Genesis 13-14: Abraham, Lot And Melchizedek
We are continuing our study in the book of Genesis, and we have been working through the life of Abraham and ended last week with Abraham in chapter 12 being in Egypt.
Now I want to mention something more serious. Something happened in Egypt that produced consequences for the next 4000 years. When Abraham went to Egypt and saw the rich people there having maids (female servants) in their houses, he decided to have one himself too. So he picked up a servant woman named Hagar. When he came back from Egypt, he brought her with him. Sarah didn't have to do all the work in the tent now.
Hagar was there to help her. Later, when Sarah didn't have any children, Hagar was there to help her. With that problem, too ! Through Hagar came Ishmael whose descendants have been in conflict with the descendants of Isaac for 4000 years. But all this started with one man not listening to God once. You may say, “Well, most of the time I listen to God.” Good. But what we see here is the consequences of not listening to God just once. I hope that message will come home to us with seriousness.
When there is a famine, we must wait on God, and say, Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Maybe God will tell us to go somewhere. Maybe not. Years later, God did tell Jacob to go to Egypt during a time of famine. But that was not God's will at this time for Abraham. If God tells you to go somewhere, go. If God tells you to turn the stones into bread, do that. But wait for God to speak. That is the important thing.
Now I want to show you something good about Abraham. I am mentioning these things just to show you that Abraham was an ordinary man just like all of us. We shouldn't be discouraged by our failures. In Genesis 13:7 we read that there was strife between Abraham's servants and Lot's servants. Abraham and Lot obtained vast wealth through their trip to Egypt and now that wealth causes problems. Wealth always causes problems. Lot and his wife were affected by what they saw in Egypt. They wanted to make more money. But Abraham was a man who would not fight with anybody. But his servants fought.
Whereupon also there arose a strife between the herdsmen of Abram and of Lot. And at that time the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in that country. (Genesis 13:7) Why is that last sentence included there? Because those heathen people were watching this fight. This is very relevant to the situation in the Catholic Church today as well.
The heathen are dwelling in the land and what do they see? Sects under the name of being Catholic fighting with each other.
And in the midst of all this can we find a godly man like Abraham today who will call Lot, (the worldly person who loves money), and say to him, “Let there be no quarrel, I beseech thee, between me and thee...for we are brethren” (13:8). They were not brothers in the literal since. Abraham was Lots Uncle, and Lot was Abrahams Nephew. See the graciousness of this 75 year old man to his 35 year old nephew? “For we are brethren!” A godly man is a humble man. Abraham was 75 years old, but he could look at this young nephew and say, “We are brothers. You are equal to me. I will give you preference. Choose what you want.” The Church is built by such men. The Church needs such leaders-and they are not easily found.
Today, we have many leaders who assert their authority, who would have said, “I am 75 years old, I am your uncle. I am the one who God called not you, you just came along with me,” But Abraham did not speak like that to Lot. He said to Lot, “if thou wilt go to the left hand, I will take the right: if thou choose the right hand, I will pass to the left. You take what you want first.” (13:9). And Lot, greedy man that he was, with the spirit of Babylon, grabbed first. He looked at the lovely fields of Sodom, saw the opportunity to make money there, and the rich people who lived there, and said, “I'll move there and serve God there as well.”
Many Priest from other poor countries migrate to wealthy countries and to serve in wealthy parishes and diocese because they love money and ease. But invariably, they lose out spiritually.
Do you go somewhere because God led you there or because the life of ease attracts you?
When Abraham was making this decision, the Lord had come down (as in Babel), to see what he and Lot were doing, and the Lord saw the godly way on which Abraham conducted himself. Immediately after Lot had left him, the Lord said something very important to Abraham. Understand that God separated him first from his father (by death), and then He separated Abraham from yet another relative (who would have been a hindrance to him through his covetousness).
And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot was separated from him: Lift up thy eyes, and look from the place wherein thou now art, to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west. All the land which thou seest, I will give to thee, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: if any man be able to number the dust of the earth, he shall be able to number thy seed also. Arise and walk through the land in the length, and in the breadth thereof: for I will give it to thee. (13:14-17)
God was saying, “now you are alone and now I can get you to go where I want you to go and to be what I want you to be. I saw exactly what happened”. Do you know that God watches every transaction that takes place between people? He watches our attitudes.
Have you given up your right to something because you are a Christian?
God says to you, “I have taken note of that.”
