Brother Fulton and I were chatting the other day, when he mentioned that he had enjoyed teaching through a passage full of genealogies. We agreed that if God put something into His Word it must be there for a reason. My Bible has about 1,300 pages, but it could be infinitely longer. The Holy Spirit has done some editing for us. Can you imagine what the Lord could have recorded in His Word, but hasn’t? The Book of John concludes with the words, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” And still we have many chapters of nothing but name after name. There must be a reason.
I was reading the book “Chats from a Minister’s Library” by Wilbur M. Smith, and this chapter was brought up. It was a fascinating article describing how the four kings of from Mesopotamia swept around and then attacked the five kings of the Jordan valley from the south. It wasn’t so much the military strategy which peeked my interest. I was struck with a couple of other things, but I am not sure that I will be able to verbalize my cogitations.
Here we are a quarter of the way into one of the most important books in the Bible and we are confronted with ten verses of ancient, useless names and information. Who cares who was king of Shinar four thousand years ago? And where is Shinar anyway? Why do we need to know that the king of Sodom served the king of Elam for twelve years before he rebelled? Several thoughts sent me to other books in my library and I came away blessed. I hope there can be a blessing and lesson here for you as well.
There are potential lessons here which are directly related to the history of this chapter.
For example, this is where we are introduced to Melchizedek. A very important doctrine in regard to Christ rests in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is a priest after the order of this man. Furthermore, if Christ is a Melchizedekian priest, then so are we. I Peter 2:9 – “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Here is a very brief reference to that man’s original ministry. Would we have ever been introduced to him, if Abram had not gone into battle with Chedorlaomer? Probably, but who knows for sure. For the sake of Melchizedek alone, Genesis 14 is an important scripture, and worthy of our time.
(Since we are not going to go any farther in this direction, I would like to give you a challenge. As you fall asleep tonight let your imagination explore what it must have been like to live in the city of Salem with Melchizedek as your king and high priest. There may not have been a better place on earth to live at that time. It may have been almost “millennial” to live in Salem in the days of Melchizedek – whatever that is.)
I think that another lesson is to be found in the record of this battle and the war which preceded it. In the margin of my Bible the editors have printed a year, and I generally trust all those dates. Experts date this chapter as 1,913 BC or about 4,000 years ago. And what do we see? One group of people exerting their power over other people for fun and profit. I see in these four kings the forefathers of Nazi Germany, or Japan, or some African fiefdom, marching into cities and countries hundreds of miles away, simply because they could get away with it. I see the wickedness of man here as clearly as if it was coming from CNN or an internet report.
One of the lessons of this chapter is that man has the same heart today that he had four millennia ago. There has been no moral evolution whatsoever, and we are no nearer Nirvana than we have ever been. Furthermore, there really hasn’t been any further deterioration in humanity either. There will always be Nimrods, Amaraphels, Hitlers and Stalins until the day that Christ puts them down permanently with the iron rod of His deity.
A third lesson from this history is that we can trust our Bibles. Moses is generally considered to be the penman of the Book of Genesis. But he lived and died roughly 400 years after Abram. And yet with Holy Spirit accuracy he has given us names, places and events which archeologists are today beginning to verify. I don’t care if Moses was given this information by special revelation or if he possessed and quoted even more ancient manuscripts, the details are true. This chapter is too matter-of-fact to be easily denied; it seems to carry an air of truth about it. I don’t know how to put it, but this just “feels like the truth.” It seems foolish to think that someone made all this up – that it is fiction. What would be the point at this late date?
So this chapter is the truth. I believe it because it is in the Bible. But it doesn’t hurt to recognize that it appears to be true linguistically and historically. And if these seemingly unimportant events are true, it reminds us to take all the rest of the Bible’s historical statements as true as well. Since what the Bible says about history is true, it is logical to believe what it says about spiritual matters. Charge me with circular reasoning if you like, but both my mind and heart tell me to trust this history – this entire Book.
In addition to Chedorlaomer and Amraphel, which might be another name for Hammurabi… In addition to Abram also known as Abraham, there is another important character involved.
What lessons might we draw from Abram’s nephew Lot?
Notice that verse 12 specifically tells us that Lot was Abram’s “nephew.” He was the son of Abram’s brother Haran, according to Genesis 11:31. But verse 14 uses an additional word to describe the relationship between these two men – “When Abram heard that his BROTHER was taken captive….” The Hebrew word “brother” is often used to speak of any male cousin, brother or nephew – a male relative. But the New Testament reminds us that Lot was a brother to Abram in a spiritual way. II Peter 2:7 describes Abram’s nephew as “just Lot.” The only logical way that can be interpreted within the context is that the man was justified – saved.
