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These made war
The first war on record
AS TO ITS MOTIVES.
3. The desire to recover lost sovereignty.
II. AS TO THE CONDITIONS OF ITS SUCCESS. From the failure of human foresight, and the endless complications of events, it may happen that the battle is not always to the strong; still there are general conditions of success. Some of these may be seen in the instance before us.
1. By depriving the enemy of all friendly help.
2. By favourable physical conditions.
3. By moral causes.
III. AS TO ITS RESULTS.
1. That men often suffer who take no part in the quarrel.
2. That the vanquished do not always benefit by the discipline of adversity. (T. H. Leale.)
Hints for teaching
I. See here an example and contrast of UNLAWFUL AND LAWFUL WAR. Chedorlaomer and Abram both went to war: but the former did so from pride, covetousness, and hatred to his neighbours; the latter from love to his neighbour, pity for the innocent captives, affection for his kindred, and zeal for right. The outward act was the same, but the motives as different as light and darkness. But could not God have delivered Lot and the other captives without Abram’s interference? Certainly; but God commonly works by means, not by miracle; and this was the means He chose, to humble the pride of the oppressor, to deliver the injured, to exercise the faith and courage and energy of Abram and his servants, and to put honour on Abram. War is always a dreadful thing; it must also be a most wicked thing, except only when the great law of love to our neighbour requires it 1 Kings 8:44; Judges 6:12; Judges 6:14; Judges 6:16; Romans 13:4).
II. MELCHIZEDEK is one of the most remarkable OLD TESTAMENT TYPES OF CHRIST (see Psalms 110:4; Zechariah 6:11-13; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:1-3). By this I understand, not that Melchizedek personally, during his lifetime, was a type of Christ to Abram or his contemporaries; but that the history of Melchizedek’s interview with Abram is so recorded, by Divine inspiration, as to supply an image of Christ. The type lies not in the man, but in the Scripture record. St. Paul expresses this by saying he was “made like unto the Son of God,” i.e., made in the history a figure of Him. In his names and title, “King of righteousness” and “King of peace” (Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 32:1; Isaiah 32:17). (The Congregational Pulpit.)
I. THE MARAUDING CHIEFTAINS.
1. Their names suggestive of character. Heads of savage and wandering tribes; having their headquarters in the plain of Shinar and neighbourhood.
2. Cause of this recorded war not given. Probably to be referred exclusively to the cause stated (James 4:1). Doubtless plunder and tribute the chief objects sought.
3. Falling upon the kings of the plain, most probably by surprise, they were victorious. Levied tribute and returned.
4. Tribute paid during twelve years; declined in the thirteenth year. By this time the kings of the plain thought they were strong enough to resist; had probably organized resistance.
5. Chedorlaomer and his confederates march to enforce payment, taking and plundering various cities on their way (Genesis 14:5-7).
6. Battle of the Vale of Siddim. The kings of the plain hemmed in and destroyed. The nature of the ground facilitating their overthrow.
II. THE CAPTURE OF LOT.
1. He was in Sodom when it was taken (Genesis 14:11-12). He now suffers the penalty of his folly. “He that soweth to the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”
2. Perils arising from worldly choice and ungodly companions. Young people often suffer through their companions. Lot lost the property for the increase of which he was so anxious. He trusted more to the strong walls and untried friends in Sodom than in the living God. “This their way is their folly.”
3. A hopeless captivity and poverty are now before him. From what quarter could he expect deliverance?
III. THE BRAVERY OF ABRAM.
1. He hears the news.
2. Summons his confederates. This an alliance for mutual protection and defence.
3. Collects and arms his trained servants. These, with the retainers of his friends, make a numerous band.
4. Marches in pursuit of Chedorlaomer. Might have abandoned Lot to his fate. Hurries through the country and overtakes the spoilers and their captives at Daniel
5. The night attack. Surprise of Lot. Abram to the rescue. The forces divide, that the enemies’ camp may be attacked from various sides at once. Consternation and rout of the confederate kings of the east, and the rescue of Lot.
6. The kings not only routed, but pursued and slain. A guarantee of freedom in the future from molestation. LEARN--
I. Evils of war; desolation carried through a great country and into many cities and homes. The innocent perish with the guilty.
II. Results of thoughtless choice of home and friends.
III. Friend in need is a friend indeed. Abram prosperous does not abandon Lot in adversity.
IV. Jesus, the great conqueror, delivers our captive souls. (J. C. Gray.)
The battle of the kings Melchizedek
I. IN ITS LITERAL ASPECTS, WE SHALL CONSIDER THE OCCASION OF ABRAHAM’S CONFLICT; HIS SPIRIT AND CONDUCT IN IT; AND HIS BEHAVIOUR AFTER IT.
1. The occasion. It was necessary that depredators should be kept in check, and the plan adopted by Abraham was the only one possible in that age. Abraham was not actuated by love of conquest or desire of gain, still less by a spirit of revenge. He merely sought to deliver those who had unjustly been made captives, and to recover stolen property. His functions, as warrior, were essentially those of our modem police. It seems impossible to find fault with his conduct in entering on such an expedition; and thus far it would be easy to show the allowability and even the duty of engaging in defensive war. You will also see how piety and faith do not unfit a man for the active duties of life; or even for bold and heroic enterprises, when these come in the way of duty. Religion does not unman us. It does not make us effeminate, or cowards. Rather, it ennobles and strengthens our whole nature.
2. Abraham’s conduct in the fight. It was distinguished by generosity, valour, prudence, righteousness, and faith. It is not hard to account for his victory.
3. His behaviour after it. We see this in his conduct toward Melchizedek; and in his conduct toward the king of Sodom. He presented to God a tithe of all the spoils, which at once displayed his piety, and rebuked the idolatry of the inhabitants of the cities of the plain. From motives of piety, we may explain his conduct to the king of Sodom. He refused any reward for ills services. This he did, in order to evince the purity of his motives; also in order to avoid undue fellowship with idolaters. This behaviour was the more necessary because of the false position in which Lot had placed himself. And here we see the folly of mingling closely with the ungodly. Lot could not rebuke the Sodomites, for why had he come to live among them? Neither did he gain anything, but lost much, by preferring their country on account of its wealth and fertility.
II. APPLY IT TO OUR SPIRITUAL HISTORY.
1. The believer is called to fight against many foes. This is not a fiction, but a reality; nor is this a despicable, but a most important species of conflict. Our enemies are spiritual spoliators.
2. Let us consider the spiritual Melchizedek, and our relation to him.
3. See in this history how far God notices the wars and commotions of the world. Only so far as they stand connected with the history and welfare of His people. We should do well to cultivate the same spirit; and judge of all events by the light of the Word of God. And then we shall be better able to comprehend the real importance of mundane changes and events; while we learn to be patient and hopeful under all adverse circumstances, for we know that God will take care of us; and the path of duty will be the path of safety. (The Congregational Pulpit.)
