We're going to be in Genesis, as you know, so turn in your Bibles to chapter thirteen of that book. Back in 1994 I had a friend who owned a McDonald's restaurant and his was the one that was sued because a lady who had coffee spilled the coffee on her leg and it created a huge fiasco. And the net result of that besides million of dollars that was awarded this lady because, though there was a warning label on the cup, I guess it wasn't big enough. Now the warning labels are quite large. If you look at a McDonald's coffee cup it almost says, 'Hey you! Yes, you--reading this right now! This stuff is really, really hot!' I don't think it says exactly that but the idea is that the label is very pronounced. Warning label.
I decided to go around and look at some of the things that I had and read the warning labels. Because I know that they know that they could be sued and to avert or avoid that they want to make sure that the label is like over-the-top obvious. So I have a little list of some of the things that I found. I got my chain saw and read the warning label: Do not operate chainsaw while upset. I guess they saw that old movie "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." My favorite hot sauce comes from Belize, it's called Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce, the warning label reads: Warning: Must be Strong to Handle This Sauce. Keep out of the Reach of Children. Do Not Play Tricks on the Weak or Elderly with this Sauce. That would be really cruel, wouldn't it? Here comes Grandma, quick! On one brand of hair color, I found this on the internet, and the website is "101 Dumb Warnings" and one of them says on a brand of hair color: Do Not Use This as an Ice Cream Topping. Those sun shades, you know the ones that fold for the car that you put in the window so the heat in the summer won't tear up your dashboard? Well the label read on it: Remove Shade before Operating Vehicle. That's the secret! A blow-dryer warning label said: Do Not Use while Sleeping. An iron had this as a warning label: Warning! Never Iron Clothes on the Body. Boy, you got to be in a hurry. And a mattress company had this warning label: Warning! Do Not Attempt to Swallow. What a mattress? How is that possible? Is this like for whales or something?
I think that if Abram could have looked back on the episode that happened in chapter twelve when he ran away down to Egypt, he would write a warning label that would say: Warning! Doubt Can be Hazardous to your and Everyone Else's Health. Spiritually and in all other ways. In fact, maybe Abram himself should have worn a warning label: Warning! Disobedient Patriarch: Stay Away! Now in all fairness to old Abe, he was just learning to walk by faith. He was called from a pagan culture. He was just getting his sea legs, so to speak, on the ship of faith. He was a baby believer--he was learning how to walk, he was learning how to trust. But chapter twelve, the last part of it, the second half of it, represents an episode of doubt where he leaves the land that God told him to go to because there was a famine in the land of promise and he goes down to Egypt for help. He is called in the New Testament the father of them that believe. And I am just so thrilled, as I mentioned last week, that he has a lapse of belief. That he could also be called the father of them that be-lying. Because he lied about who his wife was, said it was his sister. Yet he's given that great light, that redemptive light, that merciful light, by the New Testament: the father of them that believe.
You and I are also learning how to walk and though we are people of faith and we trust and we believe in God and we believe in His Son Jesus Christ, we also falter and fall and fail. And there's mercy for us. We're learning. You know, children have a natural, I would even say a supernatural, like built into them by God, desire to believe in God and trust in God. It doesn't take much for a child to trust God and believe in God. But at the same time, because they're children, their doubt is also very accentuated. And so when a child, though in the realm of faith, begins to doubt it can be very, very deep and fearful and severe. They're all over the map, they're not mature yet; they're not stable yet. I remember when my father was trying to teach me to dive off the diving board at a local swimming pool where I grew up. I just couldn't trust him. He'd never let me down but he said, 'Son, jump!' 'No!' 'You'll be okay!' 'No, I'll die!' 'No, you won't die. I promise you, you won't die. I promise you you'll only get wet. In fact, I promise you that I'll catch you.' 'No!' And I'm sure it was an embarrassment as everyone around us thought, 'What is wrong with this kid?' Sad part of it was, I was thirty-five years old when that happened. No, I'm just kidding.
