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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

September 2, 2015

Genesis 14:1-24

  1. Verses 1-12. The first twelve verses serve as an introduction to this chapter. We are introduced to the first war ever recorded in Scripture—a war between four eastern kings and five southern kings. Verse 4 tells us that the southern kings had been subjugated for twelve years. In the thirteenth year, they attempted to throw off their shackles and establish independence. On the surface, this war is merely an international power struggle to control a strategic commercial land bridge between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade. In response, the eastern kings launched a punishing assault that nipped this rebellion in the bud (14:5-7). The eastern kings defeated everyone who opposed them. They were an enemy that seemed invincible, relentless, unstoppable, striking fear into every heart as they steamrolled over every opposing military force. In 14:8-9, the southern kings drew up battle lines. In spite of the overwhelming odds, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, with their allies, decided that possible defeat was better than guaranteed slavery. So they dug in for all-out battle in the valley of Siddim, which was full of tar pits. The five southern kings felt that these pits would be a natural defense. However, the outcome was not what they had hoped—the southern kings were routed and many fell into the tar pits (14:10). Those that didn't fall into them fled to the hills. In 14:11-12, we come to the point of the suspenseful plot of this narrative. Moses writes, “Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. They also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom." What a commentary on the poor decision of Lot in Genesis 13. Lot had chosen to act on the basis of economic self interest and had disregarded the covenant God had made with Abram (12:1-3). He separated from his uncle and moved into Sodom (14:12). About the time that he made this move, he and his whole family were taken captive by the four eastern kings. But all that Lot had gained by taking advantage of Abram and rejecting the promises of God was lost in an instant. What painful irony. Lot had greedily chosen the best part of the land, and his choice had proven disastrous. Lot, and everything he owned, was carried off to who knows where.

  2. Verses 13-16. In this section and many others the Bible teaches, "There is no rest for the righteous." Here we come upon another challenge to God's faithfulness and Abram's faith. So far Abram had to contend with several barriers to God's fulfilling His promises to him. His wife was barren; he had to leave the land; his life was in danger; and his anticipated heir, Lot, showed no interest in the Promised Land. Now he finds himself on the verge of becoming involved in a war with four powerful kings in order to save his nephew Lot. Think about this for a moment. Abram could have chosen to do nothing, but he chose to take action. In our day and age, this is rare. We live in a culture that hesitates getting involved with others. The fact of the matter is that there are two types of people in this world, the ones that make messes, and the ones that clean them up. We, who love God, must fight to get this world right and recover the lost. We cannot walk away from our own wounded or ignore those who fail. We cannot let brothers and sisters struggle alone in the darkness.

