We all understand the concept of buyer’s remorse. The feeling of regret often follows the purchase of an item. The operative words in buyer’s remorse are “if only.” One might think, “If only I had purchased a larger size, if only I had selected a different color, if only I had waited for the sale.”
Second-guessing our decisions with a list of “if only” can be painful. But even more painful is second guessing our decisions with the words “what if.” Have you ever made a decision that you thought to be right and then been overwhelmed by a fear of the future?
A woman from Virginia wrote to us and said she had just happened to turn on our PTV broadcast. She writes that God spoke to her through every word and used the message to convince her to stay with her mate. But that decision may be followed by fear, “What if I am condemned to a lifetime of unhappiness or emotional abuse?
We often sing the hymn “trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” And yet those lyrics can be misleading. Yes, the path to ultimate joy in life is trusting and obeying God. But such faith and obedience do not always produce instant happiness.
As we will discover in Abraham’s life, the right choices are often accompanied by regret and fear, which can only be remedied by faith.
1. Lot Taken Captive (Genesis 14:1-12)
The last time we saw Lot in 13:12, he had moved his tents as far as Sodom. Like most carnal Christians today, he feels torn between their desire to fulfill the desires of the flesh and their willingness to follow God.
Lot was a believer who knew God’s demand to live a holy and pure life, yet he was also fascinated with the immorality he had heard about in Sodom. So he takes his family and gets as close to the city’s edge as possible without actually being a city resident.
Remember, God never calls us to live as close to sin as we can but to run as far from it as we can. Why? Because God understands the alluring power of sin to draw us into its web and destroy us.
And we see that power demonstrated here. In chapter 13, Lot is living on the outskirts of Sodom, but in chapter 14, he has moved into the city. And because Lot was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he gets caught in the crossfire of these two warring factions and is taken captive by Chedorlaomer and his men.
2. Abraham Rescues Lot (Genesis 14:13-16)
What was Abraham’s reaction to the news that Lot had been taken captive? What would have been your response to the news that a relative or friend who had taken advantage of you and flagrantly disobeyed God’s command was now in trouble?
Many of us would have to admit that we would delight in such news. We love to hear every juicy detail of our enemy’s suffering as we shake our heads and say, “Isn’t that too bad!”
Sometimes we respond with indifference to the problems of others. “That’s what happens when you disobey God. He’s getting what he deserves.”
Truthfully, Abraham would have been justified in either response. After all, there is a law of sowing and reaping. Lot had disobeyed God, and he deserved to suffer the consequences.
But real love does not give people what they deserve but need. In verse 15, he shrewdly organized 318 of his men and went after the forces of Chedorlaomer. They fled from Abraham, leaving behind their stolen treasures and hostages, including Lot.
3. Abraham Meets Two Kings (Genesis 14:17-24)
Abraham, already well-known for his great wealth and generosity, now becomes an even greater legend of his victory over the kings of the east. And again, Abraham faces a test of how he will handle not adversity but prosperity. The test comes in his confrontation with two kings.
- Melchizedek: King of Salem (Genesis 14:17-20)
The writer of Hebrews devotes an entire chapter to this priest/king named Melchizedek. The writer of Hebrews, in his attempt to demonstrate the superiority of Christ to Judaism, says that Jesus was a priest, not like Levi, but after the order of Melchizedek, who was both a king from Salem, which was probably ancient Jerusalem and he was a priest—a mediator between God and man. This instance is the first mention of a priest in the Bible.
Jesus Christ is also both a priest and a king. He is our mediator, our go-between, and our bridge to God. Through blood sacrifice, he has bridged the gulf between God and man. But before the death of Christ, there was a need for a priest—and the first priest mentioned was Melchizedek. After offering Abraham bread and wine—signs of communion with God—he gives Abraham a word of revelation, saying God is the one who has granted him success. This reminder from Melchizedek prepared Abraham to resist the temptation presented by the second king he encountered.
- Bera: King of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24)
The king of Sodom says to Abraham, “As a way of showing you thanks for rescuing my people from king Chedorlaomer, I will make you a deal: you keep all of the treasure that you recovered from the king in exchange for returning the hostages to me. That way, you can have the money, and I can gain my people’s respect for returning the hostages. It’s a win-win deal.”
Abraham had agreed with God—in the presence of Melchizedek, and perhaps even before he went to battle that he would not keep any of the riches, he captured from the eastern kings. Why? Because to accept the king’s riches would have diminished the glory of God in the eyes of the world.
Note he first met Melchizedek, then he met the king of Sodom. Spending time in fellowship with God gave Abraham the right perspective and the spiritual strength to resist the offer of the King of Sodom.
It is the same with us. Only when we draw close to God by spending time alone with Him will we have the spiritual strength to draw away from the world. It would be nice and tidy if the story ended there, but it doesn’t. This story continues.
4. Abraham Experiences “Believer’s Remorse” (Genesis 15:1)
After Abraham courageously rescued Lot and refused his reward, Abraham experienced a severe case of believer’s remorse. He begins to second-guess his obedience to God by using those two lethal phrases—both of which contain the word “if.”
The Two “Ifs” Guaranteed to Produce Fear and Regret
- “What If”
- “If Only”
While “what if” focuses on the future and produces fear, the phrase “if only” focuses on the past, resulting in regret. Some of the regrets we experience are the natural result of making wrong decisions. But the regret Abraham experienced here resulted from making the right decision. He surrendered temporal gain for the promise of an eternal reward. But then he wondered, “Should I have given up something I can hold in my hand now for something I can only hope for in the future.”
And so God reassures Abraham by saying, “Abraham, I am your reward.” Abraham believed in God, which was counted as righteousness, and God graciously followed Abraham’s belief with a confirming sign. The only remedy for regret for obeying God is believing that God is your reward.
Full Passage: Genesis 14:1-15:1