Abraham: Called to Wrestle

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Are You in Partnership with God Yet?

Thus far—in our study of the life of Abraham, we have watched as God called this man out of a life of affluence and comfort to a life of wandering, worship, witness, warfare, and waiting—with each calling being accompanied by a new or expanded revelation of God’s plans for Abraham, and followed by a period during which Abraham’s stewardship of that revelation was tested.  In most instances, his success rate was much like those that we experience in our own walks of faith—as, more often than not, a case of one step forward and two steps back.  However, there have been some exceptions to this pattern—such as in Genesis 14, when Abraham successfully meet the challenge of warfare and then resisted the temptation to enrich himself by it; and, again in our last episode in Genesis 17, when Abraham readily obeyed God’s command to circumcise every male in his household.

In this Episode—we will witness another instance when Abraham successfully met the challenge placed before him, that being his call to wrestle with God in intercessory prayer for Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other three cities in the surrounding plain.

A Surprise Visit from the Lord

Script #6 for Biopic #1
Cast:
     Narrator     Abraham     The Lord     Sarah

Pleading the Case

Setting the Scene—when this episode opens, not a lot of time has gone by since the Lord appeared to Abraham in Chapter 17.  We know this because, in that previous encounter, the Lord gave Abraham a one-year timetable which has not yet been met.  Here, Abraham is in his place of fellowship with God—possibly ruminating over the things the Lord had so recently told him—when…

Narrator:  …the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said…

Abraham:  My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.

The Lord:  Do as you have said.

Narrator:  So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said…

Abraham:  Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.

Narrator:  And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.  Then they said to him…

The Lord:  Where is Sarah your wife?

Abraham:  Here, in the tent.

The Lord:  I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.

Narrator:  Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.  Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying…

Sarah:  After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

The Lord:  Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

Narrator:  But Sarah denied it, saying…

Sarah:  I did not laugh…

Narrator:  …for she was afraid.

The Lord:  No, but you did laugh!

Sarah Receives Faith for the Impossible

Narrator: Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the LORD said..

The Lord:  Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.

Narrator:  Then, turning to Abraham, the LORD said…

The Lord:  Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.

Narrator:  Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. And Abraham came near and said…

Abraham:  Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?  Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

The Lord:  If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

Abraham:  Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:  suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?

The Lord:  If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.

Abraham:  Suppose there should be forty found there?

The Lord:  I will not do it for the sake of forty.

Abraham:  Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: suppose thirty should be found there?

The Lord:  I will not do it if I find thirty there.

Abraham:  Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: suppose twenty should be found there?

The Lord:  I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.

Abraham:  Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: suppose ten should be found there?

The Lord:  I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.

Narrator:  So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

Revealing His Will to His Servant

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Our Review

This, then, brings us to our Review of these events in Abraham’s life.  To help us better understand what is going on in this episode, let’s first break it down according to the Characters.  Apart from the Narrator, the Characters here are…

The Lord—this would be a pre-incarnate appearance by the Lord Jesus Christ;

The Two Angels—although their names are not given, we soon learn that they are on mission as Angels of Judgment;

Abraham—the epitome of the gracious, hospitable Middle Eastern chieftain; and,

Sarah—the equally gracious and hospitable—though hidden—wife of the Chieftain.

Next, let’s take a look at a summary of the Action taking place…

The Action

This summary of the Characters and their Actions presents us with several important…

Questions for Discussion

1. Why do you think the Lord appeared to Abraham so soon after His previous appearance?

The purpose of the Lord’s visit on this occasion appears to have been two-fold…

Since the Lord had already told Abraham that Sarah would bear a child but He hadn’t told her yet, His first purpose was to give her that word. Hebrews 11:11 tells us that…

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

Because…

…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)…

…for Sarah to have “received the strength to conceive seed,” she would first have to receive  the faith produced by the Word of God which was given to her here.

The Lord’s second and more obvious purpose was to give Abraham the privilege and the responsibility of interceding for the cities that were about to be judged.

2. From Sarah’s response, do you think Abraham had shared with her what the Lord had promised in His previous visit?

From her laughter, it seems that this was the first she had heard of it.

3. Why do you think the Lord brought the news of Sodom and Gomorrah’s impending judgment to Abraham? From a personal standpoint?  From a legal standpoint?

