Genesis 12- The Story of Abraham
The descendants of Shem are noted beginning in Genesis 11:11 and we take note as God would have us take note with the birth of a man named Terah. We see the mention of three sons born to Terah- Abram, Nahor & Haran. Abrams two brothers children and grandchildren will play important roles in the life of Abram and the nation of Israel.
Nahor would become the grandfather of Rebekah and Laban, two people who will play a significant role in the history of Abraham and his son Isaac. Laban will have two daughters- Rachel and Leah who will figure in the history of Jacob and the future of Israel.
Haran- Abrams other brother would die before his father, Terah, and Abram became the guardian of his nephew Lot.
How important is the story of Abraham? God would devote 25% of the book of Genesis to Abrahams story and journey of faith. Abraham would become a revered man by the three major religions of the world: Judaism, Muslim & Christianity.
What we will also see reflected in this story of Abrahams journey of faith is our own journey of faith.
The journey of faith begins, as it did with Abraham with a call from God- a call of separation. Separation is necessary for preparation. ( my own life- when I got saved- called by God I quit the job I was currently in to take a job with my in-laws. I would stay there for 3 years- a time of preparation.)
Second we see in the story of Abraham a call to a mission. The mission God calls us to does not come with a detailed map- God teaches us to follow Him. This will be to the good works He has ordained ( and equipped) us to walk in.
We see in the life of Abraham, as in our own lives, Abraham sometimes stumbles and gets off the path God would have him to walk in. But praise be to God, although we stumble we will not be utterly cast down for He holds us with His right hand. One can no more learn to walk by faith without falls, that a child can learn to walk with out falling.
God also called Abraham to a covenant without compromise. Obey and we will blessed- disobey and there will be consequences. The law and principle of sowing and reaping.
We will also see in the life of Abraham that there will always be adversity, storms, famine and enemies. The Lord Jesus warned us in the world we would have trouble and Peter told us not to consider fiery trials strange. Sometimes it seems God leads us to deserts- to prepare us for His destinations.
But what we will also see is that God is patient with Abram who is young(not in years-but in his faith) and immature in his faith. Abraham has much to learn as we all do when we first respond to Gods command to come out.
Now I need to take you the first part of the first verse of Genesis 12 and the go back to Chapter 11 so we can understand the proper chronology of these events.
Genesis 12:1a : The Lord HAD said to Abram, Leave your country, your people and your fathers household and go to a land I will show you. Based on this command from God, Abram left the Ur of Chaldeans- to go to Canaan but when we go back to chapter 11- we see they did not get there right away. In addition in Acts 7, Stephen in his testimony to the High Priest confirms Abram was called by God while still in Ur.
A word about Ur of Chaldees where Abram lived prior to this move. It was an important city in Babylonia. It was the center of culture, wealth and intellect- boasting a university and a library which modern day archaeology uncovered. It also was the center of worship for the Moon goddess. Abram and his family were idolaters.
However, when we go back to Genesis 11:31-32 we note the journey of faith got sidetracked in the very beginning: Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram and together the set out from the Ur of Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when the came to Haran, they settle there. Terah lived 205 years and he died in Haran. (Haran was a flourishing caravan city ruled by the Amorites. We see when Abram leaves here he will have much in flocks, possessions and servants. Abram was an excellent and prosperous businessman whose trade was in livestock. Perhaps his motives for stopping were economic- having depended up until this time in his life on his own skills and abilities. It was natural for Abram to trust his abilities and instincts as a businessman. Trust is a learned response. And Abram was learning to trust the Lord to be His Provider. We will see this journey for the next 12 chapters- the good and the bad..the failures and the successes.)
When we look on the map- we see Haran is about ½ way to Canaan. That is where a lot of us make a first detour having started out by faith to Canaan which represents not heaven- but the Spirit filled life- we stop at a place that seems to offer the things we need. But God says I know the plans I have for you- plans to prosper you and give you hope and a future and not calamity. But you must seek me with all your heart. Half-hearted efforts result in getting halfway there. It was faith that brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt but it was fear that kept them from entering the promised land of Canaan. Paul would remind the Galatians and us : after beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goals by human effort?
Have we not all spent time in the wilderness? Have we not all stopped for a season in Haran? Having come out of the old life to enter the new- then spend that miserable time in the wilderness- living the carnal life. A life of partial obedience, a place of half ways- which is Gods eyes is not obedience at all.
The story of Abraham begins with a call from God. The initiative was Gods. In the seventh chapter of Acts, Stephen answering to charges before the high priest tells the story of Abraham. Stephen tells us the God of Glory appeared to our father, Abraham, while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. Leave your country and go to the land I will show you. So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where we are now living.
