Read Genesis 14.
Notice now that Lot is living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12), the city described in the last chapter as one in which the men were “wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Look at the progression with Lot. We believe that his dad (Abram’s brother) passed away, so Abram became like a “father figure” to Lot. So, Abram apparently considered Lot like a son and brought him with his immediate family to Canaan, Egypt and back to Canaan. Abram let him choose where he wanted to live, and Lot chose the more fertile land, close to Sodom. Then he moved into Sodom. And now he finds himself a prisoner of war! He didn’t go looking for trouble. He went looking for self-gratification – and trouble found him. It works that way more often than not.
So Abram takes some men and rescues Lot in a nighttime assault. Abram wasn’t looking for trouble either. He just ended up in the thick of it because of sin’s seductiveness to his nephew.
I’d say most times when we end up in a tough situation, it’s for one of these two reasons:
- We were hanging out somewhere we shouldn’t have been (as in Lot hanging out in Sodom) or
- We were hanging out with people who drug us into their own self-inflicted drama (as in Abram being dragged into Lot’s problem here)
This next section (Genesis 14:17-24) is pretty mysterious to most people, including me. 🙂 Not much is known about Melchizedek, but I will tell you what I do know. Melchizedek is called here the “King of Salem” (most people believe that “Salem” is short for Jerusalem, as it is in Psalm 76:2. “Salem” is also related to the Hebrew word “Shalom”, which means “peace”, see also Hebrews 7:2). What is really interesting is that the New Testament book of Hebrews devotes an entire chapter to this specific incident (Hebrews 7) and quotes Psalm 110:4, referring clearly to Jesus as a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (See also Hebrews 5:6, Hebrews 5:10, and Hebrews 6:20.) And Hebrews 7:3 makes this interesting statement about him: “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” There are some respected theologians who believe, based primarily on these many references in Hebrews, that Melchizedek was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus (called a Christophany). We can’t be sure, but it certainly seems that there is ample evidence to conclude that. It would also explain why Abram gives a tithe to Melchizedek.
What we know for certain from Abram’s contrasting responses to the kings of Sodom and Salem in Genesis 14:17-24 is that Abram is relying on God rather than on military might in order to gain possession of Canaan. Although God has promised the land to Abram, the patriarch will not adopt violent strategies or enter into an alliance with the wicked king of Sodom in order to obtain it. This is an important step of faith for Abram, although there are still more missteps ahead for him…