But eventually, I jumped. And eventually, Abram comes to--spiritually speaking. And now in chapter thirteen, he goes back. He returns to the land of promise. I would think that the one lesson we learn, and I think Abram would agree. In fact, I think he would state this with all of his heart, that it's better to trust God in your life when the cupboards are bare than to be in the land of abundance outside of His will. He has now learned the lesson; he's done with Egypt. And so we read in chapter thirteen, verse one: "Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South." That is, the South of the Promised Land. They're going up from Egypt to the south of the country to the north of them. They're in the Negev Desert. He went up. Before it said he went down and that was true geographically and it was also relationally, spiritually. Any movement away from God's will is a step down. It says in the book of Jonah that God told him to go to Nineveh. It says Jonah went down to Joppa and then down into the ship. And eventually he went down into the sea and down into the belly of a whale. He went down, down, down, down. And it was only when he was thrown up by the whale that he decided to live, not the downward life, but the upward life of obedience. And he went to Nineveh.
And Abram comes back and he goes up. Abram it says in verse one, "was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold." Now this is the very first time in the Bible, and I like to make mention of that whenever we come to firsts in the Bible, this is the first time in Scripture that riches is mentioned. And it's mentioned in relation to Abram, the first patriarch. Now something we discover in looking at what the Bible says about wealth. The Bible looks at money, not as being bad or being good, but being neutral. It all depends on how a person is affected by it and what a person does with it. That is the importance. Now someone will say, 'Oh, but Skip, the Bible says in the New Testament that money is the root of all evil.' No it doesn't say that at all. It never says that money is the root of all evil. It says in 1 Timothy 6, "The love of money is a root [that is, one of many roots] of all kinds of evil." That sheds a whole different light on that picture. Because you can be without money but still have a love of money and fall into trouble. Or you can have a lot of money by God's grace, God's blessing, and it doesn't affect you as much as somebody, who if they had that, it would destroy them.
Read the testimony of those who have become suddenly rich, like the lottery winners. I've seen reports over the years and it's the same report. Most people who get to be lottery winners will say after they get the money, after months go by and after years go by, the worst thing that happened to me is that I won the lottery. I now don't know who my friends are. I don't know if my family loves me for what I might give them or if they just love me because I'm a part of the family. You know, sometimes it is God who blesses. And it's a result of the blessing from God. Job was wealthy in livestock and in chapter one of Job, it's listed: the camels and the cattle that he owned, the sheep that he owned. He was the greatest man of the east. Now he loses it all, but later on it says that God gave him much more, at the end, than he had at the beginning. So he's blessed and made wealthier by God--a blessing from God. Joseph, though experienced a difficult time at first, became second-in-command in the world. The prime minister of Egypt. And became very, very wealthy. So sometimes it's because of a blessing of God.
Other people are rich because, not God blesses them, but they abuse their power or they steal the money or they do it through their own hard work and it becomes a god that they serve. Now Abraham was very rich and the Bible makes clear that at least in part, it was the blessing of God. Having said that, riches can also become a problem. Though you have Abram who is rich and consequently you're going to discover Lot, who is his nephew, also has a lot going on financially, that it becomes a problem. And a conflict arises over the stuff that they own. The things that they have will become the center of the conflict in just a little bit. So Abram leaves Egypt and you should know something: that Abram left Egypt wealthier than when he went to Egypt. He went to Egypt to escape the famine; he lied about his wife; Pharaoh gave him a whole bunch of stuff because Abram said 'that's just my sister,' so Pharaoh loaded him down with stuff. So he's coming back, in part, with more stuff financially, though he's been taken to the woodshed spiritually, than he had when he first went down.
Why is that important? Because to me it's a prefigurement of another group we're going to read about in the book of Exodus. That's the children of Israel. The children of Israel will go down to Egypt because of a famine, they will for 400 years be in that land, they will multiply in terms of population, but they will be persecuted by the Egyptians, but they will leave after plundering the Egyptians, with much more than they came down with. It's God's way of adding to that.
