The times of Abraham should not surprise us as being relevant to both our understanding and our experience. There are other times and generations that contribute to the definitions we use to best explain the pillars of the in-Christ journey. Abraham’s greatest moments come in interactions with his neighbours. That’s right: nobility shines through in personal relationships. The bandit kings of Canaan are a particularly riveting component of the patriarch’s seat in life. In living colour, our era too has its megacities and, you guessed it, bandit kings in the persons of the mayors of large cities. We have reason to believe that the kings of the earth – mayor, governor, president, prime mnister – are destined to conspire against the Nazarene, the King of Israel, until he puts down their farcical dominions.
Compared to the heads of state in antiquity the kings of Canaan, and even those kings of post-exilic Judah, were spineless boys who never grew up. Clearly we can see that the promised land into which Yahweh guided Abram was not an environment that was ready for civic society in Yahweh’s terms. Four hundred years would pass before Hebrews came from Egypt to enter Canaan, and even then Canaan’s kings were naturally resistant to having their land taken over by newcomers. We can see the nature of the Canaan in the following narrative.
- Four kings allied against five (Genesis 14:1-12)
- MINI-EMPIRE. (1) in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim,
- WAR (2) that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). (3). All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).
- REBELLION. (4) Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. (5). In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him,
- CONQUESTS. … came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, (6) and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness.
- CONQUESTS. (7). Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar.
- THE CANAANITE CAMPAIGN. (8) And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, (9) against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and 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 the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country.
- THE PRIZE – BOOTY. (11). Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed.
- (12) They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.
BIG MISTAKE MESSING WITH ABRAM’S KIN
In our multicultural and cosmopolitan world we like to think of ourselves as well on the way to achieving a healthy environment in our cities especially for the next generation. Every generation that wants to be remembered as wise will make noise about and get into good trouble to contribute to the next generation’s survival. Abram was not about to get mixed up in the alliances and conflicts of his day, but taking Lot (as hostage?) was one step too far on the part of the bandit kings.
The narrative reveals that Abram pursued the robbers and hostage-takers, defeated them and liberated his nephew and property. Abram was dead set against the way of life of his neighbours, so when the kings of Sodom sought to get a share what he thought he had in common with Abram he got the shock of his life. The king of Sodom offers a deal: Abram keeps the goods, and he gets the people.
Abe’s response is the one we need for navigating the routes on which our 21st century bandit-kings operate.
And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.”Gen. 14:21
Not a thread from you, sir
Is it possible that some of the money in the bank you use are the proceeds of criminal activity and you would still bank there after you recognized the fact? Is it not possible that the bishop you thought was leading you turns out to be merely exploiting you? What keeps a person chained to behave as if secure lives depend on bandit pastors and elected officials of the state? Keeping oneself apart from the filthiness that is in the world is challenging. It should matter that the church’s economy is a separate beast from the secular economy but banditry is happening in the church as it does in the state with many religious hopelessly ensnared.
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, (Gen. 14:22) that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ (Gen. 14:23) I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.” (Gen. 14:24)
Christians who want to eat at the same table with the worldly powers have no idea how much waste they are going to have to swallow. The mayors and their cities can only serve their master; the gods of wood, stone, and the nation’s laws. Genuine Christians will not be interested in a shoelace from the powers that be, even if we are responsible for the election of the mayor.
The local king of Yeshua’s days did not get so much as a glance from him even though Yeshua was his subject.
And when [Pilate] learned that [Yeshua] belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. 7) Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. 8) And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing (9).Luke 23:7-9
So to my brothers and sisters who think that they are on the front lines of the conflict between the kingdoms of light and darkness I say, “Go ahead wth your shallow theories about the cross and the Spirit”; I will avoid the contamination of every ism and make it clear where I stand when God’s business is mentioned. Warnings go unheeded every day, and there is no guarantee that a messenger will be dispatched to repeat the message. If we are interested in the end of the intoxication with the rich and powerful we must banish the way of greed from our domains, and put the rewards of Christian labour on its own pedestal, distinct from the work and proceeds of ordinary labour.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (Ps. 2:10) Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Ps. 2:11) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Ps. 2:12)Ps. 2:12