In Hebrews 11:8 we read- By faith Abraham when called to go to a place he would later received as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Now we know the rest of the story- that Abraham did not complete this journey without interruption. The walk of faith is not completed in a single journey- it is a continuous trip- with stops and starts and detours.
Now when God called Abram-God makes the following statements and promises:
He will show Abram where to go- He will guide him, just as He will guide us when we begin the journey of faith.
He will make Abram a great nation. As we have seen nations come out of families and families are the backbone of any nation.
He will bless Abraham- just as he blesses us, for we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham.
God will promise to make Abrahams name great ( 3 major religions).
God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse Abraham. He has certainly blessed Israel. And God blesses each of us, with every spiritual blessing in heaven. Whatever concerns us- concerns God.
And God promised to bless all the nations of the world through you- through His seed, the Lord Jesus.
So Abrahams journey begins as does our spiritual journey with God coming into our lives with an invitation to join Him.
There is a revelation from God that calls for a response to God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Abrahams journey begins as does all of our journeys with a vision and a hope for a better life. Abraham was looking for a city whose builder and architect was God.
God called Abram to leave his country, his kindred, and his fathers household. What does this mean to us? Leave our country- our place of residence? Well- where did we live before we were saved? We lived in the world, we were conformed by the world, the world was our master and held us enslaved as surely as the Egyptians held the Israelites in bondage. God calls us to leave the world.
He calls for us to leave our kindred- we are to embrace a new family- the family of God which we are born into with new brothers and sisters.
God also calls for us to leave our fathers house- who is our father- biblically speaking- Adam. Our old nature comes from our Adamic nature we inherited from Adam. We must leave the old man- in fact he is crucified with Christ- buried with Christ.
But just like Abraham- we make detours and stops because our old nature longs for the familiar and the known- not the unfamiliar and the unknown. We long for the diet the old nature enjoyed- for the familiar routine. Habits long in developing must be replaced by new habits. We must no longer be conformed- shaped by the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
In this new journey, like Abraham we must learn to walk by faith not by sight. As we will see in the life of Abram- we dont always get it right.
But we realize- we cannot go and stay at the same time.
Certainly, Abram must have had second thoughts was he doing what was right? Was he headed in the right direction? And we see in Abrams life- what we experience in our own spiritual journey. Stops and starts. One moment filled with confidence- the next moment covered with confusion. Rising to moments of fearless faith- to moments of fear that cast out faith.
In verses 4 & 5 of Genesis 12- Abram loads up the moving van. Surely some of his neighbors and business acquaintances ask Abram where he was going- to which he replied to a place I know not- but God will show me. Many would consider such a move foolish. But already Abram has determined he would be willing to be a fool for Christs sake.
In verse 6- the second phase of Abrams life journey of faith begins. He travels through the land as far as the great tree of Moreh at Schemen. Why are these two places mentioned by name? Because their names have meaning. Moreh is the Hebrew word for instruction. Schemen comes from the word for shoulder which was a symbol of strength. As believers we are instructed in the Word of God by the Spirit of God that we might gain strength to live the Christian life and walk the walk of faith.
The last part of verse 6 tells us when Abram and his caravan arrived and guess what? The Canaanites, a corrupt and evil people, were in the land. Certainly this must have created some confusion in the mind of Abram if he was in the right place. God affirms Abram is in the right place as God appears to Abram and reassures him with this statement: To your offsping I will give this land. In response Abram builds an altar.
God will allow disappointments and adversity to occur on our Christian journey and in our new life so we can learn the principles of the life of faith and emerge stronger for the experience.
Watch carefully what happens next in verse 9&10: From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. If you look on a map- Abram is drifting south toward Egypt. Do you notice what is missing? God did not direct Abram in this direction. Abram has chosen a way that seems right to him.
Bethel means the house of God. Ai means heap of ruins.
There were two things awaiting Abram in his walk of faith- he had not expected. First the land God sent him to was occupied by the corrupt and cantankerous Canaanites. Second- a famine came on the land.
But do you see when the famine came? When Abram moved away from Bethel, the House of God. Moving away from Gods house will always produce a famine in the soul.
Walking in the flesh now- Abram pushes the panic button and takes off for Egypt. Egypt is a picture of the world. Abram was looking to the world for a solution to his problems and need and not to God. It happens to all of us. And like Abram, we find we invariably get in more trouble as we will see Abram did. What Egypt was to Abram, the world is to us. It can look very attractive at times and appear to have the solutions to our problems. Abram had a wife, a nephew, employees, servants and flocks that required food and attention. He was just trying to do what he thought was best. But again we do not see Abram consulting God asking for directions.
