The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 12: Abraham in Canaan
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Abraham returned to Canaan "very rich in cattle, in silver,
and in gold." Lot was still with him, and again they came
to Bethel, and pitched their tents by the altar which they had
before erected. They soon found that increased possessions brought
increased trouble. In the midst of hardships and trials they had
dwelt together in harmony, but in their prosperity there was
danger of strife between them. The pasturage was not sufficient
for the flocks and herds of both, and the frequent disputes among
the herdsmen were brought for settlement to their masters. It
was evident that they must separate. Abraham was Lot's senior
in years, and his superior in relation, in wealth, and in position;
yet he was the first to propose plans for preserving peace.
Although the whole land had been given him by God Himself, he
courteously waived this right.
"Let there be no strife," he said, "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
Here the noble, unselfish spirit of Abraham was displayed.
How many under similar circumstances would, at all hazards,
cling to their individual rights and preferences! How many
households have thus been rent asunder! How many churches
have been divided, making the cause of truth a byword and a
reproach among the wicked! "Let there be no strife between me
and thee," said Abraham, "for we be brethren;" not only by
natural relationship, but as worshipers of the true God. The
children of God the world over are one family, and the same
spirit of love and conciliation should govern them. "Be kindly [p. 133] affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor
preferring one another" (Romans 12:10), is the teaching of our
Saviour. The cultivation of a uniform courtesy, a willingness to
do to others as we would wish them to do to us, would annihilate
half the ills of life. The spirit of self-aggrandizement is the
spirit of Satan; but the heart in which the love of Christ is
cherished, will possess that charity which seeketh not her own. Such
will heed the divine injunction, "Look not every man on his
own things, but every man also on the things of others." Philippians 2:4.
Although Lot owed his prosperity to his connection with
Abraham, he manifested no gratitude to his benefactor. Courtesy
would have dictated that he yield the choice to Abraham, but instead
of this he selfishly endeavored to grasp all its advantages.
He "lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it
was well watered everywhere, . . . even as the garden of the
Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar." The
most fertile region in all Palestine was the Jordan Valley, reminding
the beholders of the lost Paradise and equaling the beauty and
productiveness of the Nile-enriched plains they had so lately left.
There were cities also, wealthy and beautiful, inviting to profitable
traffic in their crowded marts. Dazzled with visions of worldly
gain, Lot overlooked the moral and spiritual evils that would be
encountered there. The inhabitants of the plain were "sinners
before the Lord exceedingly;" but of this he was ignorant, or,
knowing, gave it but little weight. He "chose him all the plain
of Jordan," and "pitched his tent toward Sodom." How little
did he foresee the terrible results of that selfish choice!
After the separation from Lot, Abraham again received from
the Lord a promise of the whole country. Soon after this he removed
to Hebron, pitching his tent under the oaks of Mamre
and erecting beside it an altar to the Lord. In the free air of those
upland plains, with their olive groves and vineyards, their fields
of waving grain, and the wide pasture grounds of the encircling
hills, he dwelt, well content with his simple, patriarchal life, and
leaving to Lot the perilous luxury of the vale of Sodom.
Abraham was honored by the surrounding nations as a mighty
prince and a wise and able chief. He did not shut away his
influence from his neighbors. His life and character, in their
marked contrast with those of the worshipers of idols, exerted a [p. 134] telling influence in favor of the true faith. His allegiance to God
was unswerving, while his affability and benevolence inspired
confidence and friendship and his unaffected greatness commanded
respect and honor.
His religion was not held as a precious treasure to be jealously
guarded and enjoyed solely by the possessor. True religion cannot
be thus held, for such a spirit is contrary to the principles of
the gospel. While Christ is dwelling in the heart it is impossible
to conceal the light of His presence, or for that light to grow
dim. On the contrary, it will grow brighter and brighter as day
by day the mists of selfishness and sin that envelop the soul are
dispelled by the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
The people of God are His representatives upon the earth,
and He intends that they shall be lights in the moral darkness of
this world. Scattered all over the country, in the towns, cities,
and villages, they are God's witnesses, the channels through
which He will communicate to an unbelieving world the knowledge
of His will and the wonders of His grace. It is His plan that
all who are partakers of the great salvation shall be missionaries
for Him. The piety of the Christian constitutes the standard by
which worldlings judge the gospel. Trials patiently borne, blessings
gratefully received, meekness, kindness, mercy, and love,
habitually exhibited, are the lights that shine forth in the character
before the world, revealing the contrast with the darkness
that comes of the selfishness of the natural heart.
Rich in faith, noble in generosity, unfaltering in obedience,
and humble in the simplicity of his pilgrim life, Abraham was
also wise in diplomacy and brave and skillful in war. Notwithstanding
he was known as the teacher of a new religion, three
royal brothers, rulers of the Amorite plains in which he dwelt,
manifested their friendship by inviting him to enter into an alliance
with them for greater security; for the country was filled
with violence and oppression. An occasion soon arose for him to
avail himself of this alliance.
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