First of all, the Lord wanted Abraham to understand why He was about to destroy these cities—that is, as a Holy God, He could not allow the injustices perpetrated by these cities to continue to go unpunished.  Although God is long-suffering and merciful, His mercy has its limits and will be tempered by His holiness and justice.

On a personal level, God’s judgment directly impacted Abraham because Lot, his nephew and adopted son, lived there with his family; and, from a legal standpoint, because God had already given the land to Abraham and his descendants, it was essential that he be informed of any major changes taking place in his land.

4. How did Abraham’s actions in receiving his guests prepare him for his later intercession on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah? What important principles of prayer did they demonstrate?

Before being given the opportunity to intercede on behalf of the doomed cities, Abraham prepared himself by first running to greet his visitors, demonstrating his eagerness to receive them; then, in humbling himself before them, he was, in effect, bestowing upon them his worship.  Once this had been done, he set before them a table of fellowship that he had prepared for them which they gladly received—a time of fellowship during which the Lord was able to reveal His heart to His servant, a revelation which then prompted Abraham’s intercession.

5. In his intercession, why do you think Abraham was so bold as to “haggle” with God? On what were his arguments based?  Why did he stop at ten?

By this time, Abraham had grown enough in his knowledge of God and His character that he could appeal to him boldly on the basis of His character.  In his prayer, he demonstrated that he knew God to be not only righteous but also merciful.  On that basis, and believing that there were at least ten righteous people living in these cities, he could then appeal to God to protect them, even while bringing judgment upon the wicked.  Today, like Abraham, we who know who God is and who we are in relationship to Him, can…

…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

6. Why was God going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah? Why was it necessary?

While we tend to focus on the sexual sins that were so rampant in these cities, Ezekiel 16:49-50 gives us some insights as to the root causes of those sins…

Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.

And, in Romans 1:18 ff, the Apostle Paul explains that…

…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

In other words, even though those cities had been blessed with prosperity and wealth, rather than acknowledge and thank God for it, they became proud and selfish—sins which ultimately led to the whole catalog of sins which followed…

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.  Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, 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 forever. 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, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

So, it was this sad situation in Sodom and Gomorrah and their sister cities that, at the time of the Lord’s visit in this episode, warranted the Lord’s invention and judgment.

…mean more Answers!

In Summary

Now, to complete our Review of this episode, we need to ask ourselves the following questions…

1. What Life Lessons can we take away from this part of Abraham’s story?

In God’s dealings with Sarah, we have learned that there is no situation that is too impossible for God; that He will keep His promises; and, that through His Word, we will obtain the faith needed to believe and receive those promises.

In God’s dealings with Abraham, we have learned some valuable principles when coming before the throne of grace in prayer; that, in the intimacy of our fellowship with Him, God will reveal the things that burden His heart—so that we, as His children, will be provoked to pray and stand in the gap for those who are in danger of perishing.

In God’s dealings with Sodom and Gomorrah, we have learned that sin will be judged–that judgment may be slow in coming but it will surely come, and when it does, it will be complete, deserved, and appropriate to the nature of the offense.

2. Does this episode have any Contributions to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption?

In 2 Peter 2:4-11, we learn that God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot’s subsequent rescue, were intended to serve as…

…an example to those who afterward would live ungodly…

For, if God…

…delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked…then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.

This example has served as a source of comfort and encouragement for the righteous who have suffered throughout the ages, as well as a warning for the wicked who, like…

…Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 6-7).

It also provides us with a prophetic picture of God’s protection of Israel during the last half of the Tribulation Period, when God will pour out His judgment upon the wicked at the end of this age.

3. Are there any Revelations of God that we need to make note of here?

In this episode, we have seen completely different aspects of God’s character revealed.  To those who are in covenant relationship with Him, He has been revealed as loving and kind—their gracious, omnipotent  Heavenly Father.  But to those who have rejected Him, He has been revealed as their Righteous Judge.  These revelations are consistent with others that we find of Him throughout the Scriptures—such as these in Isaiah 3:10-11 and Psalm 34:15-16…

Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.  Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.  ​​The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

Although this brings our Review of this part of the story to a close, it isn’t the end of this episode in Abraham’s life.  That will take place next time, when we meet again to discuss Part 2 of Abraham:  Called to Wrestle…