But let us observe what happens when we depart from faith. Abram became fearful..for when faith is not present- fear will rush in and control our actions and reactions.
Having acted on his own- not waiting on the Word of God which is a lamp unto our feet and a light upon our path- Abram is experiencing some dark moments of fear.
In England during WWII- they experienced some dark moments of fear. King George VI would speak to the people of England over the radio over BBC. After Dunkirk, when their armies were in complete disarray and the Battle of Britain lay ahead, King George VI who was a truly saved Christian and Godly man read a poem that encouraged the people during these dark times.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!
And he replied go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.
So I went forth, and finding the hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
Abram had headed south west. His back was to the breaking day. His face was toward Egypt- the world, not Canaan- the land of Gods promises. No wonder everything seemed so dark.
Fear strikes Abram as he is about to enter Egypt. Abram says to his wife Sarai- I know that you are a beautiful woman and when the Egyptians see you they will say- this is his wife- lets kill him and take her for the kings household. So they tell a half-lie- half-truth which is like being a little bit pregnant you either are or you arent. Abram was deceiving himself that this was not a lie- because technically Sarai was his half sister. But she was his wife and it was a lie by omission of the truth.
The Pharaoh took her into his household and treated Abram favorably because of her. Abram acquires more livestock and servants both menservants and maid servants- ill-gotten gains – which we will take note of later.
God had told Abram He would bless the nations through Abram- but here in this case in his disobedience God had no choice but to bring a plague upon the Pharaohs household in order to protect Sarai. So much for blessing
Abram blew it his witness was destroyed. Have you ever blown it? Of course, we all have. We must guard our testimony- our witness that we never by word or deed behave in such a way as to misrepresent our Lord in the world.
But arent we glad that we serve a God of second chances? We will see in Chapter 13- Abram goes back to where he made a wrong turn. When you decide to take a short cut and get lost and get in a mess- the best thing you can do is turn back around and go back to where you got off. That is the essence of repentance. Abram would go back to Bethel- the House of God where his tent had been at the beginning.
When we walk by faith- we walk in the light as He is in the light and we enjoy fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sins.
If we are to follow Him- we must keep our eyes on Him.
Genesis 13: Letting God Choose.
Having failed miserably in going to Egypt, Abram turns back to Bethel, a sadder and a wiser man. This is the way of repentance- turning back. Going back to where we got out of the will of God. Confessing agreeing with God we have sinned- God cleanses us of all unrighteousness as we come to the altar.
Gen. 13:1-4- So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.
First lets make some observations about Abram and his walk of faith. In NT terms, Abram is a saved man. Saved by grace through faith. It was as a saved man, Abram drifted into Egypt- the world. It was as a saved man- Abram looked to the world for a solution to his problem rather than to the Lord. It was as a saved man- Abram lied and deceived. It was as a saved man- Abrams witness was compromised to not only the Pharaoh and the Egyptians but to his nephew Lot.
But Abram has done the only thing we can do when we mess up.. when we mess up- we have to fess up. We have to turn around from the direction we were headed in and go back to Bethel- the House of God.
This a part of the spiritual journey of the Christian. We make wrong decisions- we disobey God, we sin- we lean to our own understanding and not trust the Lord with all our heart and in all of our ways acknowledge Him. But we serve a God who is most often described as our Heavenly Father. A Father who has all knowledge- so He is truly the Father who knows best. One of the characteristics I love the most about Our Father is this one: He is able to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to HIS purpose. And His Purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son. We have been justified- we are on our way to being glorified but in between we are in the process of being sanctified.
Abram went down into Egypt as a saved man. Now he has emerged a spiritual man. God will use this humiliating experience for good to conform Abram. Abram will become not only a saved man but a spiritual man. There are three things that characterize a spiritual person.
- Separation: If Egypt is a picture of the world, and Abram had drifted into the world- he must separate himself from the world. Thus Abram went up out of Egypt. As Christians we are to be separated from the world- the godless society and culture that lures us and wants to conform us. A spiritual person is in the world but not of the world. This is biblical separation. We cannot go and stay at the same time. Abrams view of the world is symbolized by the fact he never lived in anything but a tent.
- Sanctification. The second characteristic of a spiritual person. Sanctification is the other side of the coin of separation. We are to be separated from the world- but separated or set apart for God. We will soon witness how these changes affect the way Abram resolves problems, and makes choices.
- The third mark of the spiritual person is sacrifice. Notice when Abram came back to Bethel not only did he pitch his tent- which symbolized his separation from the world, he built an altar where sacrifices are made. His tent said I am not looking to settle down in this world, his altar said I am looking to the next world to a city whose builder and architect is God. Also by confessing his sins- Abram was keeping the communication lines with God open.
