As we look at the news, we see conflicts everywhere. Conflict between people, violence, shootings, conflicts between groups and politicians, conflicts between religions and countries. Conflicts can be between good and evil and between evil and evil. Our country was born on July 4, 1776 in the midst of conflict, fighting for our God-ordained freedoms. This week, we celebrate our 243rd birthday as a nation on July 4. Yet the conflicts within our nation continue and deepen.
Lord, we also pray for you to heal our land. We know that true healing can only come as people’s hearts are healed by Jesus’ forgiveness. We pray that America would turn back to you, by repenting of her sins and seeking your forgiveness. Use each one of us to bring your healing to those around us. Help us to be peacemakers whenever we encounter conflict. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Conflict began in our world in Genesis 3 in the garden of Eden. Satan sought to destroy Adam and Eve by tempting them to sin and disobey God. And he succeeded, for they sinned and sin then impacted every human being since then. Satan continues to tempt and inspire sin and conflict in our world today. Jesus said …
John 10:10 (ESV) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
How does Satan steal, kill and destroy? By tempting people into conflict. He uses anger, greed and lust to as his bait. He seeks to destroy every human being, yet he particularly targets believers and the church, which is his archenemy. The end result is a cosmic struggle between Satan’s domain of darkness and God’s kingdom of light.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
So, our conflict as believers and a church is not against people, but against the spiritual forces of evil that tempt and delude people into conflict. One of Satan’s favorite tactics is to bait believers into fighting with one another. But once we understand his strategies, we can withstand his temptations.
In our current message series on Abraham, we are studying his life of faith. When someone is living by faith and advancing God’s kingdom, the enemy will bring conflict to block God’s advance. Today’s message is entitled “Going into Battle” which is the only story of Abram involved in warfare. Why do we study the stories of the Old Testament? We don’t do it simply for entertainment. Speaking of Old Testament stories …
1 Corinthians 10:11 (ESV) Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
We can learn from stories of people that following God leads to blessing and that disobeying God and making wrong choices leads to trouble and curses. Last week, we learned that Abram’s nephew Lot made a poor choice of where to live, next to the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Today, we will learn the consequences of Lot’s bad decisions, as well as the blessings that came through Abram’s wise choices. The first principle we can learn is to …
Genesis 14:8-9 (ESV) Then 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 with Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar, four kings against five.
Our story begins with a battle of four kings against five kings. The five kings included the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah. None of these kings were godly, all were pagan kings fighting one another for ungodly reasons. Let’s see how this first battle turned out.
Genesis 14:10-11 (ESV) Now 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. So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.
The four kings were victories over the five king confederation. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, the most wicked cities were defeated and all their possessions were plundered. If you don’t stay away from evil …
Genesis 14:12 (ESV) They also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.
So, who got captured in the defeat of Sodom? Why Lot, Abram’s nephew, who had chosen to live near to the evil city of Sodom. As we’ll see, not only was Lot captured, but his family, servants and possessions were taken as well.
Why did Lot choose to live near to Sodom? Because the land there was very fertile, which meant that Lot could increase his riches there. Satan will tempt you to live near to evil. You will be tempted to see how close you can get to sin without sinning. Our culture is becoming increasingly wicked in every way. Perversion is presented as being normal and purity as being abnormal. What used to be X-rated is now R-rated. What used to be R-rated is now PG. Video of any kind of sin, sex, violence or evil is just a click away on the internet.
The church and Bible are ridiculed as being outdated. Many churches are falling away from teaching God’s Word and are promoting sin of all kinds in the name of love. Yet, most people think all churches are the same and it doesn’t matter what you believe. What’s the solution? Stay as far away from sin and evil as you can. Don’t follow the crowd. The crowd is going the wrong direction. Daily study God’s Word to know what’s right and wrong. Keep yourself pure from the sins of the world. Believe that …
Genesis 14:13 (ESV) Then 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.
