Who Was Melchizedek?
RUMC June 25, 2017
Two men were shipwrecked on a deserted island and suddenly found themselves all alone, in desperate straits. One of the men stood to his feet and said in an excitable manner, “We are going to die. There is no food. There is no water. We will never be found.” The second man finally said, “We will be just fine. My church pledge is due next week and I know the finance committee will find me.”
This morning, we will continue our theme of looking at Old Testament stories. My focus for today will be an incident that involved the Patriarch Abraham. At a pivotal point in Abraham’s life a war broke out, and he ended up being the hero. When Abraham divided up the spoils of war, he gave to God out of his abundance, and that is what we will look at today.
My text is Genesis 14:14-20.
When Abram heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people. 17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.
This is the Word of God.
Here is some background information. At the time Abraham lived in the desert with his family. On this one occasion, there was a regional war between the local kings, and, in the course of the battle that raged around him, Lot and his family had been taken captive and were now prisoners of war. When Abraham heard that news, he immediately enlisted and armed 318 of his men with spears, bows and sling shots and went to find Lot and his family.
From what we can read of today’s scripture, it seems that Abraham was the first Army Ranger. Using today’s military terminology, Abraham divided his men into two light infantry companies. They went on a forced road march under the cover of darkness, and then, with the element of surprise, raided the enemy’s command and control to rescue Lot and his family.
Maybe you have heard the old saying-“To the victor come the spoils;” that is what Abraham’s men did. They recovered people and a substantial amount of captured supplies, goods, food, drink, animals, clothing, gold and silver. Then something else happened. A distinguished looking man came out to meet Abraham. He was dressed as both king and a priest of God. His name was Melchizedek. In this mysterious man’s hands were bread and wine.
Melchizedek offered Abraham a drink from the cup and some bread. With outstretched arms, Melchizedek blessed the patriarch with these words:
Blessed Be Abram by
God Most High Maker of Heaven
And Blessed be God Most High
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.
This blessing was to remind Abraham that his recent military victory was not his doing, but God’s. Abraham, already in an act of worship when he ate the bread and drank from the cup, went a step further and gave the priest king a tenth of the goods recovered. This is where our tradition of Christian giving or stewardship began.
A number of years later Abraham’s grandson Jacob was traveling alone to start a new life with his uncle Laban. Jacob fell asleep under the stars. That night he had a dream of a stairway ascending into heaven. When Jacob woke up he made a vow that if God would watch over him, he would give God a tenth of his income.
Let me share the story of my faith and giving with you. As a child, I attended a Roman Catholic Church and we had children’s offering envelopes. Every Sunday, my parents would give me a dime or quarter to put in the envelope. During the church service, when the ushers would come by with the offering basket that was attached to a long pole, I would put my envelope in it. I had done this for years and years.
When I asked Jesus to come into my heart as a teenager, everything in my life had changed. Christ had become real and I started to read my Bible with great interest. It was in these early days of my faith journey that I decided to give 10% of whatever I earned to the Lord, and I have done it ever since.
I think it is important to learn to give 10% to God when we are young; the behaviors we learn as a child stay with us through adulthood.
Here is an inspirational story along these lines. Colgate-Palmolive is one of the oldest companies in the United States. It was started by a young man named William Colgate who left home at age sixteen to seek his fortune. At that time, everything that he owned in this world was tied in a little bundle attached to a long stick.
As he walked to New York City, he was met by an old neighbor who was a retired captain of a canal boat. This was their conversation. “Well William, where are you going? The young lad replied, “Father is too poor to keep me at home any longer, and says I must make a living for myself now.” William also admitted he had no skills except he knew how to make soap and candles. The old neighbor said, “Let me pray with you and give you a little advice.
Right there on the road to New York, a teenager and a retired ship captain knelt down and prayed. After the prayer, the old man said, “Someone will soon be the leading soap maker in New York. It can be you as well as anyone. I hope it may. Be a good man. Give your heart to Christ. Give the Lord what belongs to him of every dollar you earn. Make an honest soap and I am certain you will yet be a prosperous and rich man.”
When William arrived in New York, he followed the old man’s advice and dedicated himself to Christ. He joined a church and the first thing he did with the first dollar that he earned was to give 10% to the Lord’s work. From that point on, he considered ten cents of every dollar as sacred. And today, this company is still going strong; I am sure most of us have used its products.
Giving to the Lord can be demonstrated by the story of a grandfather giving each of his two grandsons a box of chocolate chip cookies. The first boy took the package, went into his bedroom, tore into the box and started to eat the cookies. The other boy unwrapped his package right in front of his grandfather and said, “Thank you for giving me these cookies. Here, help yourself. Be the first one to take some.” That is the correct attitude in giving to God. Give to God first, instead of last from what is left over, or not even at all.
Think of what Abraham did. He helped win the war. In worship he partook of the bread and wine, and with his abundance he gave back to God. May we be as faithful in our worship and stewardship.