So now having been given this information and Abram, no doubt, promising himself (as we all do) that he would never cross that line again- that he would never get out of the will of God again- lets see how Abram reacts and responds to the next test. Because having learned a truth and principle- God will always bring into our lives a test to see if we learned the truth and principle and can apply it by faith.
Watch what happens next as we bring the focus of the story back on Lot. Lot represents the carnal man- Abram represents the spiritual man.
Lot is a picture of a carnal believer who depends upon the faith of those around them, in Lots case it was Uncle Abram. Remember what happened on 911? Churches were filled on Wednesday night prayer service like it was Easter Sunday. On television- you were seeing national broadcasters asking Franklin Graham to pray for the nation and asking questions about God. Fearful circumstances led carnal believers to depend on those who were perceived as strong in faith to call upon God for help. As soon as the urgency and panic of the situation left- the world returned to normal. God was put back behind the glass cage- that we, as a nation and a people could break again in case of emergency.
Lot did not lean on the Lord- he leaned on Abram who was learning to lean on the Lord. But as we have just read- leaning on anyone beside the Lord will sooner or later lead to a fall- because only the Lord will never fail us. Humans- no matter how mature and strong in their faith, will fail.
Lot leaned on Abram in business. Lets see what happens next as their joint partnership begins to grow.
In verse 6 &7- we read their possessions grew so great they were not able to stay together. And quarrelling arose between Abrams herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and the Perizzites were also living in the land.
These verses reveal some important information: Notice as their possessions grew as their wealth grew- they were unable to stay together. Have you not seen and heard of marriages that fell apart as their wealth and possessions grew? Huge, luxury homes a sign of wealth are up for sale sometimes represent a family no longer able to stay together under one roof. Brothers and sisters divided- not speaking and suing one another over the division of wealth and property of parents. It happens all the time.
Here is a partnership and a family business. When it was smaller- we read of no strife. As they become larger- there is arguments and strife over pasture land more than likely. Conventional wisdom has always said the most difficult ship to keep afloat is a partner- ship.
As Christians we should avoid being yoked in a business with a non-believer for the obvious reason we see the purpose of business from two different perspectives. But equally valid is the danger of a spiritual person in partnership with a carnal person- for they will have two different views.
Abram as the more spiritual-the stronger in faith has a different reason for being in business- it is to bring Glory to God and to advance His work.
Not so with Lot. Success and prosperity mean raising his standard of living- a bigger house- no tents for him; nicer things for the wife and daughters.
One other important piece of information in this account- the Canaanites and Perizzites were living in the land also. Where ever strife looms between believers- the enemies of the Lord are ready to take advantage.
And who is our greatest enemy, next to Satan? Our flesh- or old nature. Some of the most bitter fights are between Christians in the same church. Jealousy, envy, unforgiving spirits, bitterness and strife cause friendships to end- churches to split and it breaks the heart of God- not to mention how it weakens the fellowship and witness of the church.
Here we see the more mature, spiritual believer- Abram takes the initiative. He takes action for two reasons- one is implied- we have enemies present and watching who will take advantage of our division and strife. Secondly- let us not argue and fight between your herdsmen and mine- because we are family, kinsmen, brothers. What hurts one- hurts the other. We are a part of the same body. How can a house divided against itself stand?
Abram also knows the power of a soft answer to turn away wrath. As the older of the two- as the one who has cared for Lot- Abram should have had first choice. But Abram surrenders his rights- he does not demand his rights. Like the Lord Jesus in the Garden- not my will but Thy Will Father.
Abram says to Lot you choose. If you go to the left- I will go to the right. And visa-versa. In doing so- Abram is in essence letting God choose for him. When we are willing to yield our rights- when we are willing to go last instead of first- the Lord tells us in the end the last will be first. Abram had learned how to sacrifice. Spurgeon said- It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.
The world would think Abram had the right as the senior of the two- he was probably more the reason for their success than Lot. But Abram was not thinking like the world- he was a tent dwelling- altar building man of God who was separated from the world and unto God.
Observe and learn from Lots decision making process what NOT to do: Lot looked up and saw the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt toward Zoar. Lot looks at the physical- the visual and makes a decision not on faith but by appearances. And even more telling he likes the look of Sodom because it reminds him of Egypt, the world, which held great lure to Lot, the carnal man. What appeals to a carnal person? Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.
Something else we observe in the life of Lot that is absent. Abram had a tent but he also had an altar. We read- Now, Lot who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. No altar. No sacrifice, no devotion, no quiet time, no period of waiting and no record of Lot calling on the name of the Lord for anything, much less an important decision.