As much as it might go against our Pharisaical grain, the Bible seems to say that Lot was a child of God. Lot left Ur in the Chaldeas at the same time as Terah and Abram. Which, by the way, may have made him known to at least one of the four invading kings. He had a history with people in the invading army, and that may have figured into his capture. Abram left Haran with Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, moving into the land of Canaan. There is no proof of anything in that, but Lot MAY have left his homeland and family because he had the same kind of faith as Abram. After time spent in Egypt, Abram and his extended family settled in Canaan between Bethel and Hai. Just as Sarai worshiped Jehovah with Abram, it is quite likely that Lot did as well.
But the young nephew had a wandering and sinful eye. “Lot lifted up his eyes, and behold all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where.” There was opportunity and wealth in valley of the Jordan River – not only in farming and ranching but in other industries as well. Sadly in this case, with the wealth and the heathen cities – came sin. Nevertheless “Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom ” – wicked Sodom.
I could, but I don’t need to explain the sin which pervaded the communities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I cannot explain, however, why Lot chose to live in that society. We are told that he made a deliberate choice to move out of the high country into the valley below. There was certainly the influence of prosperity, society and popularity. And Lot became a celebrity in Sodom – an honorary leader. Perhaps he married the wrong woman and became a relative of the king or mayor of that place. He became “unequally yoked with unbelievers, having fellowship with unrighteousness, and enjoying communion with darkness and its prince.” And in the process he became vulnerable to a variety of temptations and sins. He also moved into a community targeted for destruction by the Lord. He built his nest in a tree marked to be logged.
Twelve or thirteen years earlier, Amraphel, the king of Shinar – which is another name for Babel or Babylon, and Arioch king of Elasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, the Biblical name for Persia … and Tidal king of Goiim, left the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, attacking and subduing various smaller cities and nations to the south. For twelve years the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim and Zoar paid yearly tribute to their conquerors. But perhaps hearing of rifts within the Babylonian alliance or perhaps problems with other northern nations, they decided to rebel and not send their yearly or semi-yearly camel train north. They thought that the Chaldeans might not notice their loss of income.
But once Satan gets his claws into us, whether we be Christians or unbelievers, he hates to let go. The drug addict, or the near alcoholic, even though now saved, may struggle for the rest of his life. Once Lot moves into Sodom, it takes an earthquake to get him to move out. Even after his rescue from the Chaldeans, he still doesn’t learn. And the point is, don’t make that move, don’t learn that sin, don’t establish that evil habit.
The five kings of the valley were mistaken and the four-headed monster returned. The chapter describes how the enemy swept around the Jordan Valley to the east, conquering one nation after another. And then they attacked the five rebellious communities coming up from the south. Part of the wealth of the region was in harvesting of bitumen and pitch, which people dug out of the ground. As a result of creating dozens or perhaps hundreds of slime pits, retreat was made virtually impossible. The effeminate army of Sodom and Gomorrah was defeated, rendering the capture of the cities easy. “And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”
My point is this: the New Testament command “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” is not simply the suggestion of a self-righteous church leader. It is the wise counsel of someone who has been instructed by God. Abram in midst of his wealth was not bothered by the enemy, because He lived separate from the world. If Lot had NOT chosen to live among the Sodomites he would NOT have been taken by Chedorloamer.
Earlier when the flocks of Abram and Lot had grown too large for peaceful compatibility, Abram gave his nephew the opportunity to live on any of the land which God had given to him. Lot could have moved south, but much of that was high desert. He could have moved west toward, but not into, the land of Philistines. He could have chosen to take his family and flocks to the cooler north country. He might have stayed exactly where he was in the high plains overlooking the Jordan. Abram promised to move to any site which wouldn’t cause Lot further problems.
But the greedy flesh of Lot took over, and he chose to make the world his friend. He made the worst possible choice. Yes, God will allow Christians to make bad choices, but the warnings are there. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” and that is a recipe for disaster. And disaster fell on Lot in the form of Babylonian captivity.
We live, today, in a Sodom and Gomorran society – but it is not by our choice. The plague of homosexuality is pervasive – having invaded every corner of our society. You could move out of Washington or Colorado, where marijuana is legal – into Idaho where it is not, but the fact is you are not going to escape the problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse. You might move to Idaho from Oregon to hide from the laws which permit euthanasia, but it is impossible to escape from the effects of today’s “survival of the fittest” mentality. As the preacher might glibly say, “We may be IN the world, but we must not be OF the world.” As Christians we cannot embrace the wickedness of the world and not expect to pay the price. Abram lived in the world, but Lot became one with the world.
