Cultivating Faith: A Man of Courage (Genesis 14.1-24)
The Courage of a Rescuer (Genesis 14.1-16)
Every Adventure Story Has a Villain (14.1-11)
Every good adventure story has a villain, a victim, and the courage of a victor. There is also a catalyst, circumstance and/or event that sets everything in motion. Look beyond the names that are difficult to pronounce in the opening of Genesis 14, and you will find four kings invading Sodom, Gomorrah, and other cities. The invasion was successful and the defeated kings served Chedorlaomer and the other victors for twelve years before they finally rebelled in the thirteenth year.
Genesis 14.5-11 describes the rebellion. This rebellion led to the second battle described in the chapter. The kings are back in the Valley of Siddim – four against five. The rebels are put down decidedly. It is at this point that we remember that Lot is dwelling in the land of one of the defeated rebel kings. All the goods and provisions of Sodom are taken.
The large epic battle between the kings is a macrocosm of the situation. It’s one thing to talk about general sweeping movements (like in the miserable days of the Judges); quite another to talk about how specific people and families are affected (viz., Ruth and Naomi against the bleakness of the day of Judges). We speak excitedly about the War on Terrorism. However, a day like Patriot Day in America, marking the terrorist attack in New York, is a great and poignant day of grief for individual families of those who died on September 11, 2001 or those families of soldiers who died in combat since that time. We marvel at an earthquake, but the victims have had their lives completely changed. While every adventure story has a villain…
Every Adventure Story Has a Victim (14.12)
“They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed” (Genesis 14.12). This is the same Lot who chose poorly because he was occupied too much with this present world and too little with things above. At first blush, we might just think that he is simply getting what he deserves. But the courage of a rescuer has uncommon valor and is decisive in this particular story.
Every Story Has a Victor (14.13-16)
One of Lot’s family escaped and reported to Abraham what had happened. Abraham responded by arming 318 of his trained servants to enter the fray because it involved his family. This is true patriotism. He armed servants born in his own house. These men were very loyal to Abraham, and he cared for them. Genesis 17 tells us that both son and slave would receive the sign of circumcision in Abraham’s house. There were 318 of them. If you add the individual digits in the number 318 (3+1+8), they equal 12. That means absolutely nothing. There were simply 318 of them! But one thing is absolutely certain: Abraham cared about them but was willing to sacrifice them and himself to get Lot back.
The fact that the text says Abraham and his men pursued the victorious kings and their vanquished victims as far as Dan actually means as far as Laish. Moses simply updated the name under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Abraham attacked by night with a divided force and won the victory. He brought back his nephew Lot, Lot’s goods, and the women and the people of Lot’s family. This is evidence of Abraham’s good character. He was a sacrificial, compassionate, and courageous man. In him we see the courage of a rescuer, but we also witness…
The Communion of the Righteous (14.17-24)
The King of Salem and Godly Righteousness (14.17-20)
Apparently, the kings came out to meet Abraham when he returned from the battle. Two are singled out in our text: Melchizedek, the King of Salem and the King of Sodom. Both form a definitive contrast between godly righteousness and ungodly perversion. The King of Salem, Melchizedek, brought Abraham bread and wine, something for which Abraham and his men would have been grateful after a long, arduous journey.
Melchizedek is not only identified as a king but also a priest. The fact that he received a tithe from Abraham speaks of his superior position to Abraham. This is an abrupt and brief scene is Genesis. The next time he is mentioned is in Psalm 110:4. But it is Hebrews 7 that gives us the most information about this mysterious figure. Who is he?
1.Is he Christ pre-incarnate?
2.Is he an actual historic person who typifies Christ?
3.Is he a Canaanite priest?
Personally, I am comfortable saying that he was an actual historic person who typified Jesus Christ. He couldn’t be a Canaanite priest if he worships God Most High. Hebrews 7.3 says that he was “made like the Son of God” not that he was the son of God. Whoever he was, he was an important type of the Lord Jesus Christ and maybe even a Christophany.
