MELCHIZEDEK BLESSES ABRAM
Key verse 14:19, 20
“and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand.’”
Last week we learned in chapter 13 how Abram overcame material temptations. Today in chapter 14 we will see how God helped Abram to overcome power temptations. This chapter will show us a side of Abram very rarely observed. It will show he was a man of compassion coupled with great courage and wisdom. Because of these noble qualities he found himself in a vulnerable position to be tempted in areas people of success are tempted. We will see God’s word through bible study is how God helped Abram to make the right decision.
Part I. The Battle of the Kings (1-16)
Chapter 14 begins by showing the land God promised to give to Abram was strongly contested by many kings. These days the same land is being fought over by the Israelites and Palestinians, the Lebanese and the Syrians and the Sunnis against Shiites. In Abram’s day King Kedorlaomer, king of Elam which is present day Iran was leader of the most powerful alliance of kings. For 12 years his alliance of four kings demanded tribute from five weaker kings. In the 13th year the 5 kings attempted to break free from King Kedorlaomer. One year later the rebellion of the five kings led to a major battle between the 4 kings and the five kings. It was as confusing back then as it is now. The end result was that the five kings were soundly smashed. The bible mentions this because Lot who just left Abram in chapter 13 became a prisoner of war. Let us look at the circumstances under which Lot was living when he was captured. Look at verses 11, 12. “The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.” Now compare chapter 14:12 with chapter 13:12: “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” Lot first only wanted to live near this city filled with men sinning greatly against the Lord. As we may know being near sinning is never enough. In a very short time we soon want to be right in it. Therefore Lot went from chapter 13 to living near Sodom. Immediately Lot began to suffer consequences for living in such a wicked city for all the wrong reasons. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:33 “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” First Lot’s good character he acquired by living with Abram was corrupted when he moved into Sodom. Living in Sodom made Lot into a constantly compromising closet Christian. When we study the life of Lot we find he never preached to the Sodomites until it was too late. No, one knew he was a believer in the Holy God of creation.
Secondly the Bible teaches in Galatians 6 a man reaps what he sows. Lot moved into a city that was sinning greatly against the Lord. One does not have to be a prophet to know this city and all living in it had a high probability of being top on God’s list to be punished. Sure enough this is what happened. God sent Kedorlaomer. The city was soundly conquered. Lot and his possessions became part of the conquerors' conquest. The direction Lot chose caused him to reap being captured and all his possessions taken away. Lot left Abram to find more freedom and to increase his wealth. Because he left for the wrong reason he lost his freedom and all his wealth.
What happened to Lot should be a warning to us. We must be careful we do not find ourselves slowly drifting away from bible loving people and into the company of God-hating people. Actually we cannot be too hard on Lot because he did not have a lot before him to learn what he should not do. On the other hand we can learn from Lot’s mistake. Let us examine ourselves and see if we are drifting away from God and into this world. If so let us repent and come back into the loving fold of Jesus our good Shepherd.
Verse 13 now begins to turn us back to Abram. “One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew.” Before seeing how Abram reacted to this report, let us think how we would react at the news that one of our brothers left the ministry, pursued a life in this world and then found himself in big trouble. As for me, I would have reacted in the typical self-righteous Pharisee fashion. “I warned him. Now he has to reap what he sowed.” I heard the testimony of this one lady who ran off and married a man her parents did not approve. They quickly had three children. This woman’s dream of a happy marriage turned into hell on earth because her husband had a very bad gambling addiction. When she went back to her parents for help they responded. “Sorry honey, we won’t help you. You made your bed now you have to sleep in it.”
Now let us see how Abram reacted to the news his nephew lot was now a captive of King Kedorlaomer. Did he react with Pharisee self-righteousness or with the coldness of that woman's parents? Look at verse 14: “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out 318 trained men born in his household and went into pursuit as far as Dan.” We see Abram called up his own private army. He organized it into one of history’s greatest hostage rescue operations. Criticism, faultfinding and finger pointing didn’t even come to Abram’s mind. Saving Lot at all cost and by any means was the only matter that Abram was concern with. Abram often figuratively represents Jesus. Lot figuratively represents sinners like us Jesus was sent to save. Like Lot we deserve all the bad things that happen to us. From this chapter we see when we call on Jesus for help either because of our sins or mistakes; he doesn’t sit up in heaven with a critical finger pointing back to us: “You are getting what your sins deserve.” Jesus said in John 12:46: “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” Jesus came into world to rescue us from our dark situation Just as Abram went to rescue Lot. When we place our faith in Jesus, the life changing power of Jesus drives the darkness from our life.