"And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel," which means 'the house of God.' That will be the name given to it in the future by Jacob, but it's referred to before Jacob is ever born because the people who would read Genesis would be familiar with that place based upon the new name that they were aware of. "To the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord." Bethel means 'house of God.' That word Ai, that little town, means 'heap' or 'dump'. And so here you have Abram pitching his tent between the house of God and the dump. He's coming back from Egypt; he's pitched his tent going toward the house of God--toward Bethel. That's where the altar is; that's where he's going to worship. In the previous verse, in verse three, he's pitched his tent between the dump and the house of God.
Now that's the same position you and I are in. We have been saved out of this world; we are on the way toward heaven, that's our real home, the house of God, where God dwells. And we're sort of in that in between position. Between the dump of this world and between the house of God that we're moving toward. But in verse four he gets to Bethel and at Bethel was an altar that we saw at the beginning in chapter twelve that he made there at first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. Now he did not call upon the name of the Lord while in Egypt; there's no reference to him either pitching his tent or building an altar. He was just escaping the famine. Here he goes back to the altar. So he remembers where he had come from, the altar of worship that he was enjoying with the Lord in chapter twelve. He remembers that. He repents from what his unbelief had caused when he went down to Egypt. And then he repeats what he did at the beginning in worshiping God at this altar. Does that sound familiar?
It sounds a lot like what Jesus will tell the church of Ephesus in Revelation. "Remember from where you have fallen, repent, and do your first works again." Remember, repent, repeat. That's exactly what Abram does. He remembers the fellowship he had with God and while he was trusting God--that was a much better place than Egypt. He repents of the unbelief and he goes back and does again what he did at the beginning. Boy what great counsel that is to us. Maybe tonight you have experienced a distance between you and God. And maybe you look back to a time when you had fellowship early in the morning with God. You got up early and read your Bible and you think, 'It was so good; it was so sweet.' But over time you have distanced yourself from that primary activity. You're not experiencing closeness anymore. Could it be that the Lord is calling some of us back to Bethel? Back to the altar? Repenting from whatever brought us away from that and caused that distance. It's unfortunate that some of us have to talk about our relationship with God in the past tense, not in the present tense. It's not, 'Man, is it great with God! I just love the fellowship; I love hanging out with God. God speaks to me, but I remember at one time, way back when, but it's not like that anymore.' And so what is the solution? You remember, you repent, and you repeat. You do those first works again.
So if you have stumbled, like Abram, there's always an altar that is waiting for you to come back to. Verse five: "Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents." So he also has a lot of stuff--he's also very wealthy. "Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land." So though there's nothing wrong with wealth inherently, in and of itself, though that's okay and sometimes God can even add that and bless you with it, here it becomes the source of the conflict. 'We have so much stuff, we have so many animals, and the land that we're trying to share together just can't support it so we have to split.' Or 'My herdsmen are going to hassle and harangue your herdsmen and the bickering's going to go back and forth all over stuff.'
Stuff is interesting. We all have stuff. Some of us have more stuff than others and I mean, we stuff our stuff in boxes. If you have ever moved, you know this principal: you have stuff in boxes, you never get it out, you never look at it, you never care about it, you don't even know you have it until you move and you look in the place you stuffed your stuff and you go, 'Huh. I have stuff!' Now if you have a family, a wife, a husband, children, they have their stuff. If you try to do something with their stuff, oh will you get in trouble. 'Hey, that's my stuff!' 'Yeah but you haven't used that for like ten years.' 'So? It's my stuff to do something with it or not do something with it. Leave my stuff alone.' Now the truth is a lot of that stuff you won't see again until you move again. And it can become a source of conflict, as it is here. Something else: they're not alone in the land. It's not just their livestock that has to be supported by the land. Notice also that the Canaanites and the Perizzites--these two other groups--dwelt in the land. 'So not only will my family and your family have a tough time being supported by the infrastructure of the land; there are other people around.'
