************ Sermon on Genesis 14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 22, 2012
"King Abraham Rescues Lot"
I Kedorlaomer's Military Campaign
A Genesis 14 opens with the account of a classic ancient military campaign. There are three details we need to know about the campaign.
First, we need to know the alliances. We are told that five kings formed an alliance against four kings led by Kedorlaomer.
B Second, we need to know the geography. The five kings all came from the Jordan River Valley; they were pretty well clustered around the south end of the Salt Sea. The other alliance – led by Kedorlaomer – came mostly from Mesopotamia, the River Valley formed at the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. This means that the army headed by Kedorlaomer was more than one thousand miles away from home.
C Third, we need to know the history. For twelve years the five kings and cities of the Jordan River Valley had been paying tribute to Kedorlaomer – a king who lived more than a thousand miles away. From this we can only conclude that Kedorlaomer was the head of a swift and powerful army. In the thirteenth year the five kings of the Jordan River Valley rebelled and stopped paying tribute. In the fourteenth year Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him made the thousand mile plus journey to the Jordan River Valley and defeated, among others, the Jordan River Valley alliance. Kedorlaomer and those with him then looted the five cities and hauled off the inhabitants as captives.
II Lot Caught Up in the Military Campaign
A Scripture tells us that included in Kedorlaomer's list of prisoners was Lot and his family. And, part of what Kedorlaomer took as booty was the goods and property belonging to Lot (Gen 14:12).
The people of the world might talk here about coincidence – that Lot was in the wrong place and at the wrong time. But let's remember Lot's circumstances. It was no accident that Lot was residing in Sodom. Remember, he chose the land that was like the Garden of Eden and Egypt (Gen 13:10). And, remember, he chose to live in Sodom even though the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord (Gen 13:13). No, Sodom was no accident; rather, it was Lot's sinful choice. And, during his time in Sodom, Lot experienced a period of sinful decline, during which only Abraham's repeated interventions rescued him from total destruction (Gen 14-19).
B As the children of Israel listened to and read the story in front of us, they could not help but think of a broad theological question: Will a righteous man who dwells in the midst of the wicked get caught up in their destruction? Will the Lord sweep away the righteous with the wicked? We know Abraham formally asked this question of God in Genesis 18:23 when he and God went back and forth about the destruction of Sodom, but it constitutes part of the background to Lot's story as well. According to Peter, the experience of Lot teaches us something about God:
(2 Pt 2:9) the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
This truth is a comfort to all of us who must live in the real world of difficult decisions and hard choices. This truth is a comfort to us as we are forced into the company of those whose language, lifestyle, and behavior are totally unlike Christ.
But the story of Lot is also a challenge to us. Did you know the Bible holds Lot before us as a positive example? Peter identifies Lot as a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (2 Pt 2:7). If any of us can live too comfortably alongside unbelievers, something is not right. If we can settle down in this world and assimilate ourselves to the environment in which we find ourselves, something is not right. If we use the same coarse and filthy language as the world, participate in the same entertainment, and habitually practice the same sins, something is not right. Like Lot, we need to be distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men. Lot teaches us that it is not easy to remain godly while living in the close company of the wicked.
III Abraham's Military Campaign
A When Abraham heard what happened to Lot, his family, and his goods, Abraham responded with his own military campaign.
In looking at Abraham's military campaign, we need to understand that Abraham was not alone. Yes, Abraham's bond with Lot had been severed (cf Gen 13), but Abraham was not alone. For instance, Abraham had 318 trained soldiers in his own household (Gen 14:14). Abraham also had formed a military alliance with Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, three chieftains living in his vicinity (Gen 14:13). And, of course, as Melchizedek makes clear, the Lord God Almighty was with Abraham (Gen 14:20; cf Gen 12:1-2; Gen 15:1).
B The Bible tells us that when Abraham was told that Lot had been taken captive he set off in pursuit of Kedorlaomer and his army. Abraham chased them for about 180 miles. Abraham then showed himself to be a military strategist – Scripture tells us he divided his men and came at Kedorlaomer and his soldiers from two sides and defeated them. Abraham's soldiers pursued the defeated army for about another 75 miles. Abraham recovered all the goods that had been looted and all the people that had been taken captive – including Lot and his family.