We know from what we will read later on- Lot has a family- a wife and daughters. Does he consider in his choice – is this a good place to raise children? His only considerations were wordly- it is well watered and it is like Egypt. Lot enjoyed his journey into the world.
When you and I are weak in our devotions and time spent on our knees we will end up worldly in our desires. And when we are both weak in our devotions and worldly in our desires the result is going to be wrong decisions.
Now here is the verse that is the most telling .
So Lot chose for himself and the two men parted company. He pitched his tent toward Sodom sliding toward Sodom a place that represents the epitome of sin.
Neither Abram nor Lot knew what was going to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah- but because Abram was keeping in touch with God he was divinely kept from making the wrong decision. Many is the time when we do not know what to do we wait on the Lord and in doing so we let God choose for us.
Abram lived on the plains in the land of Canaan and Lot lived among the cities of the plain. Abram maintains his simple life style away from the world- Lot moves right into the middle of it.
Not only did God divinely restrain Abram from making a wrong choice; God reassures Abram that he has made the right choice.
Whereas, Lot lifted his eyes and looked upon the lures of the world and chose for himself. As a carnal man, Lot had not learned that things are not what they seem. The things that are seen are temporary- but those things unseen are eternal. We are to put our eyes on the eternal and unseen- not the seen and temporary. Now God lifts Abrams eyes up and tells him to look to the north, the south, the east and the west. God tells Abram all he sees will be his and his offsprings. Then God tells Abram to go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you. Good things come to those who wait on the Lord.
Remember- symbolically the land of Canaan is the land of Gods promises. It represents the spirit filled life. God is telling Abram and us- that all of the spirit filled life is there for us by faith when we walk in the Spirit. This is the abundant life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.
Paul prayed in Ephesians 3- that we could grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know(experience) this love that surpasses knowledge that we might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ( note the word fullness)
Abram moved his tents to a place near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron. Do you know what Mamre means? Fatness. A soul that is filled full with the fullness of God. The fullness of His supply and provision that His Son, the Lord Jesus came to give us- life and life more abundantly.
Hebron means fellowship. It is in fellowship with God where we experience fullness. An altar of sacrifice and obedience is always a part of the fellowship.
Our lesson today in the journey of faith involves making right decisions. Learning how to depend of God- Jehovah Jireh, who has promised to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. How do we choose right? Often the choice is black and white we know right from wrong. Lying, adultery, stealing, murder, etc. Shouldnt be a question there- what about other areas that are not as clear- are not as black and white? How can I go about making right decisions? We can base our decisions on the Word of God, on His promises, principles and truths.
First you must be familiar with them- study to show thyself approved. Let me give you some scripture and a question you can ask yourself that will help guide you in your decision making process.
Ephesians 5: 15-17 tells us: Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of God is.
So here is the question to ask : What is the wise thing to do?
What is the wise thing to do in light of my past experience?
What is the wise thing to do in light of my present circumstances?
What is the wise thing to do in light of my future goals?
Look what Abram did- based on his past experience- leaning to his own understanding he had compromised his witness and ended up in a mess. In light of his present circumstances- trouble between Lot and himself which could further compromise his witness and in light of his future goal- which was to trust God to provide- he waited on the Lord and put Lots interest before his own. ( My experience 1977.)
The questions we sometimes ask when making choices are not what is the wise thing but more of a variety of is there anything wrong with this? Kind of like asking how far can I go before it is officially sin or illegal.
You might be thinking I am not under the law,right? All my sins, past, present and future are forgiven right? This reasoning usually leads to rationalization I can do this- because of my forgiven state and the grace of God. However, we know there are consequences to sin- even though those sins are forgiven.
If anyone understood grace and forgiveness and the law it was the Apostle Paul. Listen to his approach- but first understand what is meant by the law in the Bible.
There are three areas of Law mentioned in the OT
Ceremonial law- done away and fulfilled in the sacrifice of Lord Jesus. Not under ceremonial law which dealt with temple sacrifices, diet and special days.
Civil law- the law that governs men in their actions toward one another. Usually finds its basis in the Ten Commandments. Enforced by government. Subject to change as man changes his value system to reflect an increasingly godless society.(Abortion.) ( Eagles egg) Break the civil law and you risk penalties imposed by the government.
Moral law- Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. On this all the commandments ( 10 Commandments are based)
Moral laws were given by God to guide our behavior to show us how we ought to live. But none can gain salvation by keeping the moral laws- because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. They serve as a measuring stick to show we are unable to attain salvation by keeping the law. The Lord Jesus is the only one who lived without sin- and became sin for us. By faith in His Finished Work at Calvary- God imputes His righteousness to all who believe.
