More notes from Heather today and our passage is Genesis 14:1-16.
In today’s passage, we see Abram at his best so far. He probably disagreed with Lot’s choice to live in Sodom; but he valued family links – ‘let’s not have any quarrelling….for we are brothers’ (13:8). So immediately on hearing that Lot had been captured, he set about planning to rescue him.
This is a not uncommon incident for Old Testament times, or for that matter, in our own times! – tribal leaders rebelling and fighting against each other and ordinary people being caught up in the middle of it all and being displaced from their homes. Here it was women and children as well as Lot who were seized and taken off, probably to be used as slaves, along with all the moveable possessions and food the conquerors could manage to carry.
I think Abram’s attitude here is instructive for us. On hearing the news, he could have shrugged his shoulders and said ‘serves him right for being selfish!’, or ‘well, he made his choice to live there…now he has to put up with the consequences!’, or ‘he’s been disloyal to me, so I’m not going to put myself out for him!’
But here we see how important family ties were to him and his concern for Lot caused him to put aside any grievances he may have felt in order to make plans for Lot’s rescue. Often today we hear of families who don’t get on, for whatever reason, and where family links have broken down. The family unit is a very important part of the society which God created us to live in, so we should try to help those who find their families difficult and encourage them to work at breaking down the barriers which have arisen.
We also see here how Abram had used common sense to guide him in his everyday life. He believed God’s promise to bless him, but he didn’t just sit back and expect God to deliver everything on a plate. Recognising his difficult position as a wandering nomad, with no ownership of any part of the land he was living in, and therefore vulnerable to attack himself, he had allied himself with some local chieftains and had also trained up a body of men in his own household for defence purposes and for such a situation as this, so that, while still remaining separate from the local tradition, custom and religion, he yet had access to help when necessary. To use a common paraphrase, he was ‘in the world but not of it’.
This is a balancing act that we all find difficult, to be able to live in a secular society and yet not be drawn into ‘worldly’ pursuits and attitudes so that we lose our focus on living to please God.
God saw fit to give him success (14:20) and Lot was rescued safe and sound.
As for Abram so for us, the promise is not for the here and now but for the future – eternity in the glorious presence of God. This makes us also ‘aliens and strangers on earth’ (Hebrews 11:13), not really belonging here. Let’s tell ourselves to be pragmatic in living our lives, using our common sense but also to be careful not to adopt the values and habits of the world around us. As J B Phillips puts it, ‘ don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould’ (Romans 12:2)
Lord, please ‘test our thoughts and our attitudes in the radiance of your purity’, (K Getty & S Townend) so that we look ahead to what is promised us for eternity, rather than allow ourselves to be sucked into and moulded by the passing world around us.