Tag Archives: Melchizedek

The Blessing of the King

As we continue on with the Genesis of the Gospel, I want us to see that the gospel deals with more than just Jesus lived, died, and rose again.  The gospel affects our entire lives.  It affects our entire being.  It propels us to action.  It strengthens us in weariness.  It brings a joy that cannot be expressed.  So we see these displayed in this passage: the battle, the bread, and the blessing.

Abram heard the news that his nephew Lot was taken in the battle.

When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people, (Genesis 14.14-16, ESV)

There are three lessons that this passage teaches us this morning.

  1. Don’t give up on family when they fail you.  In the case of Abram and Lot, we are talking about actual family.  Lot was Abram’s nephew, but this also happens in churches.  Church family, Christian family will fail you.  It is our duty as Christians to go after our brothers and sisters in Christ if we see them in sin. We are to restore them. Paul wrote, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, let you too be tempted,” (Galatians 6.1, ESV).  Abram pursued those who captured Lot.  In many ways, it was Lot’s fault.  If he hadn’t been so selfish and prideful, he wouldn’t have ended up in Sodom and never would have been captured, but he was selfish and he did get captured.  Abram went after him anyway.  May God give us such a heart.
  2. You can’t do this alone. Abram wasn’t foolish enough to go against the king who defeated five kings alone. He had help: 318 people in fact. Notice that in Galatians 6.1, Paul addresses the “brothers.”  When he said, “You who are spiritual” that is a plural pronoun, “You all who are spiritual.”  Do we realize that when a brother or sister goes astray that they went astray because of some spiritual conflict in their life?  They need those who are spiritual to come and help him or her in this battle.
  3. Care must be taken. Abram and his men were careful.  They didn’t fight them in the midday sun.  They went at night.  They didn’t all take them head-on, but they divided their forces.  So often we are not careful.  We have not bathed our confrontations in prayer.  We have not set up a strategy of war.  You better believe that the enemy has a strategy.  Do you?

Abram and his men were victorious.  They came back with the people and all the goods.  They had fought all night.  They chased the armies back.  Now they were headed home.  It had been a long night.

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). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.), (Genesis 14.17-18, ESV).

Two quick observations:

  1. Remember that Sodom was full of wicked men, and the king is no different. Wicked men, wicked thoughts, wickedness itself will seek to take advantage of us in our times of weariness.
  2. Before the king of Sodom can sink his teeth into Abram, Melchizedek allows Abram to sink his teeth into bread. He brought him bread and wine. Bread to sustain and wine to restore. Jesus does the same. I love what Spurgeon said on this: “When we are weary with fighting the Lord’s battles, we may expect Jesus will appear to our refreshment.”[1]

Melchizedek in bringing out the bread and the wine actually prepared Abram to fight a different, albeit smaller fight.  Having eaten, and receiving the blessing (we’ll get to in a moment), the king of Sodom has had enough.

And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “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,” (Genesis 14.21-24, ESV).

The king of Sodom was willing to give all the money and possessions that Abram had attained from the battle to Abram.  What a wonderful deal!  All the king wanted was his citizens back.  How nice of the king!  But here’s the thing: Abram already was in possession of the money.  It was his.  It wasn’t the king’s to give away.

But Abram said no.  In fact, he went further and said that the king should keep it all. He would be beholden to nobody.  We may never know, but I wonder if he had not received the bread and wine, but faced the king hungry, tired, and weary if he would have given the same answer.  If Melchizedek had not restored Abram’s strength would he have thought so clearly and been prepared once again to fight off the evil before him.

In Christ, we have refuge.  In fact, Christ has given us a spot at His table.  He offers us bread and wine.  He gives us the physical which symbolize the spiritual.  As the bread and wine revived and renewed Abram and his men, so the bread and wine revive and renew us.  Though it is not the food and drink itself, but what the bread and wine stand for.  The bread stands for the body of Christ.  It is by His strength that we press on.  The wine stands of the blood of Christ.  It is because of His shed blood that we rejoice over our salvation.  As Calvin wrote, “Christ is the only food of our soul, and, therefore, our heavenly Father invites us to him, that, refreshed by communion with him, we may ever and anon gather new vigour until we reach the heavenly immortality.”[2]

The gospel propels us to action: a battle for our brothers and sisters.  It strengthens our weariness: the bread and wine that is offered us.  But it also brings a joy inexpressible.  As Abram finished his meal, Melchizedek blessed him.

And he blessed him and said,
            “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!
(Genesis 14.19-20, ESV)

Allow me to give you three more observations about this blessing:

  1. The blessing spoken by Melchizedek is bestowed by God Most High.
  2. He is El Elyon—the God Most High. He is the possessor of heaven and earth. Some translations will say Creator, but the word carries the idea of receiving or possessing.  The God who possesses heaven and earth is the God who delivered the enemies into Abram’s hand.  Abram and his 318 men did not go out there and gain the victory just because they were really skilled at what they were doing. God gives us victory; we are helpless without Him.
  3. The blessing to Abram and the blessing to God are different types of blessings. To Abram it is a joy that comes from God. To God is the praise that comes from Abram.

