Adventures in Faith - Abraham 4. Spiritual Warfare 101
Genesis 14 / Hebrews 7 When a nation forgets God, anything is possible. There is a war raging in South Africa. It is not a war between the ANC and the DA or between black and white. It is rather a war between those who believe in the concept of truth and those who don't.
A World at War We live in a world at war. Ever since Lucifer attempted to overthrow God a war has been raging in the universe. It is a war between Light and Darkness - Good and Evil - God and Satan - Angels and Demons. Ladies and gentlemen, we are on the battlefield! We are on the front lines. What was said of ancient Pergamum could also be said of us: "I know where you live-where Satan has his throne." How else can you explain the moral laxness, the widespread capitulation to homosexuality, the ridicule of biblical Christianity, the worship of tolerance, diversity and multicultural pluralism? Indeed, it is one of the ironies of our day that although South Africa was founded as a Christian country - meant to be like a "city set on a hill" - it has become a centre of spiritual darkness. Welcome to the battle, fellow soldiers. It's time to put on the whole armour of God and stand against every attack of the enemy. Our weapons are not carnal but spiritual, meant for the pulling down of strongholds. Our enemy is cruel and cunning, with many weapons at his disposal and many soldiers ready to do his bidding. The battle rages all around us. If we do not see it or hear it, it is only because the battle is being fought in the realm of the spirit. That, by the way, is why this is not primarily a political issue. President Zuma is not our enemy. Nor is ANC our enemy. We are to love them, honour them and pray for them even while we disagree with the things they say and do. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood and we do not seek a political victory. With that as introduction we turn to our text-Genesis 14. Immediately it grabs our attention because this chapter records the first battle in the Bible. This story contains the basic principles of spiritual warfare. It tells us how to fight and how to win. It reveals Satan's diabolical strategy. It teaches crucial truths.
1. Abraham Rescues Lot v. 1 - 17 In the days of Abraham 5 pagan kings lived near the southern end of the Dead Sea. 2 of the kings ruled over the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those 5 pagan kings were conquered by 4 pagan kings from the east. For 12 years these kings paid tribute to the 5 kings. In the 13th year they rebelled, refused to pay, which caused the 4 kings to declare war against them. All the kings involved were pagan. That's important because when the pagans fight each other, there is normally no reason for God's people to get involved. Abraham (who is living in Canaan) at first has no reason to care one way or the other. But things changed when he learned that his nephew Lot had been taken captive when Sodom (where he was living) was overrun by the kings from the east. Now Abraham faces a moral crisis. What should he do about Lot? There were at least 2 reasons for Abraham not to get involved: It wasn't his fight - Lot had brought this on himself. Lot had foolishly chosen the "well-watered plains" while leaving the scrub land to his uncle. But just as one wrong decision soon leads to another, at first he is merely living near Sodom, soon he is living in Sodom. No doubt Lot justified living in the midst of moral compromise by saying, "I'm strong enough. This won't affect me. We'll be a light in the midst of the darkness." Unfortunately, moral compromise never leads to anything good. In this case, it led to Lot's capture by the 4 pagan kings. v. 13 - 16 tells how Abraham responded when he heard the news. He led 318 trained fighters from his own household. Leading a daring nighttime raid his tiny band routed the 4 pagan armies and chased them north of Damascus. In the process he recovered enormous booty and rescued Lot and his family. 4 important principles of spiritual warfare:
A. The Danger of Compromise If Lot hadn't been in Sodom in the first place, Abraham would never have had to rescue him. When will we learn that nothing good comes from compromising our moral values? Every time we try to set aside our Christian values in order to get along with the world, we are the ones who end up suffering for it.
B. The Loyalty of Love Abraham risks his own life to save his wayward nephew. Sometimes love will cause us to do things that seem odd to outsiders. We may have to spend our resources in ways we didn't expect. Tough love? Sure, but what about risky love? Love doesn't just sit there and go "Well, he's finally getting what he deserves." No, love cares enough to get involved even at the risk of being hurt.
C. The Importance of Preparation When the moment came, Abraham could instantly call 318 trained men. Who had trained them? He had. They were ready to go into battle on a moment's notice. The same holds true in our spiritual warfare. Since we never know where Satan will attack next, we must be ready to respond at a moment's notice. That means being prayed up, studied up, with our armour on and with the Sword of the Spirit in our hands. It means being sober at all times, watching for the "fiery darts" of the enemy. Sleeping soldiers will soon be dead soldiers.
D. The Courage to Fight Abraham didn't hesitate to go into battle, even against a much larger force. He had the courage to fight because he knew his cause was just. Ephesians 6: 12 "Put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
2. Abraham Meets Melchizedek v. 17 - 24 One battle is over but another one is about to begin. As Abraham is returning home, 2 kings come out to meet him-the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. These 2 men could hardly be more different. The king of Sodom rules over the most corrupt city in all the world. He represents the ultimate end of mankind as it turns away from God. The king of Salem is a mysterious man named Melchizedek. His name in Hebrew means "king of righteousness." He is called a "priest of God Most High." So here is a gentile king who somehow has come to know the one true God.