 

To Be Continued…

Some images used courtesy of freebibleimages.com

 

 

Abraham:  Called to Warfare

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Every Believer is Called to be a Warrior

For those of you who are joining us for the first time, we are currently engaged in a study of the Bible, being presented here in the form of a two-act play which we’ve entitled, God’s One Big Story.  In Act 1, Scene 1, we covered Genesis 1-11—the Overture to our story—and now, in Act 1, Scene 2, we are studying the lives of the Four Patriarchs found in Genesis 12-50.  They are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the four men most responsible for the birth and development of Israel—the nation who would one day become the Wife of Jehovah, and the one through whom Jesus Christ would later come into the world.

We are referring to the stories of these important men as Biopics, short for Biographical Pictures, and in our studies of them, we are looking specifically for the…

  • Life Lessons they have to teach us;
  • Contributions they have to make to God’s One Big Story of Redemption; and,
  • Revelations they provide of God and His Purposes.

During our last visit together, in Episode #1 of Biopic #1, we learned that Abraham—or, Abram, as he was named at birth—was…

Called by God to Wander;
Called by God to Worship; and,
Called by God to Witness.

Following him through his first faltering steps of faith, we watched as he navigated his way through a series of Divine Revelations and Testings—after which, when we left him, he had arrived in a very good place.  He had returned from a disastrous trip into Egypt (a picture or type of the world) where, in a backslidden condition, he had managed to compromise…

  • His relationship with God;
  • His relationship with his wife; and,
  • His witness to the world.

However, once Abram was back in the Land of Promise…

  • He restored his relationship with God through a renewal of Worship;
  • His restored his Witness following his Separation from Lot; and,
  • He was given a renewed and expanded Revelation of God’s will for his life.

Afterwards, Abram relocated his headquarters from Bethel (the House of God) to Hebron (the Place of Fellowship)—which is where we will find him today when Episode #2 of his story begins.  As we wait expectantly for it to get underway, we suddenly hear our Narrator, somewhere off-stage, giving us an update on the events that have taken place in Abram’s world since we saw him last…

Episode #2 of Biopic #1
(Genesis 14)
Cast:     Narrator     Abram     Melchizedek     King of Sodom    

Our Narrator begins…

And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).  All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).  Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar.

Five Kings versus Four

As our Narrator continues with his report, we can also hear the distinctive sounds of a battle taking place in the background, as…

…the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.  Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

At this, the curtain rises and we see Abram, minding his own business and enjoying his peaceful life in the Place of Fellowship with God in Hebron—when suddenly, his life is turned upside down by this series of events which, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated to him.  This upheaval begins when…

…one who had escaped [from the war] came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.

Now when Abram heard that he [Lot] 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.

Although Abram was greatly outnumbered…

He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus…

…which was over 150 miles to the north of Hebron.  Following his victory…

…he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.

And, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.

However, there someone far more important who went out to meet Abram first…

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed [Abram] and said…

Blessed be Abram of God Most High, ​​Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, ​​Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.​

In response to this blessing, Abram…

…gave him a tithe of all. 

After his encounter with Melchizedek, the king of Sodom approached Abram with the following offer

Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.

In other words, just return the people and you can keep all the loot—to which, Abram responded without hesitation…

I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’— except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

With this response, this brief and somewhat puzzling Episode comes to an abrupt ending.  That doesn’t mean that we are finished with it, though, for there is still much for us to discuss, once we don our Critic’s Caps again and begin our Review of the events which have transpired here.

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The Critics Hat

Time to Put on the Cap Once More

Episode #2–Review

To aid us in this Review, let’s first take a look at the most important points of this story…

I.  The War of the Kings—since this is the first mention of a battle, king, or war in the Bible, it must be significant.

The Coalitions
Why were Kings from so far east interested in the area around Sodom and Gomorrah?

Although this was not the first war in human history, since it is the first one recorded in the Bible, it becomes a template for all the others that would follow.  As in most of those cases, the motivating forces here can be attributed to Egos and Economics—that is, to a Lust for Power motivated by Pride, and to a Lust for Wealth motivated by Greed.  The Apostle James, many centuries later, described these powerful forces in the following way….