One other area to discuss- is some of the laws we read in the OT seem harsh- they condone stoning of adulterers, etc. What are we to make of those? These are difficult to understand- but these are the laws of Theocratic Government. A theocracy ( a word coined by Josephus) is a government whose head is God. A perfect God who has all wisdom and is just can administer that type of punishment- but we are not under a theocracy- we are not a nation under the law of God. Israel rejected the rule of Gods law and asked for a king to rule over them. Then when Jesus came and presented himself as the Messiah-he was rejected by Israel- thus the laws under a theocracy cannot be enforced by man only by a just God- which we see in the Millenium- the Lord Jesus will rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he will reign with a rod of iron- justice and judgment will be swift and sure.
So here is what Paul writes:
Everything is permissible for me- but not everything is beneficial. (I Cor.6:12) As a forgiven sinner- I can sin and not lose my salvation. But is it beneficial ?there will be negative consequences ( sowing and reaping principle); will it become habit forming?- is it harmful to your body?- will it damage your witness? will it cause a weaker brother to fall? Is it constructive? Will it become my master?
Many a person have robbed themselves of their preferred future by unwise decisions made in the present or past- when they did not consider what is the wise thing to do in light of :
My past experiences.
My present circumstances
My future goals.
Have you not noticed something? You dont have to sit around looking for reasons to do the right thing, do you? It is the bad decisions that require creative reasoning.
Before we begin chapter 14, lets review a spiritual truth revealed in the previous chapter 13. Remember that Abram had allowed Lot to choose where he and his flocks and household would reside and Abram would take what was left. In doing so Abram was trusting God to choose for him.
God then reassures Abram of what He is giving to Abram and his descendants. Abram is told to look to the North, South, East and West. All that you see is yours and your descendants. God then instructs Abram to walk in it for I am giving it to you. This is your possession, God is saying- you must lay claim to it by going and walking in it. The next action we see Abram take is moving his tents- moving out by faith to take hold of that which God has promised him.
Now Paul reminds us in Galatians as believers, we are spiritual descendants of Abraham. Canaan is a picture of the Spirit-filled life- the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Canaan is called the Promised Land- because the God promised this land to Abram and his descendants. And God who is a Promise Keeper and cannot lie gave the physical land to Abram and his descendants. Today they inhabit only a small portion of what God has given them- but in the Millenium they will occupy its entirety.
Spiritually- what God is saying to us as the spiritual descendants of Abram is look at the promises and blessings He has given us. Lay claim to them by faith and walk in them. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.( Ephesians 1). Paul then prays the eyes of our heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of his glorious INHERITANCE in the saints and His incomparable great power for us who believe.( did you see that word inheritance.?)
When you and I were born- God in His genius deposited in us the ability to walk, talk, write, ride a bike, drive a car, do math, throw a ball, etc. We could not do all of those things right away- for we had to grow up- to mature and in some cases learn how to do those things. But the abilities to do so- were built in us from the beginning. The same is true when we were born again- God gave us all of these spiritual blessings available to us as we grew up and matured as Christians and laid hold of those blessings- those things we had inherited by faith. As earthly parents we all want our children to grow up and enjoy and utilize the wonders God has built into us- how much more our Heavenly Father wants us to grow up and not stay a babe in Christ, to mature and reach the potential that God has for us.
What a shame to leave untold spiritual gifts unopened- unused and forfeited. We can live our whole life wandering in the wilderness where God provides us with the necessities, the basics food and water but never experiencing the abundant life in the promised land. It happened to the Israelites because they did not believe Gods word and His promises to them and it happens to us also. On many occasions there would be those who needed to be healed who came to Jesus and Jesus would ask them what would they have Him do? They asked to be healed- Jesus told them to go and be healed your faith had made you whole. Faith combined with obedience is the key that unlocks the storeroom of blessings. This is a Key Truth.
The carnal man and the unbeliever desire and work and scheme diligently to obtain all that the world has to offer. As Christians we should earnestly desire to obtain all that heaven has for us and that our Heavenly Father has promised us in His Son.
Now as we begin chapter 14- remember a truth regarding first occurrences. When we encounter a first occurrence in Bible- we are being shown by God what this word and this occurrence mean and stand for and will always stand for in the Bible.
We saw the first occurrence of the shedding of blood had to do with providing cover or atonement for sin. For without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.
In chapter 14 we will see the following first occurrences: the first mention of the numbers 12 &13; the first mention of war; kings; priest; bread & wine; and tithes.
In these verse we read of a list of 4 kings and 5 kings. It is often called the War of the 4 kings against the 5 kings. Evidently the five kings had been subject to King Kedorlaomer for 12 years. Paying taxes and living under his rule. In the 13th year the five kings rebelled against the four kings and the government which had exerted control over them. This was a caravan trade route and as most wars are- it was more than likely fought over money, land, resources and power.
