We have begun our study of Abraham.
- He was a descendant of Shem.
- He was from Ur, a city in ancient Babylon (modern Iraq).
- His father, Terah, was called by God to leave Ur and go to the land of Canaan (Israel).
- His father made it to Haran and died there and God called Abram to continue the journey.
- Abram lived in the land, went to Egypt for a while during a famine.
- He was expelled from Egypt because of a deception concerning his wife but grew rich there.
- He and his nephew Lot separated, with Lot settling in the Jordan valley near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abram going to the mountainous regions.
We have also learned about God's promises or covenants with Abram:
- He would begin a great nation.
- He would become a great man.
- His descendants would be a blessing to others.
- God would protect him.
- His descendants would usher in a worldwide blessing.
- God would multiply his descendants.
- He would ultimately own the land where he lived.
All of these promises gather into one promise as time goes on and ultimately all of them find their true fulfillment in a spiritual nature through Jesus Christ, the promised one.
We will now look at another great test of Abram's faith and meet an unusual figure in Old Testament history.
1.The war – 14:1-12
It seems that for a time Abram lived in relative peace and prosperity but then a war broke out in this region. Apparently there was a group of five city-states each with their own king scattered in the Jordan valley (Sodom and Gomorrah).
These five were in subjection to a powerful northern king called Chedorlaomer who ruled with the help of other local northern chieftains. This arrangement of paying tribute to the northern kingdom worked for 12 years but, as the Bible says, in the 13th year the five kings in the valley revolted and refused to pay or submit. This provoked an attack by the northern king and his allies. Verses 1 to 11 describe all the cities and towns the northern kings destroyed on their way south (to avoid an attack from the rear).
Finally they arrived in the valley and totally defeated the five valley kings. During the looting and pillaging they took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his property and made off with them.
Lot was now living in Sodom but somehow remained a righteous man (II Peter 2:8) and so God would not allow him to be taken prisoner.
2. The rescue
13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.
– Genesis 14:13-16
Abram finds out about the war and the capture of his nephew and prepares his men for battle. He is referred to as Abram the "Hebrew". Hebrew meant several things:
- One beyond the Euphrates, as a way to distinguish him from the Canaanites.
- A descendant of Eber, who had many descendants among Arab tribes.
- A moving tribe. A way to refer to any group of nomads at the time.
Ultimately it came to refer exclusively to the descendants of Abram.
He was a "chieftain" himself capable of mobilizing a good number for battle but was certainly outnumbered by the northern kings. His strategy was surprise, his strength was from the Lord and, like Gideon and David, he won a great victory that day.
There is no mention of this battle in ancient records but pagan kings never described their defeats, only their victories.
3. Melchizedek – 14:17-20
After the victory we have the appearance of one of the most unusual persons in the Bible: Melchizedek.
17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).
Here we see that Abram's victory was not merely over one band of men who were guarding Lot but over the entire army and the king himself. A great victory made possible by God's promise to protect Abram.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
The term Melchizedek means "king of righteousness". His title was "king of Salem" which means "king of peace". Most scholars are convinced that this early city called Salem became Jerusalem.
Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God which means that somehow (we do not know how) he worshipped the same God that Abram worshipped and was recognized as a priest to God even by Abram at this time.
He provided bread and wine either as a form of worship sacrifice or nourishment (if nourishment then he was wealthy).
He blessed him and said,
19 "Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
Melchizedek blessed Abram. This means that he and Abram both accepted his higher position because the greater blesses the lesser in this society. He also uses a proper reference to God showing that he understands God's true nature and does not accept the pagan gods around which he lives. He also shows that he is aware of Abram's promises from God and shares his hope.
20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand."
He gave him a tenth of all.
He offers praise and thanksgiving to God recognizing that God is the one who has obtained the great victory through Abram. Then Abram gives a tithe (a portion) of all the spoils. This is a mark of respect, submission and agreement.
The appearance of this person and what he does brings up several points:
What we have in the Bible is not the sum of all of God's work with man. We have enough to know about God, build faith, be saved and become godly, but we do not have all the information about everything. Melchizedek was a priest, worshipped the true God and was recognized as such by Abram but the Bible does not say how he got there.
