Ok, I changed the Father Abraham song. Work with me, here. It now goes like this: “General Abraham, had 138 men…” Ok, a bit clunky. Let’s try this, “General Abraham had just a few men, just a few had General Abraham, and they never lost.” That’s it! Guaranteed classic. They were 1-0. But look, this is a side of Abraham we have not yet seen, right? This account in Genesis 14 is an action-packed, something for everybody, get your popcorn, feel-good story if I have ever heard one! Abraham goes into battle to rescue his nephew Lot and all the other people who were being dragged into servitude by four kings and their armies.
We see a different Abraham here than the one we saw in Egypt. There Abraham told Sarai to lie to the people to save his own skin. Here Abraham is willing to risk his life to save another. He would have been justified when he heard the news in saying, “Well, I am sorry for Lot, but he made his bed in a wicked place and now even that has been taken away from him, and he with it! Too bad, so sad.” But that was not the kind of man Abraham was. He acted like Jesus did when he saw us in our captivity because of sin. He came to rescue us, and that did cost Jesus his life.
Here’s a phrase I really like, from verse 14, condensed for simplicity: “When Abraham heard…he led.” He was not passive; he acted immediately. He heard and he acted. He took initiative. “He led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” Who are these men born in his house? We know Abraham had no children at this point, and the word used here is also translated “servants.” These men had grown up in Abe’s house and been trained by him in following command and working as a unit. They had seen and gleaned from his faith, his discipline, and his courage. They were ready to follow him anywhere he led them, even to death.
They pursued the 4 Kings about 120 miles, and finally caught up to them. When they located the enemy, Abraham divided his troops and they attacked by night. The element of a night attack from all different sides, not standing in rows on the battlefield as war was normally waged, gave Abraham the advantage despite being greatly outnumbered by the 4 armies. But what really gave him the advantage? Abraham was the Lord’s, as God says to him, “Fear not, Abraham, I am your shield.” God won the battle, and Abraham freed the captives.
The long journey back home must have been a time filled with great laughter and rejoicing over what God had done. They could never have had too much praise for God and for the men who had risked their lives to save them. It reminded me of Winston Churchill’s great speech before the House of Commons on August 20, 1940, after the Royal Air Force had successfully defended the nation against the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. Here’s an excerpt.:
“The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All our hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day.”
What do we learn from this event in Abram’s life that applies to our own? 1- We will face trouble and trials in pursuit of God. It was true for Abraham, and it is true for us. 2- We cannot wait until they are grown to train them, fathers and mothers! Abram was glad for the years of training and discipline he had poured into his men when it mattered most. 3- We who follow Christ must use what we have been given to uphold His name and righteousness. 4- Best of all! God is undefeated, and we can absolutely trust him to defend his own cause of righteousness.
What a change in Abram from his fear in Egypt to his faith in Canaan. In Egypt, his fear caused him to walk by sight, not by faith. In Canaan with Lot, he chooses to walk by faith, not by sight. Abram can offer Lot any portion of the land around him because he believes in the promises of God, that God would take care of him. Allen Ross says. “Those who walk by faith can be magnanimous.” Marcus Dods writes, “There is room in God’s plan for every man to follow his most generous impulses.” I remember Stephen Covey in his book years ago, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” making the point that some people have a scarcity mentality and others an abundance mentality. The abundance mindset means you know there is enough to go around, and you are happy with what you have and with what others have, but the scarcity mindset means that someone else’s gain is your loss, which leads to competition and strife. I would argue that Christians should always have an abundance mentality because of who our Father is. Jesus was teaching his disciples not to be anxious in anything, about life, or food or clothing when he said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
After Lot chose to go east toward Sodom, God turned his attention to Abram. I love the contrast we see here. Lot lifted up his eyes and found the most desirable land and claimed it for himself. Lot saw and took what he saw. But the LORD said to Abram, “Lift up your eyes.” Look in every direction as far as your eye can see, Abram. Look to the north and south and east and west because everything you see I will give to you and your offspring. Remember, Abram is an old man and has no children, but God tells him his offspring will be “as the dust of the earth.” Yes, Abram, if you were able to count the dust on the whole earth, every tiny particle of it, that’s how you would be able to count your offspring. Go ahead, Abram, and walk the land, all of it. Walk the length and the breadth of it because I give it all to you. Oh, believers! It reminds me of what Paul said he prayed for the Ephesian church:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Do you see that? Christ does dwell in our hearts by faith. Christ does root and ground us in his love for us, and it is Christ’s desire for us to understand how much he loves us! How high and how deep and how wide and how long he loves us. And that it is in the process of growing in the knowledge of the love of Christ for us, the love that surpasses knowledge, but we must choose to believe with our hearts, it is in that process that we are being filled with the fullness of God. Cindy and I talked on our anniversary trip about muscle memory, after hearing that term used in a sermon recently. Muscle memory happens when you repeat an act enough times that it becomes automatic. Remember learning to drive a car and especially figuring out how to use the brake properly? What caused whiplash and required trips to the chiropractor before is now just automatic. You don’t have to think about applying the brake properly. It just happens. Muscle memory. There are so many applications for muscle memory, but here’s one I think we would all benefit from. Remind yourself daily that God is for you, that his promises are true for you, that his love for you is as unchanging as God is. And with that, remind yourself that you can be gracious and loving and kind to everyone. That you can let others be first and you can be a servant to all, just as Jesus was. Have any of us got that one down? No, but we are all in varying stages of muscle memory. Let’s practice it together. Day by day. By faith. By God’s grace!