Devotional & Reflection
Genesis 14: Fight In Family, Fight For Family
When there is a common enemy, the people of Afghanistan galvanized to fight the battle. However, after the victory, there is factionalism and fighting amongst tribes. To form a peaceful nation, there is a need to rise beyond the factions and frictions.
Last week we learnt of the friction and fighting between Abram's and Lot's herdsmen. Lot separated from Abram and chose to live in Sodom (Gen 13). Can Abram and Lot rise above the separation?
Gen 14 seems like a disjointed intrusion with a description of the wars between four eastern Mesopotamian kings and the five Canaanite kings. The author mentions Amraphel king of Shinar first in the list of kings (14:1). Remember Shinar from the Tower of Babel incident in Babylon (10:10, 11:2). The author uses Gen 14:1 to remind us of Babylon, a worldly power. In subsequent passages, the author mentions Kedorlaomer first (14:5, 9, 17). The author goes on to narrate that the eastern kings captured Lot as they defeated the Canaanite kings.
Here then is the connection between Gen 14 with 13. As Lot went in search of blessings in his own humanistic way, he lost the blessing. The true blessing lie with Abram, who "migrated" only as directed by God (12:1). Those who separate from Abram missed the blessing. Lot was captured and lost all his possessions. In a way, Lot underwent a divine correction. Ironically, God used a worldly system - the eastern Mesopotamian kings - as the rod of correction. This of course was not the last time God used a worldly system to discipline his children. When the Israelites failed to obey God time and time again, He allowed the Assyrians (2 Kings 17) and the Babylonians (2 Kings 25) to capture Israel and Judah respectively. Oftentimes, we sin against God by simply going on our own autonomous, strategic way. What is ironical is that God can use the world's system to correct us.
Abram then learnt that Lot was captured. What can Abram do? And will he rescue his nephew Lot? After all the friction, will he risk his life to help Lot? Abram proves that humankind can rise to heights of nobility. He puts his life on the line to rescue Lot. From fighting within the family, he rose to the occasion to fight for the family. Abram assembled his 318 trained men to embark on a rescue mission. Scholars are uncertain whether this 318 men is literal or symbolic. However, there are occasions when a small group of men can miraculously overcome a larger enemy. See for example Gideon and his 300 men in Judges 7:7. What the five kings could not do, Abram did with his trained army - and the apparent nocturnal attack strategy. Although it was not mentioned explicitly, God was with Abram through the divine promise - "whoever curses you I will curse" (12:3). The four kings seemed to have harassed and cursed Abram when they captured Lot.
This account really challenges us and those who are powerful like Abram to be magnanimous and rise above our frictions. Owing to our fallen nature, the church is sometimes peppered with frictions, factions and fights. The church is intended to be a refuge and a hope for people. But instead of being a fountain of joy and peace, it is an arena that at times festers with political fights. Little wonder than people take flight from such a place when they come to know about it. Those without the power are the helpless lot like Lot. Those in power are challenged to risk their position, power and even lives to help the helpless lot - not go on preserving and garnering more power. In this instance, Abram went out of his way to even help an "undeserving" person like Lot. There are many deserving people in the congregation that needs rescue. But we need to hear like Abram heard (14:14) of the condition of Lot. Sometimes, people in the caring occupation lose their hearing and their original altruism. Doctors, nurses and pastors fall victim to this amnesia and emotional distance. After serving some time in their profession, they lose the sense of altruism, of serving others and of caring. They cannot hear. So they forget family. Then when a common enemy strikes, the people galvanize and remember family.
My prayer is that the people of God care for each other and become a family not only in times of danger.
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