The Rescue (Genesis part 26)
Text: Genesis 14:1-24
By: Ken McKinley
Now this is one of those instances where we first read about something new in the Bible. It’s the first time we read about warfare on a massive scale. No doubt there were wars that took place before this, but this is the first time we read about one in the Bible, and it’s going on roughly 4,000 years and we are still seeing warfare in the Middle East.
But in our text, the battle itself is really just the backdrop for a more important spiritual battle that’s going to take place in the heart of Abram, which takes place near the end of the text.
Now this is one of those texts that I as a preacher find it easy to break down, because it naturally divides into three points. In verses 1 through 12 we have the setting of the story; and it starts out with Lot, Abram’s nephew, whose gone to live near Sodom and Gomorrah, and he finds himself in the middle of a rebellion. That’s the first section. Then in verses 13 through 16 we’re going to see Abram’s response to what happens after the rebellion attempt. He’s going to hear about Lot’s capture, and he stages a rescue attempt. And the third section is from verses 17 to 24, and that’s the main point of the text, it’s what the story has been leading up to. Abram meets two kings and is offered two very different proposals. In-other-words, it’s another test.
So let’s look at the 1st section, verses 1 – 12.
Now what we have here is the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela. And they’re rebelling against the king of Shinar, the king of Ellasar, the king of Elam, and the king of Goyim (which is the Hittites). So let me try to explain this to you if I can. During this time, what you had were powerful city states, and kings who ruled over them. But sometimes, the more powerful city states would put the less powerful city states under subjection. And the less powerful kings would have to pay tribute to the more powerful kings. Well that’s what’s going on here. The 5 kings were under the rule of the 4 kings, and had been for 12 years, but it came to a point where they decided that enough was enough. They were tired of paying tributes and they decided that they would rebel. Once this breaks out, these 4 powerful kings decide that they are going to quell the rebellion and they attack the 5 less powerful kings who are rebelling, and Lot, because he’s living in close proximity to one of the rebelling city states, gets caught up in the middle of it.
Now one other interesting thing of note here is the names of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their names are Bera and Birsha. Bera in the Hebrew literally means “Son of Evil,” or, “Son of the one who practices evil,” and Birsha in the Hebrew means, “One who acts wickedly.” In other words, Lot has fallen in with a bad crowd of people. But this also plays a role in the test that we see Abram go through later on in this passage.
Now if you remember from chapter 12, Abram kind of acted like a coward when he came into Egypt. He didn’t protect his wife and only thought about himself. But things have changed since then. He’s growing in his faith and understanding of the covenant he’s in with God, and of the God of Covenant. And God’s going to use this situation to help bring about a fulfillment of His promise to make Abraham’s name great among the nations.
And actually; this is pretty cool if you think about it.
You have kings and rulers of powerful city states and they have just crushed a rebellion, and no doubt all the people around were thinking that it would be a bad idea to mess with those 4 kings because they would do the same thing to them. But then you have a man, who isn’t a ruler, who isn’t a king… he’s just a farmer and rancher, but raises up an army and defeats these powerful lords.
That’s better than a Hollywood script. That’s a Middle Eastern William Wallace!
So the stage is set, and that brings us to the 2nd part of this story, verses 13 through 16.
Abraham to the rescue!
These verses tell us something about Abram’s character. He could’ve said to himself, “You know what; Lot made his choice. He’s just reaping what he’s sown.” But Lot was family. In our family we have a little saying; someone might say, “So and so is a real mess,” (Usually it’s me), but then another family member will say, “Yes he is, but he’s our mess.” And so this man who has escaped comes to Abram and he tells him everything that has happened, and Abram springs into action. He musters his troops and gets them ready to go to war. Now we can take that two ways. We can either say that Abram had gotten to a point where he trusted God and knew that he would have the victory. Or we can say that this is evidence that it’s sometimes easier to fight physical battles than it is spiritual battles. A great example of this in the New Testament would be Peter. Remember how he was ready to take on an entire armed troop in the Garden of Gethsemane, but later on he couldn’t even stand up to a teenage girl who challenged his association with Jesus?