Someone, probably from Sodom, who had escaped from the 4 kings came and told Abram what had happened. Not only had Sodom been plundered, but Lot had been captured. What could Abram do? The 4 kings of these territories had large armies. They had just defeated 5 kings. Abram on the other hand was a herder of flocks. The only battles his men had were with wild beasts and perhaps a robber or two. Yet, Abram had made a few friends among the people of the land and they were his allies. Abram chose to attempt to
Genesis 14:14 (ESV) When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.
Abram knew that Lot had made a poor choice of living close to the wicked city of Sodom. Yet when he heard the news, the first thing that he decided to do was to attempt to rescue him. Undoubtedly the armies of the 4 kings numbered in the thousands and Abram had only 318 men. Yet, he went after them in order to rescue Lot, his family and his possessions. Abram believed that …
Genesis 14:15-16 (ESV) And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.
God gave Abram a plan to attack by night from multiple directions. He did and defeated the 4 kings. He pursued the kings and was able to recover all the possessions that had taken from Lot, as well as his family and their servants. An improbable victory because of the power of God released through faith.
What can we learn from Abram’s example? First of all, Abram did not give up on Lot when his bad choices landed him in trouble. Secondly, Abram choose to place his own life and servants in jeopardy in order to rescue Lot and his family. All around you are unbelievers who are in captivity to Satan. All around you are believers who are in captivity to various sins and addictions. It may look like it’s impossible to rescue or save them. Yet, remember, that with God all things are possible. Take the risk to reach out to those struggling in life and lead them to Jesus’ freedom. Jesus wants to set people free, but He’s waiting for His followers to reach out to rescue the captives. Who does God want you to help set free?
Genesis 14:18-20a (ESV) And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
After Abram’s victory, he was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem. The Bible identifies Salem as being Jerusalem in Psalm 76. Even though Melchizedek was not part of Abram’s family, God had revealed Himself to him and he was a worshipper of and priest of the one true God. You can read more about the mysterious Melchizedek in Hebrews 7. Melchizedek then blessed Abram with a blessing of God Most High. So Melchizedek was a representative of God, an Old Testament priest. What was Abram’s response to this blessing of Melchizedek?
Genesis 14:20b (ESV) And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
This is the first mention of tithing in the Bible. A tithe is giving ten percent of what God has given you, back to God through God’s representative. A tithe indicates that Abram put God first in his life and recognized God as the source of all his income. By giving a tithe, Abram had faith that God will continue to supply his needs as he put God first with his finances. Finally, Abram learned that he mustn’t …
Genesis 14:21-23 (ESV) And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’
Apparently the king of Sodom wanted Abram to take all the recovered possessions from Sodom for himself. But Abram refused to accept any of it. Why? Because Abram has made an oath to God that he would take nothing from this evil king. Abram didn’t the king of Sodom to say that he had made Abram rich. Abram desired that God’s blessing on his life was sufficient. He did not want to be enticed by riches gained through wickedness.
As you follow God, as you seek to rescue others, God will bless you. God made it very clear to Abram that the reason God was going to bless him, was so that he would be a blessing to others. In the same way, God wants to bless you so that you can be a blessing to others. The proper response to God’s blessing is to give back to God our tithes and offerings. Then, we use God’s blessing to bless others. You must never seek to profit from evil or ungodliness, but allow God to bless you as you follow Him and stay away from all forms of evil.
Today, we’ve learned from two examples. The first example was that of Lot, who lived so close to evil that he got captured when the king of Sodom was defeated. God will strengthen you to move as far away from evil as possible. Next we learned from the positive example of Abram, who believed God for an impossible victory against 4 kings to rescue Lot. God wants to help you rescue others from captivity to sin and Satan. As you follow God’s plan for your life, God will bless you. Be sure to give back to God your tithe, so that He can continue to bless you. Be confident that God’s will supply you with more than enough to meet your needs and be a blessing to others as you follow Him.