Then God said to Abraham, “Just stand here and look north, south, east, west. All the land that you can see will one day belong to your children. I promise that. It will not belong to the descendants of Lot.” God said that to Abraham 4000 years ago. Look at the land today, 4000 years later and ask yourself who is living there. The descendants of Abraham, not the descendants of Lot. God keeps his word. Thousand of years may go by, but if God has said to Abraham, “All the land which thou seest, I will give to thee, and to thy seed for ever.” (13:15), then it will be exactly like that.
Then we see in Chapter 14 how Lot got into trouble.
You always get into trouble when you go outside the will of God.
He was captured by his enemies, Abraham could have said, “serves him right”. But Abraham did not react like that. There you see another time that Abraham was tested: What would Abraham's attitude be, when he hears that this man who cheated him, has got into trouble? When somebody who has cheated you gets into trouble himself, then you will discover very quickly whether you are a man of God or not. Abraham's reaction and attitude was, “Let me go and help Lot. It's true that Lot cheated me. But what did he cheat me of? Some garbage of earthly wealth. That's nothing. I've got heavenly riches. I feel sorry for Lot because he went after earthly things, and now he has got into trouble, Let me go and help him.” And Abraham went and delivered Lot himself. That's the attitude of a godly person.
On his way back from the battle, Abraham was exhausted, and possibly proud of the fact that with just 318 servants he went and destroyed the many armies of so many kings, He was also in danger of collecting all that wealth that he had accumulated through winning this battle. In those days if you won a battle all the gold and silver of the enemy's was yours. At that time God sent a servant of His to Abraham. Isn't it wonderful to see that? An unknown man named Melchizedek, who was living out there in the desert, was in touch with God. You read about him in (14:8).
The reason why Melchizedek is important is because in Psalms 110:4 Jesus is called a Priest after the order of Melchizedek. “Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.” And in Hebrews 7 that is confirmed. The only place in Scriptures where Melchizedek comes is in 14:18-20...three verses...that's all. Melchizedek appears, fulfils his ministry and disappears. And God said to his Son, "Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Not a priest after the order of Levi- the old covenant priesthood. How did this man Melchizedek, who appears in only three verses in the Bible, become so important? It is good for us to know the reason.
Although Melchizedek remains an elusive figure in the Scripture, He appears in the Roman Canon at Mass; today’s priests are ordained to “the Order of Melchizedek,” and his appearance in Genesis forms the basis of some of our theology of the priesthood.
His appearance in Genesis 14 is quite minimal and set at a point very early in Abram’s faith journey. Identified in the Scripture as “King of Salem,” ancient Jewish sources see him as the leader of the entire area, a wise sage of a man whom the rest must respect. But this does not answer the question of his identity. We must look back even further.
As Abram presents Melchizedek with a tithe, Melchizedek gives him a blessing in return. Here is the hint we’ve been looking for! The last person to receive a blessing was the oldest son of Noah: Shem. Adding up the dates of Shem’s life, we learn that he was actually still alive during Abram’s time, and in fact outlived Abraham!
Blessings at this time in history were not things that could be easily exchanged, once they were given, they could not be taken back.
As an example we have Jacob’s stealing of Issac’s paternal blessing from his older brother Esau. Blessings are tangible things, so Melchizedek/Shem must still have the one given to him by his father, Noah; and he now passes it on to his descendant Abram or Abraham, the one chosen by God to be the father of many nations.
All of these identities have priestly functions, but it is taken to an even greater degree when we see what Melchizedek offers as a priest, for priests offer sacrifices and Melchizedek offers a sacrifice of bread and wine. This sets off signal flares in the eyes of a Catholic, for our priests also offer sacrifices of bread and wine, now fulfilled in Christ to be His very Body and Blood.
What becomes important for today is that the priesthood in which Catholic Priests share, and by extension that all the baptized share in as well, goes back not just to the Sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple, but back to the very foundations of creation by God. Melchizedek is identified as “a priest forever” in Psalm 110, his priesthood continues on into the ages.
The Catholic Priest, in the place of Christ the Head, also shares in this eternal priesthood, continually offering a sacrifice of bread and wine before God in Heaven.
Uniting all of this into one, we see God’s divine plan in the scope of Salvation History. That Jesus came when He did is not some type of accidental occurrence, but had been planned out from before by our Loving Father. God wants to give us the tools to return to His presence in Heaven. Let us therefore rejoice that Christ left us with the great gift of the priesthood, that He continues to choose men to serve Him in this way, so that we might all come to worship Him forever around His altar in heaven.