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  (James 4:1-3)

So, what was it that Sodom and the surrounding cities had that provoked such lusts in the Kings of the East?  It was their…

  • Position—they were located in close proximity to the major trade routes connecting the East with Egypt, the Bread Basket of the World at the time;
  • Natural Resources—the valley in which they were located was full of asphalt pits, a material highly prized because of its uses in building and road construction, the waterproofing of boats, and even as medicine; and,
  • Wealth—these cities, because of their location and natural resources, had become extremely wealthy—wealth which made possible their lavish and decadent lifestyles.

The Kings of the East and the Coveted Trade Routes

The Conflict
Why did the Canaanite Kings rebel? What made them think they could win? What might God’s motive been in allowing this to happen?

After being bled dry by the Eastern Kings for twelve years, the cities in the Valley of Siddim had had enough.  Having lost the lifestyle to which they had hoped to remain accustomed and tired of being fleeced by foreigners, they—no doubt also motivated by Egos and Economics—must have thought the battle to reclaim that their wealth and lifestyle would be well worth the effort.

As for God’s part in all of this, while it is not spelled out for us here, considering what happens to Lot and Sodom and her sister cities later on, their defeat and looting could very well have been God’s wake-up call to them—giving them the opportunity  to repent and get right with Him, in order to stave off the judgment that was soon to come.

The Conquest–-
What spiritual picture does this paint for us?

Throughout Scripture, we find instance after instance in which God raises up someone to fight for right even in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Think of the victories of Gideon and his three hundred men against the Midianite army, David and his five smooth stones against Goliath, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer against the Philistines—who, at the time, rightly declared…

For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6).

The spiritual principle for us, then, is that when we are called to warfare—as we surely will be—the battle belongs to the Lord; for, we have His assurances that…

A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you (Proverbs 21:31); and,

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD. (Proverbs 21:31).

II.  The Rescue of Lot

–Where was Lot living at the time?

Because he was taken prisoner along with everyone else in Sodom, it seems that he was no longer living on the outskirts, but had become a permanent resident in the city.

–What does this tell us about Lot?

It seems to say that either Lot did not share the same faith in God as his uncle Abram; or, if he did, that he had been lured away from that faith by the worldly attractions of Sodom.

–Do you think Lot merited Abram’s intervention? Why or why not?

On the surface, Lot doesn’t appear to have been worthy of Abram’s rescue but, because Abram had “adopted” Lot following the death of his father, he had a moral obligation to go after him and rescue him.  No doubt, he also felt a spiritual obligation to do so, in the hopes of giving his nephew a chance to repent before he lost everything he held dear—that being, his family.

Peter later gives us this insight into Lot’s spiritual condition at the time, when he says, if God…

…delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority (2 Peter 2:7-10).

–Can you think of a parable that might apply in this situation?

The one that comes to my mind is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, found in Luke 15:4-7…

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Abraham’s Worshipful Encounter with Melchizedek

III.  Abram’s Encounter with Melchizedek

–Who was Melchizedek?

In this episode, we are told that he was the King of Salem (the city that would later be called Jerusalem), and the Priest of God Most High.  The name used for God here is El Elyon, a name which…

…emphasizes God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy.  In Genesis 14:20, Melchizedek said to Abram, ‘blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ He understood that the Lord is extremely exalted. Let us say as the Psalmist did—’I cry out to the Most High Elohim, To El who is perfecting all matters for me’ (Psalm 57:2).[1]

–Where did he come from?

Unlike everyone else of significance in the Book of Genesis, no genealogical information for Melchizedek is provided—no record of his birth, his death, or his parentage.

–Where else is he mentioned in Scripture?

In addition to this passage in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek serves in the dual roles of King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God—the one who sets a table of communion before AbramKing David references him in Psalm 110 when he prophesies of the coming Messianic King who will one day come through his line.  This King will be held in higher honor than Melchizedek, because He will sit at the right hand of God and rule over the nations.  He, too, will serve as Priest of the Most High God, something which is elaborated upon at length in Hebrews 7.  There, the writer elevates Melchizedek to the status of a pre-incarnate figure of Christ; who, without father or mother, is eternal and who, unlike those in the Levitical Priesthood, will continue as a Priest forever.

–How do you think a King of Righteous could have come to rule over the ungodly people of [Jeru] Salem?

