Battling the Dragon
by Paul Haynes
History is full of battles. Historians tell us where the battles took place, who the combatants and their leaders were, what strategy and weapons the armies used, and so forth. When God tells us about a battle, His greater interest is in our understanding the character of the combatants. The first battle mentioned in Scripture features the intervention of a peace-loving shepherd.
Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, had invaded Canaan fourteen years before, and made it tributary to him. Several of the princes now revolted, and the Elamite king, [one of] four allies, again marched into the country to reduce them to submission. Five kings of Canaan joined their forces and met the invaders in the vale of Siddim, but only to be completely overthrown. A large part of the army was cut to pieces, and those who escaped fled for safety to the mountains. The victors plundered the cities of the plain and departed with rich spoil and many captives, among whom were Lot and his family. (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 134)
Miraculously, one of Lot’s men escaped and ran back to tell Abram the Hebrew, who was shepherding his large flocks in the plain near the oak groves belonging to Mamre the Amorite (Gen. 14:13). Abram had moved here to peacefully resolve conflict with his nephew over grazing territory. Lot did not seem to notice Abram’s sacrifice. Yet, Abraham “cherished no unkind memory of Lot’s ingratitude. All his affection for him was awakened, and he determined that he should be rescued. Seeking, first of all, divine counsel, [Abram] prepared for war” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 135). Abram’s first action at hearing the news reveals his character. Falling to his knees, he asked counsel of his heavenly Father, and God’s instruction was that he go after the captives. Confident that God was leading, Abraham prepared for war, mobilizing the trained men who had been born into his household and arming them for battle (Gen. 14:14).
… From his own encampment he summoned three hundred and eighteen trained servants, men trained in the fear of God, in the service of their master, and in the practice of arms. His confederates, Mamre, Eschol, and Aner, joined him with their bands, and together they started in pursuit of the invaders. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 135)
The men who lived in Abraham’s camp had been trained to worship God and were obedient servants. They knew how to hoe and plant and provide for their families, and they also knew how to use the spear and the sword. Abraham’s household army was supplemented by men under the command of Mamre, Eschol, and Aner. Together they pursued Chedorlaomer’s army and his captives until they caught up with them at the valley of Shaveh in Dan (Gen. 14:17).
… The Elamites and their allies had encamped at Dan, on the northern border of Canaan. Flushed with victory, and having no fear of an assault from their vanquished foes, they had given themselves up to reveling. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 135)
The victorious army of the five kings had let down their guard and Abraham took advantage of this.
… The patriarch divided his force so as to approach from different directions, and came upon the encampment by night. His attack, so vigorous and unexpected, resulted in speedy victory. The king of Elam was slain and his panic-stricken forces were utterly routed. Lot and his family, with all the prisoners and their goods, were recovered, and a rich booty fell into the hands of the victors. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 135)
Were it not for this peace-loving shepherd of God, the rescue would not have taken place.
… To Abraham, under God, the triumph was due. The worshiper of Jehovah had not only rendered a great service to the country, but had proved himself a man of valor. It was seen that righteousness is not cowardice, and that Abraham’s religion made him courageous in maintaining the right and defending the oppressed. His heroic act gave him a widespread influence among the surrounding tribes. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 135)
Not only did Abraham provide for and protect his family and camp, but he also accepted the responsibility of maintaining the right and defending the oppressed.
Those who use force and arms to obtain their own desires and oppress the weak and defenseless for their own gain are the enemies of God. They can expect God’s retribution under His servants. In the story in Genesis 14, a quiet and peace-loving shepherd answered God’s call and re-established the right, saving the captives.
This same call belongs to the people of God at the present time. God has given us a picture of His enemy in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, and He is asking us to drop our peaceful activities and prepare for war. He is asking us to re-establish the law of God and save those who have been taken captive by His enemy.
Yet, before we take up the battle, we must do as Abram did and seek the Lord.
“Father, I am not a soldier, and I do not know how to engage the enemy. However, I know this: I belong to You. Train me, Lord. Help me to get ready. Then send me to help fight this battle with You and for You.”