Genesis 14 and 15 (NRSV)
Lot’s Captivity and Rescue
In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim, 2these kings made war with King Bera of Sodom, King Birsha of Gomorrah, King Shinab of Admah, King Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3All these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea). 4Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6and the Horites in the hill country of Seir as far as El-paran on the edge of the wilderness; 7then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and subdued all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.
8Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim 9with King Chedorlaomer of Elam, King Tidal of Goiim, King Amraphel of Shinar, and King Arioch of Ellasar, four kings against five. 10Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. 11So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 12they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
Lot! Don’t you see that the evil of Sodom is clutching at you and your soul?
But Abram is a man of honor, and he will fight for his nephew.
13Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner; these were allies of Abram. 14When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.
Abram had wealth. Any man who can assemble 318 servants capable of fighting must be very rich. And he kept them trained and ready to defend his interests.
Abram had military wisdom. Using the clever tactic of a night attack with his army split into two groups, he succeeds in rescuing Lot and recovering all the booty seized by the confederacy of the five kings.
“The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” words and music by Jamie Owens-Collins, 1985, performed by the Maranatha Singers.
Abram Blessed by Melchizedek
17After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.
The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” He is the king of Salem, and Salem is the original Jerusalem, and Melchizedek is the priest of God Most High. He is a worshiper and priest of the true God, ruling over Jerusalem even in those ancient times.
(And to my dear friend LRW, who is himself a worshiper and a priest of God Most High — Happy Birthday!)
19He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; 20and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one tenth of everything.
Hebrews 5: 7-10 (ESV)
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
21Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”
22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, 23that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share.”
God’s Covenant with Abram
15) After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
Abram needed a shield because he was expecting to be attacked. He needed reward because he had just forfeited great reward offered from the king of Sodom. God is telling Abram that though he has sacrificed for His sake, he will not be the loser for it. God will more than make up what Abram has given up for the Lord, because God knows how to answer all our needs.
2But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” 4But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” 5He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
And one of those descendants will be the Bright and Morning Star, Jesus Christ.
6And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Here in Genesis is one of the clearest expressions in the Bible of the truth of salvation by grace, through faith! Paul explains it further:
Romans 4:18-24 (New Living Translation)
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.
Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
7Then he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.”
8But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
9He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
10He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
Abram understood God was telling him to get a contract ready for signing. In those days, contracts were made by the sacrificial cutting of animals, with the split carcasses of the animals lying on the ground. Then both parties to the covenant would walk through the animal parts together, repeating the terms of the covenant. The Lord made a covenant in Genesis 15:18 is literally, “the Lord cut a covenant.”
Jeremiah 34:18-20 makes reference to this same practice of a covenant made by cutting animals and repeating the oath of the covenant as one walks through the animal parts.
The symbolism was plain: first, this is a covenant so serious it is sealed with blood; second, if I break this covenant, let this same bloodshed be poured out on my animals and me!
There is no mistake about it: when Abram has his doubts, and wants assurance from the Lord, God says to him plainly, “let’s sign a contract and settle this once for all; this land IS yours.”
11And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him. 13Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; 14but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15As for yourself, you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Until the time was right, God’s people were to wait — through four hundred years of slavery and the hair-raising exodus; they were to wait even though the waiting was long, difficult, and painful. Are you ever frustrated because God does not immediately act to meet your need or fulfill your expectation? What purposes might God have in allowing you to wait?
17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.