Prince Eugene, speaking of war, said, “The thirst of renown sometimes insinuates itself into our councils, under the garb of national honour. It dwells on imaginary insults; it suggests harsh and abusive language; the people go on from one thing to another, till they put an end to the lives of half a million of men. A military man becomes so sick of bloody scenes in war, that in peace he is averse to recommence them. I wish that the first minister, who is called to decide on peace and war, had only seen actual service.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
The Salt Sea
The Dead Sea a special memento of the doom that awaits the wicked
Near the southeast corner of Palestine is a body of water more remarkable in some respects than any other on the earth. Though the Jordan is annually pouring a vast quantity of fresh water into this remarkable lake, its own water is intensely salt, exceeding in saltness that of the ocean; and so great is its specific gravity that “one floats easily on its surface, as if reclining on a couch.” He who bathes in it can, as Mr. Stephens affirms, lie on the water and read or even sleep; but when he comes out, his body will smart and burn, and he will find himself partially incrusted with salt. This mysterious lake has no visible outlet, and yet, strange to say, it never overflows. By means of evaporation it preserves nearly the same level throughout the year. No vessels are seen on its bosom, no fish are found darting through its saline waters, and neither grass nor flowers nor green trees are found in its immediate vicinity. A silence like that of the tomb broods over it, and its entire aspect is dreary, dismal, and desolate in the extreme. In view of these facts, it is not strange that what in our text Moses calls “the Salt Sea” should in modern times be denominated the Dead Sea; for, perhaps, no better emblem of death and desolation could be found on the face of the globe. But has this mysterious sea always existed? Has the gloom and desolation that now marks the spot always reigned there? Ah, no! The spot now occupied by the Salt Sea was once a part of the fertile valley of the Jordan; and the tramp of armed men was once heard where now an almost unbroken silence prevails. What has produced this marvellous change? What throe of nature, what mighty power, has transformed the Vale of Siddim into a salt, sluggish, unnavigated lake, having naught but its history to render it attractive? The answer is found in Genesis 19:24-25. So filthy and unutterably loathsome had the doings of the Sodomites and their neighbours become, that God saw fit not only to put an end to their vile career, but to make the very spot they occupied, the very cities they dwelt in, a visible and abiding monument of His abhorrence of sin, and of what all who persist in sin have to expect. He saw fit to convert a fertile and populous valley into a scene of desolation and ruin; to bury beneath the waters of the Dead Sea a tract of earth which its inhabitants had so awfully defiled. God’s object in all this was, to “make them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” And to render the lesson more effectual, He chose to set up, on the spot once occupied by those cities, a striking remembrance of their wickedness, and of the vengeance that overtook them. As a tombstone reminds us of our mortality, or as a rainbow reminds us of a deluged world, so should the Dead Sea, whether actually seen or only thought of, prove an impressive memento of “the wrath to come.” Hear its warning voice, ye worldlings and sensualists, and become wise! else a desolation will soon overtake you that is far gloomier and more terrible than that which now broods over the buried cities of the plain. (T. Williston.)
1. Ambition delays no time: when it hath power to revenge any affronts against it. Prom the time considered with the assailants.
2. Usually unjust rebellions are followed with severe destructions, and that speedily.
3. Ambition labours to get confederates and engage them with itself for its own ends.
4. Usurping ambition when it is powerful is very cruel, smiting, killing.
5. Ambitious oppressors spare not nations in their power. They destroy nations not a few. Such is the rant of the Assyrian (Isaiah 37:1-38).
6. Usurping tyrants pursue after blood when they have once tasted it.
7. God’s overruling providence maketh wicked men execute vengeance upon each other for their wickedness.
8. Ambitious usurpers destroy all that is in their way to their unjust ends (Genesis 14:5-7). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
We have here some of the most ancient houses of which the world can boast. As Porter remarks, they are just such dwellings as a race of giants would build. The walls and roofs, but especially the ponderous gates, doors, and bars, are in every way characteristic of a period when architecture was in its infancy, when giants were masons, and when strength and security were the grand requisites. The heavy stone slabs of the roofs resting on the massive walls make the structure as firm as if built of solid masonry, and the black basalt used is almost as hard as iron. There can scarcely be a doubt that these are the cities erected and inhabited by the Pephaim--that on these masses of masonry, which Ritter remarks now stand as constant witnesses of the conquest of Bashan by Jehovah, Abram gazed--and that amid these secure strongholds Chedorlaomer and his Elamite warriors roamed ere they attacked the kings in the Vale of Siddim. Yet how dreary now! (W. Adamson.)
1. These received their name from dwelling in caves. Strabo says that the life of these cave dwellers was nomadic. They are governed by tyrants, wear skins, and carry spears and shields which are covered with raw hides. They anoint their bodies with a mixture of blood and milk, drink an infusion of buckthorn, and travel and tend their flocks by night.
2. It is interesting to know that the excavated dwellings of the Horites are still found in hundreds in the sandstone cliffs and mountains of Edom, and especially in Petra. Some of them, Wilson says, have windows as well as doors. In front of others are receptacles for water. They are all approachable by a common way. The region is now a habitation of dragons--literally, as Irby says, swarming with lizards and scorpions, etc.
3. Mount Hor, upon which Aaron died, is a striking summit. Mangles remarks that an artist who would study rock scenery in all its wildest and most extravagant forms, and in colours, which, to no one who has not seen them, would scarcely appear to be in nature, would find himself rewarded should he resort to Mount Her for that purpose. (W. Adamson.)
1. When the South African chief, Sekukuni, who had ravaged the borders of the white man’s land, was assailed by the English soldiers, he and his followers fled to a mountain, and hid themselves in the caves and recesses.
2. History relates how it was usual for the Vaudois, when attacked by the Papal troops, to remove their families and goods for security to the Alpine heights and caverns, where they could make a firm stand against their merciless foes.
3. The Archbishop of Tyre relates that when Baldwin IV, one of the Crusade kings of Jerusalem, ravaged the fruitful valley of Bacar, the inhabitants fled to the mountains, whither his troops could not easily follow them.
4. D’Arvieux says that in his time, when the Arabs attacked the rebel peasants of the Holy Land in the plain of Gonin, they fled towards the hills, and there, hiding themselves, were secure from attack or pursuit.
5. This explains the statement here that the defeated Sodomites, who escaped from the field of battle, betook themselves to a mountain. And it is supposed that among the fugitives thus secure from the Elamite attack was the king of Sodom.
6. It is worthy of notice that in the solemn woe on Mount Olives the Lord employs this figure in connection with the Roman armies: “Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:21). See also Revelation 6:15. (W. Adamson.)
1. Sinners’ advantages may prove contrary, to be disadvantages to them.
2. Pits may take those who intend them for others (Psalms 9:1-20).
3. God makes sinners fly and die, and be dispersed by sinners.
4. Pits and mountains are chosen to perish in by flesh, rather than the sword of their enemies.
5. Ambitious wars make havoc and lay waste, by killing, plundering, and starving all that be in their way (Genesis 14:11).
6. Wars in the world sometimes prove very prejudicial to the innocent Church of God.
7. Ambitious conquerors spare neither good nor bad. All they have is spoiled.
8. It is bad sitting down for the saints among the tents of the wicked. He that chooseth their pleasures, shall feel their pains. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
When Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants
Abram as a warrior
IN THE CAUSE OF MAN.
1. The sacredness of natural affection.
2. The noble generosity which forgets the faults of friends or kindred in their distress.
3. The heroism which sacrifices self for the benefit of others.
II. IN THE CAUSE OF GOD.
1. His engaging in war cannot be accounted for, except on the supposition that he had a Divine warrant for his conduct.
(1) As a private individual he would not have the right to wage war.
(2) His chance of success, to all human appearance, was small.
2. He wages war as the ruler and proprietor, by Divine right, of the land. (T. H.Leale.)
The blessed life illustrated in the history of Abraham
And now what think you Abraham shall do? Away in Hebron he dwells hidden in his pavilion from the strife of men, kept in perfect peace, untroubled amidst his flocks and herds, wrapped in communion with God. As the messenger arrives and inquires for him, do they go forth to find him at the altar and in prayer? Do they tell him the latest news--all about “Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar?” Think of the holy man, waving them away with his hand, indignant at the interruption. “What is all that to me? Do you know that I am seeking a country out of sight, and that I am but a pilgrim here?
