Monday, June 5, 2017

Genesis 14: 1- 24 War and Grace

Genesis 14 begins with the first recorded war in the Bible. It happens in that same Middle East, twenty centuries before Christ, and it still remains a volatile region twenty centuries after Christ. 
Since the beginning of human history it appears that no place on the earth has been subjected to as many wars as this piece of land upon the face of the earth.  
Mankind in general will easily resort to conflict, and war is always the ultimate conflict.  
Human nature simply has not changed since the fall.  Job comments: “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  [Job 5:7]. 
Trouble and conflict in this fallen world is inevitable.
Last time we noted that there was a conflict between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen, but they resolved their conflict by separating   from one another.  That is one way of doing it, and the history of the world has many such examples. Europe’s many wars have led to many of its peoples separating and migrating to other parts of the world.  And so Lot and Abram separate over conflict. Lot, who was given the first choice of the land by Abram, chose the well -watered Jordan valley [13:10]. Little did he know that this region would not only soon become  a battleground, but also the breeding ground for widespread sexual immorality of all kinds. This would result in a terrible judgement of God, particularly upon Sodom and Gomorrah, major cities of that valley. 
Abram, by contrast appears to have lived in peace.

We begin with the first recorded war…
Chedarlaomer, the ancient equivalent of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, along with the help of four neighbouring kings invades the area in which Lot now lives. The names of the four kings are :
  • Amraphel king of Shinar (Babylonia - see 10:10, 11:2 part of modern Iraq)
  • Arioch king of Ellasa, (modern Turkey or northern Syria 
  • Chedarlaomer, king of Elam (part of modern Iran). He leads the alliance. 
  • Tidal, king of Goiim-  the Hittites (modern Turkey )

These  four invading kings fought against  the five kings of the Jordan valley :
  •  Bera king of Sodom  (whose name means in evil or characterised by evil)
  •  Birsha king of Gomorrah (whose name means in wickedness or characterised by wickedness)
  •  Shinar king of Admar (whose name means  Sin, the moon god is father)
  •  Shemeber king of Zeboiim (whose name means, “The name is powerful”
  •  Bela (that is Zoar).

We are told that these five kings in the Jordan valley had been subjected to the rule of Chedorlaomer of Elam[1]  for twelve years. In the thirteenth year they rebelled against his rule and therefore Chedorlaomer came to punish them, along with his alliance   in the 14th year [14:4]. 

The mother of all battles[2] was eventually fought in the valley of Siddim – the region of the Salt sea or Dead sea [14:8]. The kings of the Jordan valley, where Lot lived, lost the battle and began to flee and we read that some of them even fell into the tar or bitumen pits, a  reminder of  the fact that this is an oil rich area.   

Chedorlaomer and his alliance looted  the cities of  Sodom and Gomorrah,  and in that process they also  took Lot and  his  possessions.   Again, remember that Lot had chosen this place because it appeared  attractive to his eyes, and yet  now, in a short space of time, he lost everything  and it  now seemed that he would become a slave  of these invading nations. This is where the story becomes interesting!

Abram, living with his allies at the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, is blissfully unaware of all these happenings in his peaceful surroundings, when he   receives word of these things. He could have shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, that was Lot’s choice. I could have told him so…”, and he could have left Lot in his misery.  Instead, he mobilised his 318 trained men [14:14] and also some his Amorite allies [14:24] and he went to rescue his nephew against heavy odds. Abram sets off with his army and he defeated them, recovering   all the loot and people,   and also Lot and his people and possessions [14:16].

We are beginning to get to know the pattern of  Abram's thinking and actions. He is a man with clay feet, subject to error and temptation and failure just like the rest of us, but there is an   observable and an uncommon display of grace in his life and in this instance he was like the Lord Jesus  toward Lot. Jesus had mercy on us  while we were yet sinners.[Rom. 5:8]  And like the Lord Jesus he  will defeat his enemies,  delivering us from their power  and freeing us by the  power of his grace, restoring all that we had lost. 

ABRAM  AND MELCHIZEDEK, KING OF SALEM [14:17-24]

But the story does not end here. In fact it comes to an unexpected climax.  The defeated king of Sodom whose name, Bera means  'characterized by evil' comes  to  meet Abram in the valley of Shaveh (the King’s Valley), but before we can figure out  what  will happen here,  another mysterious king, Melchizedek (lit. king of righteousness)  the king of Salem (i.e. Jerusalem - Shalom – peace; Hebr. 7:2- see also Psalm  76:2)  comes  on to the scene. 

