School Of Faith
When you enroll in the “school of faith,” you never know what may happen next. Visit Abraham one day and you find him settling a boundary dispute. Visit him another day and you see him gearing up for a battle.
Why is this so?
For one thing, God wants us to mature in every area of life, but maturity doesn’t come easily. There can be no growth without challenge, and there can be no challenge without change. If circumstances never changed, everything would be predictable; and the more predictable life becomes, the less challenge it presents.
When you walk in the light (1 John 1:5-10), you can see what is going on, and you experience variety in your life. But in the darkness, everything looks alike. No wonder unsaved people (and backslidden believers) are so bored and must constantly seek escape! The life of faith presents challenges that keep you going—and keep you growing!
In this chapter, Abraham, the man of faith, fulfills three special roles:
In all three roles, Abraham exercised faith in God and made the right decisions.
Abraham The Watcher
This section records the first war mentioned in the Bible, and it would not be included here had it not involved Abraham. The Bible records a great deal of history; but, as Dr. A.T. Pierson said, “History is His story.” What is written helps us better understand how God worked out His great plan of salvation in this world. In the Bible, historical facts are often windows for spiritual truth.
The five city-states in the plain of Jordan (see Gen. 13:10) had been subject for twelve years to the kings of four eastern city-states and finally revolted against them. This, of course, was a declaration of war; so the four kings invaded the plain of Jordan to bring the five kings into subjection.
“Back when King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, King Chedorlaomer of Elam, and King Tidal of Goiim ruled the land,”
Genesis 14:1 (The Voice)
Shinar was where the tower of Babel was built (Genesis 10:10 and 11:2) and later became Babylonia. It had only been around 200 years since the tower of Babel. I’m sure this was still in the consciences of the people, since so many of the people who lived through it were still alive.
“These four kings formed an alliance and made war on five other kings: Bera of Sodom, Birsha of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (a city now known as Zoar).”
Genesis 14:2 (The Voice)
The name Birsha means “wickedness.”
The names of Sodom (C@DOM) and Gomorrah (AMORAH) mean “scorch” or “burnt” and “a (ruined) heap,” respectively.
These names are descriptive of what happened to those places. It is hard to imagine that these cities were called these names from their founding.
From our modern viewpoint, the invasion was a minor skirmish; but in that day, it was considered a major international conflict.
Certainly five kings ought to be able to defeat four kings, especially when they are fighting “on their own turf.” But the invading kings soundly defeated the army of the cities of the plain!
“All of these joined forces in the valley of Siddim (near the area now known as the Dead Sea).”
Genesis 14:3 (The Voice)
The word “Siddim” was translated from the Hebrew word SIDDIYM, which means “flats.”
Apparently there was flat land surrounding the lake that we now know as the Salt Sea or Dead Sea. At the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah there were massive shifts in the landscape, which put these areas below the surrounding water level and made them a part of the Dead Sea.
“The valley of Siddim held many dangers; it was full of tar pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled the battle, some of their soldiers fell into the pits and were killed. The rest managed to make it out alive to the hill country.”
Genesis 14:10 (The Voice)
Apparently the five kings did not even know their own land because they were trapped in the slime pits. All their army could do was flee for the hills.
“As a result, Chedorlaomer and his allies captured all of the spoils of battle from the retreating forces of Sodom and Gomorrah—their provisions, weapons, and other supplies. Then they left. But before they left they took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother who lived in Sodom, prisoner along with all of his goods.”
Genesis 14:11-12 (The Voice)
Whatever purposes the kings may have had in this war, God had something special in mind for Lot: he became a prisoner of war. Lot had looked at Sodom and moved toward Sodom (Gen. 13:10-13), and now he was living in Sodom.
Lot was a righteous man but you might not guess it from his conduct. (2 Peter 2:6-8).
Where did he fail?
While in Egypt with Abraham, Lot had gotten a taste of the world and enjoyed it. Scripture doesn’t record that Lot ever built an altar and sought the Lord, as did his uncle Abraham. Abraham was the friend of God (James 2:23), but Lot was the friend of the world. In time, Lot conformed to the world (Rom. 12:2); and when Sodom lost the war, Lot was condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32). If you identify with the world, then expect to suffer what the world suffers.
Lot’s capture was God’s way of disciplining him and reminding him that he had no business living in Sodom. No doubt Abraham was praying faithfully for his nephew that he might separate himself from the world and start living like a true “stranger and pilgrim.” God disciplines His children because He loves them and wants the best for them (Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:1-11). If we don’t listen to His rebukes, then He has to get our attention some other way; and that way is usually very painful.
Lot thought he was choosing wisely when he chose the plains of Jordan, but what looked good turned out not to be good. We should never make our decisions on sight alone. If we will acknowledge God in all our ways, He will direct our paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.”