Hebrews 7.2 says he was the king of righteousness and the king of peace, without father, without mother, without genealogy (recorded that is), and having neither a birthday or a date of death recorded in the Scripture. He typifies the righteousness and the peace of Jesus Christ. Jesus holds the scepter of righteousness and has made the King of Righteousness through His blood on the cross. Jesus is actually Prophet, Priest, and King.
The King of Salem came forth to honor Abraham with bread and wine. I can hardly say that without reminding believers of the elements of the Lord’s Supper. We feed upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ our righteousness and our peace.
Why did Melchizedek bless Abraham? He actually blessed both Abraham and the God of Abraham. Abraham was the willing instrument of the omnipotent God Most High who had delivered Abram’s enemies in his hand. All God’s children are blessed when God Himself is blessed. The fact that Melchizedek blessed Abraham indicates that we too ought to bless those who bless God.
Abraham gave a tithe of all to Melchizedek (Genesis 14.20). This is not just remuneration for the bread and wine. It appears to be something more. He acknowledged that Melchizedek was God’s man. As priest, he blessed Abraham and served as some kind of mediator (if just in prayer) on Abraham’s behalf. “Every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Hebrews 5.1).
Therefore, Abraham gave Melchizedek tithes because this priest was somehow God’s representative. Abraham certainly respected Melchizedek because this king of righteousness respected God. Those who serve at the altar, ought to live of the altar. Those who minister to us of their spiritual things, should receive our joyful gratitude and our temporal things. So Abraham risked his life to save Lot and received the treasure gained in his conflict. Yet he gave to Melchizedek the portion due to God, namely a tithe.
It is a blessed practice to give at least 10% of one’s income regularly as a Christian. We give back to God not so that we will get a tax break …not so that God will bless us with prosperity …not so that we will no longer feel guilty …not to pull our own weight as a part of our local church. We give as an act of gratitude and worship (see 2 Corinthians 8-9).
Abraham gave a tithe of all. It all belonged to God. Faithful givers learn that when they give sacrificially to God, the rest of the money He brings our way is sufficient. If we have more, we spend more on stuff we do not need. It’s not really an act of sacrifice for western believers to give 10% to God. It can be an act of worship.
Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110.4). Melchizedek was a priest for a time; Jesus a priest forever. The Levitical priests ministered for a time; Jesus forever. Melchizedek is the shadow; Christ the substance.
Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever (Hebrews 7.23-28).
Jesus is our great High Priest. He is both propitiator and propitiation. He not only deserves a portion of our income, but our bodies and souls as a living sacrifice to God. Paul would later write, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12.1).
But while the King of Salem provides communion for the godly righteousness. The King of Sodom represents ungodly perversion.
The King of Sodom and Ungodly Perversion (14.21-24)
Abraham refused gifts from the King of Sodom. He didn’t want to be obligated to the wicked king. Abraham’s motivation in the warfare was the good of his family and the glory of God. He didn’t go to war in order to be rich or grab at power. This something that the King of Sodom couldn’t possibly understand. The gifts of the ungodly people around us have the potential to pervert our way. They always have deadly strings attached.
If you were not careful in reading the Scripture, you might think that the King of Sodom offered more than the King of Salem. The riches of battle versus bread and wine? That doesn’t sound like a good deal in this present world. But Abraham looked for a continuing city. He was cultivating a life of faith that sees beyond today. That takes courage.
Receive from Sodom and you’re going to be indebted to Sodom. If you’re indebted to Sodom, you are a slave of Sodom. You are unable to make choices for yourself. Be wary of making decisions that give people control of your life. Christians belong in the hands of God. God alone has control over us.
If we are to cultivate a life of faith, we must look at the daily mercy we receive as guidance to God. Focus not on the gifts He bestows upon us, but on the Giver Himself. Remember that God brings the blessing of rain upon the just and the unjust. But only the righteous are emboldened to fight for a victory that is already theirs by faith.
Ungodly perversion awaits those who choose treasure over righteousness and peace. True victory in our lives simply gives us the opportunity to glorify the God who provides it. Choosing to cultivate a life of faith means a life filled with unlikely choices from the world’s perspective. But choices for the glory of God will yield a life of great gratitude and take great courage.