It is not for me, called with so high a calling, to trouble myself with such things, or indeed to heed them. Leave me to my altar and to my God.” And he turns again to pray. If he had done so the blessed life would not have been his. Many a man has tried to overcome this world by running away from it, but has never succeeded. The life that loses all interest in this world, in its politics, in its business, and thousand interests, is not the blessed life. You may baptize this selfish indifference with any sentimental name you please--call it, if you will, heavenly-mindedness: but it remains as ugly as ever. So long as I am in this world, so long ought its concerns to concern me, and its interests to interest me. Selfish isolation will not make me any more of an angel, only less of a man. The blessed life, the life of communion with God and surrender to Him, does not give me a pair of wings to fly away from the world; it does much better than that, it teaches me how to put the world under my feet and keep it there. Turn the message round a little, and there is another aspect of it worth dwelling upon: “Lot is taken, Abram’s brother’s son.” What shall he say? “What have I to do with Lot? we have dissolved partnership. He has gone his way, and I have gone mine; and we have no further dealings together. He cannot complain, for I do him no wrong; he made his choice, and I had to accept what was not good enough for him. He knew the people that he was going amongst, and has only himself to blame. If I were in trouble he certainly would not go far to help me.” Abraham could not have said so: depend upon it we cannot either, if our life is the life of surrender to God and communion with Him. Very significant is the first word: “And when Abram heard that his brother”--Do you think it is a misprint? I think not. He was only a nephew in prosperity, but in trouble he is a brother. That is the blessed life, when every man is in true relation to us; but sorrow makes men very much nearer and more to us. Many an earnest man misses the blessed life just at this point. You think you can quite justify the indignation you feel. Your position and natural feeling require that there should be an explanation or apology before you can render any help. So the opportunity is lost; and who, think you, is the loser, he whom I might have helped, or I? I who might have been a blessing shall be unblessed. But turn the incident round again, and let another light fall upon it. However much concerned about Lot, and however eager to help him, what can Abraham do? The case was really a desperate one. The mightiest monarchs probably in the world had combined their forces and conquered all the nations that dwelt in their course. There was one thing that he could do: perhaps only one,--things are never so desperate but that we can pray about them,--and that Abraham did pray comes out later in the chapter: “I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God.” As to fighting in relation to the blessed life, I do not know that I need say more than this: that when God bids us fight and promises to go with us, then let us go forth as bravely as Abraham, but till then let us try to “live peaceably with all men.” But the great thing for us to heed is this, our faith must be after the pattern and spirit of Abraham’s. There must be the same indignation against wrong. Cold-blooded indifference, that goes on its way never seeing the misery of men and women, never heeding the want of our poor humanity, is simply devilish; and not much better is the sentimentality that cannot bear to see what others have to endure. Abraham was not a man of war, he was a man of peace: a man perhaps almost too ready for compromise. But his brother suffers--then Abraham cannot be quiet: all his soul is stirred within him. Nor does his indignation waste itself only in pity. He goes forth for his deliverance, with all the help he can get; he is away to help this brother of his as much as in him lies. (M. G. Pearse.)
The victorious warrior
In this chapter Abram appears in a new character. He had encouraged Lot to separate from him for the sake of peace, and now we find him taking up arms at the head of a confederacy of Amorite chiefs, and contending against Elam, then the ruling power in that part of Asia. When Lot went to live in the Jordan valley, the kings of the Pentapolis acknowledged the suzerainty of Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and paid him an annual tribute. At length, however, they had rebelled, and Chedorlaomer, with three tributary kings, after sweeping down upon the surrounding tribes, defeated the allied army in the Valley of Siddim. The foreign host then plundered Sodom and Gomorrah, “took Lot and his goods” (Genesis 14:12), and withdrew up the Jordan valley, laden with booty and captives.
I. ABRAM’S RESCUE OF LOT (Genesis 14:13-16). In this Abram showed--
1. A magnanimous and generous spirit. He did not say to himself, “Serve him right; my ungrateful nephew has made his bed, and I shall allow him to lie upon it.” His natural affection and family spirit, together with the grace of God reigning in his heart, would not permit him to cherish any secret satisfaction in connection with Lot’s punishment.
2. Martial prowess. In the sudden arming of his household, the gathering of his Amorite allies, the rapid march to the springs of the Jordan, the skilful tactics adopted in the attack, and the pursuit of the flying foe as far as Damascus, Abram discovered not only great gallantry, but also brilliant generalship. He employed the same tactics which Gideon used long afterwards to surprise the Midianites (Judges 7:16), which Sauladopted against the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:11), and which have commended themselves to the greatest generals in all ages. What a contrast is presented here between the patriarch’s distrustful timidity in Egypt Genesis 12:12-13), and the heroism which he displayed in the rescue of his kinsman! It was “by faith” that Abram fought to recover Lot, and “in the fear of the Lord is strong confidence.”
II. ABRAM’S MEETING WITH THE KING OF SODOM (Genesis 14:17; Genesis 14:21-24).
1. Abram’s personal disinterestedness and independence (Genesis 14:22-23). Abram was not “seeking his own” when he went forth to rescue Lot, and he will accept nothing for having done his duty. The Lord whom he serves has made him heir of the whole land, and he cannot receive any portion of his inheritance from man, least of all from the representative of the filthy Sodomites.
2. His considerateness of the claims of others (Genesis 14:24). He is generous, but he does not forget to be just. His own young men shall have only what of the spoil they have used as rations--a portion which, of course, could not be returned; but his allies, Aner, Esheol, and Mature, are entitled to their fair share of the plunder, and this cannot in equity be taken from them, except with their consent.
III. ABRAM’S INTERVIEW WITH MELCHIZEDEK (Genesis 14:18-20). How marked the contrast between the patriarch’s attitude towards the King of Sodom and his conduct to this King of Salem! He saw in the former the chief representative of the wicked heathen Pentapolis, but he recognized in the latter “the priest of the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18). So, while he maintained a dignified reserve in his interview with the King of Sodom, and refused to receive any benefit at his hands, he accepted refreshment for both body and spirit from Melchizedek. In his dealings with Melchizedek two traits in Abraham’s character are brought out.
1. His recognition of the communion of saints. The patriarch discerned in this royal priest--although he was a stranger, and perhaps a Hamite--a faith and piety closely akin with his own. These two eminent personages met on the basis of a common worship, involving a common confession of monotheism.
2. His profound humility as a man of faith. “He that had the promises” Hebrews 7:6) felt himself honoured in being blessed by this Canaanite pontiff, and in offering his tithes to God through him.
1. Trust in God enables its possessor to be helpful to his fellow men, while it also keeps him exalted above all who are not like-minded with himself. We may well covet earnestly the wonder-working faith which Abram manifested in this great achievement.
2. We must beware lest the Jew beat us in noble behaviour. He can be great! He can forgive vile injuries!
3. Abram, in declining to retain any of the spoil for himself, acted under the guidance of a great principle, and not of the custom of the times, reminding us thereby that moral principle, rather than the example of others, ought to be our rule of action.
4. It casts a dark light upon the character of Lot that he should have allowed himself to return to Sodom after his rescue by Abraham, instead of seeing that he had suffered a punishment which was not only fully deserved, but also plainly premonitory.
5. “The sight of some men disfigures us. We feel after being with them that we can never be mean again. Abram had seen Melchizedek, and the King of Sodom dwindled into a common man. Abram had eaten the holy sacrament, and after that all gifts were poor.” (Charles Jerdan, M. A. , LL. B.)
Refreshment between the battles
I. HERE IS THE UNSELFISH AND SUCCESSFUL INTERPOSITION OF A SEPARATED MAN, ON BEHALF OF OTHERS.
II. THE TIME OF A GREAT SUCCESS IS OFTEN THE SIGNAL FOR A GREAT TEMPTATION.
III. THE PREVENIENT GRACE OF GOD. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
There are two lessons implied in Abraham’s conquest.