The first occurrence of the numbers 12 and 13 let us know how these numbers will be used in Scripture. The number 12 = the number of government. The number 13 = the number of rebellion.
We read of this battle in verse 5-10 and discover the 4 kings defeat the 5 kings- which included the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We read that some of the armies of the 5 kings were trapped in the tar pits, although later in the passage we discover the King of Sodom escaped. ( Tar speaks of the presence of oil reserves.)
At this point, if one is not familiar with the story- we are wondering what this has to do with the story of Abram. But in verses 11&12- we discover the reason for this account.
The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abrams nephew Lot and his possessions since he was living in Sodom.
Now we know why this event is recorded for us- so let us carefully consider what has happened.
Notice first of all the information given us regarding Lot. He was living in Sodom. When we last read about Lot- he pitched his tent near Sodom. Remember the process- Lot looked toward Sodom; Lot pitched his tent near Sodom; finally he dwelt in Sodom. We must be careful what we look at and thus what we allow to tempt us or we will be drawn in by what started as a look. Then there is the inevitable moving closer to that which we looked at and then the trap springs and we are ensnared. Notice also he was captured with all his possessions. Perhaps there was an opportunity for Lot to have escaped- if he was willing to leave behind his possessions.
Word comes to Abram of Lots situation. Abram now shows us what it means to be in the world but not of the world. First of all Abram could have said- well, this is what Lot chose to do it serves him right. He chose to fellowship with those ungodly people and now he is reaping the consequences of his decision.
Besides, I am a conscientious objector. I am separated from the world. I am a farmer not a fighter there was an endless list of excuses Abram could have come up with for not taking any action. Just as easily as we can come up with excuses not to be involved with what is going on in the world.
Or Abram could have taken another course of action- he knew what these men were interested in: money. Their intentions were probably to sell these captives as slaves- that was what usually occurred. Abram was rich- he could negotiate the release of Lot and his family and pay a ransom to those who held him captive. It seems Abram knew you cannot negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers- you will only encourage them to do more of the same. You give the devil an inch and he will take a foot.
Because Abram was a man who kept the communication lines open with God- he continues to make the right decisions as he is directed by the unseen hand of the Lord. That God approves of Abrams actions is confirmed in the words of the mysterious king-priest Melchizedek who states: And blessed be the God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.
The fellow who stands outside of churches including ours with signs against war- must not realize that God delivers your enemies into your hand in just wars. And that we must not be afraid to enter just wars nor are we to stand on the sidelines of life and say we are Christians who desire nothing but peace. The Bible speaks of how God has shown His favor for His people in battles to which He directs them time after time in the OT and certainly the ultimate battle which He Himself will wage and destroy His enemies with the sword ( the Word of God) that proceeds from His mouth. So the first occurrence of war in the Bible- shows there is a time for war and a time for peace.
So Abram upon hearing of the capture of Lot and his household moves into action. He takes his trained servants born in his own household three hundred and eighteen and pursued them to Dan. 318 trained servants born in his household! An indication of the size of Abrams wealth. Notice these were born into his household- not counting men servants and maid servants he has acquired in Egypt- we can estimate that Abram may have up to 1000 people on his payroll. He was a wealthy man- yet he lived in a tent on the plains.
Verse 15 offers a brief account of the rescue and battle. Abram divided his group and attacked by night and smote them, and pursued them into Hobah which is on the left hand of Damascus. A military strategists would look at this and say this was a brilliant tactic to follow when facing superior numbers- attack from two different directions at night- so the enemy cannot see how few you are. The sudden attack in the dark of night shook the armies of the four kings- who had also probably begun to celebrate their victory. But for the man who keeps the communication lines open with God- whose God goes before him in battle- Abram knows this incredible victory has been given to him by the Lord. God was with him all the way.
As a result, in verse 16- we see Lot and his women and his people and his goods rescued by Uncle Abram. Evidently we will see other captives were also recovered.
In verse 17 we are shown that the King of Sodom has survived and is on his way to meet Abram and make him an offer. However, God saw to it that Abram was prepared for the temptation by arranging for Abram to meet the mysterious King-Priest, Melchizedek before the King of Sodom came.
In verse 18 we read Melchizedek is king of Salem- which is an early name for Jerusalem. This word is also the word from which comes shalom or peace. He is described as both a king and priest. We are being show here one of the great types of Christ in the Old Testament. Some have suggested this was actually the Lord Jesus in a pre-incarnate visit. Others speculate this could be Shem who was still alive at this time. We are not told who Melchizedek is- but we read more about him in Hebrews.
