When Abraham was a Military Leader
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.