Lift Up Your Eyes and See
Based on a sermon by Oh Hee Do—Seoul, Korea
Genesis 13:10–18 relates the
account of Abraham as he gave way to Lot and received blessings from God, and of
Lot choosing for himself a land that was pleasing in his eyes. After studying
the passage closely, we will learn from the contrasting attitudes and actions of
these two family members.
“LIFTING THE EYES”
And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was
well watered everywhere (before the Lord
destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. (Gen 13:10)
And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the
place where you are--northward, southward, eastward, and westward;” (Gen 13:14)
In Genesis 13, both Abraham and
Lot "lifted their eyes." But if we analyze the two verses closely, we
see that there are nuances that differentiate this apparently similar action.
Lot lifted up his eyes on his own
accord (Gen 13:10). In fact, Lot’s “lifting of his eyes” was not purely an
action; it arose from a desire in his heart for that land; his actions merely manifesting
the desire already present in him.
There are many things in our lives
that will stir up our desires, causing us to lift up our eyes. Reflect and ask ourselves
what causes us to lift up our eyes. The latest model of phone? The latest
episode of a popular TV show or reality show? Social media posts? Or the word
In contrast, Abraham only lifted
up his eyes when God instructed him to do so. He acted in response to God’s word.
He did not act of his own accord; he waited for God.
Does our faith also begin with God
in our hearts, with our actions reflecting God’s will for us? Learn from
Abraham: he lifted his eyes to see only the things God wanted him to see. This
is a very important starting point for our faith. We should only lift up our
eyes to see what the Lord wants us to see. Only then will we have the right
focus in our faith and receive blessings from God.
Verse 10 states that Lot lifted
his eyes and saw. Likewise, verse 14 records God’s instruction to Abraham to lift
his eyes and to look northward, southward, eastward, and westward.
Again, Abraham and Lot performed
similar actions, but with completely different motives. Lot set his eyes on the
plain of Jordan because his heart was already inclined towards that place. In
Genesis 3:6, when Eve sinned, she “saw that the tree was good for food, that it
was pleasant to the eyes ….” A simple gesture of seeing—the lust of the eyes—resulted
in an action that has devastatingly impacted humanity forever.
Today, we are also always drawn to
look at things that are pleasant to our eyes, things that we desire. However, these
may be the very things that are not beneficial to us and may even harm us.
Conversely, Abraham did not take
the initiative to look at the things of the world. He would only lift up his
eyes when God instructed him to do so. Quite often, what we seek to look at in
our life reveals our value system. In the book of Psalms, the psalmist often refers
to looking at the temple of God and rejoicing at the temple. What about us
today? Do we have that same yearning for the church of God? Do we share the
psalmist’s sentiments and rejoice when we come to the church of God? (cf. Ps
Abraham only looked at those
things that God wanted him to see. Hence, his act of seeing led to an outcome that
was very different to Lot’s.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was
well watered everywhere (before the Lord
destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of
Egypt as you go toward Zoar. (Gen 13:10)
… for all the land which you see
I give to you and your descendants forever. (Gen 13:15)
Although “land” is mentioned in
both verses, it has different meanings in each respective scenario. What Lot
saw was the physical land, the whole plain of Jordan, even up to Zoar, which was well watered. Lot believed that this land
would benefit him and allow him to lead a blissful life. He also likened the
plains of Jordan to the garden of the Lord
and the land of Egypt. But are they really the same? Is the garden of the Lord really like the land of Egypt? In
Lot’s eyes, he viewed these two places as the same, and such thoughts
illustrated his spiritual immaturity.
The same may apply to us if we are
spiritually immature. The garden of the Lord
is completely different from the land of Egypt. In today’s terms, the church is
completely different from the world. Yet some believers may equate both to be
the same, and worse, may even reckon that the world is better than the church.
They will reluctantly come for services and eagerly rush out to be entertained by
the attractions offered by today’s Sodom and Gomorrah. If we view the world to
be the same as the church, we have to examine our faith.
Sometimes when we travel abroad,
we might meet our own countrymen. Yet we may not feel as close to them as to
our brethren from the local church, whom we have just met. Despite language
barriers, we experience the spirit of one family, as we are all members of God’s
household. Therefore, if we find that our hearts are more connected to the
people in the world rather than our own brethren, we ought to reflect and introspect.
Despite the wickedness of the
nearby cities, Lot was attracted by the plains of Jordan because his spiritual
eyes were not mature. Instead of consulting Abraham and seeking God’s advice, he
took it upon himself to examine the land that was well watered and made a bad decision.
Often, people who make decisions as Lot did, believe that their choice is right,
but such a choice will not benefit them.
Unlike Lot, Abraham did not decide
for himself; instead, he chose to listen to the word of God.
… for all the land which you see… (Gen 13:15)
The land that Abraham received
from God might not have been the land that he was naturally inclined towards; however,
God had arranged for Abraham to receive this land and spiritually speaking, this
land is the Promised Land. Even though Abraham did not receive this land in his
lifetime, he believed in God’s promise to give this land to his descendants
Seeing this spiritual Promised
Land should also be our focus. We should not fret over physical land but look
towards the Promised Land: heaven. When we mature spiritually, just like
Abraham, our eyes will be focused on the promise of God. Do we see this
Promised Land? Do we hope to reach this Promised Land some day?
Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east.
And they separated from each other. (Gen 13:11)
Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth
trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an
altar there to the Lord. (Gen
Both verse 11 and verse 18 begin
with the word “then,” which indicates the consequence of Abraham and Lot’s choices.
Both of them performed the same action of moving to the respective lands they
had chosen, yet the result was very different.
After Lot journeyed east, he and
Abraham separated (Gen 13:11). Very often when our eyes are attracted to
something, we will move towards that something. However, it is important that
we do not go so far as to separate ourselves from the community of faith. “Separation”
here refers to complete separation in both the physical and spiritual sense.
There are some believers whose hearts are inclined towards the world. They move
towards the world and eventually separate themselves from the church, placing
themselves in a precarious situation. This serves as a warning for us: we may move
house, but we must be careful not to separate ourselves from the church.
Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the
plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. (Gen 13:12)
After their separation, Lot gradually
pitched his tent closer and closer to Sodom until he eventually settled there. As
Christians, we should never move to Sodom. We should not draw near to, let
alone enter, Sodom. Consider the implications: where would families that do not
keep the Sabbath move closer towards—heaven or hell? There are believers who do
not like to read the Bible but like to watch TV instead—where will this take
their faith? Moves that separate ourselves from the church do not take place overnight,
but gradually. We must be vigilant so that this does not happen to us.
Then Abraham moved his tent and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which
are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.
What a contrast to Lot’s action! Whilst
Lot moved closer to Sodom, Abraham was moved to build an altar to the Lord. Although Abraham did not receive
the Promised Land, he obeyed God, sought His promises, and worshipped Him with
thanksgiving in his heart.
From the story in Genesis 13:10–18,
we understand that Abraham’s actions were all prompted by God. The only action
that Abraham took out of his own accord was to build an altar to the Lord (Gen 13:18). This action was an act
of reverence and worship—an important reason why God blessed him. Today, this
should be the initiative we take—to attend services, desire to pray, read the
Bible, and worship God.
In these end times, many things in
the world will compete for our attention. Sometimes, the world appears like the
well-watered plains of Jordan, but instead of craving material blessings that
only provide short-lived satisfaction, let us fix our
eyes on God’s Promised Land. It is there, and there alone, that we will find
true eternal blessings.