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A.D. 2024—and 2024 B.C.

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.  (Hebrews 7:1-2, alluding to Genesis 14)

Dare to Be an Abraham (Part 2) [1]

Against all human odds, Abraham rescues his errant nephew, Lot, along with other captives from Sodom, from a massive invading army.  What does God teach us here?  To begin with, Abraham’s mix-up in international turmoil and warfare shows us that the human condition hasn’t changed much in the last 4,000 years! And yet then—and now—“the struggle of kings, the far-ranging armies and the spoil of a city are the small-change of the story;  the crux is the faith or failure of one man.” [2] Abraham points us to Jesus Christ.

He also points us to us.  Abraham’s faith matters because those in Christ live in the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all (Rom. 4:16). If we want to know what faith looks like, let’s learn from him: 

1. He grounded his faith in God’s covenant promise, in you all the families of the earth will be blessed (Gen. 12:3). Because he believed the promise, 2. He took initiative to plan and to act.  Abraham reasoned, “Since God Most High promised to use me and my descendants to bless all the world, surely he will be with me to save Lot. Gather my forces!”  Compassion and loyalty moved him, not self-preservation or self-righteousness.

           All this fast-moving action—the clash of battle, great deeds of deliverance, an unlikely hero—would make for a great movie.  But the author’s interest lies elsewhere.  He slows down the story line to highlight the major event, which is not a war out of the dust of ancient history.  The truly significant matter for Abraham—and for us—is this:  3.  By faith, he chose the right king and the right priest.

To grasp this, place yourself right inside these events [3] as one of Abraham’s large extended household.  You’re standing in the valley with thousands of others, waiting for Abraham’s victorious return from battle. Suddenly…there he is on the ridgeline!  Down he walks, alongside his few hundred troops, and behind them the people from Sodom that Abraham had rescued.  And then…hundreds of donkeys and camels laden with treasures, the spoils of war, incredible wealth from a vast region of the known world.  They keep coming and coming, dazzling your eyes.  All these riches are Abraham’s;  he’s become the wealthiest person in the world. The crowd roars with deafening shouts of praise to Abraham, the great conqueror and liberator.

While guards hold the crowds back, two kings come out to meet him.  The king of Sodom, dressed in splendor, pushes to the front with his royal entourage, requiring Abraham to approach him as any other common person.  The king abruptly raises his hand to speak. The crowd grows silent. “By my royal decree, Abraham, you may keep all these riches, and just return my people to the city.”  A stir goes through the crowd—and a few chuckles.  Everyone knows this is just the king’s opening statement, and he’d never actually accept an arrangement that left him with no plunder!  It’s just reverse bargaining, the way you’ve seen it in the marketplace all your life.  You expect Abraham to come in with his own offer, three-quarters for him and one-quarter for the king of Sodom, and then the king will respond, “A brave warrior like you deserves far more than three-quarters!  But I will be happy to take half and you take half.”  Abraham doesn’t play the game. He says nothing.  Then the King of Sodom tries to close the deal with a hard sell.  “And, Abraham,” he loudly proclaims, “You and your men will marry our daughters, and our sons will marry yours, and our peoples forever will be bonded together!”  

Now this offer makes sense, you think.  “Look. We all know those vanquished kings are still out there, and they’re mad as hornets, and if they return, Abraham will be their prime target for revenge!  Before the invasion, he wasn’t even on their radar, safe up in the hills.  But now—he’s alone and needs protection.  Surely, Abraham will accept the king of Sodom’s realistic and businesslike offer.  It’s an obvious choice.  Of course he’ll agree.”  But to your astonishment, Abraham calls out, “No, O King.  My allies may have their share, and I claim a tenth of it for another purpose.  As for the rest, keep these baubles and trinkets for yourself.  I will not take even a shoelace from you to replace the one that broke on my 100-mile trek. I will not enter into a covenant with you.  Long before I set out on this rescue mission I made a solemn oath of loyalty to Yahweh, God Most High, who created and rules all things.  Every blessing I have will come from my God alone.  I will trust his promise to me and my family and my descendants after me.  I will rely on God alone.”  He bows respectfully and walks away in the direction of the other king—Melchizedek, whose title means “King of Righteousness,” priest of God Most High. 

Back to A.D. 2024.  Do you grasp that Abraham’s knife-edge choice is, at its heart, the same one that we face day by day?  You must choose between believing God’s Word of promise and waiting patiently for its fulfillment, maybe even beyond your own lifetime—or forget about it all, and just cash in everything now for something tangible and immediate.  The flesh demands “sight” not “faith” (1 Cor. 5:7).

The king of Sodom lives on!  What guises does he take to tempt us?  The same ones thrown at Abraham!  King Lust:  lust for possessions, for power, for relationships, for sex, for comfort, for status, for fame, for security. Don’t bow down to King Lust! 

           King Reputation:  Do you think the people of Sodom cheered Abraham after he gave up his rights to the spoil.  Sure, because it meant they’d get it.  But in their hearts, they’d think, “This man is crazy.  He’s a fool.”  Abraham couldn’t care less what the people of Sodom thought of him.  And you don’t need to worry about others’ good opinion either when you’re serving the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t bow down to King Reputation!

           King Fear:  You can imagine the voice of fear for Abraham:  “Nice going, General Abe.  You’ve made some powerful enemies. You’re just a two-bit nomad who whipped them once.  Ha. I’ll bet they’re planning their return visit right now.”   But whatever nightmares disturbed his sleep, Abraham would not be swayed by fear because of his loyalty to God.  Worshipers are courageous people because they worship and serve the God of the Universe and his Son, no matter what.  Don’t bow down to King Fear!

           King Compromise:  “Come on Abraham. You deserve the spoils…Well, okay, don't take it all.  But how about a 50/50 split with the king of Sodom?  That wouldn’t be too bad.”  What about you?  “I don’t want my friends or family or neighbors to think I’m weird. I’ll act like a Christian in other ways, but in this one area, I'm going along with everyone else, even though I know it’s wrong.”  Rather than that, you say, “What if they do think I’m weird?  What does it matter in eternity?”  Don’t bow down to King Compromise.

Dear friend, instead of serving the world’s false gods, bow down to King Jesus.  He’s human in all our human nature, but fully divine as the Son of God.  He lived for you, he died for your sins, he rose again for you.  He lives forever as the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace.  As our Great High Priest he intercedes for you before the Father.  He gives you everything you need to fight the spiritual warfare that you face daily in opposition to the corrupted world value system, the powers of darkness, and your own sinful nature.  This year, may he equip you to live for him in all things, to be a blessing to other people, and a messenger of God’s astounding grace.

[1] Part 1 (See earlier blog post) is an important backdrop.  The title, "A.D. 2024—and 2024 B.C" is not a bad guess for the date of these events, the first recorded war in history. For consistency, we’re using his new name, "Abraham" (Gen. 17:5).

[2] Derek Kidner, Genesis:  An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: IVP), p.121. 

[3] I’m taking some liberty to expand the story imaginatively, but not unrealistically.


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