Verses 15 and 16 give us a detailed report on Abram’s rescue operation. First we see God gave Abram wisdom to make his attack at night. We can imagine the soldiers of the four King’s thought they had destroyed all their enemies. They were now enjoying the spoils of their victories, drinking and partying. When I was in the army, drunken soldiers would try to bother me because they knew I was a Christian. I could easily have knocked them out because they were so drunk. But because I was a Christian I would just push them away. From them I learned drunken people not only do dumb things they also are very vulnerable. First Abram made use of the critical element of surprise. Next God gave him the wisdom to use the most devastating strategy of all by dividing his men into two attack forces at night. This is called the hammer, anvil strategy. Done correctly and with God’s help this strategy completely slaughters the enemy. The King James Version gives a word picture of this slaughter. “And the king of Sodom went out to Abram after his return from the slaughter of Kedorlaomer and of the kings that were with him at the valley of Shaveh.” Abram didn’t just scare off Kedorlaomer and his allied kings. He slaughtered them. Abram was courage’s front line soldier. He ranks right up front with other great front line such as Alexander the Great and Lord Wellington who defeated Napoleon. For this brief moment pride could slip into his mind. He could now claim himself to be king and no one was strong enough to oppose him. With this victory, coupled with courage and wisdom Abram faced a great temptation of becoming just like the kings he conquered. Here we see with a great victory comes a great temptation. Let us now see how God helped Abram overcome this time of temptation.
Part II. Abram Studies the Bible with Melchizedek (13:1 -24)
Look at verses 17 and 18a. “After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh(that is the kings Valley).” Two kings came out to meet Abram after he returned from defeating the kings. First, king of Sodom is mentioned who came out to meet him. Abram achieved the victory of victories. Ironically the first king that came to greet him was Satan’s own emissary, the King of Sodom. When the first Adam tried to fight Satan in the form of a serpent he lost. Lot could not resist Sodom. God was beginning his new world salvation plan through Abram. Satan thought he could bushwhack God’s Salvation plan by making Abram fall by using the destroyer of many great men, pride. Proverbs 16:18 teaches: “Pride goes before destruction.” However just as the King of Sodom was about to deliver his temptation blow, verse 18 shows it was deflected by another King, one who is like Jesus Christ himself. Look at verse 18: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,” If you want to read more parallels between Jesus Christ and Melchizedek look at Hebrews 7:1-10. In these verses they call Melchizedek like the Son of God. Melchizedek mean’s king of righteousness. He is King of Salem which means he is the king of peace. Jesus is the king of righteousness and king of peace. At this moment in time in Abram’s life he stood as the most powerful man in the region because he just defeated the four most powerful kings. Nevertheless Melchizdedek showed he was even greater than Abram, because he did not go out to be blessed by Abram but to bless Abram with God’s blessing. What then is this great blessing Melchizedek had to give to Abram that would truly empower him to carry on God’s blessing to bless the whole world? Let us read verses 19-20: “and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” First we see the blessing Melchizedek had to give Abram was not a tangible blessing. Nor was it worthless words of flattery. Melchizedek’s blessing came in the form of giving the WORD of GOD to Abram. This word of God would plant even a stronger faith in God Most High Creator of Heaven and earth. Here we learn as long as we are personally receiving God’s word we are truly being blessed. The word of God is the powerful living seed that all other blessings grow from. Again look at verse 19: “and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” Melchizedek informs Abram, God Most High, who created the heavens and earth would bless him. At first glance this seems like an obvious blessing. If I went up to you and said: You are blessed by God Most High Creator of heaven and earth.” You would tell me, “I already know that.” The question is do we truly know this deep in our heart? Are we content with this blessing alone? Before I was married I had a marriage problem. I thought I would only be blessed if I was married. As a result God did not allow me to marry until I fully realized completely I was blessed by faith in Jesus Christ. Some people think they are not blessed until they see tangible types of blessing such as graduation or getting hired for a job. We must learn we are truly blessed the moment we have faith in Jesus Christ. At this point we are sons of God, co-heirs with Jesus of everything that belongs to God. We must remember looking at Jesus Christ by faith is always the first starting point in being blessed and receiving God’s blessing.