Abraham's victory was no small thing; don't forget, Abraham thoroughly defeated the powerful alliance headed up by Kedorlaomer. And, the consequences of Abraham's victory was no small thing either; in fact, Abraham's victory made him one of the powerful men in the Jordan River Valley and the land of Canaan.
IV Family and Promise
A In pursuing Kedorlaomer and his army, Abraham was taking considerable personal risk. And, when he rescued Lot, Abraham made some powerful enemies. Included in this list of enemies was Kedorlaomer and – did you notice this name in the list of kings – Amraphel king of Shinar or what we know as Babel or Babylon.
Abraham could easily have left Lot to his fate. Remember, Lot had selfishly chosen what looked like the best portion of the land. And, Lot had foolishly linked his fortune with that of the wicked men of Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, in sharing the fate of Sodom, Lot was simply getting what was coming to him as the result of his sinful choices. So, Abraham would have been justified in doing nothing.
What would you have done if you were in Abraham's situation? Or, to put it in today's terms, why do we help out in certain situations? When deciding whether or not to help out in a specific situation, we normally ask two questions. First, does the person deserve my help? Second, can I help without an inconvenience to me or my family in any way? If the answer is "yes" to both questions, we are normally glad to do what we can for the other person.
But Abraham did not think in such terms. Yes, Lot did not deserve to be rescued. Yes, Lot had gotten himself into this mess. Yes, it was not risk free to help Lot; Abraham was staking his life on a highly dangerous venture.
We need to ask "Why?" Why did Abraham pursue Kedorlaomer? Why did he rescue Lot? Why was he willing to make enemies of powerful kings?
B Let's begin by looking at the relationship between Abraham and Lot. It becomes clear that Abraham and Lot shared many memories and experiences. For instance, at the end of Genesis 11 we are told that Terah took his son Abraham and his grandson Lot – who was an orphan at this point (Gen 11:28) – and set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan (Gen 11:31). Telling us what? Telling us Abraham and Lot were related as uncle and nephew.
After Terah died in Haran, it was Abraham who continued the journey to Canaan. And, like his father before him, he took Lot with him (Gen 12:5). Meaning what? Meaning that Abraham assumed some level of responsibility for his nephew.
Lot traveled with Abraham to the Promised Land. Lot traveled with Abraham through the Promised Land. Lot traveled with Abraham to Egypt and then back to the Promised Land (Gen 13:1). Meaning what? Meaning that Lot saw the victories and Lot saw the doubts and the fears. For instance, Lot saw Abraham leaving his country, people, and father's household (Gen 12:1). Lot saw Abraham building altars and heard Abraham calling upon the name of the Lord (Gen 12:7-8; 13:4). Lot was present when Abraham made the decision to leave the Promised Land and go to Egypt for food (Gen 13:10). Lot was present when Abraham lied and said Sarah was his sister rather than his wife (Gen 12:10ff).
Abraham and Lot were family and, as I said, they shared many memories and experiences.
Our Scripture reading uses unusual and particular language to describe the relationship of Abraham and Lot. The Hebrew of Genesis 14:12 identifies Lot as the son of Abraham's brother. In Genesis 14:14 Lot is identified, in the Hebrew, as Abraham's brother, his kinsman, his blood relative. Meaning what? Meaning that in Lot, Abraham saw a family member in trouble and needing help. So Abraham took up his sword and set out to rescue him. Abraham knew that if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (cf 1Tim 5:8).
In Genesis 14, then, we see Abraham saving someone who did not deserve to be rescued. We see Abraham saving someone who needed to be rescued from his own foolish actions and the consequences of his decisions. How great is the love shown by Abraham for Lot, his undeserving kinsman.
In all of this, don't we see a picture of Jesus Christ? He did not sit back in heaven waiting for us to deserve salvation. If He had, eternity would have come and gone without redemption. Rather, He saves us, the sons and daughters of God, who don't deserve to be saved. As with Abraham, He saves kinsmen who need to be rescued from their own foolish actions and the consequences of their decisions. And, as with Abraham, what Christ did was not painless and risk free. We know He had to leave the glories of heaven, humble Himself, be made in human likeness, take the nature of a servant, and become obedient to death – even death on a cross. Jesus was not only willing to take great risks for His undeserving kinsmen, but also to suffer great agony for them on the cross. How great is the love of God that we see. As the Apostle Paul reminds us,
(Rom 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
C Why did Abraham pursue Kedorlaomer? Why did he rescue Lot? Why was he willing to make enemies of powerful kings? The first answer: Abraham was risking all to save an unworthy relative.