When we consider that the Canaanites were notorious idol worshipers, it seems highly unlikely that a Righteous King would be ruling over one of their cities.  However, Seth, the righteous son of Noah, was still alive at this time, leading some to think that he could have been Melchizedek (Melchizedek being a title rather than a first name).  However, in addition to Arphaxad, the ancestor of Abram, Seth had four other sons through whom his Faith in God could have been passed on.  So, it is entirely possible that Melchizedek might have been one of them.

–Why are the bread and wine, the tithes, and the blessing an important part of this Story?

As elements of the Covenant, the Bread and Wine represent the Communion that Abram shared with God as part of that Covenant.  In the giving of his Tithes, Abram was recognizing and honoring Melchizedek as God’s Chosen Mediator of that Covenant; and, in his blessing of Abram, Melchizedek was reaffirming God’s Covenantal Promises to Abram.

IV.  Abram’s Encounter with the King of Sodom

–What was the King’s offer?

According to the rules of warfare at the time, the spoils of war belonged to the winner of the conflict which, in this case, would have been Abram, and would have included the people as well as the material objects.  It seems, then, that the King of Sodom was trying to cut a deal with Abram where the spoils were concerned.

–What did it represent to Abram?

Abram had been made extremely wealthy through a compromise of his faith and integrity when he went down to Egypt—a compromise which put him on the “outs” with God, and wealth with brought strife and division into his home.  So, for Abram, this represented another Test—one designed to reveal whether or not he had learned anything from those earlier mistakes.

–What, if anything, do you think is significant about Abram’s response?

For one thing, in using the same name for God that Melchizedek had used—that is, the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth—Abram revealed that the decision to reject the offer of the King of Sodom was made as a result of his worshipful encounter with the King of Salem.  Then, in his speedy response to the offer, he was demonstrating that he had learned that his relationship with God, and his reputation and witness were more important to him than anything the world had to offer.

***************************************

In Summary


–What, if any, Life Lessons can we take away from Abram’s experience in Genesis 14?

As we are going about our lives of wandering, worshiping, and witnessing, there will be times when we, like Abram, will be called to do warfare at a moment’s notice.  But, unlike the fleshly battle that he was called to, the warfare that we will be engaged is one that is spiritual in nature.  Like it or not, there will be times when we will be called to do battle on behalf of those who seem to be totally undeserving of our intervention, and those who may not even appreciate our efforts to rescue them.

And, for every victory we experience, we can be sure that the Enemy will be there trying to steal it away through some sort of compromise on our parts.  But, like Abram, we need to settle the issue beforehand of what is most important to us—our walk with God and our testimony before others, or the temporal gratification of material rewards or recognition.

–What Contributions does this Chapter Make to God’s Big Story?

In Melchizedek, Abram was given a preview of the coming Messiah—his very own descendant who even now, is serving as our Great High Priest in heaven, and the One who will one day reign forever as the King of Peace and Righteousness in the New Jerusalem.

–How is God Revealed in this Chapter?

In His relationship with Abram, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Nissi—the Lord is My Banner—the God who goes before us into battle and secures the victory for us through His own power.  And, in His relationship with Lot, He reveals Himself as the Guardian and Deliverer of His People—even in the midst of His judgment upon the wicked.

So far in this study, we have seen how God has been revealing Himself through His Promises to Abram, and then Testing him to reveal his Faith in and Stewardship of those Promises.  In the next chapter—Genesis 15—we will begin to discover the Purpose behind all of this Preparation.

 

Be sure to check it out!

 

[1] From the website, https://discoveringthejewishjesus.com/el-elyon/.

Map courtesy of Bible History Online.
Some pictures courtesy of Free Bible Images.

Abraham: Called to Wander, Worship, and Witness

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Abraham: A Man of Faith and a Friend of God

Welcome back to Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story.  Although it has been a while since we last met, when we did, we were introduced to Abraham, the first of the four Hebrew Patriarchs who are showcased in Genesis 12-50.  Since these men were the ones most responsible for the birth and development of the Nation of Israel—and, since Israel will be making her first appearance on our stage in the next scene—this one will be given over to an examination of the Biographical Pictures—or, Biopics—of these important men.

