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Daily Devotion for January 30, 2012
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Father, I thank you this morning for all that I have. Even if I have problems with my health, I am alive today. If I have money problems, I will eat today. I have clothes to wear, a roof to protect me, and air to breathe.
Let me never take for granted these gifts of life, oh Lord, but always remember that they come from you; without you, no man could make the sun shine or the tree bear its fruit. I pray to live this day in joy and thankfulness for what I have, remembering always who made me and who keeps me. In the name of Christ I pray,
Prayer for Peace
I thank you, Master and Lover of mankind, King of the ages and giver of all good things, for destroying the dividing wall of enmity and granting peace to those who seek your mercy. I appeal to you to awaken the longing for a peaceful life in all those who are filled with hatred for their neighbors, thinking especially of those at war or preparing for war.
Grant peace to your servants. Implant in them the fear of you and confirm in them love one for another. Extinguish every dispute and banish all temptations to disagreement. For you are our peace and to you we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages.
Lord, support me all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over and my work is done. Then of Thy mercy, grant me a safe lodging, and a holy rest and a peace at last through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
A battle stele, said to be one of the kings at the Battle of the Valley of Siddim
For He will speak peace
To His people and to His saints;
But let them not turn back to folly.
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land.
Genesis 14:1-12 (ESV)
The Story of Abraham 
In the days of . . . Chedorlaomer king of Elam [and three other kings], these kings made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, [and three other kings]. And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated . . . all the country . . . .
Then the king of Sodom . . . went out, and they joined battle in the Valley of Siddim with Chedorlaomer king of Elam . . . four kings against five.
Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country. So the enemy took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, the son of Abram's brother, who was dwelling in Sodom, and his possessions, and went their way.
Notes on the Scripture
We have omitted long strings of the names of the kings and their lands who fought in this battle, called the Battle of the Valley of Siddim. Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam, had put together a coalition of Mesopotamian city-states to invade and conquer their neighbors. One of their conquests was the city-states of the Jordan Valley, which had been paying tribute for 12 years.
Today's Scripture describes a rebellion again them by a coalition of five city-states in the Jordan Valley, led by Bera, the king of Sodom. (You can see all the names, if you want, in Genesis 14. These were all very early city-states, just at the dawn of the rise of great empires; outside the Bible, information on them is spotty and, of the names, only Elam is clearly known to archeology.
To understand just how small the scope of these early city states, tomorrow's scripture will have Abram raising an army of 318 men to fight the four kings in the Elam confederation.
The first civilizations grew up around rivers, and the two at war here are no exception. The "kings" were one step up from great tribal chieftains, the leaders of infant civilizations which had built a small cities with masonry walls. The invaders came from one of the cradles of civilization, the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.
The Jordan River is much smaller and thus capable of feeding fewer people. It does not even empty into the ocean; it is entirely an inland river. Its headwaters are in the hills north of the Sea of Galilee; from Galilee, it flows south, picking up a few small tributaries, and terminates in a great depression: the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, a great hole in the ground partially filled by water from the Jordan.
The Valley of Siddim is another name for the Jordan Valley, and the Salt Sea is now called the Dead Sea.
Bitumen is the same substance found in the La Brea Tar Pits, a naturally occurring asphalt. When it bubbles aboveground, it forms a black, hot, sticky trap for the unwary. It seems rather stupid of the native inhabitants to be caught in these, rather than the invaders, but that's what happened.