  3. Verses 14-16. Abram shows generosity and grace to a believer that has badly mistreated him. These three verses demonstrate that Abram didn't live in a monastery or an ivory tower. He had 318 men that he had trained for war. Abram is anything but a nomadic shepherd who passes time counting sheep and stars. He is a powerful individual with a substantial number of troops on call. And for Lot's sake, Abram was willing to go to war, but only at the right time and in the right way. This serves as a great reminder that the Christian life is not a bed of roses. We may have peace within, peace with God, but there is no promise of soft or easy living. The Christian life is not a cushy life. Abram faced a vast, unstoppable military force of four kings with only 318 men. But with God, that was all he needed! God is able to give a trusting and obedient minority victory over ungodly forces that are overwhelmingly superior in numbers. Here's the lesson: Zechariah 4:6, "’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty." It's a lesson that God taught Moses when God used him to deliver His people from Egypt. It's a lesson that God taught Joshua and the people of Israel when they advanced into the Promised Land—a land filled with giants! It's a lesson that God taught Gideon when he faced the armies of the Midianites and Amalakites with only 300 men (Jdg 7:6; 8:10). And David, taking 400 men and chasing the Amalakites who had taken his two wives among their prisoners (1 Sam 30:10). Your problems are always smaller than God! He is able to be victorious in your life over any obstacle you face. Abram is dwelling in the hill country south of Jerusalem. Lot is dwelling in the cities of the plains near the Dead Sea. Dan is as distant as it can get, but Abraham is off to the rescue. He traveled over 240 miles, one-way, to rescue Lot. He chases Kedorlaomer and the others all the way to Dan in the north. Abram was a man of faith but he was also a prudent man. He divided his men and attacked at night (14:15). The march of Abram and his tiny band is one of the most remarkable forced marches in history. They traveled the whole length of the Jordan River and launched a counter attack as the enemy indulged in a time of carousing and reveling in celebration of their victory. He routed them and pursued them as far as Hobah (250 miles north of Damascus). How did Abram defeat these armies? It was his faith. He believed God's Word——that the land would go to His descendants—and therefore knew that God was with him. Even if he met defeat, he knew that God would keep His promise. Do you have this kind of faith? In this moment, Abram reflected Christ. Jesus did not sit idly by in heaven waiting for us to deserve redemption. Neither was our redemption painless. Christ left the glories of heaven to come after us. Abram recovered what had been lost (14:16): Lot and his possessions, the women, and the other people. Everything was recovered: the possessions, the people, and the prodigal Lot. Unfortunately, Lot fails to respond to this spiritual crisis in his life. Instead of turning from the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah and returning to God, he heads home to the city of Sodom. In Genesis 19, we find that Lot, for a second time, will lose everything he has as God judges the wickedness of these sinful cities.

  4. Verses 17-20. The king of Sodom came out to meet Abram. Abram had fought his great battle, not on behalf of the king of Sodom, but for the sake of Lot and his family. Nevertheless, his victory also benefited the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. So a special welcoming committee was appointed, headed by the king himself, to confer upon Abram the usual reward for a conquering hero. His reception must have been the ancient version of a New York City ticker tape parade! There are few temptations as powerful, yet subtle, as praise! Proverbs 27:21:”The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” How do you handle praise from men? At the close of chapter 13, Lot anticipates future prosperity in Sodom, while Abram was content to worship and live in Hebron (13:18). But Lot's selfish decision gains him a prize soon lost; while Abram’s response places him in a position of honor among the kings of the plain (14:17-24). How the tables can turn! When we are faithful to God, He always finds a way to bless us. It may not seem that you are a recipient for blessing, but God is no man's debtor. In 14:18, yet another king appears: "Melchizedek" was probably a title rather than a proper name. It means "King of Righteousness." Melchizedek was a Canaanite, but he is called a "priest of God Most High." In addition to his office of priest, he also is described as the king of Salem, apparently a reference to the shortened name for Jerusalem (Ps 76:2), which at that time was occupied by the Canaanites. This Gentile comes forward to pay homage to Abram. He brings with him bread and wine as he goes out to meet Abram on his return from the amazing victory. In 14:19, Melchizedek blessed Abram. Melchizedek did not credit General Abram with a strategic battle plan. He acknowledges God's work. He made it clear that we may pursue and we may fight, but God gives the victory (cf. Ps 33:16-19; 44:3). This is a most unexpected turn of events, for out of the grossly pagan world of the Canaanites emerges not only one who shares belief and worship in the same God as the Semitic Abram but one who pronounces the blessing on the patriarch whom God had already blessed. Abram also acknowledges the priestly dignity of this Canaanite priest-king by giving him a tenth of the spoils.

  5. Verses 21-24. The story concludes with Abram conversing with the king of Sodom who insists that Abram take the war spoils. He doesn't want any man to be able to say, "I made Abram rich." So he responds with these powerful words: ”I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ’l have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share."’ This passage concludes with Abram thanking God for his victory. Our ultimate source of blessing is God. Confidence that God will preserve and provide for His own, as He has promised should encourage believers to decline worldly benefits and wait for God’s blessings. Note that Abram gave to the work of God, but wouldn't take from the pagan King. It is much better to give to God than to receive from the world. What a powerful testimony.

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