As for Abraham/Abram,[1] here is what we have learned so far about the Man who would eventually become known as the Father of Israel, the nation that would one day become the Wife of Jehovah…

  • He was a descendant of Shem through his son, Arphaxad;
  • He appeared on the human stage sometime between 2100-2200 BC;[2]
  • He came from a family of idol worshipers;
  • He was born as Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, left Ur with his family to travel to Canaan but was waylaid for a period of time in Haran, an important trade city about 600 miles northeast of Ur (an area part of southern Turkey today); and,
  • He was married to Sarai, who was childless.

With this brief but valuable background information now in hand, we are ready to launch out on our journey with Abram, just as he is preparing to embark upon his journey of faith with God.  In our travels with him, we will be privileged to share in his Spiritual Transformation, witnessing his growth from Paganism to Faith—from his first faltering steps of obedience to his complete surrender to the will and purposes of God.  This transformation will certainly not be an overnight occurrence but will take a lifetime to accomplish; and, as we shall soon see, it will be achieved through the on-going process of Revelation and Testing, in which…

  • Abram will first have an Encounter with God, when God will reveal more of His plans and purposes for Abram; after which,
  • Abram will undergo A Period of testing (usually an extended one), designed to reveal how faithful a steward he has been with the revelations received so far.

Since this process is in no way unique to Abram, but is the same one God uses in the training of all of His Children, it will serve us well to pay careful attention to Abram’s experiences; for, through them, we will be discovering some valuable Life Lessons, as well as some important insights into the Nature and Purposes of God.

Abram’s Journey from Ur to the Land of Promise

Episode #1 of Biopic #1—Showtime!
(Genesis 12:1-13:18)
Cast:
     Narrator     God     Abram     Lot     Sarai     Pharaoh

Now that Episode #1 of Biopic #1 is ready to begin, let’s get settled in our seats, for the lights in the theatre are dimming and the curtain is slowing starting to rise.  As they do, we can hear the resonant voice of our Off-Stage Narrator, informing us that at some time in the past, God had met with Abram and instructed him to…

Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

With the Stage now fully lit before us, we can see a large company of people on the outskirts of Haran, packing up and preparing to leave that bustling caravan city.  And, we hear our Narrator again, as he begins detailing the action taking place on the Stage before us…

It’s Off to Canaan–after too long in Haran!

So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.

Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh.  And the Canaanites were then in the land.

After what must have seemed like an interminable five hundred-plus mile journey, Abram and his company finally arrive in Shechem; and, in spite of the fact that the land is currently occupied by the Canaanites, once he is there, the Lord appears to Abram and makes him this surprising promise…

To your descendants I will give this land.

We watch as Abram responds to this amazing promise by building an altar and worshiping the Lord on the very spot where He has just appeared to him.   But, Abram doesn’t linger in this place for long because, as our Narrator quickly informs us…

…he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.  So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.

Now, It’s Off to Egypt!

All is not well for very long, however, for our Narrator soon adds…

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.  And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that…

…we find Abram, motivated by fear rather than by faith, acting very deceptively when he says to his wife, Sarai…

Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.  Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.  Please say you are my sister,[3] that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.

Here, our Narrator interjects…

So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful.  The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.  He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

However, God was not at all pleased with this, so…

…the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

When Pharaoh discovers the source of the plague, he calls Abram and demands an explanation for his deception…

What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.

And, It’s Out You Go!

At this, our Narrator resumes his commentary

So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had…

Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South.  Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.  And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents.  Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.  And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.

Next, we hear Abram—the epitome of grace and generosity—tell Lot

Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren.  Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.

To which, our Narrator adds…

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.  Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.  Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.  But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.

With Lot’s separation from Abram, we hear the LORD addressing Abram once more, telling him to…

Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.  And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.  Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.

At this, our Narrator closes out this episode with these fitting remarks…

Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.

***********************************

Episode #1—Review

The Critics Hat

It’s Been Way Too Long!

With this first Episode of Biopic #1 now behind us, it’s time for us to pull out and put on our trusty, albeit somewhat rusty, Critic’s Caps, and begin our Review of this segment of Abraham’s Story.  Given that it’s been so long since we last did a review of this sort, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of what we will be looking for.

