Give me the souls

by Joel Ramshaw (2021)

Genesis 11:31 And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.

Abram the early prophet, was on the journey of faith, walking obediently in the steps God had planned out into an unknown land. Unfortunately, his nephew Lot decided to tag along for the journey. Lot had an entirely different motive than Abram. Whereas Abram was looking to leave the culture of idol-worship of the Babylonians and establish a religion of worshiping God alone, Lot simply wanted adventure and riches; new fertile foreign soil for his cattle and crops. Many believe that Abram was the one who began the journey out of Babylon. This is actually not true at all. It was Abram’s father Terah who first received the call of God to begin the journey to the new land. So why does Abram get all of the credit even though Terah began the journey? The answer is that Terah was not willing to leave his idols of Babylon behind and give God 100% of his focus and worship. Terah wanted a foot in each world, a bit of God, a bit of Bel, some Marduck here and there….. We know the God of the Bible is a jealous God, he will not share His glory with another. Some folks try to compromise our faith in order to seem more tolerant and accommodating. They’ve got the idea that Jesus, Buddha, Zeus, and Allah are all around one big heavenly campfire singing Kumbaya together. Or the belief that you can worship any god you please and that that will somehow be accepted. Well, that was Terah’s mistake. He wanted to compromise with the world. He worshipped God as his primary deity, but also kept his idols of Babylon, perhaps thinking they would provide him with “extra” power and blessings. This is why Terah was not allowed to complete his journey to the promised land and actually live in the blessing. He died partways on his journey, just like he was only willing to go partways with God.

Sometimes we can be like Terah. We serve God, but also choose to have a lot of “clutter” in our lives, thinking it will provide us with extra fulfillment. It comes down to a question of faith. Do we really believe God alone is enough to provide everything we need? Many think “God is boring” and run to find fulfillment by closely following sporting events, knowing all the players names and team scores for each game that has gone by. Did you ever stop to think of how boring it is to watch people kick a rubber thing back and forth all day? We talk about how the Seraphim must be bored who are continuously worshipping God, but meanwhile the angels are talking about how boring our human lives must be, watching people on TV kick a rubber ball back and forth for hours. “Who would want to spend their time watching that all day when we get to behold the King of glory in His beauty!” The angels do not worship God because they are forced to, they worship Him as the ultimate privilege. Beholding God’s glory in His true form is more amazing than we can possibly even imagine. Looking back, we will be wondering how we ever enjoyed spending so much time in “boring” earthly entertainments.

Genesis 14:8-12 And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Lot had gotten himself into plenty of trouble. In the previous chapter he separated from Abram, choosing the fertile soil of Sodom while Abram remained in the wilderness area. Unfortunately, Lot overlooked the moral decay of the city, being so focused on the material wealth. This decision would come back to bite him over and over.

In the first instance, we see the Sodomites were completely unprepared for battle. They were used to living in luxury and high on the hog so to speak; there was no time to train for warfare when there were so many more entertaining ways to pass the time. Ezekiel writes “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). The result of this lifestyle of laziness and pleasure was that an easy victory became a defeat. The Sodomite alliance had five kings versus the other side which only had four. A prosperous nation with superior numbers should have been easily able to get the victory. This just goes to show the effect idleness has. It turns an easy win into a humiliating loss. Lot was not wise at all in his choice of which nation to settle down in.

Having been captured, Lot did not face a very bright future ahead of him. The plans would have been to use him as a slave for severe grunt work such as hauling bricks to build city walls and large construction projects. The slave would be made to do any task which was too dangerous or brutal for regular servants to perform. In one day he had gone from hero to zero, with all his cattle, possessions, and wealth captured. Fortunately for him, he had a great and loyal friend in Abram; perhaps too loyal. Abram would not leave Lot to be a miserable slave, but was already forming a plan to rescue his nephew from the enemy. To save Lot, Abram was put in the uncomfortable position of having to be on the same side as the sinful Sodomites.

Genesis 14:14-16 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

We should take note of the number 300, the number of Abrams army. This is a prophetic number of deliverance by a few against a large enemy. When the judge Gideon attacked the Amalekites, he defeated their forces with only 300 men. We also cannot forget the story of the brave Greek defenders, who held off the entire Persian army with only 300 men, which the namesake movie is based off of.

Abraham knew he was not fighting alone, but along with his band of servants, the armies of heaven were fighting. He did what the five kings could not do and defeated the enemy forces, recovering all the captured persons, possessions, and livestock. Now that the enemy was vanquished, the next step was the matter of how to divide the spoils? The king of Sodom had a proposal right off the bat:

Genesis 14:21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the souls, and take the goods for yourself.”

