Posts Tagged ‘honoring God’

What About the Future?

Making Plans: What About the Future?

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

James 4:13-17

Introduction:

We humans are constantly making plans: we have “day-planners” that we carry with us, and business-plans, wherein we predict the future of a company. I am told that US businesses think they are doing well to have a five-year business plan, but that many Japanese businesses have 100-year plans. That boggles my mind, because there are so many unforeseeable changes in the world that it seems impossible to have any sort of serious plans extending more than a very few years. How can one predict market trends, new inventions, famines, plagues, wars, etc.? In reality, we have very little “control” of our lives, though we want very much to think that we are in control. James reflects that reality, and warns us to give God the honor He deserves by confessing that, in reality, He… and only He… is in control of the future. All we can control is our response to that reality.

So, James answers our ambitious, presumptuous, self-confident plans by saying, 13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

It would be an easy shift, to change our thinking, and simply acknowledge that God can confirm our plans or He can change them completely. We could simply say “If the Lord wills…” which could be just lip service. But it does require at least some humility, to say, “I hope to do thus and so, but, ultimately, God is in control, not I.”

The Problem of Self-Direction

16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

We don’t think of our “grand plans” as “boasting,” but God says they are! And each of us has made such plans, at one time or another, thinking we were “taking control” of our futures…but the fact is, we do not have control of our futures. Our lives are completely under God’s control, for good or bad. My wife and I knew a Godly young woman, apparently with her whole life ahead of her. She was married, and had great things planned. But she slipped on an icy walk, and smacked her head: and the bleeding on her brain killed her. Was she in sin? Not that I know of. She was really a godly young lady, and rejoicing in the Lord. But God has the right to take his children home, and it is not punishment! She simply graduated early. She is home with Jesus. It was a surprise, and a shock, but, honestly, isn’t that what we are all looking forward to?

And God says that our “self-centered” desire to be “self-directed”, making us “self-made” men and women, is what is evil, having found its root in the sin of Satan, which we can read about, in Isaiah 14:12-15. 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Lucifer lost his position as the “Light-bearer” (that’s what “Lucifer” means) when he sinned. What was the sin? The desire to be self-directed…to be his own master, and thus, ultimately, to supplant God.

He made five statements of self-will in that passage, all exalting himself above God.

  1. I will ascend into heaven (not by invitation, but by presumption)
  2. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God (referring to the angelic host)
  3. I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north (referring to Zion: God’s chosen throne on earth)
  4. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds (God’s position)
  5. I will be like the most high. (Self-direction is the only aspect in which he could be like the most high…he could not attain to the attributes of deity, but he wanted the position and honor of deity.)

What did all five statements have in common? “I will…”  This is the self-will that set in motion the sin that pervades our human sphere. He spread it to the first Man and Woman in the Garden of Eden, and they lost their position of innocence. They regained fellowship with God through a blood sacrifice, and by faith. We also enter into that fellowship by a blood sacrifice (the Cross) and by faith. But when we sin, even as believers, we emulate the self-will of Lucifer, because we defy the authority of God, and, by our actions, words or attitudes, we declare that “In this small sphere, I am the master! I will make the choices, here, and I will chart the course of my life!”

It is hard for us to think of these things in this way, because we have been taught, all of our lives, that such things are good! “Be your own person! Take charge of your life! Be all you can be! Be your own boss! Throw off the shackles of authority! You deserve the best!” Does any of that sound familiar? Those are all advertisements in magazines, as to how you can tell off your boss, start your own business, and suddenly be in charge of your own future, get rich (or at least richer), and have all the things and the relationships you have always wanted! Interesting, huh?

How does the Enemy attack us?

Do you see how, when Satan tempted and tricked Eve, he attacked through three areas of temptation? Genesis 3:6 says that “When she saw that:

  1. the fruit was good to eat, and
  2. that it was pleasant to the eyes, and
  3. desirable to make one wise,

(then) she took the fruit and ate, and gave it to her husband with her, and he ate…”  The result was the fall of the human race! Spiritually, we all died that day in the Garden of Eden. We were separated from fellowship with God! We have regained our position through Jesus’s blood at the Cross, but we still have our old Sin nature, and can still be drawn away to sin.

When Satan tested Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11), he used the same three areas of temptation: food, public status, and riches. But Jesus successfully rejected that temptation, on the basis of God’s Written Word…which we can also choose to do.

There’s an odd thing, here: God calls out those specific things as how the enemy will tempt us, too! (1st John 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” )

  1. The Lust of the Eyes (what I see and find attractive)
  2. The Lust of the Flesh (what would serve to gratify the body)
  3. The boastful Pride of life (What would serve to gratify my sense of self-importance.)

Those same weapons have been used against the human race from the very beginning. And the pride issue, the part of us that says, “I did it myyy way!” (That was a famous song!) is a very common failing, virtually universal among humans. So, with that warning, we need to change how we approach life.