From the beginning of this Study Tour, it has been our practice to examine each Bible Story on the following three levels…

  • First, we approach it from an Earthly Level, analyzing the everyday events taking place on the Earthly Stage before us, looking specifically for any Life Lessons that we can take away from it;
  • Once we understand the practical significance of these events, we then move on to a Heavenly Level examination, where we seek to identify the contributions they have to make to the One Big Story taking place simultaneously on the Heavenly Stage above us; and,
  • Finally, we re-examine these events on an Eternal Level, looking for any Revelations of God that they may provide.

The Earthly Level Review

Revelation #1…

For reasons known only to Himself, God chose Abram and initiated a relationship with him while he was still a sinner, living in a family of idol worshipers, and living in a culture completely given over to idolatry.  Then, in order to get Abram to the place where He wanted him to be, both physically and spiritually, God met with him three times during this one episode—each time revealing a more expansive view of His Will and Purpose for Abram’s life;

During their first meeting, God gave Abram a very specific set of Instructions and an incredible set of Promises—these being…

God’s Initial Instructions and Promises to Abram

While it may not be readily apparent, these Instructions  are actually God’s Short-Term Goals for Abram, and were meant to move him from where he was to the place where God would begin fulfilling His Promises—or, His Long-Term Goals for Abram.

For these Long-Term Goals to be realized in his life, though, Abram would have to learn…

  • To live a life of Separation—from the evil influences that he had known in his homeland, influences which would hinder him from living a holy life;
  • To Wander, walking by Faith and becoming totally dependent upon God (because it was going to take a lot of faith on his part to meet the challenges that would be waiting for him in the future);
  • To Worship, something we have no record of him doing while he was in his homeland;
  • To become a Witness of God’s Grace and Mercy to the people already living in the land.

…in Progress

Test #1—When called to a Life of Separation, Wandering, Faith, Worship, and Witness, what was Abram’s Response?

While he succeeded in separating himself from his country and his extended family, he failed to leave his immediate family behind—a decision which not only delayed his arrival in the land, the beginning of his worship and witness, as well as the Fulfillment of God’s Promises to him, but which revealed how immature his faith was at this point in his journey.

Revelation #2…

In spite of this failure, however, once Abram arrived in the Land of Promise, he was blessed by another visit from God.  As brief as it was, this encounter served as a confirmation that he had indeed arrived in the place of God’s choosing—and, it was also an opportunity for God to add to His earlier Revelation to Abram.

In this newer Revelation, in spite of the fact that the Canaanites were already occupying the Land, God promised to give it to Abram’s descendants.  This surely must have come as a shock to Abram because, at this point in his life—at seventy-five years of age—he didn’t have even one son to carry his name forward into the future—or the hope of ever having one!  Since it was going to take a lot of faith for Abram to believe this promise, and since his faith was still so immature, a lot more testing was going to be required.

…In Progress

Test #2—What was Abram’s Response when promised Descendants to possess the Land?

His immediate response was to build an Altar and Worship God, first at Shechem and then at Bethel.  Later, however, when faced with a Famine in the Land, and seeming to forget all of God’s Promises, Abram abandoned the Land and his new Walk of Faith, and headed for Egypt—a picture of the World—in an attempt to deal with this situation on his own.

However, this proved to be a costly decision, because it…

  • Caused him to break fellowship with God and to stop worshiping;
  • Caused him to jeopardize not only his relationship with Sarai, his wife, but more importantly, her life;
  • Destroyed any witness he may have had to Pharaoh and the Egyptians;
  • Brought him so much wealth that it later created strife and division within his household.

So, after being unceremoniously booted out of Egypt, Abram chose to do the best thing possible, and that was to go back to Bethel and start over again.  When he did, his fellowship with God was restored and he became a worshiper once again.

Revelation #3…

Even though Abram’s relationship with God was restored at Bethel, his problems didn’t automatically disappear.  In fact, they only increased.  Because both he and Lot had become very rich in Egypt—not just in gold and silver but in livestock, too—when they returned to the Land and it couldn’t support their greatly increased flocks and herds, conflict arose and the two men found it necessary to separate.  (This would have been unnecessary had Abram let Lot remain in Mesopotamia, as God had originally instructed him to do.)

While Lot’s choice to relocate to the suburbs of Sodom would later prove to be a disastrous one for both him and his family, the decision to separate turned out to be a blessing for Abram, as it resulted in a third visitation from God.  In this latest encounter, God expanded on His earlier Revelations even more; this time marking out the boundaries of the Land He was giving to Abram, to as far as his eye could see in all directions—and by increasing his descendants to more than could ever be numbered.