1. One is, that military skill and experience are often easily vanquished by untaught valour, when that is at once inspired by impulse, guided by wisdom, and connected with a good cause. The history of earth contains the record of no battles so glorious as those of Morgarten, Bannockburn, Drumelog, the taking of the Bastille, and the Three Days of Paris in 1830. On such occasions, war assumes a grander aspect, is freed from its conventional and hireling character, unfrocked of its tame uniform, and catches the wild light of liberty and the free breeze of the mountains.
2. Another lesson we gather from Abraham’s conquest is, that Christian duty varies at different times and in different circumstances. Sometimes it is the Christian’s part to stay at home; and at other times to go far hence among the heathen. Sometimes it is his duty to sit under his family oak and attend to his family exercises; and at another time, like Abraham, to choose some post of peril, and do some good deed of daring. (G. Gilfillan.)
1. Providence, usually in the deepest distress of His servants, sends speediest means for their help.
2. God letteth some escape in public calamities, that may seek succour, for others who are oppressed.
3. God’s escaped ones out of death and dangers, should haste to give tidings for help to others.
4. It is most proper that the sufferings of the Church in one place should be declared to the Church elsewhere for its relief.
5. The line of His Church, truth, and religion, God hath kept under a proper name.
6. It is fit that such as sit at ease in their own habitations should hear of the Church’s troubles.
7. God can bring heathens eminently to confederate with His Church and people in affection and religion.
8. Confederates in truth are affected with the evils that betide their parties, especially in the Church of God (Genesis 14:13). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Tidings of the Church’s miseries should make deep impression upon its members.
2. God’s servants are not slow in hearing of the miseries of the Church and helping it.
3. Brethren’s captivity by oppressors should affect and move to their rescue.
4. It becomes righteous heads of families to have their servants instructed in righteousness, and trained to righteous undertakings.
5. Righteous leaders called of God may array and muster forces against oppressors.
6. Small force of men, and great faith in God, may do mighty things.
7. Leaders affected with the oppression of the Church will haste to follow the oppressors.
8. Difficulties of march in such cases do not deter believers from the pursuit (Genesis 14:14). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
He did not sit in his tent and say, “He left me for his own pleasure, and now he must take the consequences of his selfishness: he thought he could do without me, now let him try.” If Abram had said this there would have been a good deal of excuse for him. It would have been most human. We at all events could not have complained with any consistency, for this is exactly what we said when our friend offended us; but, to be sure, we are Christians, and Abram was only a Hebrew: and Hebrews are mean, greedy, crafty, villainous! I find we must beware, though, lest the Jew beat us in noble behaviour! He can be great! He can forgive vile injuries! How much greater should he be who has seen Christ slain and has named himself after the name of the Son of God! How noble his temper, how forgiving his spirit, how hopeful his charity! (J. Parker, D. D.)
Abraham in the path of daily duty
In all this we have another illustration of the strength of Abraham’s faith. It kept him equally removed from ascetic seclusion on the one hand, and worldly conformity on the other. He did not scruple to work with ungodly allies when he was himself clearly in the path of duty. Lot was a prisoner. There was no question in his mind that he should do his utmost to deliver his kinsman; and though he could hope for success in that only by joining himself for the time with the Canaanitish sheiks, and seeming to be on the side of the King of Sodom, yet he did not hesitate to take that course and leave the issue with God. Herein he has left us an example which is not without is significance; for there are movements, some political and some moral, in our city and in our land, in which we can hope to succeed only by accepting the alliance of men with whom in the highest parts of our nature we have no sympathy whatever; and there are many among us who stand aloof because they do not wish to be brought into contact with such characters. What is it but a widespread feeling of this sort which has given the regulation of municipal affairs among us into the hands of men who have in many cases neither the confidence nor the respect of the Christian portion of the community? But for Christians to stand aloof in these circumstances and let things take their course is the merest cowardice. Say not to me that you are seeking thereby to keep yourselves pure. Do your duty, and leave the consequences to God. Believe me, He will not let you suffer from that which you undertake out of a regard to His glory and the welfare of your fellow men. So, again, there are many enterprises of benevolence in which the deliverance of our fellow men from the misery of disease or poverty cannot be accomplished by us, unless we consent to work with persons of whose characters we cannot in all respects approve. What then? Must we refuse to sit at a benevolent board because Aner, Eshcol, and Mature are there also? As well might we decline to lend a hand in the extinguishing of a destructive fire, because we saw one of the greatest roughs of the neighbourhood holding the hose! No! no! So long as we are in the world we shall have to meet the men of the world; we shall have to work with them, too, in benevolent matters, if at least we would set free the Lots whom tyrannous evils have taken captive; and they who hold back from the fear of contamination are signally deficient in that faith for which Abraham was so remarkable. But notice, again, that this old patriarch would not allow the presence of the ungodly to keep him from showing honour to God in the person of His priest. When Melchizedek came forth to meet him, Abraham did not treat him with coldness, because he happened at the moment to be in company with the King of Sodom. On the contrary, he showed him special honour, was not ashamed to receive his benediction, and gave him, without asking anyone’s leave, a tithe of the spoils. Now there was true courage! Abraham was not ashamed of his religion, and, when the occasion offered, he was ready to make it known. He did not hide his flag, but let it flutter openly in the breeze. And what a lesson is there in all this for us! It is hard enough for many of us to confess Christ in the midst of a company of His friends, and multitudes are altogether ashamed of Him in the presence of His enemies. If a stranger happens to be our guest, and we know that he ridicules religion, we omit family worship for that evening. If a friend not remarkable for spirituality calls upon us on the Lord’s day, and the time comes for us to go to the sanctuary, we are afraid to say anything about it, and we remain at home with him. If, in our business hours, a brother comes and speaks to us about spiritual things, in a style that might be as refreshing to us as the bread and wine of Melchizedek were to Abraham, we see a smile of contempt on the countenance of our worldly customer, and we plead that we are too much engaged at present to give him any more of our time. And if one waits upon us in the name of Christ, and asks our pecuniary help for his cause, we have no tithes to give him, and too frequently consider him as an intruder. Why is this? Ah, friends! let us be honest and confess it frankly, it is because we do not really believe that our chief business is with God, or that our strongest obligations are to Him. But still farther here, observe how Abraham would not consent to be laid under any debt of any sort whatever to the King of Sodom. He could take refreshment and a blessing from the hand of Melchizedek, but he would receive nothing from Bern. Why this distinction? The only answer we can give is because of the different characters of the two men. With Melchizedek he was safe; but how did he know that Bera would not claim from him some return which he could not conscientiously make? Therefore he would fetter himself with no entanglement. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
To the rescue
In the last century, when absence of trains and existence of bad roads isolated English towns and villages from each other, and from London, the separation of friends became a serious matter. A young maiden persuaded her relatives to allow her to leave the remote western hamlet home and to visit friends of the family in the metropolis. After a time tidings came that the maiden had been carried off, and was supposed to be concealed in the hall of a northern baronet. Distressed at the tidings, and full of love for their sister, the two brothers considered how her rescue was to be achieved. Ascertaining the whereabouts of the hall, they decided to explore its buildings in disguise, so as to learn the precise apartment in which their sister was lodged, and then, under cover of night, to secure her freedom. A brother in battle:--Timoleon the Corinthian was a noble pattern of fraternal love. Being in battle with the Argives, and seeing his brother fall by the wounds he had received, he instantly leaped over his dead body, and with his shield protected it from insult and plunder; and though severely wounded in the generous enterprise, he would not on any account retreat to a place of safety, till he had seen the corpse carried off the field by his friends.
Return from the slaughter
THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN. Abram returning from the subjugation of the kings, accompanied with Lot, whom he had rescued, and laden with spoils of war.
1. The aged chieftain, Abram, 83 years of age; hale, vigorous, victorious. Not always that man’s return from the late enterprises of life is triumphant.
