“Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan’” Genesis 14:14.
We have already seen Abram rescue his nephew Lot. Lot had been captured by a confederacy of kings led by Chedorlaomer. But Abram and 318 of his own men went and defeated Chedorlaomer. We should note also Abram had three allies go with him, viz., Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, (Genesis 14:13 & 24). These three men were no doubt heads of related clans, related to each other, but not Abram. However, important to the story, they had some kind of covenant relationship with Abram. So, we need to set the scene, don’t we?
Chedorlaomer invaded the plain of Jordan to put down a rebellion against him. But Abram and a few men pursued his army. So Abram, under cover of darkness, defeated Chedorlaomer’s retreating army. And now Abram has returned with all the goods that Chedorlaomer had carted off. He’s also brought back Lot and his goods as well as the women and the people (Genesis 14:16).
So, we meet Abram at the Valley of Shaveh, or, as it is called in Genesis 14:17, “the King’s Valley.” We get the impression that Abram and his men are encamped there, though we’re not told. But we are told that the king of Sodom went out to meet him Genesis 14:17. And we’re also told that the king of Salem brought out bread and wine to him. So, kings came out to honor the victorious Abram when he was at the King’s Valley. And the crux of our story, as one commentator puts it, is the faith or failure of one man: Abram.
As you know, there’s more to being a Christian than meets the eye. That oft quoted verse: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood...” speaks volumes. There are invisible forces at work on earth, and I’m not talking about gravity and such like. I’m talking about forces for good and forces for evil, forces of light and forces of darkness. We’re thankful Christ has power and authority over all forces. However, each human being is responsible for his or her own actions.
In the following we’ll keep one eye on Abram and the other on what’s going on behind the scenes. Let’s see how the Christian of the Christians handles this situation. Let’s see how he handles wrestling against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness and spiritual host in heavenly places.
Abram, as you know, is the father of the faithful, even you and me. And you know as well as me the certain temptations that come before us. So let’s see what we can learn from Abram our father in Christ. Whereas the king of Sodom is about to tempt Abram to failure, the king of Salem encourages Abram to keep the faith.
The general gist of what we’re looking at is: There’s an exceedingly great reward for those who keep the faith.
The First King
“The king of Sodom went out to meet him...” Genesis 14:17. We take it that this is the same king of Sodom whom Chedorlaomer defeated. So we take it that he wasn’t one of those who fell in the asphalt or tar pits mentioned back in Genesis 14:10. So here he is coming out to meet Abram. But notice that he’s carrying something. However, you won’t see it with the naked eye. It’s invisible. But there he is placing it right in front of Abram’s feet. It’s a stumbling block. Have you ever noticed that you never see a stumbling block? That’s how come you stumble over it!
In Portsmouth in the south of England they have Admiral Nelson’s ship the Victory. And on the wooden deck of the ship is a polished brass plaque with words to this affect: “This is the spot where Admiral Nelson fell.” There’s always some joker who reads it and says, “No wonder he fell, I nearly tripped over it myself!” We read the inscription on the stumbling block the king of Sodom place before Abram in Genesis 14:21. It reads, “Give me the persons and take the goods for yourself.” What a contrast this is to the second king who came out and blessed Abram and Abram’s God! One cared about who Abram was. The other cared about what Abram had.
So first off we need to look at who it is who is saying this to Abram. This is the king of Sodom. He is the king of the Sodomites. Now then, in light of what we know about Sodom, Do you think this king ruled his kingdom well? What does Genesis 13:13 say about his kingdom? “The men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” The LORD had already brought judgment upon them by having another nation cart them off. And here’s something that is most overlooked today: A society in which immorality abounds is already under the judgment of God!
We hear some Christians say, “Oh America better watch out or God will judge it!” Or, “Australia better hurry up and mend her ways or God’s going to judge her!” Don’t people read their Bibles anymore? Haven’t they read that God’s judgment IS the moral decay of your society? Judgment is when the rulers of the nation cannot be trusted because they lie! It’s when God is replaced by Mammon! It’s when the creature is worshipped instead of the Creator!
God’s judgment is when sin is permitted to flourish in the streets of a nation! It’s when abortion is given on demand! It’s when fornicatory relationships are accepted as marriages! It’s when adultery is laughed at! It’s when homosexual acts are accepted as normal behaviour! It’s when people are encouraged to abuse their bodies with drugs – free needles! We thank the Lord through Jesus Christ we’ve escaped from these things. For this is judgment!
How can I say that this and such like is the judgment of God? Well, this I know because the Bible tells me so! Romans 1:24-27, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleaness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” It’s a judgment of God to have Him give up on you! It’s to receive the due penalty for your error.