Lot was taken as a Babylonian captive because he wanted to enjoy the wealth and society of sinners. We might look at this as a prophecy of what was to come to Judah 800 years later. The Chaldeans returned to the same region for the same reason. Lot’s girls nearly became slaves – perhaps sex slaves – because he chose sin over righteousness. He might have argued that “he didn’t inhale” but his association still made his clothes stink and his testimony of Jehovah was destroyed in the process. “And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”
But there on the ridge above the valley lived Abram, the man of God.
“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.” The title to this message is, “Abram, the Warrior of God.” But I have to point out that by nature Abram was not a warrior like Joshua, David or any of the Judges. Other than this one event in his life, Abram was a man of faith and peace.
Quite out of character, Abram gathered a tiny army of farmers and shepherds and raced into battle. Was it God’s will that Abram and his men wet their swords and sickles with human blood? Yes, apparently it was. But how did Abram know that? Well, not only did Abram live apart – separate from the world – he also lived close to the Lord – by faith. Why didn’t he take time to consult some of his neighbors? Did he even speak to Melchizedek? Abram was decisive because knowing God’s will was not something that lived on the edges of his heart. I think that he awoke every morning, looking on Jehovah’s past leadership, and asking Him what He wanted him to do that day. No, on that particular morning he didn’t crawl out of bed thinking, “I’m going risk my life in battle today.” But the instant he heard the news about his nephew, the Holy Spirit told him to go. Why can’t WE live that close to the Lord? Why can’t WE hear His voice so decisively and clearly?
There were occasional anomalies, but Abram lived with minimal self-interest. When he and Lot had separated, Abram was willing to give up a great deal. “The Lord will take care of me. He will meet my needs, even if I sacrifice everything I have.” Lot, “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 left.” Now, at this critical juncture in his life, the moment he left Mamre, heading towards Dan, Abram didn’t give a single thought to his own welfare. There is a need. There is a soul in want of salvation. There is an opportunity for God to show His strength and glory. “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” or benefit. “Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others.” Some Christians think that separation demands a lack of involvement. No, but it means the right kind of involvement. Some think that independence means indifference, but such is not the case. Abram didn’t for a moment think – “Well, Lot has finally gotten what he deserved.” No, Abram was thinking, “What does God want and deserve out of this?”
Abram’s army says something about Abram. First of all there were 318 men who went with him; men of his own house and employ. How many of Abram’s employees were too old or enfeebled in some way, not to be included here? This number tells me there were at least a thousand people – maybe two thousand who depended on Abram for their living. Any business today with 318 employees is usually considered to be doing well – prospering. Abram was about as wealthy as a man could be in that society. Lot should have seen that and chosen to fellowship more with him than with the heathen. He might have been just as blessed by God as Abram was, but he made the wrong choice.
Those weekend warriors were not going out to work in the fields or to build a new barn. They were going to risk their lives. But it wasn’t for Lot they were risking themselves; it was for Abram and I hope for some of them it was for Abram’s God. But think about Abram. What sort of man elicits that kind of loyalty? Abram was a very special sort of saint. Why can’t we be like that? Is it because we are not as saintly as we ought to be? Are we too filled with self? Do we lack the agape rooted philadelphian love we ought to have?
What loyalty was displayed when 318 common men were willing to stand shoulder to shoulder against a seasoned army of experts. It wasn’t simply loyalty. This was a display of faith almost equal to that of Abram himself. That Christian man, that saint of God – Abram – had a positive influence on the faith of hundreds of other people. He wasn’t a preacher with a TV ministry, writing and publishing dozens of books. Abram was a common, but uncommon, servant of God. Pray that the Lord might give such an influence to us.
It was about 150 miles as the crow flies from Hebron to where the tribe of Dan would eventually settle. Then it was another 50 miles from Dan to Damascus. This was an unusual quick march made by men who were not trained for this sort of thing. But the Lord was in it. When God wants to bless, great things can be accomplished – unbelievable things can take place. “And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.”
One of the lessons of this chapter relates to the work of Christ in these last days. “Is there not a cause?” Not only are there the lost little girls of Lot’s family in desperate need of the salvation of Christ. But there are thousands of Lots; peripheral and professing Christians who need to be won back from their fellowship and their bondage to sin. Many of them can be won – taken out of the hands of wicked Chedorlaomer. But it will require men of faith and action – like Abram. And there must be a few hundred common people as well.
Abram was a man of peace and faith, but one of his greatest days was when picked up the sword of the Spirit and aggressively attacked God’s enemy.