Greetings everybody! Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS, and God’s rich peace to you in Christ as we come to the table for another day of Bible study together. In today’s session we’ll be working our way to the end of Genesis 14, looking at some distinct differences between Bera King of Sodom and Melchizedek king of Salem. It’s good to be with you today; let’s bow our heads before our heavenly Father, and as we do, let’s humble ourselves and ask for His guidance as we begin.
Almighty God, what a loving and compassionate Lord you are; quick to hear, quick to have mercy, always ready to forgive and restore. Thank you for that assurance – an assurance we have because you sent your only Son to live for us and die in our place; your Son who rose again from the dead to proclaim victory over sin death and the devil for all time and eternity. Please draw close to us and bless our study time today, that we grow ever stronger in our most holy faith. In Christ’s name we pray, amen.
As we get started today, Melchizedek’s words to Abram focused on God’s glory and Abram’s well-being. Bera’s words to Abram? Not so much! Our focus this session: Bera and Melchizedek…a great contrast in messaging, a great contrast in Abramic response.
21The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself." 22But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the Lord , God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath 23that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' 24I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me-to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
Samuel Leibowitz, a criminal lawyer and later a judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair during his career. Not one ever bothered to thank him.
Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist, left $1 million to one of his relatives in his will (the equivalent of over $15.5 million in today’s money), who in turn publicly cursed Carnegie’s memory because he had left considerably more — $365 million — to public charities. Rather than being thankful, he was incensed.
A man behind the desk at the post office was approached by an older gentleman who had a post card in his hand. The old man said, “Sir, could you please address this post card for me?” The man smiled and gladly did so, and he also agreed to write a short message, which the older man dictated to him in a soft, halting voice. Handing it back, the postal employee said to the older man, “Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?” The old man looked at the post card, thought about it for a minute, and he said, “Yes, at the end just put ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'”
Have you ever given something of great value to someone, provided a special service, maybe poured out your time, energy, and effort for the benefit of another, only to have it go unacknowledged or disregarded? It was the great churchman, W.C. Bennett, who said “Blessed is he who expects no gratitude, for he shall not be disappointed.”
Notice, if you would, what’s happening as we look at today’s text here in Genesis 14. Abram, fresh off a mission to rescue his nephew Lot, has in the process rescued an entire kingdom as well. Lives have been saved. Territory has been restored. Leadership has been protected. In short, Sodom and its king have just managed to avoid an almost inescapable fate, and it’s all due to Abram. So marked is this moment — for a lot of reasons, which we’ll be talking about later in the week — that Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, has come out to meet him. He’s brought bread, wine, and blessings to Abram from the very throne room of heaven. Bera, king of Sodom, has come out as well. And what has he brought? Bera has brought nothing but a heavy dose of ingratitude.
This king accords Abram no honor and offers no thanks. He speaks arrogantly, as one used to being in charge and accustomed to getting his way. Some commentators note that in the Hebrew his words ring of surliness and small-mindedness. It’s not surprising, then, that he treats Abram condescendingly, dismissively, and transactionally — as though he’s doing him a favor and acting with largesse by dictating what should happen in the aftermath of the routing that has just taken place. The reality, however, is that Bera is attempting to do no favors for anyone but himself. He’s attempting to make Abram beholden to him as a result of his seeming generosity. But this is no generosity at all; it’s merely a calculated effort to put Abram under his thumb.
With all of this going on under the surface, as it were, we have to take our hats off to Abram as he responds to Bera. Not only does he reject the king’s offer — a bold stance all by itself, one that takes courage as well as principle — but by his words he also reveals in no uncertain terms that he understands what’s going on. Most important of all, however, is the reason Abram gives for turning Bera down. It’s not a matter of dollars and cents, but of faith and conviction: "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.’
What’s the point here? Abram, remember, has been given a promise by the Lord that he will become a great nation and acquire a great name. In this moment, despite what may seem to be an easy path in that direction, despite what may seem to be, compliments of this pagan king, a convenient way to up his wealth and influence and move him toward what God has declared over his life, Abram isn’t buying in. Instead, he makes a conscious choice that he will depend on God alone, not on human power — whether it be kings, their gifts, or their decrees — to become all that God has promised he will be. To be sure, it’s a choice that shows the depth of Abram’s continually growing faith.
As we wrap things up for the day, this is a moment of profound strength on Abram’s part…of profound wisdom and of the exercising of restraint. And it’s more than a just moment: in actuality, the statement he makes here is one that sets an anchor for the whole of his life going forward. We’ll see very soon that, being all too human, there will be fits and starts and incidents of abject stupidity on his part along the way, but overall, the big picture of this future patriarch’s life has been cast, and the stage has been set for an exciting journey powered by the assurance of God’s great promises. More on this to come next time as we head into Genesis 15 — until then, have a terrific day and know that God and His great promises in Christ are accompanying your journey as well. Blessings to each of you, rich and abundant in our Savior, and I’ll see you again next time!