Today’s reading includes Genesis 16:1-18:15, Matthew 6:1-24, Psalm 7:1-17, and Proverbs 2:1-5. This commentary, however, is still from Genesis 14-15 and it is likely that tomorrow’s post will be too. Abram had been traveling with Lot, who also had flocks and herds and tents. The region around Bethel and Ai did not have enough water and pasture to support such large flocks and herds. Quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. So Abram, with his godly, faithful character, initiated a peaceful confrontation. He said in Genesis 13:8-9:
Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.
Abram understood the importance of peace and unity among brothers. We can apply that to our Christian brothers and sisters, not just our blood family. Abram knew instinctively the attitudes of godliness. How did he know? Because he had a relationship with God. We now have the Word of God, so we are without excuse.
Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Are you in a family dispute? Take the high road. That is what Abram was willing to do. He trusted that God would take care of his needs without his own finagling and manipulating. We don’t see such a godly attitude coming from Lot. We find in verses 10-13 the selfishness and foolishness of Lot’s heart.
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.
( Genesis 13:10-13)
While Abram had pitched his tents in close proximity to the godly place of Bethel, Lot chose to pitch his tents in close proximity to the wickedness of Sodom. What do we know of Sodom? Even today, Sodom is synonymous with sin, wickedness, and perversion. Lot found out soon enough that you can’t pitch your tent next to wickedness without being affected yourself. We think we can handle it. We think it won’t affect us. But time always proves us wrong. Constant exposure to sin slowly chips away our resolve and our pure thinking. Before we even realize what has happened, we have slowly come to a place of acceptance of things that separate us from God. As 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.” Though Abram appeared to take the leftovers, God was looking out for his best interest.
The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are, and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
We see in verses fourteen through seventeen that God rewarded Abram’s unselfish attitudes and turned the lesser into the best.
Charles Spurgeon had this to say in Faith’s Checkbook:
A special blessing for a memorable occasion. Abram settled a family dispute, saying “Let there be no strife between you and me, for we are brethren,” and hence he received the blessing which belongs to peacemakers. The Lord and giver of peace delights to manifest His grace to those who seek peace and pursue it. If we desire closer communion with God, we must keep closer to the ways of peace. Abram behaved generously to his kinsman, giving him his choice of land. If we deny ourselves for peace’s sake, the Lord will more than make it up to us.
And indeed, God more than made up for Abram’s denial of himself. Genesis 10:14-17 reveals the blessing of obedience, but it is also a call to action. We must receive the blessings of God. God said, “Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I’m giving it to you.”
We might think that Abram would tire of Lot and his selfish, sinful attitudes. But we find love, loyalty, and forgiveness in Abram’s character. When Sodom was seized by enemy kings, Lot, his family, and all his possessions were carried off by the enemy. When Abram heard of this, he did not think of the differences between him and Lot, or of the grievances between them. Abram instead thought of the fact that they were family. So he came to Lot’s rescue and saved him and all of his household and possessions from the enemy. What was Lot’s response to this rescue? It doesn’t say. We don’t know if he was grateful. We do know that he returned to Sodom. He returned to the wicked place and pitched his tent there. Later, he would endure consequences for that move, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God.
Again, we see the favor of God resting upon Abram, for despite the apparent lack of appreciation from his family, his reputation as a mighty warrior became known throughout the land. This mighty reputation would help him refine his faith and grow in his allegiance to his God.
In Genesis 14, we see Abram on the road in the King’s Valley, probably east of Jerusalem, still journeying on. He went to battle with kings of the area because they captured Lot. When Abram returned from rescuing Lot and defeating the King of Elam, the other kings in the area took notice of him. They must have been a bit nervous, since he was returning from a victorious battle, so they somewhat allied themselves with him. The King of Sodom came out to meet him, as did Melchizedek, King of Salem. Hebrews 7 tells us a lot about Melchizedek.
This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
Abram preferred and related to Melchizedek more than the others because he served the One True God, just as Abram did. Melchizedek was unique in that he was both a priest and a king. Abram accepted bread and wine from him, and then Abram gave Melchizedek one tenth of everything. This was the standard king’s portion. Did you know that when you tithe your income, you are saying that God is your King? To go above that standard amount indicates even more devotion. But it is not about an amount or a percentage; it is about a surrendered heart.
In Hebrews Jesus is referred to as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, not after the order of Levites, which all priests came to be later.
… we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus is a priest. The job of a priest is to go before God on the behalf of someone. Jesus went to God on our behalf. He is the greatest High Priest.
Jesus is also a king. Not just any old king. He is the King of kings.
As we realize the significance of Melchizedek foreshadowing the coming Priest and King, Jesus, let’s look closer at the encounter between Abram and Melchizedek.
As already stated, Abram gave gifts to and accepted gifts from Melchizedek. In those days the gift-taking was a form of alliance. We see in verse 23 that the Canaanite king wanted to give him gifts. But Abram refused. This is what he said:
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.’”
The NIV Study Bible has interesting things to say about this passage: Abram refused to let himself become obligated to anyone but the Lord. Had he done so, this Canaanite king might later have claimed the right of kingship over Abram.
This Canaanite kingship over Abram could not be. Remember the proclamation of Noah concerning Canaan? Canaan and the Canaanites were to be under Shem and his descendants, represented by Abram. They were not to be above them, as a king would be. Abram would have understood this. This information would have been passed down from generation to generation. Terah, Abram’s dad, would have made sure that Abram knew that important story in their history. As enticing as the riches would have been, Abram’s knowledge would not have let him succumb to the temptation. It would have been normal and customary for him to take the goods. Maybe it even appeared impolite not to. But Abram knew enough to say no.
Abram wouldn’t become obligated to the king of Sodom, who was a Canaanite. When we hear the word Sodom, we think of Sodom and Gomorrah, which are a picture of sin and evil. When we become obligated to sin because we don’t take it seriously or because we make excuses for it, we are opening ourselves up to the Evil One claiming kingship over us. We have to guard ourselves so this will not happen. We are called to be holy. But we are not called to be “holier-than-thou.” We are called to be holy, as Jesus was holy.
The holiness we are called to will prepare us to be poured out as a sweet-smelling sacrifice. This holiness will not cause us to accuse others but to give ourselves up for others. This holiness will not cause us to hide away from others but will prepare us to love others unselfishly, just like Jesus did and does. We will never attain this holiness on our own. We can’t. We will sin at times. But we must diligently seek God’s Word and remember it so that we will have godly wisdom in our day-to- day decisions.