Pride and Genesis 14

 

007_LegoKingsCastleReview_MinifigsWHAT DO YOU THINK THE MESSAGE OF THIS STORY IS? It reads:

Former heavyweight boxer James Tillis is a cowboy from Oklahoma who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s. He still remembers his first day in the Windy City after his arrival from Tulsa. He said: I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under by arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, I am going to conquer Chicago. When I looked down, the suitcases were gone.[1]

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE MESSAGE OF THIS STORY IS? As I read this Pride came to mind. Pride is an interesting thing. Like we saw in this story, pride can distract us from the realities around us, or skew our focus on what is important. Or in our moments of success, pride can taint our victory, giving us an inflated view ourselves and what WE accomplished. This might have been a temptation for Abram in Genesis 14.

 

Text

This summer, we have been looking at the early accounts of Abram in Genesis. And today we are looking at Genesis 14; so grab a Bible and turn it to Genesis 14. In this study of Abrams life, we have been asking the question: Who are we in relation to God? In Genesis 12, we saw that we are called by God and covered by Him. In Genesis 13, we saw that we are secure in Him. And today we ask the question again: Who are we in relation to God? Consider this question as we read about this victory in Abrams life, in Genesis 14.

[Genesis 14] At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar -four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, I made Abram rich. 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me -to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.

In vs. 1-16 we see a regional war among local kings. This included the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And if you remember this is near where Abrams nephew Lot was living. And it appears that Lot was caught up in this conflict, perhaps fighting on the losing side. After the battles are done, the victors plundered Sodom and Gomorrah, and captured Lot. Lots abduction is reported to Abram. And Abram mobilizes 318 men from his house, and defeats the victorious kings. Abram recaptures Lot and all the goods and all captives. After this civilian defeats these kings at their own game, and takes back all their plunder, and saves the day – this is the moment I wonder if Abram was tempted w/ pride. I wonder if he was feeling pretty good about himself. I wonder how many of his men and the rescued people came up and congratulated him on HIS victory. If it were me, I know I would be feeling this temptation of pride. It feels good to have people recognize your accomplishments. That is not a bad thing, but it is also a moment when pride can sneak in. In our moments of success, pride can taint our victory, giving us an inflated view of ourselves and what WE accomplished. So I cannot help but wonder if Abram felt these temptations

After Abrams victory, the kings of Sodom and Salem meet Abram. Melchizedek (Salem’s king) brings bread and wine, meaning he threw a feast to celebrate and replenish Abrams men.[2] It also says Melchizedek was a priest of the most high. What does that mean? In v. 22, this title is combined w/ the Hebrew name Yahweh. So in context, the writer is identifying Yahweh as the God Most High that Melchizedek served.[3] So in vs. 19-20 is says this priest of God Most High: blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. To pick apart these verses, we start w/ the term Blessed. To bless in this fashion was to recognize Gods goodness as shown in Gods giving of HIS benefits to His people.[4] Who is Melchizedek giving this blessing from? He describes this God as Creator and Deliverer, saying: Praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Abram is given ZERO credit for this victory over the victorious kings. It is the God Most High who delivered up these armies to Abram. If Abram was entertaining any notions of pride and how HE won the day and rescued his nephew, they are quickly put down w/ this blessing. God is the victor; God is the rescuer. And it is clear that Abram agreed w/ this. b/c it says in v. 20 that Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. By giving the priest of God Most High a 10th of the spoil he had recovered, Abram recognizing Gods role in his victory.[5] It was Gods victory not Abrams. This perspective is confirmed as Abram interacts w/ the King of Sodom. Sodom’s king asks for his people back, and offers to give Abram all the goods the king lost. But Abram gives everything back, because it implies dependence on someone or something other than God alone.[6]

What I see as encouraging form this text is the confirmation that the creator God, who is most high, is victorious. And as part of our relationship w/ Him in covenant, we are beneficiaries / recipients of Gods grace.

 

Today

The challenge w/ that encouragement is pride. In our own victories, big or small, we often claim the credit of victory for ourselves. And like we said, this can distract us from the realities around us, or skew our focus on what is important, giving us an inflated view ourselves and what WE accomplished.

My dad is a huge golfer. And so I grew up watching all the golf tournaments on TV. Including one of the major tournaments called The Masters. One of the guys I watch was the old guy Arnold Palmer. He tells of a lesson he learned about overconfidence. He says:

It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and I had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. I felt I was in pretty good shape. As I approached my ball, I saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. He motioned me over, stuck out his hand and said: Congratulations. I took his hand and shook it, but as soon as I did, I knew I had lost my focus. On my next two shots, I hit the ball into a sand trap, then put it over the edge of the green. I missed a putt and lost the Masters. You don’t forget a mistake like that; you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again. I haven’t in the 30 years since.[7]

I believe when we misplace who we are in relation to the world and God, we get ahead of ourselves, and can lose focus on what is important, and miss the promptings and callings of God, resulting in a life of unneeded pressure to carry out a battle we were meant to lead.

The good news is that the creator God, who is most high, is the victorious one, and we can simply rest and follow Gods lead, knowing the success is not dependent upon us. So may we remember who we, and who we are not. And may we give God the credit He is due.

 

Amen.

[1] Today in the Word, September 10, 1992.

[2] Mathews, K. A. (2005). Genesis 11:27–50:26 (Vol. 1B, p. 149). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 14:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Mathews, K. A. (2005). Genesis 11:27–50:26 (Vol. 1B, p. 150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 14:17–24). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 14:17–24). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Carol Mann, The 19th Hold,  Longmeadow.

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

Be the first to start the conversation!

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image