2. His retainers. His 318 servants (some, perhaps, left behind). How proud would these be of their leader.
3. Lot. Grateful that he had been rescued from captivity.
4. Other rescued captives. Their joy and thankfulness.
5. The first recorded war ended in the triumph of right.
6. The victory secured by a servant of God with limited resources. Prophetic of the greater war in which the great Seed of Abraham rescued, from a more cruel bondage, a greater number, who come off more than conquerors through Him who loved them.
7. His welcome home. The king of Sodom goes forth to meet him. The joy of those who have friends and property restored.
II. THE HIGH PRIEST’S BLESSING.
1. The approbation of the holy, the most valuable of all human praise. The praise of some is humiliating to the receiver. Woe be unto you when all men speak well of you. To please God, and hear His “well done,” the best end to seek.
2. Melchizedek, a priest of God, would approve success less than character.
3. He was hospitable, and provided refreshment for weary men. A good man’s obligation to one who, for others, had fought a battle in the right. His sympathy with the emancipated. His respect for the deliverer.
4. He was faithful; and reminded Abram of the most high God, who possessed all things. Men, in their successes especially, have often need to be reminded of this; and that it is God who giveth the victory.
5. Such a reminder may do a thoughtless man good, and can do a good man no harm. Abram humbly received the reminder.
III. THE DIVISION OF THE SPOIL. Many would have fought over it, and, if so well able as Abram, would have kept all they could.
1. He gave one-tenth of all to God. Did homage thus to Divine claims and principles in the person of Melchizedek.
2. Declined to take anything as his own share. Would not have it ever said that any man had made him rich. Though none could have said it justly.
3. Would not impose his rule upon others. Stipulated for the right of other men. Had the power to dictate, but left them to their own free choice. Would not have them coerced by his example, but claimed a portion for them. LEARN--
I. To love peace, and only enter upon righteous conflicts.
II. So to fight life’s battle as to return victorious and with honest satisfaction.
III. Cheerfully to recognize the successes of others.
IV. To be more anxious about the right and true than about the profit.
V. To rejoice in the Captain of our salvation, who has conquered for us, and who has rescued us from present captivity and future death. (J. C. Gray.)
1. Conquerors usually want not observance and congratulations from the world.
2. The powers of the earth are sometimes forced to acknowledge the prowess of God’s saints.
3. Humanity persuades men to the acknowledgment of God to any, whom God makes helpful to them.
4. The killing of the slayer, and breaking the yoke of the oppressor is cause of congratulation to the oppressed.
5. Nature will not be slow to meet and congratulate its deliverers.
6. Deliverance may make men go far to acknowledge God’s servants, who before would scarce vouchsafe to go out of doors for them. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine
The narrative of Melchizedek
CONSIDER THE HISTORICAL FACTS OF THIS NARRATIVE.
1. Melchizedek makes his appearance at the close of the first war recorded in the annals of the human race. Abraham was on his journey home from the rescue of Lot, and had reached a place called the King’s Dale, when his meeting with the priest took place.
2. Who was Melchizedek? There is an old tradition of the Jews to the effect that he was Shem, the son of Noah, Shem being his personal name, Melchizedek his official designation. This, however, is improbable, since
(1) it is unlikely that Moses, who has hitherto spoken of Shem by his proper name, should here veil his identity under a different one;
(2) it seems unlikely that Abraham and Shem could have been co-residents in the same land without intercourse;
(3) it is unlikely that a man whose pedigree was distinctly known should have been selected as a typical instance of a man whose pedigree was altogether unknown. We are therefore limited to the conclusion that he was a Canaanitish prince, who retained the uncorrupted faith of his forefathers.
3. What was the secret of his peculiar greatness? His names suggest an explanation. He must have been eminently righteous to have earned such titles as “King of Righteousness” and “King of Peace.” He stood alone in his office, as priest of the Most High God. He was known by undeniable tokens as the man whom God had consecrated to be His priest.
II. CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS NARRATIVE OF MELCHIZEDEK.
1. He was a symbol of the mystery connected with the Saviour’s person.
2. He shadowed forth important truths in relation to Christ as our Priest. His priesthood was distinguished for its antiquity, its catholicity, its independence.
3. Melchizedek was the prefiguration of Christ as the King of His people.
4. The story seems to be a typical picture of Christ exercising His ministry of benediction. (C. Stafford, D. D.)
Abram and Melchizedek
The priesthood of Melchizedek was not based upon his birth, for he was not in any priestly line. It was not based upon the performance of any written laws of sacrifice; we know nothing of his burnt offerings. But higher than any priest by birth, he was a priest of the Most High God, because of his character, his righteousness. It was a spiritual, rather than a mere legal service which he rendered. His office work and his character were a unit in their inspiring motive and in their results. “True priesthood is life, and true life is priesthood.” There is something almost weird in this meeting of Abram and Melchizedek. It was at the close of the first recorded war in history, in which the patriarch had become a hero. For the first time in human affairs this was the celebration of a victory. It had been the first conflict between the Church and the world. “Melchizedek is the setting sun of the primitive revelation which sheds its last rays on the patriarchs, from whom the true light of the world is to arise. The sun sets, that when the preparatory time of Israel have passed away, it may rise again in Jesus Christ the antitype.” No sooner had he appeared and spoken, than he disappeared again into obscurity and silence. No priest had preceded him; and lie left no successor,--a lonely example of the eternal glory, greater than Abram whom he blessed. Such being the men and their meeting, we observe two of the practical lessons.
I. THE RIGHTEOUS MAN’S NOBILITY. Melchizedek was the “king of righteousness” before he was king of Salem; and this king of righteousness blessed righteous Abram. The patriarch was called the Friend of God, and history knows him as the “father of the faithful.” But his trust in God was more than a profession; it was his life. His daily conduct was the tree bearing the fruit of a perfect faith; not that he was perfect, but he strove to become such. Every deed was an act of his living faith. It was no strange event when the king of Sodom prostrated himself at Abram’s feet. And if all of God’s children were like Abram, the world would pay still greater honour to the Church of the living God. The saints are the world’s nobility.
II. THE RIGHTEOUS MAN’S BLESSING. No benediction was too great for Abram, as the patriarch bowed before “the priest of the Most High God,” and received through the sacred lips the blessings from “the possessor of heaven and earth.” (D. O. Mears.)
The trite priest for mankind
I. THE TRUE PRIEST IS DIVINELY APPOINTED.
1. Called of God.
2. Separated from the rest of mankind.
II. THE TRUE PRIEST IS ONE WITH THE RACE HE REPRESENTS.
1. The dignity of human nature.
2. The destiny of human nature.
III. THE TRUE PRIEST HAS THE POWER TO BLESS.
1. To pronounce blessings on men.
2. To bless God on their behalf.
3. To declare God’s benefits towards men.
IV. THE TRUE PRIEST IS A MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN.
1. He receives gifts from God for men.
2. He receives gifts from men for God. (T. H. Leale.)
Melchizedek a type of Christ
I. HE WAS A ROYAL PRIEST.
II. HIS GENEALOGY IS MYSTERIOUS.
III. HE WAS PERPETUALLY A PRIEST.
IV. HE WAS AN UNIVERSAL PRIEST.
V. HE WAS A PRIEST OF THE HIGHEST TYPE. As compared with the priesthood of Aaron, that of Melchizedek was superior--
1. In time;
2. In dignity;
3. In duration.
VI. HIS PRIESTHOOD HAS THE HIGHEST CONFIRMATION. Divine oath. (T. H.Leale.)
I. MELCHIZEDEK WAS A PRIEST.
II. THIS PRIESTHOOD CAME OF GOD AND WAS RATIFIED BY AN OATH.
III. THIS PRIESTHOOD WAS ALSO CATHOLIC.
IV. THIS PRIESTHOOD WAS SUPERIOR TO ALL HUMAN ORDERS OF PRIESTS.
V. THIS PRIESTHOOD PARTOOK OF THE MYSTERY OF ETERNITY.
VI. THIS PRIESTHOOD WAS ROYAL.
VII. THIS PRIESTHOOD RECEIVES TITHES OF ALL. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Jesus meeting His warriors
Let us consider Abraham as the type and picture of all the faithful.
