The Better Choice

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We can only guess at some of the political intrigue that might have been going on that formed the background to the stories of the Bible. We don’t often take into account the cultural tensions that affected how even the saints lived out their lives. In Genesis 14 we catch a glimpse of some of those dynamics of life in the Middle East during the time of Abram.

The tensions between the city-states of the time are seen in the early verses of the chapter. One set of kings pitted against another set of kings is described in Genesis 14:1-9. But it appears that even Abram had to protect himself from greedy predator kings by making his own alliances (14:13).

Unhappily, Abram’s nephew, Lot, got swept up when Sodom was overrun in the conflict. When the patriarch of the family heard the news, we discover a different side to Abram. The threat to his family brought out the warrior in him and he rallied his household to go in pursuit of his kinsman. Not only did he rescue Lot and the others with him, the Scriptures say that he defeated “Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him” (14:16). That’s pretty impressive for a farmer. The story begs more detail but without a doubt the hand of the Almighty was evident in the whole episode.

But what happened after Lot had been returned to Sodom captures the imagination even more. The priest-king of Salem (Jerusalem), Melchizedek, came out to meet Abram. This man was a “priest of God Most High.” How did that happen? Where did this man come from? How did he come to be a believer, let alone a king and priest of God? We don’t know. All we do know, apart from a reference in Hebrews 7, is recorded for us here. Melchizedek blessed Abram with these words: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand” (14:19, 20).

To make the encounter more amazing, Abram then gave 10% of all the booty collected to the priest-king of Salem, no doubt as an offering of thanksgiving to God.

Added to this beautiful capsule of history is what happened next. The King of Sodom, in gratitude for Abram’s help, offered him all the possessions that he had rescued. Unlike the wealth that he had accepted from the King of Egypt during that unfortunate trip (Genesis 12:16), this time Abram would not take anything (14:22-22-24). He refused to be beholden in any way to a pagan.

Why should he? He’s just been blessed in the name of the Creator of the Universe. What more could anyone, particularly a pagan, add to that?

For the believer, the blessing of God has to mean more than anything anyone else could possibly give us. Sometimes we are tempted to settle for the “anything” rather than the blessing, the tangible instead of the intangible. But Abram knew the value of one over the other. If we are to enjoy His blessing we have to make choices that the rest of the world will not understand or appreciate. But, in the end, that less traveled path of obedience to a higher calling, takes us to a much better destination.

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