Nevertheless; Abram goes out. He uses superior strategy and tactics and defeats the kings and rescues his nephew Lot. Now the real battle, which all of this stuff has been leading up to, is about to take place.
In verses 17 through 24, we see two very different kings come out to Abram. I’ve already mentioned the king of Sodom and what his name means. But also we see this guy Melchizedek come out to meet Abram as well. Now we’re told in our text that Melchizedek is the King of Salem, and for those of you who don’t know, Salem is a shortened version of Jerusalem. And there’s been a lot of speculation about this guy Melchizedek. Some commentators have said that he was actually Noah’s son Shem, who… if you add it up, lived for about 100 years of Abraham’s life. But Hebrews 7:3 tells us that Melchizedek had no father or mother. Others have said that he was a Christophany – in other words, they’re saying that Melchizedek was none other than Jesus Christ. But Hebrews 7:4 tells us that he was a man, and that would mean that Jesus had come in the flesh before His advent, which doesn’t fit with other Scripture. So most likely, when the writer of Hebrews says Melchizedek had no father and mother, what he’s saying is that there is no historical reference to his parents, and the Holy Spirit didn’t divulge that information to either Moses who wrote Genesis, or the writer of Hebrews. And the reason for that is so that he can be seen clearly as a type of Christ. The Holy Spirit didn’t tell Moses who Melchizedek’s parents were because He knew that He was going to inspire the writer of Hebrews to draw a parallel between Melchizedek and Christ later on, to show the Hebrew people that Christ offers a better Priesthood than Aaron and the Levites. So… what we’ve got here is the “Son of evil” and the “King of Peace” coming out to meet Abram after his victory. Talk about your imagery!
And like I said, the real battle is about to start.
So Melchizedek is the King of Salem, He’s the King of Peace, and we’re also told that he was the priest of the Most High God. Now being that he was the king of Salem, which is Jerusalem, that means that David would be the first Israelite to sit on his throne. Now some of ya’ll might be saying, “What about Saul? He was the first king of Israel?” But if you read your Bible’s you’ll find that during Saul’s reign, he never conquered Jerusalem. He was still battling for it. It wasn’t until David became king that Jerusalem was captured and made the capital city of Israel. David was the first Israelite to sit on Melchizedek’s throne. And we’re told in Luke chapter 1 that Christ will be the last Israelite to sit on the throne of David, which is the throne of Melchizedek. Now there’s a lot to chew on there. It can make your head swim if you spend too much time on it; so we’ll move on.
Melchizedek comes out; he blesses Abram, and Abram pays a tithe to him. Now the king of Sodom also comes out; and he makes an offer to Abram as well. In verse 21 he says, “Hey Abram, why don’t you keep all the treasure you got from your victory, just give me the people you rescued.”
The devil will give you all kinds of treasures if you’ll just give him your family.
How many times have we heard the stories of men who spent all their time at the office, climbing the corporate ladder, trying to make the big bucks, but they would’ve been better off by being first and foremost, husbands, and fathers, and the priest of their home. Pastors are notorious for this.
And so Bera, the king of Sodom makes his offer to Abram. But look at how Abram replies (Read Genesis 14:22-24). See he says, “I don’t want anything from you, and I don’t want anyone saying you made me rich!” Only the Lord gets that honor! You see; Abraham wants God’s promises to be his reward. In this world there are many rewards, and many prizes, but they don’t compare to what’s waiting for us in eternity. And the world wants to bribe us into compromise. It will hold them out before us and say, “Look what you could have! Happiness, wealth, fame and honor!” It’s like when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. He said, “All of these things of the world can be yours if you will just fall down and worship me; the kingdoms and the fame and fortune.” “But what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”
This is a big test for Abram. No doubt he’s thinking, “Hey God said He was going to bless me, maybe this is how He’s going to do it…” But Abram passes the test. He knows Sodom is wicked, and he’s not going to take part in their wickedness. He doesn’t want God’s glory to be diminished by partnering with Sodom.
And I can tell you this. At the end of his life Abraham didn’t look back and say, “I was so blessed because of what I did. Nope it was all God’s doing.”
With God; it’s all of grace. Not by the works of our hands. Not by anything that we’ve done. It’s all of His grace, and His mercy.