I. We mention, then, what you must all know right well by experience--you who are God’s people--THAT THE BELIEVER IS OFTEN ENGAGED IN WARFARE.
1. This warfare will be both within and without--within with the innumerable natural corruptions which remain, with the temptations of Satan, with the suggestions of his own wicked heart; and without, he will frequently be engaged in warfare, wrestling “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, etc.” The peculiar case of Abram leads me to remark that sometimes the believer will be engaged in warfare, not so much on his own account as on the account of erring brethren, who, having gone into ill company, are by and by carried away captive.
2. Observe that this war is one against powerful odds. The four kings mentioned in this chapter were all great sovereigns.
3. Carefully notice, that as it is a battle of fearful odds, it is one which is carried on in faith. Abram did not venture to this fight with confidence in his own strength, or reliance upon his own bow, but he went in the name of the Lord of Hosts. Faith was Abram’s continual comfort. The Christian is to carry on his warfare in faith. You will be vanquished, indeed, if you attempt it by any other method.
4. In this great battle, carried on by faith, Abram had a right given him from God, and the promise of God’s presence virtually in that right. What business had Chedorlaomer to come unto Canaan? Had not Jehovah said to Abram, “All this land will I give unto thee?” Therefore he and his confederate monarchs were neither more nor less than intruders. It is true they would have laughed at the very idea of Abram’s claiming the whole land of Canaan, but that claim was nevertheless valid in the court of heaven, and the patriarch by right divine was heir of all the land. Christian, you are, by virtue of a covenant made with you to drive out every sin, as an intruder.
5. Yet more, the Christian is engaged in a conflict in which he walks by faith and leans upon God; but yet it is a conflict in which he uses all means, calls in all lawful assistance, and exerts himself with all vigour and speed.
6. Abram marching on thus with activity, and using discretion, by attacking his enemies at night rather than by day, did not cease until he had gained a complete victory over them.
II. While engaged in such earnest spiritual contention, the believer may expect to SEE HIS LORD. When Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, were fighting Christ’s battles in the fiery furnace, then the Son of Man appeared unto them. He understands that warriors require strengthening meat, and that especially when they are under stern conflict they need extraordinary comforts that their souls may be stayed and refreshed.
1. Why does Jesus Christ, as set forth here under the type of Melchizedek, appear unto His children in times of conflict?
(1) He comes to them first, because they are weary. In every conflict which the child of God has to wage, it is not the private person who goeth to the warfare, it virtually is Christ fighting--Christ contending. It is a member of Christ’s body labouring against Christ’s enemy for the glory of the Head. Christ the Head has an intense feeling of sympathy with every member, no matter how humble.
(2) The King of Peace met the returning warrior for another reason. Abram was probably flushed with victory, and this is a very dangerous feeling to any child of God.
(3) Yet again, was not this visit bestowed because Abram was about to be tried in a yet more subtle manner than he had been before? It is easier to fight Chedorlaomer, than to resist the king of Sodom. Joshua down in the plain never grew weary when he was fighting the Amalekites, but Moses on the mountain felt his hands grow heavy. Why? Because the more spiritual the exercise, the more aptness is there in us to grow weary in it; and so the more spiritual the temptation the more likelihood of our becoming a prey to it, and the more strength do we need to overcome it.
2. In what character did He meet Abram? As one possessed of a royal priesthood.
3. What did He do for him? Brought him bread and wine. Christ’s flesh and blood our spiritual sustenance.
4. What Melchizedek said to Abram.
(1) He blessed him.
(2) He blessed God.
III. When a wrestling believer is favoured with a sight of the great Melchizedek, voluntarily and yet necessarily he makes a NEW DEDICATION of himself to God. You see Abram does not appear to delay a moment, but he gives to Melchizedek a tithe of all, by which he seemed to say, “I own the authority of my superior liege lord, to all that I am, and all that I have.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Melchizedek and his typical character
Persons who study the phenomena or aspects of the heavens inform us, that sometimes a great comet or a beautiful meteor has appeared most unexpectedly in the skies. Some of these heavenly visitants engage only the notice of astronomers: but a few are so exceedingly grand and lovely, that they attract every eye. Now these lights in the heavens suddenly arise, shine awhile in glory, and then disappear forever. But some are so remarkable, and so amazingly beautiful, that they live in the memory as “a joy forever.” Now such appears to me to be the meteoric or comet-like vision of Melchizedek in the bright sky of the ancient Church, as he starts before our view in the sacred writings. Melchizedek glances suddenly on the sight here, as a brilliant meteor or a glorious comet. We gaze on the starry light shining so brightly in the firmament of the early Church; but, like its brother in the heavens, as we gaze in admiration it is gone!
I. THE HISTORY OF MELCHIZEDEK.
1. War was the occasion of introducing this royal priest, in its successful issues in the deliverance of Lot.
2. But who was Melchizedek? The question has been agitated often, and very strangely answered, though I believe its true solution can clearly be found in the holy writings. The best opinion is, that Melchizedek is a real historic personage; that his name was not found in the regular lists of the priesthood; that as king as well as priest, he shadowed the glorious offices of Christ; and the Lord set him forth in Scripture as the living type and image of our blessed Redeemer, as our great and only High Priest, our Divine King and Saviour. Melchizedek was a ray of heavenly light in the early morning of the Church, which led the intelligent eye to the sun dawn and glory of the Sun of Righteousness. He was as the finger post or pillar, with the broad arrow, on the king’s high road; the royal statue in the court, which pointed to the heavenly King on His throne. As a prince on earth, he shone in the light also of a priest divine, directing faith in prophetic grandeur to the glory of the Great Prince of heaven, descending on earth to feed and bless His people, conquerors through His might, as our High Priest at the sacramental banquet of His love, signifying His dying work and mediation on the Cross, as our true sacrifice, and typical of His imperishable glory and majesty in the heavens, where Christ ever liveth to intercede for and satisfy, and bless us forever.
II. CONSIDER HOW MELCHIZEDEK WAS A LIVING TYPE OF OUR LORD IN HIS OFFICES.
1. He typified Christ in His illustrious person. His origin and end are veiled in mystery for our instruction in the Sacred Writings, that our curiosity may be checked where God’s wisdom gives all the light we need. As he was “king of Salem,” signifying peace, and “king of righteousness,” as his compound Hebrew name, Melchizedek, means, he was a noble figure of Christ, the true “Prince of Peace,” who brought peace by the blood of His cross between God and man, and brought in everlasting righteousness, as the joyful fruit of His passion, sufferings, and blessed mediation.
2. He typified Christ, especially in His sacerdotal character. Melchizedek was a priest as well as a king: a royal priest, and not of Abraham’s or Aaron’s line. In this he especially resembled the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is our one and only royal High Priest: His office is unchangeable; He never can die; He ever liveth to intercede for us in the heavens; and He hath His true type, therefore, not in Aaron, but in Melchizedek, as both King and Priest. Besides this, Melchizedek blessed Abram; and the latter gave him tithes of all, as a sign of his inferiority, and of the Jewish priesthood; as the apostle says, “Levi paid tithes to the king of Salem in the loins of Abraham.” The sum or heads of this most able argument of St. Paul must be clear to any reflecting mind, that Christ was constituted by the Father a royal Priest, whose Divine office was singular; it had its typical origin not in Levi, but in Melchizedek; that Christ has no successor in His Divine work; and that He is our only Intercessor before God above.