Look at Hebrews 5 & 7 and we read of a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. And in Hebrews 6: 20 & 7:1-3 listen to this description: whither the forerunner, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abram returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him. To whom Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is King of Peace, without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest forever.
So all of a sudden the appearance of this mysterious King-Priest- no mention of father, mother, descendants- nor record of birth- (pre-existent) no record of death( eternal) – what a great picture of the Lord Jesus. I am not saying this meeting did not take place- it is a historical fact- but clearly the scripture in Hebrews tells us it also highly typical of the Lord Jesus.
We read for the first time- first occurrence of the bread and wine mentioned together. It is mentioned with this kings position as priest of the Most High God- El Elyon- the possessor of heaven and earth. The bread and wine are symbols we recognize as the body and blood of the Lord Jesus offered on Calvary. Abram is moved by this significant symbol and is in doing so looking forward to the Calvary. It is the same Most High God who has delivered Abrams enemies into his hand. ( Read Psalms 91)
Abrams action and response was immediate and spiritual. He gave a tithe ( first mention) a 1/10th of all that he had acquired as an act of worship. You see- giving is a form of worship and thanksgiving- but it also a recognition that the Most High God is the possessor of heaven and earth.
Now just as the king of Salem is a type of Christ- next comes the king of Sodom who is a type of satan.
The king of Sodoms offer is a very subtle temptation. He says to Abram- give me the people- the souls and I will give you the spoils- the goods, the material possessions. Satan certainly knows which buttons to push- that is why Paul warns us regarding the love of money which is the root of all evil which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Abram lifts up his hand to heaven and proclaims to the king of Sodom- I will not take anything from you- lest you say later on I have made Abram rich. In other words Abram knew there would be strings attached to this gift that would be pulled later on.
I believe Abram was learning to trust God and he was also learning from his mistakes. He had learned in Egypt what happens when the world enriches a man.
Abram had just experienced victories over the world, the flesh and the devil. He was walking by faith and trusting the Lord with all his heart and leaning not to his own understanding.
We will see in the next chapter God can now entrust Abram with more direction and more blessings as God begins to fill in the blanks. Remember : By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing where he was going.
God is now about to show Abraham where he is going as God does not show us the next steps- until we have caught with Him in obedience to take the steps He has already ordered us to take. God will also not reveal certain truths to us until we have acted upon the truths He has already shown us.
As we observe the decisions in the life of Abram, we see the growth of his faith. Remember faith accompanied by obedience is the key that unlocks the storehouse of blessings. Paul says through the eyes of faith we see the hope to which we are called, the glorious inheritance of the saints and the incomparable power that if for us who believe.
Jesus said faith was the answer to our fears and troubles. The Lord Jesus said let not your hearts be troubled- you believe in God , believe also in me. In those familiar verses in John 14 on the night of his arrest, Jesus was dealing with troubled disciples. You want to know how to deal with trouble? Believe in Jesus- a faith that results in obedience that takes action.
We are put our trust, our faith in the person of Jesus Christ and like His mother said to the servant- whatever He tells you to do- do it.
Jesus also told us that night He was preparing a place for us. Remember what Abraham was looking for- a city whose builder and architect was God. Jesus the carpenter is preparing a place for us to reside in eternity in heaven. It is a prepared place for prepared people. This is our home- and we are just passing through this world- living in these earthly tents.
We put our trust, our faith in not only a person but a place- just as Abraham did.
But our Lord went even further to assure us- He gave us His word that He was coming back. I have and you have the promise of the Lord Jesus sure return. It was by believing the Word of God- the promise of God that Abraham was counted righteous. We can be confident He can keep His Promise. Nothing is impossible for Him.
We put our trust, our faith not only in a person and a place, but also in a promise.
And last but not least- Jesus gave us a plan. He said I am the way, the truth and the life- no man comes to the Father but by me. That is the plan. The way is narrow but leads to eternal life.
Like Abraham- we have put our faith- we have a believed in a person, who is preparing a place; who has promised to return and take us there and He is the way, the plan. Faith calls for action. It is to be accompanied- followed by obedience that results in actions. The story is told of an Indian tribe in Oklahoma where oil was discovered on their reservation. The oil company made a deal with the tribe and they were awarded a large amount of money. The chief of the tribe was sold a custom made Cadillac convertible by an enterprising car salesman. But not understanding how to properly use the 250 horsepower engine under the hood- the chief hitched a team of horses to his new car which pulled him around the reservation. Told of this development, the car salesman went out to the reservation and showed the chief how to turn on the engine and put the full force of horsepower into use by turning on the ignition and putting it in gear. Faith is the key and obedience turns the key that results in action.
When Jesus told His disciples and us these truths in John 14,He added : If it were not so, I would have told you.