What can I do differently?

Is it “wrong” to make plans? When God says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding…” does that mean it is sin to make plans? Absolutely not! In fact, Jesus addressed that idea in regard to discipleship, saying we need to count the cost, sit down and calculate whether we can do the things we hope for: He gave the examples of one preparing to build a tower, or go into battle, calculating ahead of time whether they had what it took to complete the work, or to succeed in battle.

I have to plan ahead, and make time to study God’s Word, or I will not have the teaching to feed a flock. We have to plan ahead and prepare the soil for a garden, if we want to reap a crop or even have flowers. We have to plan ahead and acquire specific schooling if we want to work in certain jobs or professions. And maybe, after all, we aren’t able to do those things once we take the training. (You can’t be a surgeon, for example, if you always faint at the sight of blood! Or a commercial fisherman, if you can’t overcome motion sickness, etc.)

We each have plans we have to make, and the passage that warns us to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts” goes on to say, “…in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy path!” (Proverbs 3:5, 6)

So James echoes this idea; that we need to recognize our frailty at the very least: our lives are like a vapor, or a mist, that appears briefly and then is gone. We have grand ideas of things we’d like to do, but the very least we can do is realize how short life really is, and that we simply don’t have time to do them all. (I like to make things. My brother-in-law pointed out, “Chet, you can make anything! You cannot make everything!” Meaning, “You won’t have time!”)

Not all of the ideas we have are worth wasting our limited time on them. But if we start with the confession of our own frailty and the very brief time we have been given in which to function, then we can begin to rethink our values and our choices, and apply the wisdom of God to our plans, seeking His guidance and approval as we go. He says that we need to recognize every day that our plans are subject to His authority, and that things may change suddenly and without warning. (Remember the rich man who was planning to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store all his crops, as opposed to sharing that bounty. He didn’t know that he was already in his last day of life.)

I knew a Bible teacher, in 1975 (Ralph Hovland, a retired missionary,) who had spent what most would call “his retirement years” teaching the Bible to younger men and women, preparing them for service. He finally was too old to even continue that, so he was going to retire, and he and his wife were going to move to a retirement home of some sort. He was walking down the street near the school with one of his students, Scott Gutmann, and explaining his plans. He concluded with, “But, of course, the Lord could change those plans at any moment!” and at that moment, he suffered a massive heart attack and dropped dead! He was called home, as a good and faithful servant. No suffering, no slow deterioration. And the impact it had on Scott’s life was profound! He went on to serve as a missionary as well.

There is nothing wrong with making plans, and we are urged by God to do so:  Proverbs 6:6-8Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

We are given ample instructions as to preparing for an uncertain future: to “…watch, for ye know not what hour your Lord cometh.” Ralph Hovland had done exactly that: he was fully prepared for an uncertain future. It changed without warning.

How should we respond, then?

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Each of us has this warning, so, then, each of us is responsible to take heed. In so saying, James gives us one of the four New Testament definitions of Sin: “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This is where the sins of omission come in: If we know what God wants us to do, and choose to do something else; even if the thing we are doing is not intrinsically “wrong,” it is sin, because we knew we were supposed to be doing otherwise. Sin isn’t necessarily on a list of things not to do: It could simply be doing something other than what we were directed to do.

We need to be looking to God for our direction: in His Word, in Prayer, being alert to the prompting of God, by the Holy Spirit. He never leads contrary to His Word, so that is a “filter” we can constantly apply to our plans. Read the Word and find out God’s Principles!

In this particular passage, it seems that the “good”, is something “good” in the sense of moral rightness, not just “they would like it if I did this.” And, in the second place, it says, “if a man knoweth to do good, and doeth it not…” (Not, just “if a man has a great idea of how to be a blessing to the world around him.”) I do think that there has to be some sense of having been directed by God; either through His written word, or some sort of clear leading.

When Ann and I are moved to give money (for example) to meet a known need, we are both alerted to the need, and, invariably, we have the same amount in mind. We see that as God’s leading. Perhaps there are better ways to approach this, but, between God’s Word and Prayer, I don’t know of any better way.

The Key is Submission to God

The real key in making plans is to consistently be in submission to God as we read in James 4:7, so that He is able to direct our hearts and, ultimately, our paths. Apart from a conscious choice, moment by moment, to submit to the Lord, we can’t be sure we are doing His will, even though we look to His Word for direction. If I have chosen to submit my will to God, and I can see from His Word what I think he wants me to do, then I can be pretty sure I am doing right.

I knew a fellow, years ago (a believer,) who earnestly wanted to do God’s will, and daily sought to lead others to Christ. The problem was that he was an hourly worker, and was trying to lead people to Christ during times when he was supposed to be working: and the type of work (welding) precluded working and talking at the same time. He did not see that he was dishonoring God by taking time during which he was paid to weld (as were the people he was talking to) to try and tell people about Jesus. He was ultimately let go…not for witnessing, but because of not working. (He was actually off in another building, going through the garbage dumpster, looking for cans to turn in for money, when he was supposed to be working.) That is not a good testimony, and it is not being in submission to God. I don’t know if he ever admitted to himself that what he was doing was wrong, but it served to remind me that the things we do have eternal impact, for better or for worse.

