Today’s reading begins the Abraham story. And Abraham’s story begins with a promise from God. God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, that He would make his name great, that Abraham would be a blessing to others. God promises to bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse him. God calls Abraham out of idolatry. The people in Ur of the Chaldees worshipped the moon god Nannar. Abraham knew nothing of the one true God, but God graciously called him. God chose Abraham. Abraham was 75 years old when God called him, proof that age doesn’t matter when it comes to faith. He was most likely a very influential tribal chieftain, a man with much influence, power, and wealth. And he was married to his half-sister. They were childless which was a terrible place to be in that day and age.
As we read, notice the contrast here between the men of Babel and Abraham. The men of Babel wanted to make a name for themselves. But it was God who promised to make Abraham’s name great. The men of Babel said let us, but Abraham said I will go. This shows us the condition of their hearts. Like Abel and Noah before him, Abraham had a heart for God and that changed everything. We also see something else here. God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their home…country, people, and their father’s household. Abraham did leave but he took his father and his nephew Lot with him. However, when you bring things from the old life into the new there is a very good chance there will be issues. Abraham’s father kept Abraham from going as far as God wanted him to go, and Lot created serious problems for Abraham until they parted company. One of the ways we are tempted is by compromise. God tests us to help build our faith and bring out the best in us, but the evil one tempts us in an effort to destroy our faith and bring out the worst in us.
Like Noah, when Abraham landed where he was supposed to be, he built an altar to the Lord and worshipped Him. We see a man who is mostly right with the Lord. All of the pagans who lived in the area Abraham and Sarah settled in noticed he built one altar. He worshipped one God. Two things defined Abraham, the altars he built and his tent. The tent marked him as a pilgrim, a sojourner in the land and the altar showed he worshipped the one true God. These two things defined him his whole life. Abraham pitched his tent between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means house of God and Ai means ruin. Believing in God puts us right there as well. We lean towards the house of God, but the evil one constantly tempts us in an attempt to bring us to ruin.
A famine in the land drives Abraham and family to Egypt for food and a safe place to live. But Sarah is beautiful, and Abraham is worried they will kill him and take Sarah. So, they tell a lie…kind of. Sarah is his half-sister, but they are married. The havoc wreaked in Pharaoh’s house because of this lie earns Abraham and family a return trip to the promised land. But they left much richer in money and possessions than when they arrived. Abraham chose to go back to his place between Bethel and Ai but now he and Lot had possessions so great that there was conflict between his men and Lot’s. In his wisdom Abraham invited Lot to choose where he would live, and Abraham would settle accordingly.
We see two distinct personalities between Abraham and Lot. Scripture tells us Lot was righteous, but Lot was out of place. He lived more for the world and things of the world. He was not devoted to the Lord. He was a friend of the world. Abraham was a friend of the Lord. He lived not for himself but for others. And when he returned to his place between Bethel and Ai, he also returned to the altar he had built to the Lord. Once again, he was firmly centered on the Lord. That is true for us as well. When we walk away from God, we too become off center. Abraham walked by faith and not sight. Remember God had invited him to leave everything familiar, but God didn’t tell him where they were going. The invitation was to a place God would show Abraham. He followed God in faith. Imagine getting in your vehicle and waiting for God to direct you as to where you should go.
One more thing to think about here. Lot chooses to live in Sodom, a place that loves everything of the world. The king of his city goes off to war to battle other kings and loses. Lot and his family and all their possessions are carried off by the victors. Abraham and his fighting men rescue Lot and bring everyone and everything back. It is what happens next that is remarkable. As Abraham was returning from the battle, he was met by two kings. The first was the king of Sodom, which means burning. This king, Bera offered Abraham all the spoils of the war in return for the people. But Abraham was not going to be beholden to any earthly king. The second king was Melchizedek, king of Salem. His name means king of righteousness. Abraham had the opportunity to choose which king he would interact with. One was a king of the world and the other came clearly from God. Melchizedek offered Abraham bread and wine, and in return Abraham gave him a tenth of everything he had. Most look at Melchizedek as a preincarnate Jesus. In rejecting Bera and accepting Melchizedek Abraham was confessing faith. Take the world but give me the Lord. He didn’t want anyone to think the world had made him rich. Abraham knew everything he had came from the grace of the Lord.
We see that Melchizedek offered a blessing upon Abraham. Abraham would be blessed by God most High and God would deliver his enemies into his hand. Melchizedek met Abraham after the battle to give him strength for his victory because there is temptation after we have beaten the enemy. This is the first place in scripture we see tithing mentioned and Abraham gives out of his gratitude to the Lord. God has richly blessed Abraham, just as he richly blesses us.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W