But I think that the Holy Spirit is informing us of something else. Here there is a conflict between one group of God's people and another group of God's people and the world is watching. The Canaanite and the Perizzite are watching Abram and Lot very, very carefully. And hearing the bickering and hearing the arguments. And whenever the dirty laundry of the church gets aired in front of the world, the church is in a real mess. It's dangerous; it's wrong. We always have to be careful who's watching, who's listening. The Canaanites and Perizzites are all around and they are looking and they are listening. I heard about two women who worked in the same office; both of them were Christians, and both of them worked by a window. And one of them said, 'I want you to keep that window closed. You open the window; it's so cold I'm going to catch pneumonia.' And the other lady said, 'I want you to open that window because if you don't open that window I get claustrophobic and there's no circulation. I'm going to die of suffocation!' They'd argue back and forth and back forth with their Bibles on their desks. One day a gal from across the hall came over into their space, an unbeliever after hearing this for a long time, said, 'I've got an idea. Let's keep the window open until you die of pneumonia and then we'll close the window so you can die of suffocation. That'll be the solution.' You can feel her pain. What made it worse is that both of them claimed to be believers.
Now here is Abram, a man who was a covenant relationship with God and simply by virtue of the relationship of uncle to nephew with Lot, he is also seen as one of God's people. But from the story you and I know differently. From the story, you know that Abram, though he's imperfect, is walking with God. While Lot doesn't seem to be walking with God at all. He seems to be walking, not with God, but with Abram. Back in verse one it says, "Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had and Lot went with him." Abram's obeying God, Abram's walking with God--Lot is walking with Abram. He's tagging along. He's tagging along but he has different appetites. He wants something else. He really wants what the world has to offer, which you will see in chapters thirteen and fourteen.
Two different men, two different sets of values longing for two different things. "So Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren." Boy that's a wise thing to say. He's older and he's wiser. I heard a story about Michelangelo and Raphael, two brilliant artists who were hired by the Vatican to beautify the Vatican with their art and you can see it today, it's still there. It's magnificent. They worked in different parts of the building. Both brilliant, both creative artists in their own right. However, over time, a rivalry began to break out between Michelangelo and Raphael. And this bitter rivalry resulted even when they would meet up. They wouldn't even talk to each other. The ironic thing, of course, is both of them were working quote 'for the glory of God' unquote. While all of Rome watched the rivalry between these two artisans working for the glory of God not getting along.
So Abram just nips it in the bud: 'Let there be no strife. I don't want to be a trouble-maker. I want to be a peace-maker.' So look at the solution: "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left." Isn't that beautiful? Hey, Lot, no bickering man, no fighting. We're brothers. There's more to unite us than there is to divide us; therefore, in grace, you pick, man. You just take whatever you want. Because whatever you don't want, I'll take that. You can choose that side and I'll take that side. If you want that side, I'll take whatever you don't take. It's a beautiful example of Philippians chapter two, where Paul writes, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each of us esteem others better than ourselves." And that's what Abram is doing with his nephew Lot. And it's going to pay-off; I want you to watch how it does.
Verse ten: "And Lot lifted up his eyes." Notice that phrase: he's looking up. And something's going to catch his view. "And saw all the plain of Jordan." That is the Jordan River Valley which is beautiful. There are underwater springs that feed vast miles of land for irrigation and growing things and the river itself that supports it. "That it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, [now notice this] like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other."
Lot looked up and what did he see? He saw something that reminded him of Egypt; it reminded him of Egypt. In fact, it's even mentioned, it's like the land of Egypt. He had come from a spell of being in Egypt at the Nile River Valley which is very similar geographically, topographically, to this Jordan Plain. He had left Egypt, but he hadn't left it in his heart. He wants something that reminds him of that security blanket that he had while he was in Egypt. That's what he wanted. So he chose that for himself. Now it seems to me that Abram repented because he remembers, goes back to the altar, sacrifices to the Lord, that Abram repented. But that Lot simply returned back to the land. But he wants something that reminds him of Egypt so here's the problem Abram has. You can take the boy out of Egypt, but you can't take Egypt out of the boy. He wants what he left. He's a tag-a-long believer. There are a lot of people like this. They're raised in church; they'll go to church because they've been raised in it and they tag along with their parents or they tag along with their wives or tag along with their husbands. But they really love the world--that's their preference. They love the world. Their appetite is for the world. And you can't have both, James says in James chapter four: "Whoever is a friend of this world is the enemy of God." You can't love the world and all of its security while loving the Lord and all that He has.
And it polarizes both these men: Lot and his uncle Abram. And so it says, "Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan." Not just a part of it: 'I want it all. That's the prettiest looking thing ever--I want it all.' And he chose it for himself and they separated from each other. Notice this: "Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom." And before you think, 'Well, he didn't know how bad Sodom was,' the next verse says: "But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord." Now we're getting a little insight into Lot. If I were to compare the two, even though I said Abram wasn't perfect, you have the choices of a wise man versus the choices of a worldly man. Abram the wise man: learned his lesson from Egypt, been there done that, I've repented. Lot a worldly man, a worldly business man, thinking of what is best for himself and best for his family. Abram, on the other hand, instead of choosing for himself, is sort of saying, 'I trust Your promises God, and I'll let You choose for me.' Lot lifts up his eyes and sees the plain of Jordan and goes, 'Oooh!' But now watch this:
"And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: "Lift up your eyes now and look from the place where you are--northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you."
Very different from Lot. I think Lot was flirting with temptation. He pitched his tent all the way towards Sodom, 'Boy, I love this plain of Jordan and Sodom. You know, a lot of stuff going on in Sodom--a night life!' He was flirting with temptation. He should've been fleeing from temptation. A lot of people flee from temptation but they leave the devil their forwarding address, if you know what I mean. They don't really separate all the way. Lot and Abram separate; that's good for Abram, it's bad for Lot. Lot does it for the wrong reason. Now as far as Abram is concerned, it's good for him and here's why. Back in chapter twelve, we're informed that while Abram was down in Ur of the Chaldeans, before he made that long trek toward the Holy Land, that God said, "Get out of your country, leave your family and your father's house."
He didn't completely obey. He still brought those with him, father and nephew, social responsibility? I understand. But it was an incomplete obedience and it will bring trouble as time goes on. And we're about to see that. But it was a problem for Lot. Notice again verse fourteen: "And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: "Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are--northward, southward, eastward, and westward". You see, Lot looked out and saw what the world had to offer. God comes along and says, 'Let Me lift up your eyes and let Me show you what I have to offer.' So one chose for himself; the other left it up to God and discovered, when you let God choose for you, it's always better anyway. What God will choose for me is better than anything I could choose for myself. And so I love that, that his faith, his trust, his leaning toward God is rewarded here. 'Hey, I know he lifted up his eyes, but now let Me lift up your eyes and look everywhere you see. You see North? South? West and East? It's all yours and it's better than anything you could choose for yourself.'
Now did you notice that in verse fifteen Lot is now separated and God talks about your descendants forever? Wait a minute. Didn't we just read in chapter eleven that Sarai couldn't have any children? What descendants? Embedded in this promise is the promise that he's going to have a child. That he's going to have an heir and the heir will be from his own seed, from his own body--hence the word descendants. So God gives him a promise: number one, you're going to have children, you're going to have descendants. Number two: the covenant of the land that I'm giving to you is everlasting--it's perpetual. It's not just you, you and your descendants which become the Jewish nation, forever. And number three part of the promise, verse sixteen: "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth." They will be innumerable. "So that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you."
Now in a few months, I'm going to have the opportunity to do this with some of you, to walk in this land. And we'll do a lot of walking; we'll be on our feet a lot because there's so much in the Bible about walking through the Promised Land and walking on the walls of Jerusalem. And it's such a small country, you know? It's the size of New Jersey; maybe a little smaller. You could actually walk across, from border to border east to west, in one day. You could walk the entire width of Israel today in one day, by foot. In fact, in grade school they do that with the kids in Israel. They go on a hike and they walk from morning until tonight, they walk the whole border of the land. Now north to south is quite a bit longer, but that's okay. And I'm not saying I'm going to make you walk in one day through the whole land. You're thinking, 'I don't want to go on this tour.' We'll be in an air-conditioned tour bus, but we'll be able to cover a lot of ground and look north, and look south, and look west, and look east and see what God promised Abraham and his descendants. And we'll see the fulfillment of the promise--it will absolutely blow your mind. So that's my pitch for taking the tour and coming with us.
"Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre," that's down in Hebron, not far from Jerusalem, "which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord." So they separated. For Lot, a bad thing. For Abram, a good thing. A good thing. You and I, in the New Testament, are called to be separated from those who are not walking with the Lord. And probably one of the key note Scriptures along those lines is 2 Corinthians 6 where Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah and says to God's people: "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord, and I will receive you and I will be a Father to you and you will be My children." It's that call to separation. For you see, sometimes if we have the wrong company and they don't share our spiritual value system, and they don't hunger after the Lord, they hunger after Sodom and they hunger after the well water plain of the Jordan, it could drag you down. It's hard to be around the company of people who are dragging you down spiritually. And so the Bible encourages us to get around those who will build you up spiritually. And do use discernment and discretion and to separate.
Let me read something to you. I found it while I was studying. You don't have to turn to it; I'll just tell you where it's at. It's in 2 Timothy 2 but it's a beautiful Scripture that says, "Flee also youthful lusts but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Be with people like-minded who love Jesus, who love the Lord, who pursue Him, and your own faith will be built up. If you're only around people who are dragging the other direction, they'll drag you in that direction. And so he dwelt, in verse eighteen, in that beautiful green spot of Mamre in Hebron and there he also built an altar to the Lord.
"And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled."
Chapter fourteen brings to us the first international crisis, the first war, if you will, mentioned in the Bible. Four kings and five kings, or four kings are against five kings. There are Semitic kings, five of those, and four Hamite kings from the eastern part of the province, around Babylon. Here's the deal. For twelve years, a group of cities down by the Dead Sea, and again if you come to Israel, we'll be driving down by the Dead Sea and you'll see some of the remnants. For twelve years, the cities that were down in the plain, the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley, paid tribute, paid money, paid taxes to a guy mentioned here: Chedorlaomer. In the thirteenth year those cities got tired of it and they said, 'Forget it. We're done. We're not paying you a dime.' They rebelled. That brought a coalition army against them from Babylon toward Israel. It's not the first time; Ahmadinajad is talking about doing that again today and rooting out Israel and destroying Israel. So way back in the beginning, this stuff was happening and it will happen time and time again throughout the Scripture.
So they come. Now here's the deal: the story is told because Lot is a part of the equation. Lot happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now Abram must come and rescue him and he does that by night. But let's go through the story. And by the way, it says, the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). You notice that in verse three? It's called the Salt Sea because the Dead Sea, that's what the Salt Sea is, the Dead Sea is 32% saline solution. That's about ten times more than any ocean in the world. You can float on the Dead Sea. If you don't swim at all, you could still, effectively, swim from Israel to the country of Jordan just by floating on your back. It'll keep you buoyant. "
"In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Han, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountains of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. And 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 joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar--four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram's brother's son who dwelt in Sodom [notice now he's living there], and his goods, and departed."
Now have you noticed the steps as we read? Number one, Lot saw Sodom. Second, he separated from Abram. Third, he pitched his tent toward Sodom. He probably thought, 'This will give me good advantage for my family. There's a lot going on there and a lot of good infrastructure there. I need this for my family.' He made a choice for himself, probably family included. Now, number four, he's living there. He's dwelling there. He moved in. And it's a wicked city and they're against God, but he's living in it. It gets worse. In chapter nineteen, he's sitting at the gate--he's a politician of Sodom. Nothing wrong with going into politics, but to be the mayor of Sodom is a problem. He's one of the elders at the gate. He's one of the lawmakers; the political bigwigs of Sodom, in chapter nineteen verse one. So Lot takes several steps downward and now he's in trouble. He gets captured.
"Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew [notice that designation, first time we see that], for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus."
So Abram goes on pursuit. One hundred and fifty miles north he travels with three hundred and eighteen trained servants--they're trained for battle. And he has a strategy: he's going to attack them at night and ambush them. And he will win the battle because of his strategy. OK, he's got three hundred and eighteen trained militia men, which is a large staff but a small army against the armies of four kings, four nations. So it is like the odds when Gideon, with his three hundred men in Judges 7, against the 135,000 Midianites. Completely outnumbered but God gave them the victory. That's what it's like. Interesting thing about Abram. So far I read that Abram is a peace-maker, not a trouble-maker. He wants to make peace with Lot; he wants to make peace with people around him. He forms alliances with people in Canaan, but here, though he's a peace-maker, he goes to war.
I believe it would be accurate to say that Abram loved peace enough to fight for it. And sometimes peace-makers need to fight to bring peace. Now the easiest solution whenever there's a conflict is to be a pacifist. That's the easy way out. 'I don't believe in fighting at all; I don't believe in raising a weapon in any direction for any purpose.' Oh it sounds so noble. But it's not. Abram loved peace enough to fight for peace and sometimes you've got to do that to be a peace-maker and to maintain the peace in a broken, fallen world. Francis Schaeffer wrote a lot on this subject and he said something profound. He said, "I am not a pacifist for this reason. For me to be a pacifist in a fallen, broken, evil world would mean that I would desert those people who needed my help the most." So let's put it in real life. You're downtown. Seemingly nobody's around. As you walk out of a theatre or a market, but you see a big, burly guy bullying a little girl, pushing her around, hitting her. What do you do, Mr. Pacifist? 'Well, I negotiate.' OK, so what do you do? You walk up and say, 'Sir, please don't beat that little girl. That's just not nice. Come to your senses. You know better than that. Shame on you.' And you wait for a response? The response isn't favorable. He says, 'Get out of my way or I'm going to kill you first--then I'm going to get her.' You keep persuading, you keep trying. At some point, if he is bent on her destruction, if you have any love in her heart for that little girl, you must do everything in your power to stop him. That's where pacifism breaks down. There's where activism must be engaged. That you love peace in this case enough to stop evil.
And that was Abram's whole position here. He was three hundred and eighteen trained servants. They're members of his own household; they were his servants, they were his staff. 'But just in case we get into a problem, I want you to be trained for war.' And now he deploys them to the battlefield. And it worked. Verse sixteen: "So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people." Now this has got to be the most unusual story so far in the book of Genesis, what we are about to read:
"And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all."
This guy named Melchizedek has never been mentioned before; he just sort of comes from out of nowhere. His name Melchizedek comes from two words; it means 'king of righteousness.' And he is the king of Salem which will become Jerusalem. The word 'Salem' means 'peace,' so he is the king of righteousness, he's the king of peace, he brings out bread and wine, he worships God Most High, he's monotheistic, and Abram pays tithes to him. Amazing. Who is this guy? We have a problem because number one, you have a Canaanite king who's monotheistic like Abram. Up to this point we would think only Abram was that way because God spoke to him in Ur of the Chaldeans and revealed Himself to him. Could it be that God revealed Himself in the same manner to this Canaanite king named Melchizedek? Don't know but that's the problem we face. You have a monotheistic king in a polytheistic Canaanite culture.
Problem number two: he's a priest. Kings and priests were never the same. Later on, when the kingdom is developed, it will be Judah that will be the kingly line and Levi, a whole other tribe that will be the priestly line. And they're to be separated. So are we now to infer that there was some sort of priesthood going on in Jerusalem at the time of Abram before he met him? Don't know. You see, it's just a wild story. To complicate it even more, we come to Psalm 110, and we have to because the writer of Hebrews does in the New Testament. It's a Messianic psalm. It says: "The Lord says to My Lord, sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool, for I have made you a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." And the writer of Hebrews 7 chased it down, verses one through ten, shows that Melchizedek is of a higher order than the priesthood of Levi and Aaron because Abram paid tithes to him. Paying tithes is a symbol of worship, it's a symbol of submission, and so here's Abram and the writer of Hebrews says that a Levi, Aaron, those guys that will form the priesthood, aren't even born yet, they're only in the loins, so to speak, of Abram. And they paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abram signifying that this priesthood is of a higher order, a superseded order, than that of Aaron and the tribe of Levi.
So who is Melchizedek? Three guesses. Number one, some people say it's Shem, the son of Noah. Some people say it's a Canaanite king who is monotheistic by some supernatural revelation. Number three, some people say it's Jesus Christ, this is appearing in the flesh, a pre-incarnate form of Christ called a theophany of a Christophany, appearing in the Old Testament because he's called king of righteousness, brings out bread and wine, which you'll find in communion, and he is the king of peace. Without father or mother, without genealogy, without length of days (that's what Hebrew says.) So three interesting interpretations don't have the time to develop it further and tell you what I lean toward, because it's just. Well, look. We have one minute left. But it says he gave him a tithe of all.
"Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself." So Abram has taken all the spoils and given them back to the cities that were robbed by Chedorlaomer. Verse twenty-two: "But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the Lord [Yahweh is the word, the covenant name of God that will be given to Moses], God Most High." So here is Abram equating Yahweh with the God of Melchizedek, "the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.'"
It seems that he had taken an oath before this battle. Something like this: 'Lord, I'm about to go fight these kings. I know I'm outnumbered. But if You would give me the victory, I promise to give You all of the glory.' And if he were to take money for this from these kings, then people would say, 'Oh, that's why he did it. He did it for the remuneration--for the financial reward.' He'd never want that said.
"Except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion." You see, Abram is remembering Egypt and he remembered taking the spoils from Egypt because the pharaoh had given him all this money and all this stuff because he said that his wife was his sister. And he's thinking, 'Don't want to repeat that.' I think at this point, George Beverly Shea's famous song would be very appropriate for Abram to sing: "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold/I'd rather have Jesus than riches untold." I don't want anybody to say anyone made me rich. And then he just says, 'Just give me the spoils that are needed for those who were with me.' And that's it.
Conclude with this: here's the warning for us. Number one, be careful with your vision. Be careful with your vision. Lot saw what the world had to offer; God showed him what He could offer him. You might say that Lot looked down before he looked up, while Abram looked up before he looked down. Be careful with your vision: what you set your eyes on. Number two, be careful with your values. What you value: where a man's treasure is, the Bible says, there will his heart be also. Lot had a tent and no altar; Abram had a tent and an altar, but the altar was more important than the tent. The worship was more important. Watch your vision, be careful with your vision, be careful with your values. And number three, be careful with the choices that you make. Be careful with the choices that you make. Lot made a decision for himself. Maybe for his family, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he made a choice based upon what would be best for his family. Here's the ironic thing: he loses his family. Later on, he will lose his family. He's going to go to Sodom and he's going to have to flee Sodom, but his wife is going to turn back and he will lose his family. So if he made the choice for his family, he lost his family. Abram made a choice based on God's promise and he got a family bigger than he could count. More in number than the dust, more in number than the stars--and he was unable to have a child. But God did it.
Now could it be that some of you tonight need to return to Bethel? Come back to the Lord? Rededicate your heart to Him? You've left, you've gone to Egypt, you've looked at the well water plains of the Jordan and you're trying to get fed and nurtured from a worldly source to come up empty. Maybe tonight would be the night where the Lord would bring you back into alignment with Himself.