 

 

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), p. 21.

[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).

Tithe Versus Gracious Giving

What deep waters I am about to wade into!  Care to join me?  It’s always deep in the sea of money, wouldn’t you say?  The question that comes up so often among Christians is such: are we still obligated to the tithe, or are we simply to be gracious givers?  Personally, I believe in the tithe.  But I believe that the tithe is given by the very grace of God.  Here is why.

It is often argued that tithe was a part of the Mosaic law as a ceremonial law.  Since Jesus fulfilled the law, then we are no longer under such a law, and are free to simply give graciously.  I don’t deny it was part of the Mosaic.  It’s clear that it was, but what often is overlooked is that apparently the concept of tithing was pre-law.  When Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from captors, along with many others, they brought back the spoils of war.  They were met by Melchizedek, a type of Christ in the Old Testament.  “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything,” (Genesis 14:20b, ESV).  Is it not strange that Abraham knew to give a tithe?  Either he picked 10% out of thin air or it had been established in paganism or he already knew what God required.  I would venture to say that God did not see Abraham’s gift and then decide to make it law.  It is more likely that Abraham, the friend of God, already knew what God required, though there was no law to instruct him.

The writer of Hebrews clearly tells us that Jesus was of the priestly order of Melchizedek, greater than Moses and greater than Aaron.  Under a new priest comes a new law, the writer wrote (Hebrews 8:12) but I do not see this involving the tithe, since the tithe was instituted with Melchizedek hundreds of years before the Mosaic law was established.  If it was established with the type (Melchizedek), then perhaps it should remain when the antitype (Jesus) comes.

Jacob also vowed to give a tithe to God at Bethel.  “And this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.  And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you,” (Genesis 28:22, ESV).  Some would argue that Abraham and Jacob are exceptions and not the norm.  Perhaps they are right.  However, if Jacob kept the vow (and there is no reason to believe he didn’t), then this was the norm–at least for Jacob.  Again the question needs to be asked: why 10%?  From what place did that figure come?

I have also heard the argument that if we were to give a “real tithe” then we would be giving 20-30% of our income.  Basically the argument goes like this.  The first tithe was a tithe that we tend to think of (giving to the temple).  The second tithe was to be used to hold a feast for the family in Jerusalem.  To me, though the word tithe or tenth might be used, it is not in the same category as the tithe to the temple.  This is was more like a party that should not be skimped on, as it was a celebration unto God.  The third tithe was only paid every three years, but not to the temple, but within ones own city to help the foreigners and the poor.  This is much closer to our local and state taxes than a tithe.  So I still maintain that the tithe (that is most similar to what we think of as a tithe, not a party requirement or a welfare tax) was 10%.

But what about gracious giving? Aren’t we to simply give graciously?  Yes, we are.  But I once heard a pastor preaching (unfortunately, I cannot remember his name) who brought up that grace goes beyond law.  Law states no murdering, but grace states that we are not to be angry/wrathful toward our brother.  Law states no adultery, but grace states that we are not to lust. His argument was simply that grace goes beyond law.  So even if the tithe was strictly law, then gracious giving would go beyond the tithe.  Gracious giving would not be less than 10%, but greater than 10%.

But I believe that while we give the tithe, we do so out of grace.  Not simply because grace goes beyond the tithe, but because it is by grace that I give.  My life was changed completely by God’s grace over me.  That includes how I spend my money.  I am no longer the selfish-spender I once was.  By grace I see that there is more to church and to God’s kingdom than just myself.  I see the needy, the hungry, the lost, the dying, and the grace that God placed in my heart wells up within me and I cannot help but give.

Is that not what Paul means in 2 Corinthians?  “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,” (8:1-3, ESV).

It would seem that these poor churches, being filled with grace, saw the need and could not help but give.  That’s what grace giving is about.  Before grace, they would not have cared, but after grace they cared enough to abandon self-security and self-comfort and give.  No one does that apart from God’s grace upon their own hearts.  It should be noted however that this giving was for those not in their own church.  This was for the saints elsewhere (pun intended).  So then, what is it that was given to their own church?  Was anything given?  I know it’s speculation, but I would speculate that they did.

Now the question that inevitably comes up when mentioning tithe: should we give gross or net.  I’m a gross guy (pun intended).  Even though we do not take home our full paychecks (taxes, social security, 401K, health insurance), we still benefit from the full paycheck.  We still have government (state police, statesmen, etc.) that we benefit from taxes.  We still have retirement security that grows interest (social security excepted) for our future.  We still have health insurance that helps pay for bills when necessary.  Since we benefit from these, I would say we ought to pay tithe from the gross.

So it is time to come out of the deep waters.  I’m not sure if I helped or if I stirred the mud, but at least we’re on dry land again.  So what do you think?  Are we under a tithe or just gracious giving?  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.