But there is also a second answer. When Abraham first entered the Promised Land the Lord appeared to him and said, "To your offspring I will give this land" (Gen 12:7). This promise was repeated and expanded upon after Lot had parted from him:
(Gen 13:14-15) "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. (15) All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever."Abraham was then commanded to walk through the length and breadth of the land as the new owner inspecting his property (Gen 13:17).
Now, look at the invasion of Kedorlaomer and allies in the light of this promise. What was Kedorlaomer actually doing? Kedorlaomer was threatening the promise of descendants and land that God had given to Abraham. Kedorlaomer was invading territory that belonged to Abraham. Kedor-laomer was not recognizing Abraham's sovereignty and rule.
What good is a Promised Land, what good is a promise of many descendants, if at any moment a mighty army of foreigners can sweep across it and carry loved ones into exile?
As the divinely appointed ruler of the land, Abraham used the sword to rescue and protect those under his protection – even if they did not know or recognize his sovereignty over them.
Again, don't we see here a picture of Christ? Remember the sign nailed to the cross, a sign that read, "The king of the Jews" (Mt 27:37)? Though His own people meant this as mockery, here was a message that Jesus was and is King.
Remember, too, what we believe about the second petition of the Lord's Prayer:
Your kingdom come means,This sounds like Abraham, doesn't it? In Genesis 14 Abraham foreshadows the work of Christ against the forces of darkness. In Genesis 14 we see a foreshadowing of Christ's work upon the cross, in the grave, and in the courts of heaven. In Genesis 14 we see Abraham, like Christ after Him, assaulting the powers of evil and darkness and providing rescue.
Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong and add to it. Destroy the devil's work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.
V Abraham Acknowledges the Help of the Lord
A Upon his return, Abraham was met by two kings: Melchizedek, king of Salem and the king of Sodom. These two kings are a study in contrasts. Melchizedek's name, as I said a few weeks ago, means "king of righteousness" and the name of his city means "peace." The king of Sodom, on the other hand, ruled over a city that has been equated with abomination.
Melchizedek came to Abraham as the priest of God Most High and offered to Abraham the priestly elements of bread and wine, pronounced a gracious blessing upon Abraham, and praised God for Abraham's victory (Gen 14:18-20). By contrast, the king of Sodom approached Abraham with a business offer: "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself" (Gen 14:21).
Abraham had to make a choice. Would he accept the offer of the king of Salem or would he accept the offer of the king of Sodom? To accept the offer of the king of Sodom meant Abraham was taking credit for the victory and that to him belonged the spoils of war. To accept the offer of the king of Salem meant Abraham was giving the credit to God for the victory. On the one hand was the "get rich quick" scheme of the world and on the other hand was a life of humble obedience and devotion to God Most High.
Abraham took the way of faith. Faith, you see, would rather eat a simple meal in the company of the righteous than feast in the company of the wicked.
B Let's not make the mistake of thinking this was an easy decision for Abraham to make. Abraham, being only human, must have been tempted to take matters into his own hands as he did when he went to Egypt. It must have seemed attractive to take a shortcut and seize what God had promised. You see, Palestine now lay at his feet. It looked like Abraham could possess a large part of the people and the land without having to wait for some unknown time in the future. As he did with Jesus, Satan was whispering to Abraham, "All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me" (Mt 4:9). But God's time to give Abraham the land had not yet come. So Abraham, by faith, chose to wait.
Here is a reminder that there are no shortcuts to the realization of God's promises. Whether it is a patient waiting upon the Lord or a going the way of the cross, we need to follow and trust in God's way rather than man's way.
Let me end with a thought implied but not mentioned in our passage. We are being given a picture of King Abraham. He defends his land. He protects and rescues his subjects. His decisions are wise. His people are blessed. His rule is under God. In Abraham, we see the perfect rule of the perfect king, even King Jesus.
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