Now we would think if Abram could accept verse 19 he would need no other blessing. This is true. When we accept Jesus Christ by faith as our savior we need nothing else. At the same time we know God wants us to know Him and Jesus personally and very deeply. Moreover we need God’s direction and wisdom to help us make the right decisions in life. For this reason he gives us many words of God. Abram himself was again standing in a fork road of his life. Should he turn right and go on a new road living as a king. Or should he continue straight in his life of faith in God Most High and his promises. Or take a left and attempt to combine the two together. In the word of God in verse 19 he would find the answer to his question which direction he should take. It reads “And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” According to military analysis and news accounts, they would conclude it must have been Abram’s courage, audaciousness, and his small but highly elite soldiers through which he won the victory against the kings. Using this information maybe Abram should change his life and be king. On the other hand according to God’s word just given it was actually God Most high who delivered his enemies into his hands. In other words the battle is the Lord’s. It was the Lord who empowered and blessed Abram to defeat the kings and rescue Lot. God’s word revealed to Abram the humbling revelation God deserves all praise and glory for the victory. God’s word also informs Abram it was only by the grace of God he won this great victory. It was not because of his courage, wisdom or the fighting skills of the men under him. This is a point Apostle Paul always reminded himself of. In 1COR. 15:10 He writes he worked harder than all the other apostles. Then immediately this fact with the statement: “Yet not I but the grace of God.” Abram would make a major mistake if he chose to be king based on his own ability. This word of God Melchizedek gave to Abram is both very humbling and very reassuring. Without God’s help Abram could never have defeated his enemies. At the same time with God’s help he could successfully achieve whatever God wanted him to do. From this I learn I must look to God by faith and not myself to find the grace to carry out his work. Often I find I have what psychologist may call a self esteem problem. It comes from my early academic life of always being smoked by others in everything such as math, English, computer science. I remember I went to both the engineering department and the Computer Science Department of Maryland. I wanted to check with them to see if they thought it would be a good idea if I would take up the major. They looked at my transcripts and very politely said, “Definitely not.” The positive thing about my self esteem problem is I am always forced never to trust or depend on myself to do the work of God. There is nothing within me to draw from to do the work of God. In writing a message, delivering a message, leading a bible study or campus fishing, whatever I do in God’s work, my only confidence in doing it comes by praying to God and having faith in his promises to give me wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Literally without this grace of God I am nothing. At the same time with the grace of God and with God’s promises I know I can find all the help of God needed to carry out whatever He calls me to do. “Blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” This is Abram’s compass showing him what direction to take. It can be our compass too. It shows us both the right and wrong direction to take. Looking to ourselves is always the wrong direction. Looking to God most High is the right direction.
How did Abram react to Melchizedek’s words? Look at verse 20b: “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” This was Abram’s way to acknowledge he accepted Melchizedek’s words. By giving a tenth to him he was giving thanks to God for delivering his enemies into his hands. Christians apply this practically by at least giving to God a tenth of their earnings. It is God who gives us the power to earn our wealth. My father has been in the hospital for more than a month. He has not been able to move, drink, eat or even breathe on his own. I realized even the most little act of drinking a sip of water is something I must thank God I can do. I must thank God I can breathe on my own. How much more is it God who helps me to get out of bed in the morning and complete a day of work? God alone is to be blessed for all we do, for all we accomplish. We should remember to thank God very practically just as Abram did who gave a tenth of everything.
Thus ended Abram’s brief bible study with Melchizedek. No sooner did it end, we find Abram is faced with an opportunity to apply the word of God he just studied. Look at verse 21: The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” This seems reasonable. What harm could this do? After all it was Abram who used his wealth and servants to conquer the kings. Let us see how Abram responded to King of Sodom’s proposition. Look at verses 22-24. Abram applied the very same words he learned from Melchizedek in his brief bible study with him. “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” God’s word empowered him to overcome this wicked king’s temptation. God’s word gave him eyes to see if he took even a thread or the thong of a sandal from this king, then this most wicked of kings and not God Most High could take some of the credit for Abram’s wealth. Some people will comprise their whole career for a few dollars. God’s word empowered Abram not to compromise even if it meant losing wealth totaling in what we would compare to 100,000 to millions of dollars.
God’s word opened his eyes to other evil intentions coming from this king. He could see later this king might come back and ask a favor of Abram that could place Abram in a compromising situation. In the movie “Godfather” the godfather would give gifts of money to politicians so later they would feel obligated to support his illegal activities. Abram’s bible study with Melchizedek gave him a heart to deny himself and live in a way that would bring the most glory to God. This is the goal and point behind our own bible study. After we study the bible we should not be surprised we find we can immediately apply it in our own lives. This is how God prepares us and empower us to handle our own life situations in a way that would glorify Him. When I first came to UBF, missionary Jacob would always encourage us to write messages on Jesus words: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.” My flesh hated these words. I struggled again and again with these words, but I soon found the wisdom and life giving power in these words of Jesus. Every day my sins and laziness are calling out to me to comprise. As a sinner it is very easy for me to ruin my life or the life of others. Then Jesus’ words come to my mind: “David, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.” With those words I am able to continue to travel on the narrow road of life. Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13, 14. "Wide is the road that leads to destruction and narrow the road that leads to life. “The road to life without Jesus and his word is all but impossible for us to travel on. But thank God for giving us Jesus and his Word just as He gave to Abram Melchizedek and his word. Today and tomorrow let us fix our eyes on Jesus by faith and his word. When we do we will take hold of the hand of God who will walk with us down the narrow road to life.