The Mysterious Mechizedek Somehow Melchizedek has come to know this God and has become his priest even while serving as the king of Jerusalem. All of this is rather mysterious to us and there are many questions that remain unanswered. But of greatest interest are the words this mysterious Melchizedek says to Abraham - v. 19, 20 Melchizedek blesses him in the name of the Lord and he reminds him of the true source of his amazing victory. "Abraham, how do you think you managed to defeat those 4 armies? God himself gave you the victory. He delivered your enemies into your hand." At this crucial moment the king of Sodom speaks - "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself." He is tempting Abraham to keep the spoils of victory. No doubt this meant a chance to become super rich - the Bill Gates or Warren Buffet of his day. Let's remember that Abraham had the right to keep the spoils. After all, he's the one who risked his own life to rescue Lot - "to the victor go the spoils." No one could criticise him for saying yes to such an offer. He might even rationalise it by arguing that accepting the spoils would allow him to give even more to God. But he didn't. He just said no. He turned down the king of Sodom without even batting an eyelid. No - "Give me some time to pray about it," no doubts, no inner hesitation - He Just Said No - v. 22, 23. Abraham knew all about Sodom, knew what kind of people lived there and what kind of sin took place there. He wanted nothing to do with it. Because he had sworn an oath to God, he had the moral courage to say No to temptation-even when others might have said Yes. Humility, Generosity, Purity
3 characteristics of victorious faith: The first is humility, seen in the fact that Abraham voluntarily offered a tithe to Melchizedek. As Hebrews 7 points out, you only make an offering to someone you regard as greater than yourself. Even though he had just won an impressive victory, Abraham realized that Melchizedek was greater than he was-and so he offered his tenth of all everything he had taken in battle. The second principle is generosity, seen in the fact that while Abraham would take nothing for himself, he offered part of the spoils to the men who were with him - v. 24. The third principle is purity, seen in the fact that Abraham would not compromise his values because he knew that the king of Sodom, in offering the spoils, was essentially like a corrupt official trying to buy influence with dirty money.
Two Battles in One Chapter One between Abraham and the pagan kings and the other between Abraham's godly conscience and the pull of moral compromise.
Is God Enough? This story forces us to confront some very penetrating questions: Is God enough for you? Or do you also need what the world has to offer?
4 Enduring Principles It's almost time to wrap up the message. Before I do, let me draw four principles that stand out from Genesis 14:
A. There will be Continual Conflict in the Christian Life. No one ever arrives. Even the best Christians will struggle earnestly with sin till the day they die. If Paul had to fight with sin, so will you and so will I. B. Great Temptation often comes after a Great Victory. The king of Sodom came to him after his great victory, not before. The same thing will happen to us. Have you have a great victory lately, seen a marvellous answer to prayer, won a major battle, finished a big project, accomplished a personal goal, passed an important test. If so … beware! Temptation often comes in the afterglow of a great victory. C. As we Grow, we will be Continually Tested regarding our Ultimate Choice in Life. Abraham had to decide whether God was enough or if he also needed the treasures of Sodom. Don't be surprised if you are tested this week. D. Only when you Glimpse the Greatness of God will you have the Strength to Withstand Temptation. It was only because Abraham had lifted his hand to "God Most High" that he had the inner strength to resist the king of Sodom. Some of us spend too much worrying about temptation when we ought to spend more time contemplating the Lord. When your God is big enough, temptation will be small enough that you can win the battle.
3. Melchizedek Pictures Jesus Hebrews 7 Melchizedek is only mentioned 3 times in the Bible-Genesis 14, Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7. v. 3 - Melchizedek is "like the Son of God." Just as Melchizedek has no recorded genealogy (we don't know when we was born or when we died) and so remains a priest forever, Jesus also remains a priest forever because we know he died but then rose from the dead-and remains alive in heaven to this very hour. Like Melchizedek, Jesus is both a king (having the authority to help us) and a priest (having a heart that is sympathetic to our needs). v. 25 - Everything hinges on that last phrase-"he always lives." If Jesus is dead, we have no hope and our faith is in vain. But if Jesus is alive, then he is able to save us completely (the word means both completely and forever). Because Jesus is Alive - - our salvation is completely sure and eternally secure. - our needs completely met today, tomorrow and forever. - our ultimate victory is guaranteed. I know these are difficult days for all of us. Satan attacks on many levels. The way he attacks me may not be the way he attacks you. But I do know what he wants to do. He wants to Divide us! Discourage us! Defeat us! In the day of battle you only have two options. You can fight or you can flee. Abraham was willing to fight and that's why he won the victory. Our only hope is to turn our eyes on Jesus. He faced the same battle and because of it, he went to the cross. When you feel yourself weakening, keep your eyes on Jesus. Don't look to sinful men or fallible leaders but focus on the Son of God. He has not brought us this far to cause us to fail. He will give us the strength to keep on going and to bring us safely home in the end.