III. TWO PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS MUST NOW CONCLUDE THIS SUBJECT.
1. Consider how important in its bearings is the great truth, that Christ Jesus the Lord is our Royal High Priest in God’s presence for us. We had imperative need of such a Redeemer on earth, and such a Mediator in heaven. In His nature God and man are united. He only reconciles man to God; Christ only joins heaven and earth. He is the world’s great peace offering; He is the King of righteousness and peace for His beloved people.
2. Consider whether your soul has ever been awakened to see the spiritual glory of Christ, and the inestimable value of His love. A moral film must be removed from the eye of the soul to see spiritual things, and the full glory of Christ. Live not in a dreamy state as professing Christians, but awake and arise to your true position as redeemed by Christ, to glorify Him both in body and soul. (J. G. Augley, M. A.)
Melchizedek is mentioned by three inspired writers, Moses, David, and Paul. The places where he is spoken of are Genesis 14:18-20; Psalms 110:1-7, and Hebrews 5:1-14; Hebrews 6:1-20; Hebrews 7:1-28. The first notice is purely historic; the second purely prophetic; the third explains and shows the fulfilment of the former two in the person of Christ.
1. The first resemblance is found in the names or titles of the mysterious ancient. He is called Melchizedek, which means King of Righteousness. He is said to have been the king of Salem, that is King of Peace. It matters not where this Salem was. The import is the same. Now Jesus Christ is the Lord our righteousness; He is the righteousness of God for our complete justification; He was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him; He is also our Peace; yea, He is the Prince of Peace; He came and preached peace to them that are afar off. He was the great Sin bearer. He is the great Peacemaker. The peace He gives passes all understanding.
2. Then Melchizedek was a man. It is not necessary to disprove or even to state the wild and foolish opinions which have been sent forth respecting this person. He was a man. He was taken from among men. So was Jesus Christ a man, truly and properly a man. He is often so called by inspired men, by Himself, by His Father. He must needs be a man, that He might fully sympathize with His people, and that He might have somewhat to offer.
3. But Melchizedek was not only a man; he was also a great man. He was the priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. The proofs are two:
(1) Melchizedek received tithes from him;
(2) Melchizedek pronounced an authoritative blessing upon him; and yet with the exception of Melchizedek sacred history tells us of no one greater than Abraham. So the man Christ Jesus was great--truly great--greater than Abraham. Hear Him: “Before Abraham was I am.” Interpret this as you may, it establishes Christ’s superiority over Abraham. The fact was that the Son of God was the author of Abraham’s existence (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2).
4. Moreover, Melchizedek was not of the tribe of Levi, nor of the order of Aaron. No Jew ever claimed that Melchizedek was a Levite, or learned or derived anything from Aaron. Nor was Jesus Christ of the order of Aaron, nor of the tribe of Levi.
5. Nor is this all. For Melchizedek was the first and the last of his order. Aaron had no predecessor, but he had many successors. But Melchizedek had neither predecessor nor successor. His order was wholly independent of all others. It was just so with Christ Jesus. Christ has an unchangeable, an intransmissable priesthood. His priesthood is according to the power of an endless life. Thus we have an explanation of those phrases used of Melchizedek: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” The law of the Levitical priesthood was minute and exact as to both the parents. A defect here was fatal. But Melchizedek’s parents are not named in the genealogical tables of the Levites. Neither did they contain the names of any of Christ’s ancestors. The priests of the order of Aaron could not act before a certain age, nor were they to officiate after a certain age--all which must be ascertained by the tables of lineage. But these tables tell us not (neither do any records) when Melchizedek began or closed his sacred functions. Neither do they mention the name, or birth, or time of Christ’s entering on His Priesthood. Thus was Christ’s Priesthood set forth to us as personal and perpetual--truly a glorious Priesthood. In it let us trust. In it let us exult forever. (W. S. Plumer, D. D.)
The patriarch and the priest king
I. THE PRIEST KING.
1. The person himself.
2. His position.
3. Melchizedek’s prophetic blessing.
II. THE PATRIARCH.
1. Abram recognizes in Melchizedek a person worthy of special respect and honour.
2. Note the religious spirit in which Abram viewed his success.
CONCLUSION: From Abram’s conduct we may learn--
3. Stedfastness of religious purpose. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
The sacred historian having here met with what I may call a lily among thorns, stops, as it were, to describe it. Let us stop with him, and observe the description.
1. He was doubtless a very holy man; and if a Canaanite by descent, it furnishes a proof among many others, that the curse on Canaan did not shut the door of faith upon his individual descendants. There never was an age or country in which he that feared God, and worked righteousness, was not accepted.
2. He was a personage in whom was united the kingly and priestly offices, and as such was a type of the Messiah and greater than Abram himself. This singular dignity conferred upon a descendant of Canaan shows that God delights, on various occasions, to put more abundant honour upon the part that lacketh.
3. He was what he was, considered as a priest, not by inheritance, but by an immediate Divine constitution. (A. Fuller.)
Behold Melchizedek! In wise purpose his descent is hid far beyond our sight. So, too, clouds and darkness mantle the first rise of Jesus. He is, by eternal generation, the co-eternal Son of the co-eternal Father. But who can grasp such mystery? He who begets precedes not the begotten. He who is begotten is not second to the parent cause. This truth is a boundless ocean. Let us meekly stand on the shore and marvel. We read, and are assured, that Jesus, by eternal birth, is God of God, and very God of very God. But while we cannot dive into the depths, we bathe our souls in the refreshment of the surface. For hence it follows, that He is sufficient to deal with God, and to satisfy God, and thus to save His people to the uttermost. We see not Melchizedek’s cradle. But we distinctly see him man on earth. Eyewitnesses, who heard Jesus and handled Him, give testimony, that He, too, has tabernacled in our clay, and thus was qualified to shed His life blood as our ransom. In Melchizedek we find neither first nor latest hours. No search can tell when he began or ceased to be. Here is Jesus. His age is one everlasting day. From eternity past to eternity to come, His being rolls in one unbroken stream. Before time was, His name is, “I am that I am.” When time shall have run its course, His name is still, “I am that I am.” Melchizedek. How mighty is this name? He that utters it, says, King of Righteousness. Who can claim that title, in its full purport, but Jesus: what is His person, what His work, but the glory of righteousness? Since Adam fell, earth has seen no righteousness apart from Him. But His kingdom is first righteousness, then peace (Romans 14:17). There is a throne in it righteously erected to dispense righteousness. All the statutes--decrees--ordinances--every precept--every reward--every penalty--is a sunbeam of righteousness. Eachsubject is bright in royal robes of purity--each wears a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Each delights in righteousness, as his newborn nature. Melchizedek was a local monarch. His city was graced with the name of Salem, which is Peace. The war, which stalked through the land, troubled not these tranquil citizens. Here again we have the sweet emblem of Jesus’ blissful reign. His kingdom is one atmosphere of peace--one haven of unruffled calm. Heaven is at peace with the inhabitants. Sin had rebelled. It had aroused most holy wrath. It had armed each attribute of God with anger. It had unsheathed the sword of vengeance. It had pointed the arrows of destruction against our world of transgression. But Jesus cleanses His flock from every stain of evil. He is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Melchizedek is called to the most hallowed functions. He is the consecrated priest of the Most High God. As king, he sat above men. As priest, he stands before God. This holy office exhibits Jesus. He spurns no office which can serve the Church. The entrance of sin calls for expiation. No sinner can approach a sin-hating God without a sin-removing plea. This expiation can only be by the death of an appeasing victim The victim can only die by a sacrificing hand. Hence we need, a priest to celebrate the blood-stained rite. And all which is needed we have in Jesus. Cry out and shout, O happy believer, your “Christ is All.” An altar is upraised. The altar is Christ. No other can suffice. He alone can bear the victim, which bears His people’s sins. A lamb is led forth. The lamb is Christ. None other has blood of merit co-equal with man’s guilt. Jesus, therefore, God in essence, Man in person, extends Himself upon the accursed tree. But who is the priest who dares approach a superhuman altar? Who has a hand to touch a victim God? The very sight would shiver man into annihilation. Therefore Jesus is the priest. The incense of His intercession ever rises, Father, bless them; and they are blessed. Father, smile on them; and it is light around. With extended hand He takes their very offering of prayer, and praise, and service. He perfumes all with the rich fragrance of His merits. He makes all worthy in His own worthiness, and thus our nothingness gains great reward. Melchizedek meets Abraham with bread and wine. The weary warrior is way-worn and faint. Refreshment is provided. Tile Lord is very tender of His people’s need. Awful is the curse on the Ammonites and the Moabites, because they met not Israel with bread and water in the way, when they came forth out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 23:4). Here again, we see our great High Priest. With God-like bounty He presents every supply which wasted strength, and sinking spirit, and failing heart require. (Dean Law.)