And Christians have got nothing to crow about, for we are saved solely by the grace of God! If you’re going to boast about something make sure it’s about the grace of God towards sinners such as yourself. As Christians we ought to be thankful our judgment was poured out on Jesus Christ and not us!
But let it be known that the moral disintegration of any society IS the judgment of God! And we know from the Epistle of Jude 1:7 that Sodom and Gomorrah “are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance [or punishment] of eternal fire.” The fire and the brimstone that God poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah was simply an intensification of the judgment that had already begun! So, in our text we see a king, the ruler, the leading Sodomite, come out to Abram and say, Gimme! Keep the goods, but gimme the people.”
We’re told back in Genesis 14:11 that Sodom had been relieved off all its goods. Now the wealth of the nation or city is in the hands of Abram. So on the surface this looks like a generous offer this first king is making Abram. “Here’s your reward Abram – all the goods of Sodom.” It would have been easy enough, I would think, to hand over the people. What would Abram want with a bunch of depraved and debauched people? Who would want them? Well, the king of Sodom wants them! A king may survive without his goods but he cannot survive without his people.
King Robert the Bruce of Scotland ended up in a cave all alone with only a spider for company. But when the people got behind him by the grace of God he defeated a nation with a number ten times larger! But when God gives up on your nation it becomes nothing more than chaff for the fire. The king of Sodom, under the invisible direction of Satan was, as it were, placing a brief case with an unexploded bomb in it at the feet of Abram.
There used to be a game show on the TV in Scotland in which the contestant could either take the money or open the box. Some of the audience would yell, “Take the money!” others “Open the box!” The idea was that there might be an even greater prize in the box. Sometimes they would turn down huge sums of money to open the box. Only to find it empty! The king of Sodom is asking Abram the same question: Take the money or open the box?
The Bible says the just shall live by faith, Romans 1:17. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The devil says, “Take the money!” But the Lord says, “Open the box! There’s an exceedingly great reward in it for you!”
Abram, it’s make your mind up time. What’s it going to be? Take the money or open the box? So what did Abram do? Genesis 14:22, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing from a thread a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”
In America they swear allegiance to a flag! Abram has sworn allegiance to the LORD. And we see that Abram’s faith in the Lord was strong at this point. It was as if he had heard the words of Jesus, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33. So Abram opted, as it were, to open the box. That’s faith. He let the king of Sodom have the people and all the goods.
But only after he had given that portion to the LORD we call a “tithe” i.e., a tenth. And he also made the stipulation that Aner, Eshcol and Mamre could take what they wanted. For he had made a covenant of sorts with them. So who was the person to whom he gave a tithe?
The Second King
Genesis 14:18, “Then Melchizedek the king of Salem brought out bread and wine...” The king of Salem came to Abram to strengthen him – to encourage him in the faith. In the light of the rest of Scripture, i.e., Redemptive History, you can’t help but see more than a hint of the Lord’s Supper here! Bread and wine is a picture of the bountiful blessings of the Lord. Bread and wine represent the fruit of the earth. In the Lord’s Supper they are a picture of Christ body and His blood – the body that was broken and the blood that was shed when He rescued us from the enemy and redeemed us. Has not Abram rescued Lot his brother in Christ from the enemy?
O I know that some of the commentators say that there’s no connection between the bread and wine here with the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper! However, you’ll see the connection if you view Abram rescuing Lot as a type of Christ rescuing His people For this whole passage before us has many pictures of Christ in it. In fact not a few claim that Melchizedek IS Christ – so clear is the picture of Christ in him. I used to have an inclination towards thinking Melchizedek was the preincarnate Christ I used to think that perhaps he was the Second Person of the Trinity, i.e., the Angel of the Covenant.
We’re told in Hebrews 7:3 that Melchizedek was, “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life...” It almost sounds as if Melchizedek could be the preincarnate Christ. But if you read to the end of the verse in Hebrews 7: 3 you see he was “made like the Son of God.” So Melchizedek is not the Son of God, the Word, the Logos. But we are told that he is LIKE Him! Therefore we should be able to see Christ clearly in this man!
Does Christ not bring out bread and wine to strengthen battle-weary Christians? Does Christ not bless His people – the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart and so forth? Melchizedek is the king of Salem. Salem is the short form of Jeru-SALEM! And Salem like “shalom” means “peace.” Is Christ not named the “Prince of Peace” by Isaiah in 9:6? Is His dwelling place not the “Jerusalem above of Galatians 4:26?
The name Melchizedek means, “king of righteousness” Is Christ not THE King of Righteousness? We’re told in Genesis 14:18 that Melchizedek was also “The priest of the God Most High.” In Heb. 7:15 Christ is called a priest “...in the likeness of Melchizedek...” Christ is therefore like Melchizedek. Melchizedek is like Christ – he is the one who represented Christ. And don’t we bring our tithes to Christ our High Priest, just as Abram gave a tenth of all he had to the one like Christ?