The king of Sodom knew Abram was a preacher of righteousness which went against the lifestyle of his city and region. If he could trick Abram into coming into a spiritual covenant with the king, his preaching would be disarmed. For instance, if you receive a large gift from someone, you are unlikely to speak bad about that person. If a certain church member is wealthy and a large tither, the pastor may be reluctant to preach against those sins the person is involved in. This is the power of a soul-tie. Your soul gets tied up when you receive a gift from someone who has ulterior motives. Always pray and discern a persons motives before receiving any kind of gift from them. If Abram received the wealth from the king of Sodom, he would be unable to preach against the king’s wickedness!

Now in this passage, some translations say “persons,” but the literal Hebrew word in this passage is “souls.” Sodom’s king proposed a transaction in which he would give Abram an abundance of money and material goods.

What was the cost? The souls of the men assigned to Abraham would be forfeited!

This illustrates the devil’s mode of operation. He will happily allow you to prosper materially, as long as you will either do his work and help him lead souls to hell or will abandon the assignment and ministry for the souls you are meant to save. Is it any wonder why rock stars, lawyers, and politicians have no lack of material wealth? Many of these have made a covenant with Satan, whether they are conscious of it or not. In exchange for a lifestyle of deception, they are given abundance of material goods. How many times have we heard of a scandal where a Christian minister has been distracted by overabundance of material wealth and brought the gospel into disrepute!

What happened to Christ during His temptation on the mountain? The devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world, if he would bow down before Satan. Like the king of Sodom, Satan offered Christ the material goods, in exchange for the souls He was meant to save. This was an offer for Christ to skip the “suffering servant” stage and go straight to ruling as King, even before the second coming. Of course if Christ had accepted the earthly kingship he would not have fulfilled God’s plan for Him to die on the cross for our sins. Our souls would have been forfeit!

We see that the devil used this trick on Mark the evangelist, to get him to abandon ministry:

Acts 15:37-38 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

Why would the apostle Mark abandon Paul and his ministry, seeing this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with the greatest apostle in spreading the gospel message across the world? Well, reading about the apostle Paul’s lifestyle, we can easily see how it would have been tempting to call er quits too early. The book of 2nd Corinthians is full of examples of the many pains which were involved in the apostolic lifestyle.

2 Cor 11:23-28 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily.

It is no surprise then, that Paul said “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor 1:8).

Clearly, Mark had succumbed to Satan’s offer, due to all of the trials in the evangelistic ministry. Mark was not rejecting Christ or anything, he just wanted a more “settled” lifestyle. Christ had not called this evangelist to a life of ease however and eventually Mark would realize this and return to the ministry. Even if we get tricked by the devil into delaying and abandoning our individual ministry and mission for souls, it is not too late to repent and return when you feel convicted. After feeling convicted, Mark returned to ministry right away with Barnabas and eventually would be reconciled with Paul. Many others besides Mark abandoned Paul, to the point in which he stated “only Luke is with me.”

2 Timothy 4:10-11 “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.”

Rome was the most prosperous nation the world had ever seen up to that point or would ever see for another thousand years. The contrast between the pleasant life of Roman worldly indulgence versus the intense cruel suffering of an apostle was too much for many to take. They gave up the souls assigned to them in exchange for the devil’s goods. We should look at Paul as an example of perseverance through all pain and obstacles. How did Paul do it? The fear of the Lord overwhelmed the fear of trials! His famous line describes it best: “necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Paul knew he would have to stand before the judgement seat of Christ and give an account for the souls which were assigned to him. He understood this would not be a good experience if he had abandoned the ministry. Without Paul, the entire gentile world outside of Israel might have remained in darkness! Paul had a heavy assignment and understood that there was no turning back. His eyes were laser-focused on the path ahead. That is the only way we can truly succeed at ministry. There is no way to endure if we have only one foot in the kingdom and the other in the world. It is important to preach, even if no one seems to be listening.

Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Also we also need to be wary of accepting gifts from people with false motives, who intend to use the gift as a way of gaining leverage in the relationship. When someone you don’t fully trust offers you a gift, it is better to thank them and decline it rather than receive the gift. At least pray over it before accepting it. When you accept a gift from a person, it can interfere with God’s judgement against them since you are tied to their situation. Make sure you don’t accept things from people who are under God’s judgement. Abraham understood this principle, which is why he refused the offering from the king of Sodom. We need to be wary also in this regard.

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