Thus exclaimed a member of the parish the other day, “How often they come! It is give, give, all the time!” The same person might have added, “Another bill! It is pay, pay the grocer and the baker, and the coalman, all the time!” Isn’t it curious that people recognize the duty of paying a debt to their fellow men so much more readily than they do paying a debt to God! These collections in church--what are they if they are not, in a most important sense, the payment of debts? We are only stewards of the Lord’s bounty. Nothing we have is really our own. We are just using it for a time for Him. We have consecrated everything to Him, and we should regard these appeals in church for money as opportunities to pay back something we owe.
I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldst say, I have made Abram rich
The believer’s superiority to the world
This superiority to the world may be manifested in various ways--as in the case of Abram.
I. BY REFUSING TO INSIST UPON LAWFUL RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES.
1. When it brings them into dangerous association with the world.
2. When they might appear to countenance sin.
II. BY REFUSING TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE WORLD AS THE SOURCE OF TRUE GREATNESS. Two thoughts supported Abram in this spirit of noble independence.
1. He was chosen of God.
2. He was heir to the promises.
III. BY SHOWING THAT HE STANDS ON A DIFFERENT FOOTING AND HAS BETTER HOPES THAN THE CHILDREN OF THIS WORLD. Ready to give up his own rights, he will not prevent others from asserting theirs. He allows his young men to take their subsidence, and the allies their portion. But he himself stands upon a higher plane, and has a wider horizon. He can afford to think lightly of every earthly good. So the believer, though in the world, is not of it. (T. H. Leale.)
A noble refusal
I. Abraham wished TO AVOID PLACING HIMSELF UNDER GREAT OBLIGATION TO A WORLDLY MAN.
II. Abraham doubtless wished TO AVOID THE APPEARANCE OF TOO INTIMATE A FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE WHO WAS AN UNRIGHTEOUS MAN.
III. Abraham probably wished TO SHOW THAT THE SERVANT OF THE MOST HIGH CAN DO GOOD WITHOUT HOPE OF WORLDLY REWARD.
IV. Abraham showed by his refusal, THAT IT IS NOT A DESIRABLE THING TO GAIN BY THE MISFORTUNES OF OTHERS.
V. It may be that Abraham wished TO SHOW THAT GOD AND A SPIRIT OF CONTENTEDNESS WERE A GOOD MAN’S TRUE RICHES. (F. Hastings.)
Abraham’s answer to the king of Sodom
Abram knew full well that the man who affected generosity in relinquishing what was not his own, would go on to boast of it, and to reflect on him as though he shone in borrowed plumes. No, says the patriarch, “I will not take, from a thread even to a shoe lachet, that which is thine, save that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of Aner, Eschol, and Mature,” his allies. In this answer of Abram we may observe, besides the above, several particulars.
1. The character under which he bad sworn to God: “Jehovah, the Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth.” The first of these names was that by which God was made known to Abram, and still more to his posterity. The last was that which had been just given to him by Melchizedek, and which appears to have made a strong impression on Abram’s mind. By uniting them together, he in a manner acknowledged Melchizedek’s God to be his God; and while reproving the king of Sodom, expressed his love to him as to a brother.
2. His having decided the matter before the king of Sodom met him, as it seems he had, implies something highly dishonourable in the character of that prince. He must have been well known to Abram as a vain, boasting, unprincipled man, or he would not have resolved in so solemn a manner to preserve himself clear from the very shadow of an obligation to him. And considering the polite and respectful manner in which it was common for this patriarch to conduct himself towards his neighbours, there must have been something highly offensive in this case to draw from him so cutting and dismaying an intimation. It is not unlikely that he had thrown out some malignant insinuations against Lot, and his old wealthy uncle, on the score of their religion. If so, Abram would feel happy in an opportunity of doing good against evil, and thus of heaping coals of fire upon his head. The reason why he would not be under the shadow of an obligation, or anything which may be construed an obligation to him, was not so much a regard to his own honour, but the honour of Him in whose name he had sworn. Abram’s God has blessed him, and promised to bless him more, and make him a blessing. Let it not be said by his enemies, that with all his blessedness, it is of our substance that he is what he is. No, Abram can trust in “the possessor of heaven and earth” to provide for him, without being beholden to the king of Sodom.
3. His excepting the portion of the young men who were in league with him, shows a just sense of propriety. In giving up our own right, we are not at liberty to give away that which pertains to others connected with us. Upon the whole, this singular undertaking would raise Abram much in the estimation of the Canaanites, and might possibly procure a little more respect to Lot. It had been better in the latter, however, if he had taken this opportunity to have changed his dwelling place. (A. Fuller.)
1. Grace denieth not civil returns to ingenuous carriages of men.
2. It beseems the children of grace to bind themselves by oath from evil.
3. Such oaths must be made to the true God only. It is part of His worship Isaiah 65:15).
4. The being, power, height, and sufficiency of God, are enough to take of His servants from all engagements to men (verse 22).
5. God’s sanctified ones having enough in and from God, abhor to take from worldly men to His dishonour.
6. God’s servants undertake no war for spoil but righteousness to redeem the oppressed.
7. Neither thread nor shoe latchet advantage will righteous souls take from the wicked upon their successes.
8. It is the believing magnanimity of the heirs of promise, not to be enriched by the world, though by right they may claim it (verse 23).
9. Vows to God must not imply unjust things to men.
10. Liberality of some eminent saints must not prejudice the right of other men to give that away (verse 24). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Canada has become a kingdom in fifty years. Its large cities were then little hamlets, and its mighty forests then covered its virgin soil. Near its lakes a gallant soldier had retired and settled; and around him had gathered a few brave hunters. They were surrounded by Indian tribes, who, partly from respect and awe, refrained from attacking this happy settlement. One of the white men, eager to find a wider field, left the hamlet, and took his family to the hunting ground and village of one of these tribes. Another tribe sacked the Indian village, carried off the leading chief, his wives and flocks; and at the same time took away the white man’s family and property. When tidings reached the gallant head of the white settlement, he armed his servants, pursued after the retreating Indians, surprised them in their sleep, and brought back the captured white and red men. On arriving at the Indian wigwams again, the grateful Indian chief urged his deliverer to take the rescued cattle. The white leader, animated by those noble motives which blossom so sweetly where Divine grace reigns, and anxious to show the “red man” what Christianity does for the white man, refused to take one hoof or horse: “Give only to those who volunteered to join me in the rescue; as for myself and friends, we are content with your deliverance and safe return home.” (W. Adamson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 14". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter