The text for this lesson is Genesis 14:1–16
- God commands that we respect life. He works to preserve me physically and, through His Word and Sacraments, to preserve my life—and the lives of others—spiritually.
- Law: In the Fifth Commandment, God calls me not only to do no harm to my neighbor but also to make every effort to intentionally promote my neighbor’s life and health, just as Abraham did for Lot when enemy kings captured him. Because I am sinful, I too often fail to do this.
- Gospel: Through His ministry on earth—feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and raising the dead—Jesus demonstrated His desire to restore the abundant life that sin destroyed, culminating on the cross and in the empty tomb, when He rescued me from sin, death, and the devil to bring me back to God and give me life with Him forever.
- Adam and Eve’s tragic disobedience notwithstanding, God remained faithful to humanity, providing children to the first couple and even protecting the murderous Cain. Although God delivered just chastisement to the people of the earth in the flood, He sheltered Noah and his family in the ark, foreshadowing deliverance from sin through Holy Baptism. Once the deluge had receded, Noah and his family expanded, filling the ancient Near East with people. Some of these folks sinfully endeavored to build a tower to heaven, intending ultimately to create their own entrance into heaven rather than rely on God and His promises. God confused their languages. Unable to work together, the people scattered throughout the land. From these dispersed people groups, God called Abram and directed him to the land of Canaan.
It seems that the kings and armies listed in today’s reading from Genesis believed that confirming and expanding their kingdoms was more important than preserving life. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled in defeat, some into bitumen pits and others into the hills, the victors claimed the spoils of war. In this case, the spoils included Lot and his property. These warring factions destroyed the lives and property not only of their enemies but also of the innocent noncombatants caught in the middle.
Unjust war is only one example in the Bible of humanity’s willingness to destroy life. The same is true in our world today. We break the Fifth Commandment each time we encourage someone who is overweight to overeat or when we invite an alcoholic to drink. The gamut of violations against the Fifth Commandment runs from these individual examples up to domestic violence, murder, abortion, war, and genocide. Keeping in mind that we not only sin in what we do but also in what we fail to do, we recognize our sin in failing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.
As a caring, God-fearing uncle, Abram employed his own men and resources to rescue Lot. From the text, we gather that completing the rescue required violence—violence that certainly must have put Abram and his men in danger, costing some of them their lives. Furthermore, Abram retrieved not only Lot himself but also his property and people. In other words, by God’s grace, Abram’s scope of concern was broad enough to include others besides his kin.
Jesus’ ministry on earth was concerned with restoring the damage caused by our sins against the Fifth Commandment. Jesus met the physical needs of the hungry as He fed the five thousand. Jesus brought lepers back into community by healing the skin diseases that rendered them unclean. Even more dramatically, Jesus raised the dead: the widow’s son at Nain, Jairus’s daughter, and Lazarus. This ministry pointed to His most profound act of restoration—His suffering and death on the cross, and rising again, to defeat death itself in order to give us life with Him forever. .