Happy Birthday. Did you know that today is the birthday of not only a few church members I just heard of, but of Amerigo Vespucci. Amen! Isn't that great? How many of you know who that is? Did you know that? Did you mark your Calendar? Do you even remember who he was? Amerigo Vespucci was an explorer who was born on March 9, 1451, in Florence Italy. He is the explorer who America is named after! I'm glad they named it after his first name. Can you imagine living in the United States of Vespucci, or singing Vespucci the Beautiful?
The United States of America has been the Promised Land for many, for hundreds of years, now. But living in the Promised Land is not always easy, as we have seen in recent months. This is also what Abram found to be true in the promised land. It was not just a land flowing with milk and honey, it was also a land of war.
Our text today, in our continuing series on Abram, is Genesis 14. This is a chapter of many firsts.
Fourteen years earlier than Genesis 14 is telling about, King Kedorlaomer, of Elam was acting like the predecessor of Napoleon. He was conquering the whole region. He was taking over towns, taking their people, taking their goods and making what's left to pay tribute to him as their new master. If you have a map in your Bible, you may wish to find Elam. This is where King Kedorlaomer was from. He wasn't from the region around eastern Palestine. He had come there from across the Arabian desert. He had probably gone north and then back south to make all these conquered people his. King Kedorlaomer was in control of much of what we now call the Holy Land and every year for those fourteen years he had expected all those kings of that region to pay a tribute to him.
They put up with this for 12 years but in the thirteenth year they rebelled and sent no tribute. I can just imagine the hopeful thinking that maybe the Elamites were not as strong as they used to be or that maybe they would be left alone because of the great distance that separated them. No such luck! In the fourteenth year, King Kedorlaomer paid them a visit. And he brought some of his friends; King Amraphel of Shinar, King Arioch of Ellasar, and King Tidal of Goiim. These were his allies and he must have promised them a good share of the goods and slaves that they would take during their second conquest of this region.
This war actually went quite well with King Kedorlaomer. He marched South on the East side of the Jordan River, conquering the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in the hill country of Seir (the Horites were known to be giants). They went as far south as Paran and turned around and headed north west to conquer the Amalekites and back east to conquer the Amorites. These guys meant business! They seemed unstoppable.
The next stop on their way east to get back on the road north was the plain on the south side of the Dead Sea. The plain where Lot had chosen to dwell. The Plain that contained five more kings; Bera, King of Sodom, Birsha, King of Gomorrah, Shinab, King of Admah, Shemeber, King of Zeboiim, and the King of Bela who is not named.
These Kings must have been watching CNN and knew what had been happening. They also knew that if they each stayed behind their walls that they would be conquered one at a time. So they banned together. I can just picture them in the war room making plans over a map of the area. They are hoping to out maneuver the four invading kings with their five armies. After all, they know the terrain. And what a terrain it was! Tar pits everywhere. Even today, these tar pits can be seen as they bubble to the surface at the south end of the Dead Sea which now covers the area. Some even call it the Sea of Asphalt. The five kings are hoping to draw the invaders chariots and horses into the tar pits where they would be useless.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened. They were as severely defeated as everyone else had been and even fell into their own beloved tar pits trying to escape. A few did escape into the mountains. This left the five cities of the plain open for plundering. Everything of value was stripped from them including the people that were strong enough to make the journey back to Elam, to slavery. This included Lot and his family.
Lets look now at Genesis 14:13. One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. This person who bore the news may have been one of Lot's servants. He knew where to find Abram. He lived there once before when Lot made hi choice to move to the plains. And He knew where to find Abram the Hebrew.
This is the first time the word Hebrew is used in the Bible. Abram was a descendant of Eber and was probably known to the Amorites and Canaanites of Palestine as "the Hebrew." The three brothers, Aner, Eshcol and Mamre, and their tribes had an agreement with this Hebre, Abram, their neighbor, to watch out for each other and to come at need.
Genesis 14:14, When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. As we will see later, Abram's three allies went with him. If you find Dan on your map, you will realize that chasing the enemy took several days. Fortunately the army was loaded down with slaves and loot, and they weren't moving very fast or might have been a longer chase.
I look at Abram here. Could not Abram have said, "I warned Lot not to live in Sodom. Now he is just getting what he deserves. If he'd only listened to me he would not be in this mess. I'm going to stay out of it. Maybe this will teach him a lesson. God is allowing those wicked cities and wicked people to be punished." But Abram was not that way. Abram was separate from the world without being isolated from it. He may have been a holy man but he did not live in the top of some ivory tower or in the basement of a monastery. He was separate from the world but still lived on the world. Even though he detested Sodom, he detested the things that they did in that city, he detested the way the people rejected God. He did not forget that they existed. He went to the rescue! He had made alliances with his neighbors. They didn't believe the way he did. But he was friends with his neighbors. He cooperated with them as far as he could and they did the same.
