keeping unhappiness, jealousy, and feuding away from his door. Abraham was a man who had the right attitude about wealth and could walk the way God wanted him to. But not so with Lot; his heart was different and Lotís heart would cause Abraham a lot of trouble.

Genesis 13:8-9 So Abram said to Lot, ďLetís not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Letís part company. If you go to the left, Iíll go to the right; if you go to the right, Iíll go to the left.Ē

What does this passage tell you about Abrahamís character? Did Abraham have the right to say or request anything from Lot? Lot was there because Abraham invited him along for the ride. Lot was rich because of Abraham. By right, Abraham could have set the rules and laid the boundaries of the deal.

Abraham probably knew Lot was blessed by God because of him and yet he allowed Lot to be on equal footing with himself. Abraham offered Lot the choice that could allow his nephew to end up with the better deal. But that is what Abraham did. He knew the land that laid to the east toward the Jordan was a garden from the Lord. He was well aware that what he ended up with might be the least desirable land. But his love for Lot and his desire for peace was more important to Abraham than his own material welfare.

When a man gets himself into trouble, where does it usually start? It starts from what we see.

Genesis 13:10-12 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.

Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Lotís eyes combined with his selfish heart and material wealth made him very vulnerable to more selfishness. How many times and how many examples do we have where a person who had a lot in life was destroyed by his passion to have more? His passion to have more caused him to make some decisions that would cause disaster to his family and eventually to Abraham.

Genesis 13:13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that are known throughout the centuries. I bet you can ask anyone on the street the names of Sodom and Gomorrah and they would tell you the cities were very evil places. Lot was not ignorant about these cities either. When he moved into the plain of the Jordan, he pitched his tent near Sodom, he didnít move into the cities, at least not yet. No he kept his distance just enough to profit from the land and still profit from the city as well. He didnít want to dwell in Sodom, just be near enough to gain the benefits.

What happens sometimes if you get too near the fire? You can get burnt. Why is it important to flee from sin rather than play with it? How does 1 John 2:16 relate to what Lot was doing living close to Sodom?

Have you ever been in a situation before when you thought you lost but ended up winning? You willingly gave way to someone else and you lost because you werenít necessarily aggressive or selfish enough to win but later you realized that you were the winner in the end? Give me a situation when this happened?

This definitely happened to Abraham. Again, I canít imagine what his wife said to him when she heard Abraham allowed Lot to pick the best of all the land and it was okay with Abraham. Wasnít the whole reason why they traveled to Canaan was to go to a place that was just like the Garden of God, a land that God promised Abraham, not Lot? Lot received his wealth because he traveled with Abraham now Lot has the best of all the land and Abraham just let him take it. But after Lot leaves, God takes Abraham aside by himself and says:

Genesis 13:14-18 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ďLift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.Ē So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Did you notice something here, did you notice that God also included the land East of where he was standing, the very land that Abraham allowed Lot to go and inhabit? As we will see in coming chapters, man might think he can manipulate things for his advantage but not when God has different plans. It wonít be long before Lot is running for his life with little to show of his wealth. In fact, he loses everything, even his family.

Do you think that Abraham really understood what God was telling him? Did it all sink in and could Abraham envision all that God promised?

I donít think Abraham at that moment clearly understood all that God said that day. He certainly didnít comprehend the eternal aspects of the promise but a time did

Hebrews 11:9-10 By faith Abraham, even though he was past ageóand Sarah herself was barrenówas enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.

But there is also a warning coming in our next lesson, a warning that we better take note of. Like Abraham and Lot, we too have to make a decision concerning God, are we going to follow and be faithful like Abraham was or are we going to allow a different voice to call us and we follow?

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.