Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The life of Abraham - Genesis 14

When looking on the surface at chapter 14 of Genesis, it doesn’t seem like there is much that we can learn about the life of Abram. We’re still getting to know his character. Many of his more famous exploits, such as the birth and sacrifice of Isaac, are far into the future. When I first read this chapter this morning I thought it was another dry historical account of an Old Testament battle. It made me want to ask the question of why this dusty old battle was in the Bible at all.

Well, God has a plan in everything, and that plan includes this small part. The lesson we can learn in this chapter comes near the end, and it is one about thankfulness. Abram placed a lot on the line in this battle to go rescue his nephew Lot. He united several kings in the area around him and risked much not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others. This is a servile nature that we see in Abraham and is later represented in the ultimate sacrifice that Christ laid down for us.

20 And blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand."
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself."

22 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 23 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.' 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share." – Genesis 14:20-24

For winning this battle, Abram was certainly entitled to all the spoils of war. His actions here reflect two things. First, he was still the new kid on the block. He didn’t want trouble with his neighbors who probably viewed him, at least cautiously, as a threat because of his wealth and influence. Not taking the spoils of the battle raised their opinion of him. As a result, he developed further friendly relations with them in the event he needed their help in the future.

The second thing his actions reflected is the thankfulness I mentioned earlier. We see the first instance of a tithe when he gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek. When I wrote about the book of Hebrews, I saw that Melchizedek was viewed as a very powerful Canaanite priest. He was a very early symbol of Christ in that he was a priest that offered sacrifices on behalf of others. Abram’s thankfulness comes through here in that he knew God was responsible for his victory. We can learn from this in knowing that God is responsible for everything we have.

No comments: