There is so much that could be said about this chapter, mostly centered around the person of Melchizedek. He is a mysterious figure that is spoken of in both the Old and New Testament and deserves our attention, but let me be clear that much about him is unknown and susceptible to speculation.
The point I want to impress upon you is this, that God’s Word contains everything that God wants us to know. If some details are missing, we should assume that they are not needed to understand God’s message. Based on that theory, I want to focus in on a few details of this story, as well as Melchizedek himself.
This chapter recounts the first known war in the Bible. A confederation of 4 kings wages war on 5 kings who were a part of a rebellion. Lot was among them. The confederation won and kidnapped Lot and took all his possessions. Abram, being loyal to his nephew, then rallied his own men, all 318 of them and pushed the enemy back from their lands and reclaimed their possessions.
This is a remarkable story that certainly rivals the legendary underdog status of the Spartans. Abram, upon returning must have been tempted to revel in his own glory and leadership ability. However, his character has been tested before and here he shows an amazing display of humility and reverence before God.
He is met on the way back by the king of Sodom and the king of Melchizedek. This is an important encounter, as Melchizedek is later shown to be foreshadowing Christ himself in Hebrews 7. You really need to read that chapter to get all that God has for you on this, but allow me to highlight some of the more important points.
- There is no record of Melchizedek’s father, mother, birth or death. This makes him mythologically an eternal figure, which is an appropriate foreshadowing of Christ who is described in John as being from the beginning.
- Jewish priests are all from the tribe of Levi, however Levi was not born yet so Melchizedek predates him, making him greater. Likewise, Jesus is from the wrong tribe, the tribe of Judah. He is greater than any priest before him.
- Melchizedek’s name means King of Righteousness and he was the king of Salem which means King of Peace. Both of these descriptions are used of Jesus.
We could expound on any of these points, and talk more of priesthoods and lineages and I would encourage you to investigate further into these things as they are fascinating. However, in keeping with the theme of offering a daily thought to ponder, I would invite you to focus on the gifts that are exchanged.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (v.18-20)
Abram has achieved much but wants to give honor to God for it. He wants to worship and so he gives a portion of his reward to Melchizedek, who has been ordained as God’s representative in that he was a priest. That is Abram’s gift to God. What is the priest’s gift to Abram? He communes with Abram over bread and wine. This is so significant, as our high priest, Christ Jesus, on the night he was betrayed had communion with his disciples in much the same way. He spoke of the bread and wine signifying His body and His blood and that it must be broken and poured out for communion with Him to be possible. That is His gift to us.
One of the most exciting things that a believer gets to do is to honor God through giving. We can never out-give Him. No matter how much money we make, his sacrifice will always be greater than ours. However, like Abram we have the opportunity to show a gesture of our gratitude when we give to God. In this way, we honor Him and show our obedience and submission, the way Abram did before Melchizedek. Let’s be the kind of people that recognize God as the source in our greatest victories and accomplishments. It may never feel like enough, but honoring him in this way is a pleasing act of worship to Him.