Melchizedek is a "type"
God uses the billboard method in order to teach us. He will announce or "billboard" what is coming ahead in a variety of ways:
- He will promise or warn. For example:
- Forbidden fruit (life, death) – Genesis 2
- Seed of woman – Genesis 3
- The Flood (120 years) – Genesis 6
- Rainbow covenant – Genesis 9
- He will send a prophet to teach, warn, encourage or announce. For example:
- Jeremiah – 70 year captivity
- John the Baptist – coming of Christ
- He will provide a "type"
A type is a person or thing or event that resembles or personifies something that will come in the future. It helps the people become familiar with a person or idea before it actually comes on the scene. For example:
- The Ark = the church
- Animal sacrifice = Jesus' sacrifice
- Enslavement, liberation, wilderness, land of promise experience = the Christian's journey from lostness to salvation through faithfulness to final glorification in heaven.
- The Promised Land = heaven
- Elijah the prophet = John the Baptist.
Melchizedek is a type, a very special type:
- He is the type for the eternal priesthood of Christ.
- Aaron, Moses' brother, was a priest appointed by God and served as a type and model for all the priests who offered animal sacrifice under the Law of Moses.
- But Aaron was not a good model to serve as a type to billboard the coming of Jesus and His work as a high priest, offering not animals as sacrifice but Himself. Aaron was sinful and weak, and he would die. He had to continually offer sacrifice each day.
- The Old Testament needed a better type to prefigure the role of Jesus as high priest: perfect, eternal, superior. God was not going to prefigure or to serve as a type for Himself so Melchizedek serves as this type.
Hebrews 7:1-10 explains how this is so. He is only a man but the way the Old Testament describes him allows him to carry the cloak of the eternal high priest who would come later:
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.
- Hebrews 7:1-2
The titles the Bible gives him (king of righteousness and peace) will ultimately be fulfilled by Christ.
3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.
The fact that the Word does not mention his genealogy does not mean that he does not have one, it simply means that his appearance in the Bible is presented in such a way to suggest eternity.
Again when the Christ comes, this appearance of immortality suggested by Melchizedek they type, will become a reality for the true high priest.
4 Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham.
The fact that Abram, the father of the Jews paid tithes to Melchizedek shows that he was greater than Abram. In the same way the high priest who is after the "type" of Melchizedek is greater than the high priests who are descendants of Abraham.
So Melchizedek prefigures, billboards, educates us in advance about the special high priestly position that Christ would fulfill, that no other priestly type in the Old Testament could do.
4. The king of Sodom
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself." 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, 'I have made Abram rich.' 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share."
The rest of the chapter sees the king of Sodom, who also has been saved by Abram, try to reward him. Abram has learned his lesson about becoming rich at the hand of pagan kings and refuses, giving the spoils to his men.
In this way he gives God the complete glory for the victory and the blessings he has received (which was to save his nephew and now establish peace in his land and the neighboring pagan kings).
1. Flee from evil
Paul says, "Bad company corrupts good morals." (I Corinthians 15:33) and "…abstain from every form of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22). When we hang around trouble, trouble will hang around us. If we associate with troublemakers, they will eventually make trouble for us. Lot would have avoided the trouble he was in if he would have stayed away from these evil cities but he did not and got caught up in their turmoil. We need to aggressively avoid people and places and activity where evil reigns and trouble is part of the norm.
2. Destroy not delight
We need to avoid evil but not shirk our responsibility to combat evil and help those who are trapped by evil. There is a big difference between watching, associating with, participating in evil and standing up to, judging or removing evil. The difference between destroying evil and delighting in evil is whose side you are on. Christians flee from evil as a pleasure but are not afraid to confront it in order to displace it with good and with right.
3. God is a patient teacher
Abram had many lessons to learn in order to become the man that God wanted him to be as the father of the Jewish nation and the "type" for all Christians who would be saved by faith. Even though he failed in Egypt and now succeeded in this battle and would later fail again several times in his life, God was a patient teacher in bringing him to full maturity. God has an image of each one of us as well. We are the "types" for faith, perseverance, courage, purity for our children, our brethren, our neighbors in Christ. God is patient to teach us all of our lessons until we, like Abraham, reach our full potential and perfection in Christ Jesus.