Friday, October 12, 2018

Genesis 14:17-24


At a university where I previously taught, I asked the late Dr. Rev. Charles Roach of Trinity Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Florissant, MO, to speak to a group of students about a few distinctive marks of the African-American church experience. In doing so, Dr. Roach essentially preached a sermon from Proverbs 3:1-10. 

Amid a number of poignant comments, Dr. Roach sought to drive home one central idea. He stated that in many African-American churches the true worship of Christ does not begin until the people have first offered their tithe (cf. Prov. 3:9-10). Why? Because our giving back to God is a proper response to the manifold blessings He has bestowed on, for, and over us. This is precisely the point that Abram's actions in Genesis 14 reflect. 

Abram learns of a circumstance that demanded his attention. Certain earthly kings had engaged in war (cf. Gen. 14:1-9), and Abram's nephew Lot - along with many other people - had been taken prisoner (cf. Gen. 14:10-12). Consequently, Abram organizes his "trained servants" and goes to battle in order to assist Lot and others who were held captive (cf. Gen. 14:13-15). 

After Abram's success in battle (cf. Gen. 14:16), a curious meeting occurs. We are introduced to the mysterious king Melchizedek from Salem (cf. Gen. 14:18-20). Either Melchizedek is a type of Christ or he is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ:
1. The name Melchizedek means, "My King is Righteous."
2. Some scholars believe Salem is an older, shorter name for the city of Jerusalem, and it is the root word from which we derive the word "peace."
3. Melchizedek occupied the office of Priest and King, two distinct offices in Israel that no one other than Jesus held simultaneously.
4. The Priest-King sets before Abram bread and wine in what may very well prelude the body of Christ broken and the blood of Christ shed at Calvary.

No matter how we perceive the person of Melchizedek, the clear purpose he plays is to direct our attention to the source of our victory and peace. The blessing that Abram enjoyed and the spoils of his victory came as a result of the God Most High, the Creator of all things and the One who delivers us from our enemies (cf. Gen. 14:19-20). It certainly has a redemption ring to it.

We have victory over Satan, sin, and death, and we enjoy the peace of eternal life solely as a result of Christ's work. It is the redemption story.

Apart from the High Kingly-Priest after the order of Melchizedek (cf. Heb. 7), we have no hope. Nowhere is Abram or Abraham ever depicted as a man of military prowess, yet he experiences deliverance because of what God does. Nowhere are we ever depicted as righteous individuals, yet we can receive the righteousness of God because of what Christ has done on our behalf (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).

Thus, as partakers of such an inexplicable blessing, we worship. What was Abram's immediate act of worship? It was to give. Therein is the point Dr. Roach had made. We do not truly worship until we truly give back to the One who is the sole source of our victory and our peace.

Perhaps beginning our worship by giving back to the Lord also helps prepare us to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1). It certainly appears to prepare Abram to resist worldly temptation. 

Immediately following Abram's engagement with Melchizedek, he meets with the king of Sodom. No doubt, Sodom's king reflects the god of this age (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4), which seeks to tempt and to destroy. He promises us riches and spoils at the expense of souls (cf. Gen. 14:21). Only we are less likely to yield to the wiles of the various forms that this Sodomite king assumes if we have already emptied ourselves in selfless giving and praise at the feet of our Redeemer! (cf. Gen. 14:22-23)

The take home lesson for us from Abram's exchanges between the King of Salem and the King of Sodom is this: If we have a heart of gratitude that freely gives to the Lord, then we will be far less likely to be taken by or with the enticements of this world (cf. Matt. 6:21).


I sometimes struggle to give from my financial resources as an act of worship because:



from Best Devotional Commentary - "Abram drew close to God before he drew away from Sodom. And since he was blessed by God, he did not need whatever blessing he might have supposed the world could give. I do not think it an accident that we are told that when Melchizedek came out to meet Abram he brought with him 'bread and wine,' which Abram partook of and perhaps shared with his soldiers. Nothing more is said about this gift in Genesis. But we can hardly miss the fact that these are the communion elements of the New Testament era and that they symbolize the most intimate communion with God. Bread is the symbol of life (John 6:50), and God is the source of life. Wine is the symbol of joy (Ps. 104:15), and God is the source of joy. In an even more dramatic way, these are the gifts of Jesus, who said, 'I am the resurrection and the life' (John 11:25), and 'I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them' (John 17:13). ... 
     Drawing upon the life and joy of God in close communion with Him was Abram's secret weapon. It should be ours as well. As long as we are far from God, the world will present its temptations and we will succumb to them because there will be nothing deep within to warn us away. If we are filled by God, who comes to us at the end of the day of battle and fills us with His bread and wine, we will be filled to overflowing and will want nothing more. It is said that John Knox, the great Scottish reformer, was once asked if he was not afraid to face the Queen of Scotland. He replied, 'How can I fear a mere earthly monarch when I have just spent four hours with God?' The one who lives close to God cannot be intimidated by any earthly king" (Boice).  

from Best Academic Commentary - "He gave him a tenth of everything. Tithing was an old and widespread custom in the ancient orient. Tithes were given to both sanctuaries and kings. Melchizedek qualifies on both counts. Here, however, it is probably in virtue of his priesthood that Abram gives him a tithe. For as Abram has received a priestly blessing from Melchizedek, it is fitting that he should respond in the customary fashion. Here Abram, father of the nation, sets an example for all his descendants to follow ..." (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "In this sequence we have the king of Sodom going out, the king of Salem bringing out, the king of Salem blessing, and the king of Sodom bartering (Sodom-Melchizedek-Melchizedek-Sodom). The central thrust of the story is clearly the action and speech of Melchizedek - it separates the action and the speech of the king of Sodom. Abram was far more prepared to resist the offer from Sodom after receiving the blessing of Melchizedek" (Ross).

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