LIVING BY FAITH
Faith That Guarantees Gods Favor
Jerry A. CollinsGenesis 14
If we are going to understand God, we must understand Gods willingness at certain times for certain issues in certain places to declare war. For instance, God not only ordered Joshua to go to war, he did the same with the judges and the kings. Samson went to war against the Philistines and so did Saul and David. All these wars were at Gods initiative. They were Gods idea, Gods plan, and Gods command. There are also godly men who went to war for godly reasons. For instance, Daniel went to war against his enemies in Babylon by staying true to God commands and his convictions. Nehemiah went to war against those trying to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Elijah went to war against the prophets of Baal. In the New Testament Jesus said "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his household" (Matthew 10:34-36; cp. Luke 14:25-35). We must learn then to become warriors. That means learning what we should be fighting, why we should be fighting and how we should be fighting.
Abraham went to war too. We will learn the answers to these questions from the battle he fought in Genesis 14. First we must observe:
1. THERE ARE BATTLES WE WILL CHOOSE TO FIGHT 1-16
In the context Abram is drawn into a conflict in order to rescue his relative and with the help of men he is victorious in a surprise attack.
A. We can expect conflict as we live to please God 1-12
We learn that in an effort to put down a rebellion (v 4) four powerful kings invaded the Jordan valley near the dead sea, defeating all the forces in the region (v 5-7) plundering the five Jordanian kings (v 8-11) and taking Lot, Abrams nephew, captive (v 12).
The kings of Jordan served Chedorlaomer for twelve years--meaning that they sent him tribute which is produce and money-- but they rebelled in the thirteenth year (v 4)--meaning that they did not send anything that year--and in the fourteenth year he came to bring them into submission (v 5). It was not uncommon for such campaigns to be held annually for the purpose of controlling vassal city-states in the territory. In v 10 we note what is called Ďpits of bitumení which was perhaps one of the things that these kings sought for their building projects. This was the same stuff used in genesis 11:3 for the construction of the tower of Babel. In the campaign Lot was taken captive along with the people and the food of these conquered cities (v 12). The reason is very clear--Lot had moved rather soon from tenting next to Sodom (13:12) to dwelling within the city. The point is emphasized that if he had not been dwelling there, he might not have been captured and Abram might not have been drawn into the war.
There will be moments when we will be confronted with the need to wage war. While the conflict Abram is confronted with is a physical one, we can expect to be confronted with the need to wage spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-12 "Put on the full armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood..." The world, the flesh and the devil are always intrusive, attempting to infiltrate and take over. We can expect this kind of conflict because it counters our desire to live lives pleasing to God.
B. We must use what God has given us to champion righteousness 13-16
The story of Abrams victory is one of implementing all the resources available and planning a shrewd attack. This section begins with the news reaching Abram of Lots capture (v 13-14). These men and their households were allies of Abram by means of a treaty he had made with them apparently so that he could settle for the meantime in this area. With this sizable force added to his men and a surprise night attack he had the advantage. Here then is a man of faith and courage, using the help that God had given to him and using wisdom in the confrontation, enjoying the victory over the forces that threatened this land of promise.
When we choose to wage war we must use the resources God has given us to fight with. Abram used the men he was allied too but spiritual warfare requires spiritual weapons to be successful. These weapons are revealed in Ephesians 6:14-18 and include truth; righteous living; peace from the gospel; resolute faith in the Lord; hope of salvation (deliverance); Word of God; thorough praying. To have the kind of victory Abram did requires we use these resources when we wage war for God.
2. IT IS GOD WHO GIVES US VICTORY 17-24
After this awesome victory, when the conqueror might be most vulnerable to compromising arrangements, Abram met another challenge to Gods promises to Him but went away unscathed. Here we will learn how easily the spiritual victory could be lost but how Abram and us can avoid the loss.
A. Gods blessing and worlds benefits are easily confused 17-21
In v 17-18 two kings come out to meet Abram. The king of Sodom is mentioned first but with little information. A glimpse at his kingdom, though, gives us some indication of his character--he ruled over a city that was so wicked that God eventually destroyed it. The other king was from Salem and it is his encounter with Abram that sets the stage for the lesson God teaches Abram.
This priests blessing comes prior to the encounter and offer of Sodomís king, an offer that was a challenge to Abrams faith in the Lord to grant the promised blessings. In v 21 the king of Sodom offers Abram all the possessions if he would return the kings people to him. Such an offer might be construed as a blessing from god, for God could bring wealth to Abram in such a way. This was a vulnerable moment for him. But before this offer came the blessing of Melchizedek, the king of righteousness as his title indicates. In v 18-20 we learn that this priest believed (1) in the Spirit God who created all things (2) the sovereign God who had given Abram victory (3) the true God who had promised Abram the blessing. With such a fresh reminder of the nature and promise of the Lord Abram not only found a true spiritual brother but the fortitude to discern the appeal from the king of Sodom that would confuse Gods victory with what this king may have let him have.
We too are vulnerable to confusing Gods blessing and the world's benefits. God does want to bless us today as he did back then, not just with heaven but with good gifts as well (Matthew 7:7-11; James 1:17). How then can we determine when a blessing is from God and when it is not?
B. We must discern a blessing as Gods or from the world 22-24
Abram clearly refused the offer of Sodomís king. He did not want Sodom to take the advantage to say he was the one who made Abram rich, especially knowing what he did about the people of Sodom. Reminded of the priest's words of who is blessing him, he resolved to receive all from God and not a thread from Sodom. Abram knew the wicked nature of the people and the man over them and discerned his motive might be dangerous to the reputation of God and His program. The blessing he waited for was not material in nature but the promise--the seed in the land and that could only come through miraculous intervention. He was simply not willing to say that the best that Sodom had to offer was the blessing of God!
(1) It must be Gods war we wage.
It has its basis in righteousness. It must be something God fights for.
(2) Must be fought with enough courage to totally destroy the enemy.
Today the enemy is always sin not some person. Defeating spiritual wickedness is not done by overthrowing corrupt governments, legislating better laws but by faithfully obeying his Word, contending for His cause.
(3) Must be won without making any deals or treaties.
It is God who gives the victory to His faithful servants. We must champion righteousness in way that God instructs us to do so. Cannot allow any sin to remain in our lives.
(4) Must be fought with valiant warriors.
These could be close friends who can help with victory over the sin.
(5) We must live for the spiritual not the material.