Abram Rescues Lot (Genesis 14:1-24)
After a “trial of abundance” in which the land was not big enough to accommodate both Abram and Lot’s possessions, Abram graciously offered to let Lot choose whatever portion of the land of Canaan he wished to dwell in. Instead, Lot chose to leave the land of promise and dwell near the beautiful (but ungodly) city of Sodom.
Love inconveniences itself for the good of others.
Genesis 14 presents us with the first example in Scripture of nations going to war with each other. For many years, five kings in the region just east of the Dead Sea had served and paid tribute to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. Eventually they rebelled, so Chedorlaomer and three other kings met them in battle at the Valley of Siddim. Chedorlaomer and his allies defeated the five kings and plundered the area they lived in, including Sodom and Gomorrah.
If you’re wondering why Genesis records this battle, the answer is found in verse 12. Lot (who has gone from camping near Sodom to living in it) has been taken captive by Chedorlaomer’s forces. And news of this brings us back to Abram who was living peaceably among Amorites (v. 13).
If ever there was a time for Abram to say, “Lot made his bed, now let him lie in it!”, this was it. Lot’s own foolish choices had brought him to Sodom and gotten him in this mess. But Abram doesn’t respond this way. Instead, he rallies the men in his household and his allies and goes after them. What mattered to Abram wasn’t whether Lot’s suffering was deserved. What mattered was that Lot was his “kinsman” and he was in trouble.
On top of being gracious, Abram’s actions demonstrated a great amount of courage. For starters, he and the men of his household could have been killed. And even if they survived this battle, Abram was making some powerful enemies who would be bent on retaliating against him. Though Lot didn’t deserve to be rescued, and doing so was inconvenient and dangerous, Abram nevertheless sprang into action on behalf of his nephew, trusting God to protect him.
A second, subtler test follows Abram’s victory. On his return from battle, he is approached by the king of Sodom and Melchizedek the king of Salem. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness”, and as the king of “Salem” (which means peace), he is the “king of peace” (see Hebrews 7:2). Melchizedek’s purpose in meeting Abram is to celebrate his victory by providing a banquet for him and to pronounce God’s blessing on him (vv. 18-20). This interaction between Abram and the “priest of God Most High” was spiritual in its emphasis and acknowledged God’s role in the victory.
By contrast, the king of Sodom says, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” (v. 21) As the victor, Abram had the right to distribute the spoils of war as he saw fit. By making demands on Abram (“Give me…”), the king is foregoing any kind of joy, relief, or even a “thank you” and jumping right into a business offer: “Keep the goods, but give me my people back.” He probably realized it would be asking too much to ask for the goods and the people back, and by parting with his goods, he could at least make Abram feel indebted to him.
Abram is faced with a choice here. After his heroic rescue of Lot, what kind of reward will he choose: the blessing of God? Or material rewards from a wicked king? He chooses God’s blessing. Of all the spoils of war that he’d attained, he gave a tenth of it to Melchizedek and returned everything else to the king of Sodom (minus compensation payment to his allies and the provisions already consumed). He trusted God to provide the riches promised back in Genesis 12:1-3 in his own time and way.
- Abram’s rescue of Lot was gracious, inconvenient, and dangerous. Read Romans 5:6-11. How is this also true of Jesus’ work for us?
- We can often tend to withhold help from people because they’re undeserving or because it would be inconvenient to do so. How do the examples of Abram and Jesus challenge that tendency? Is there someone in your life now God is calling you to love in this way?
- For Abram, receiving God’s blessing through Melchizedek was a greater reward than the more “tangible” spoils of war. When are you tempted to choose material blessings over spiritual ones? Why? (Example: cheating to make extra money versus choosing to obey the Lord and having less)
Proverbs 10:22 – “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.”