…In Progress

Test #3—What was Abram’s response to this latest Revelation?

He packed up and left Bethel, the place of repentance and restoration, and moved on to Hebron, the place of Fellowship with God.

Life Lessons from the Earthly Level Story

In this first Episode in the Abram’s Story, it should be relatively easy for us to see that our Life Lessons closely parallel the Short-Term Goals which God had established for him.   Like Abram…

  • Those of us who have come to Faith in God, have done so because of God’s gracious intervention in our lives, and not because of any merit of their own;
  • We, too, have been called to a life of Wandering, Worshiping, and Witnessing;
  • We have also been called to Walk by Faith, not by sight, learning to depend upon God and His provision for us;
  • In our walks with God, we are going to be Tested so that the faithfulness of our Stewardship of God’s Revelations can be revealed;
  • Disobedience on our parts will not only delay the work that God wants to do in and through us, but also the fulfillment of His Long-Term Goals for us;
  • God will not give us any New Instructions until we have obeyed the last things He told us to do; and,
  • Even though God watches over us during our periods of disobedience, He will not negate the poor choices (and their consequences) that we may have made (and incurred) during that time.

Heavenly Level Review

In the reviews of the Bible Stories we’ve studied so far, we have learned that in addition to their valuable Life Lessons, the people and events in each one were also intended to paint a Spiritual Picture for us.  This is certainly true of the Story of Abram; for, when we backup and look at God’s Big Picture of Redemption, we can see that in this Episode…

  • Abram was being prepared to step into his role as the Exalted Father of Israel, who, at the appropriate time, would enter into a Marriage Contract or Covenant in which Israel would be Promised to God.
  • Abram was being re-located to the Land where God would eventually make His home, where he would live among His People in an Earthly Tabernacle.
  • God, from this Pivotal Piece of Real Estate, would establish a Witness to the World through Israel.  As long as she remained faithful to Her Husband, He would bless her to such a degree that she would become the Light of Truth to all the Nations of the Earth; and through her, God’s Son would come into the World to provide for its Redemption.

Eternal Level Review

In the past, we have described the Bible as the Progressive Revelation of God, in spite of the fact that He rarely gives us a verbal description of Himself in Scripture.  Instead, He has chosen to reveal Himself through the things He does and the ways that He relates to people.   So, if we are going to uncover the Truths about God hidden in this Episode, then we will have to look closely at His actions and His relationships with the people involved in this portion of the Scriptures, if we are to discover that…

God Reveals Himself in Everything He Does

As you can see, there is a lot to be learned about God and about Living a Life of Faith in this one Episode of Abram’s Story.  But, there is even more to be discovered when we get into Abram’s Call to Warfare coming up next, in Episode #2 of Biopic #1.  In anticipation of that, please read through Genesis 14, asking yourself the following questions…

  • Why is this Episode important enough to be included in this Story?
  • What part does it play in the Life of Abram?
  • What Life Lessons are there to be learned from it?
  • Does Worship, Witness, Separation, or the Principle of Expanded Revelation play any part in it?

Something to Ponder…

Have You Been Able to See God Creating Faith in You through Your Trials?

 

* Some illustrations courtesy of Free Bible Images at http://www.freebibleimages.org/

[1] For clarity’s sake, we will use the name Abram until the point in the story when God changes his name to Abraham.

[2] Note on Calculations—In 1 Kings 6:1, we learn that the 4th year of Solomon’s reign—966 BC—was 480 years after the Exodus [966+480=1446], and from Exodus 12:40-41, we learn that the Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years.  So 1446+430=1876, making that the year that Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.  Since Jacob was 130 when he appeared before Pharaoh, Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and Abraham was 75 when he entered the Promised Land, this would mean that the total time spent in Canaan would have been 215 years [130+60+(100-75)=215]. Adding 215 years to 1876, then 75 (for Abraham’s age until then)—the year that Jacob and his family moved to Egypt—we arrive at a date of 2166 BC for Abram’s birth.

[3] In Genesis 20:12, we learn that Sarai is Abram’s half-sister—the daughter of his father Terah and another mother.