Canaan, at  this time  was a confederation  of  kings/  rulers  of  so called  city states.  The king of the city state of Sodom and the king of the city state of Salem come to meet Abram after his victory. Word certainly gets around concerning Abram’s victory! But there is a profound contrast between the two kings. 
The one is a representative of God and the other is a self- centered politician. 
Melchizedek, king of Salem,  gets the first chance to have a word with Abram. And it is deeply significant. He presents him bread and wine [14:18].  Even more significant are the words with which he greets Abram:  “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand” [14:19,20]. 
Before   the evil king of Sodom can have a word with Abram,   there is the Word of God from the mouth of the king who at this time is  God’s representative, a priest of the Most High. This shows us that God at this time already had His people everywhere.  The significance of this meeting lies in the perspective given to Abram. Who is it that gave Abram the victory? It was God most High (El Elyon), Possessor (Owner/Creator) of heaven and earth,  “who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”  The temptation to have himself applauded by earthly kings is  thereby immediately taken away. Instead, he hears :  “Abram, to God be the glory, great things He has done!”

But who is this  Melchizedek, the king of Salem   who is also priest of God Most High?  He is mentioned in   Psalm 110, and then  in Hebrews 6:20 where  he is connected to the Lord Jesus… who   is “ a priest forever, after  the order of Melchizedek”
In Hebrews Chapter 7 follows an exposition of this fact and that  is all we find written of him  in the Bible. 
Melchizedek is a total mystery of a man. There is no record of  his  genealogy.“He is without father or mother, or genealogy, having  neither beginning of days nor end of life” [Hebr. 7:3].   We are not told how he became   a priest of the one true God. It is simply stated as a fact, and Abram recognizes him as such. 
The Jewish priesthood does not trace their line from him, but from Aaron and from the Levitical priesthood.  But he is, of course a priest of the Most High God long before the Jewish nation existed. Please note that the Lord Jesus, our eternal High priest ALSO did not come from the priestly tribe of Levi. He was from the line of Judah, and God   Almighty overruled and appointed Him as our special high priest.  
Furthermore, also note that Melchizedek had no successors to his priestly office. His priesthood was unique. In the same way the ministry of Jesus had no, and needed no successors. His work was unique and perfect. It was done. It was finished. 
And then notice also how Abram approached Melchizedek. He presented him with a tithe of everything he had captured from the enemy. By this Abram was saying that everything he owed belonged to God Most High, the Creator of heaven and earth, whom Melchizedek represented. This is all deeply instructive and significant.   Melchizedek is the king of righteousness and he is the king of Salem (peace). He  foreshadows  what will happen later under king David  of Jerusalem, a thousand years later when  the temple  in Jerusalem  shall become  the place that  God   would  call His dwelling place on earth. 
Approximately another thousand years later it shall be the place  where  the Lord Jesus in His triumphal entry  is  recognized as the Son of David. In Jerusalem  He, as our High priest and the offering lamb  at the same time, offers  Himself up  on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  He is the   true Priest ,Prophet  and  King of  all true Jews and gentiles.
Melchizedek, long before  all this, was already the indication and promise  of the reign and rule of the coming Messiah. 

BACK TO  THE  KING OF SODOM.

The difference between the king of righteousness and the king of evil could not be greater. 
The King of Salem came with a special fellowship meal, and he came with a blessing. 
The king of Sodom came with nothing. He came, not to primarily thank Abram but to tell Abram, "Give me the persons, but take  the goods for yourself” [14:21].  He made his demands as if he was the king in charge. But in reality he was the defeated king, and Abram had the moral right to decide what was going to happen to the spoils of war. To the victor belong the spoils. Abram owes him nothing at all.

Note  Abram’s reply, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor  of heaven and earth, that I would not  take a thread or  a  sandal strap or anything that is yours ,lest  you  should say ‘I have made Abram rich’.  I will  take  nothing but what  the young men have eaten and the share of the  men who went with me – let  Aner, Eshcol and Mamre take their share .”  [14:22-24].  Abram will  not  be indebted to an evil king. 
His reward is with God.  

REFLECTIONS

The  history of our world is  the history of war and grace, of curses and blessings,of  naked  self - centered materialism, the trust  in things and political systems,   and of faith  in God, of allegiance to God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth.

Where do you belong? 
Where are you rooted?  
With whom are you spiritually and actually associated? 
Who is speaking into your life, Bera or Melchizedek? 
Who will make you rich? The world  or the Lord Jesus?

The world is  divided into  two  kinds of people, and these lines are not drawn along the racial, ethnic, linguistic divide.   Biblically speaking they are drawn along the lines of those that trust God and love God, and those that trust in themselves and their political systems   and  material goods. 
They are  either people of war or of  grace.  That division has existed since the beginning of time, since the days of  wicked Cain and  righteous Abel. 
Today if you hear his voice , says the writer to the Hebrews,  in his gospel appeal,  do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion [Hebr. 3:7-8,15; 4:7]. Now is the day of our salvation. 

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5
Amen




[1] Not far from Ur where Abram had come from
[2] A term used  by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.  On January 6, 1991, in a speech marking the 70th anniversary of the modern Iraqi Army, he boasted that Kuwait was eternally part of Iraq and predicted a long struggle in the Persian Gulf against the “tyranny represented by the United States.” Saddam told the people of Iraq: “The battle in which you are locked today is the mother of all battles…Our rendezvous with victory is very near, God willing.” http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2010/01/saddam-hussein-and-mother-of-all.html

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