So this second king is not the preincarnate or preexistent Christ. He is only like Him. But neither is Melchizedek Shem as some have argued. For Shem has a mother and a father whose name is recorded in Scripture, even Noah. No, Melchizedek is a mysterious character only because we’re not given very much information in Scripture about him. But he came out to encourage and strengthen Abram in the LORD. And paradoxically, are Christians not at their weakest right after their moments of victory? The devil sent his henchman, his underling, the king of Sodom!
Abraham is victorious at this point in time. Don’t we tend to think that maybe we gained the victory in our own strength? Pride sets in when we accomplish something – especially when we do an excellent job! Perhaps you get 100% in some exam! Or you do a real good job of showing the Mormons or the JWs the error of their ways! An example of this for me was the time Martin Lloyd-Jones or maybe it was Spurgeon was approached by someone after a Sunday Worship Service. “That was the best sermon I’ve ever heard! It was brilliant!” said the person. “I know!” replied Lloyd-Jones or was it Spurgeon. “You know?” said the person. “Yes I know because the devil has already told me!” And so it would be for Abram after his brilliant victory!
But what does the second king, king Melchizedek, say to Abram? He blesses Abram reminding him of who his God is, i.e., “Possessor of heaven and earth.” “Abram, you think you’ve got a lot of goods. Your God owns heaven and earth!” And look what he says to Abram in Genesis 14:20, “And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
It was the Lord who gave Abram the victory. But everything about this mysterious man was encouraging to Abram. To sum it up in a word, everything about Melchizedek says, “Abram, keep the faith!” This of course was a complete contrast to the first king who said, “Abram, keep the goods!” So Abram gave the king of Salem a tenth. The rest he gave to Aner, Eschol and Mamre. Not forgetting the king of Sodom himself. So what did this leave Abram with?
The Third King
Now, I don’t want to elaborate too much on this at the moment, we can do that up ahead. But I do want you to see something that is generally overlooked. I want you to connect what we’ve just looked at with Genesis 15:1, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’”
God Most High communicated with Abram through a vision. Whether Abram is still at the King’s Valley we’re not told. How long after the victory? Again we’re not told. But we are told “the word of the Lord” came to Abram. Who or what was this “word of the LORD”? Well, we’re told that He is Abram’s “shield.” Apparently a good case can be made for translating the word “shield” as “sovereign. “ Be that as it may, the One who came to Abram in this vision is the One who watches over him. He is the One who protects him and covers him as would a shield.
I’ve given this Person the title King because I believe this to be the One who would become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords i.e., Christ. Melchizedek was LIKE the Son of God, but this IS the Son of God! This is the Word who was going to become flesh! This is the One who was going to come and have His body broken and His blood shed for us. This is the One who was going to come and rescue us from our captivity to the enemy. This is the One who told Abram to get out of his country, from his kindred, from his father’s house. This is the One who is the covering or shield, protecting. Abram and all Abram’s children of faith from their sins!
Now then, surely it’s clear to us by now that Abram doesn’t worship any of the things the world has on offer. He’s a wealthy man, nothing wrong with that. But he doesn’t drive around in a flash car with the bumper sticker which reads, The one who dies with the most toys wins! No! He’s much more like the person singing in the 8th century Irish hymn, Be Thou My Vision:
Riches I need not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.
The writer of that hymn must have read the words in Genesis 15:1, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” There is an exceedingly great reward for all those who honor the Lord. Abram honored the Lord by giving Melchizedek a tenth of all! He gave all the rest of the goods away! “High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art!”
Now, it’s true that the words “I’m...your exceedingly great reward” may be rendered as you see in the margin, “your reward shall be great.” But if you keep in mind what Jesus says about Abram you won’t go too far wrong. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” John 8:56.
Abram knew his exceedingly great reward was coming because he could see the coming of Christ For Paul tells us in Galatians 3:8 that the Gospel was preached to Abram! And what’s the Gospel all about if it’s not the revelation of Jesus Christ? – the Christ that we can see so clearly in this passage?
The first king we looked at was the king of Sodom. He brought a stumbling block and placed it before Abram. He was used by the devil to tempt Abram to failure. But Abram kept the faith!
The second king was the king of Salem. He reminded Abram of Christ in the things he brought and the things he said. He encouraged Abram to keep the faith.
And the third King? Well, He was the King of Kings Himself! He was Abram’s shield – his exceedingly great reward! He was the object of Abram’s faith. So always keep in mind that there’s an exceedingly great reward for those who keep the faith. Don’t let the things of the world distract you from keeping your eyes on your reward.
Don’t let anyone, not even a king, stop you from looking at the object of your faith – Jesus Christ.