I read a story about a man in World War II that claimed to be a conscientious objector and refused to participate in the war effort. He was brought before the tribunal where the judge asked him if he would do anything at all to help his country, to which he replied, "This world is not my home." The judge looked at him, as if he had heard that before, and replied, "Then I don't believe that you will be needing a ration card. If this world is not your home, you don't need a ration card." Conscientious objectors who were volunteering to help in other ways were looked at with respect, the medics, the chaplains, but not the people who weren't willing to help at all. And Abram was willing to get involved.
Our world is involved in spiritual warfare right now. Isolation is a temptation that we must all deal with, especially living in a community of believers. And it is easy to become isolated if you're in a community where we're surrounded by fellow believers and just ignore the world on the outside our gates. If we are separate from the world we are in a better position to step in to help someone than if we are isolated from the world and don't know what is going on. If we are separate from the world we are in a better position to step in to help someone than if we are a part of the world and a part of what is going on. Could Lot save Sodom? NO! He was not in a position to step in and save Sodom. He was too mixed up in the politics, economics, and society to even see it objectively. He got carried away with everyone else.
The same thing happens when we align ourselves too closely with people who act and believe differently than the Bible teaches. They usually end up changing us rather than the opposite. Many marry non believing spouses hoping to change them in time. Occasionally this happens, but more often the opposite takes place and the believer either stands alone or slides the other way.
Jesus associated with "sinners" but did not align Himself with them. He was separate enough to step in and lead them out. And he was close enough to be known and trusted.
I remember my first day of school. My mom parked in the gravel parking lot of the two room school house and gave me some advice, "Choose your friends wisely." I didn't always do that. And I found out that when I was in trouble, it was because I was hanging out with people that were in trouble. That is now my advice to you. Choose your friends wisely. But don't be isolated from others. If they are people who desire to follow God, it will make your trip that direction easier. If they are careless in their relationship with God, it will make it easier for you to be carried in that direction. Hauled off the same way that Lot was hauled off because of who he stayed with.
Genesis 14:15. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Wow! Abram divides his small little army, and remember, he's conquering Napoleon here. Abram's family and his three little allies. They divide up and attach from both sides in the middle of the night and send them on their way. They had done what things that all the kings of the whole region had not been able to do. Do you know why? Notice that it said that Abram had trained men in his household. It doesn't say how they were trained. They were trained in more than the use of a sword. They were trained to trust in the Lord. God is far more powerful than any invasion from any enemy, even today!
Genesis 14:16-17: He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.
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 King's Valley). The King of Sodom, Bera, was evidently one of the ones who escaped into the mountains. He travels quite a way to meet the man who had saved them. But before Bera could get to Abram, I believe that God intervened. God sent in a strange man named, Melchizedek.
Abram was about to meet up with a temptation, and God stepped in. Let's skip on down to verse 21 to see what that temptation was.
Verse 21: The king of Sodom said to Abram (this is after he has already met with Melchizedek), "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself." Do you understand what is going on here? At first it looks like a generous offer from a king who cares about his people. No, no! This was no generous offer. Who owned the stuff and the people right now? Abram did. Abram, by right, as the conqueror now owned everything he had conquered. Abram was now in possession of the goods and people of the five kings and possibly of all the other kingdoms and towns that had been conquered!
Wednesday, I met the man who sold us our last car while I was having the oil changed. What if he had offered to sell me the same car again as well as raise the price 50%! Would I take that deal? No, the car is already mine. That would be crazy to accept such a deal. Why would I buy it again and pay more for it?
That is exactly what King Bera offered Abram. Abram already was in possession of everything that Bera owned. And Bera acts like it is his again and offers to give him half of it. Does this sound familiar? King Bera is a type of Satan. That's fitting; he's the king of Sodom. This is what Satan offered to Jesus in the wilderness. "I'll give you this world if you worship me." Satan acts like he is being generous by offering to Jesus what Jesus not only already owned but had created! "I'll give it to you." It's like trying to sell somebody the Brooklyn Bridge. This is crazy, and Abram sees through it. That is how crazy every temptation is. Satan acts like he has something good to offer us but he owns nothing good. Anything that we accept from him we pay for with our lives! This is insane when we realize that Jesus offers us every good thing in the universe for eternity at the cost of His life. Abram realized this and was ready with the appropriate response. Look at verse 22.
Verse 22-23: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, "I made Abram rich.'" Abram knew that it was God who had made him wealthy. He was already wealthy. He had extensive wealth, if you remember. The king of the most sinful city in the land had nothing to do with his wealth. Abram wanted nothing to do with the spoils of his victory. Abram knew that it was God who gave him the victory, not his own few soldiers. He had just been reminded of this by one of the most mysterious characters in all of scripture. Somebody by the name of Melchizedek. Who was he? Wow, if you knew the answer to that, you'd be pretty popular right now. If you knew who Melchizedek was, because ever since Genesis was written, people have been trying to figure out who Melchizedek is, especially the Jewish people who love genealogies. Well, who was he? Where did he come from? Where did he go? Who was his father? Who was his mother? Some thought that he was actually Shem from the ark. He could have still been around. Or maybe a descendant of Shem. Some had said he was Jesus, Himself. I don't believe that. He was the king of a city. We don't know of Jesus coming and being born here before Bethlehem and becoming the king of a city. We know nothing of such a thing. We don't know who Melchizedek was, and we're not supposed to know who Melchizedek was. And that's the whole point. God did not want us to know for a reason. We're going to see that. Melchizedek means, "King of righteousness." He was also the king of Salem. Do you know what Salem means? It means, "peace." He was first the king of righteousness, that was his name, and his people were called "the city of peace." he was the king of righteousness, the king of peace. By the way, Salem would later be called by the Sumerians, "City of Salem." And the Sumerian word for city was "uru." Urusalem. So, this is actually Jerusalem. So, he's the king of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will never be a city of peace because their king is not the king of righteousness. They will never have peace.
Melchizedek was not only a king, he was a priest. Just as Bera, King of Sodom was a type of Satan, Melchizedek was a type of Christ. Jesus brought righteousness and peace together at the cross. The seventh chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the ways in which Melchizedek was a foreshadow of Christ. He was seen as a priest over all people, not just Abram. Abram was not yet considered a Jew. Melchizedek was a priest of, not Jews, but of everybody. Jesus is Priest of all people, not just Jews. Melchizedek had no obvious beginning or end because no record or genealogy is given. This is what's been giving the Jewish people fits. Genealogies were all important to the Jewish people. If a person did not know his ancestry, he was seen to have no mother or father or a beginning. "Oh, you had no father or mother. You were never born, right?" If not record of death was there, "Oh, he's still around." And that's what it says in Hebrews. Melchizedek had no mother or father, no beginning, no end. Who does that remind you of? Jesus Christ: Priest of all, no beginning, no ending of His priesthood. Also, Melchizedek was not of the tribe of Levi. Levi did not exist yet. And neither was Jesus. People wonder, how can Jesus be a priest? He wasn't of the tribe of Levi. He was of the tribe of Judah. So many parallels can be found between these two.
What Abram recognized, this is important. Abram recognized his authority. Abram didn't just say, "Well, who are you?" Abram lived down the mountain range from him. He'd probably met him before. He knew of him. Abram recognized that Melchizedek was a priest and king greater than himself. Abram was not the lone man of God in the world. Sometimes we see Abram as, oh he was the only man of God there for a while. No, God always has a people that follow Him that we may not know of. Remember Elijah? "Hay, I'm the only one left." "No. I've got thousand of people you don't even know about." Remember Balaam? Where did he come from? He wasn't an Israelite. He knew the one true God. He didn't follow Him too well. Remember the wise men who followed the star? God has a people that we don't even know about. Look at verse 19.
Genesis 14:18,19. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 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." And then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. This is another first. This is the first time that title is given to God in the Bible. And Abram turns right around and takes the title that he was given by Melchizedek of God and turns around and uses it on the king of Sodom. "I've sworn by the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Creator of all." The same title. He turns right around and uses it to Bera.
Verse 20: "And blessed be God Most High who delivered your enemies into your hand." This reminds Abram that the victory was not his but God's. Abram has been shown by Melchizedek that his belongings and his victory belong God. Then Abram gave the priest a tithe, a tenth of all that he had. I don't think it was a tenth of the loot. He said, "That is not even mine. I can't tithe on that. That's Bera's junk." Abram gave a tithe of all that he had. He was a wealthy man. He knew the power and the ownership of God and had become a giver. And that's how he was able to face the tempter, the king of Sodom. A person who trusts God to fight his battles and to care for all that he has, a person who shows this trust through giving God control of his life and of his possessions, is ready to face temptation. This kind of person sees what Satan really has to offer and is not impressed! "We already have everything good. Why do we want anything form you, Satan? That is crazy."
Do you have this type of faith in the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace?
Again, on March 9, 1790, just before his death, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter of response to a pastor that he respected. Pastor Ezra Stiles had written to Franklin concerning his belief in God. The response began like this. "I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable Service we render to him is doing good to his other children."
Abram too, had learned the same thing. He learned that there was one God. He believed that God had created the universe. He believed that God governed the affairs, great and small, of that universe. He worshiped God by giving and rendered great service to His other children.
You too, can have this type of faith, and this type of experience. And with that faith you will experience the victory that overcomes the world!
Sources: Abraham by F.B. Meyer Hebrews by William G. Johnsson Gleanings in Genesis by Arthur W. Pink Exploring Genesis by John Phillips The New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Hamilton Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen G. White SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 1
Hymn of Praise: #538, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah Scripture: Genesis 14: 18-20 Hymn of Response: #608, Faith is the Victory
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last updated March/12/2002 by Bob Beckett.