In these tumultuous times we are living in right now, we have a special desire to use our time wisely, and to make Godly choices, as it truly seems we are getting closer to the Lord’s return. We don’t want to waste what little time we have left!

We will try to spend some time, soon, talking about these troubled times and how we are affected by them; but for now, regardless of when the Lord returns, the key issue is that we be in constant submission to the Lord, and alert to His direction and leading.

Lord Jesus, please draw our hearts to yourself, so that we are constantly motivated by your Word, by your Spirit, and your Love. Allow us to examine ourselves in the Mirror of your Word, and remember what we see there. Use your Word to cleanse our hearts and transform us into your likeness. Make us the men and women of God you have called us all to be.


Black and White—or Shades of Gray?

Black and White—or Shades of Gray?

© C. O. Bishop 2012. THCF 11/18/2012 revised 2019

Introduction:

We are presented with so many choices in the world today; some of them clearly good…perhaps some clearly bad, but very few regarding which we can say “This is ultimate Good—there is no evil in it!” When we read the news, we are hard-pressed to tell who are the heroes, and who are the villains. When elections come around, we feel that we are offered only a chance to choose between deeply flawed individuals, neither of whom is clearly a “Good Choice”, but of whom neither is so clearly a bad choice that everyone sees it that way. Few today are even willing to admit there is such a thing as intrinsically “good or bad; right and wrong”. We are expected to see everything through the lens of public opinion, and its collective “morality” or lack of such.

What about History?

In the beginning, God presented things to Adam in a world of living color—thousands of varieties of plants, all of which were edible and healthy; a host of animals, none of which were dangerous; and only one rule; but that one rule was Black and White: obey or don’t. Live or die.

We may scoff at such a story from our “so-sophisticated,” modern point of view, but the fact remains that there are only two possibilities regarding that story: it is either true or it is not. My believing it does not make it true—your disbelieving it does not make it untrue—it is either true or not true, on its own merit. This statement is applicable to every bit of God’s Word, the Bible.

The Creation story is either true or untrue. If we hedge, and say, “Well, it’s partly true…”, then we are really conceding that it is a lie… no better than folklore, or mythology. Or we must declare ourselves wise enough to discern which parts of the Bible are true, and which are not.

When Noah entered the Ark, there were only two locations: inside or outside. All inside the ark were saved by virtue of their position inside the Ark. All outside were doomed by virtue of their position outside the Ark. Nothing else really mattered at that point… the folk aboard the Ark might be seasick, terrified, regretting the choice to go aboard, afraid of the dark, the noise, the movement—but they were safe, whether they felt safe or not. Those outside might be educated or ignorant, noble or base, old or young, sick or healthy, strong or weak—but they were all doomed. The matter was essentially reduced to “Black and White” by their own choices.

The Genesis Flood either covered the whole earth or it did not—the Biblical account is either true or it is false. The continents either broke up after the Flood, with human witnesses, as recorded in Genesis 10, or it did not. The Biblical account is either reliable or it is not. Isn’t it interesting that Moses recorded the fact, after the breakup of the super-continent by about a thousand years; about 1500 years before Christ…and modern science took until the last century or so to even notice it, and until the last fifty years or so, to prove it!  But it was recorded by human witnesses when it happened, according to Genesis 10:25.

Either Moses took the Israelites, 2-1/2 million strong, across the Red Sea, as Exodus 14:29 says, with the waters “a wall to them, on the right and the left”, or he did not. And either the Egyptians were drowned by the returning waters, or they were not. It is a “Black and White” choice.

Either God has shielded Israel during the last 4,000 years of history, or He has not. The attempts by enemies, to wipe them off the face of the earth, have been plentiful…and have failed every single time! These things all can be checked in secular history. Humans like to put a “naturalist” spin on things, and “explain” God out of the picture…but the Bible has an immaculate track-record of historical accuracy—and of prophecies being fulfilled to the letter.

So, What about Prophecy?

The prophets are very clear regarding the nature of God’s Word—it is either true or it is not:

When the prophet Elijah, in 1st Kings 18, gave his challenge to the 450 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets of Asherah, he did not offer any middle ground. He said, “…if Baal is God, then let him be God! If Jehovah is God, then let him be God…don’t hesitate between two decisions! Choose a side! Make a choice!”

He gave the 850 men who claimed to be prophets of their Gods the first opportunity to prove their actual status as the mouthpieces of a deity: they ranted and chanted, pranced and danced, cut themselves and howled to their God. But there was no answer! The test had been agreed upon: the real God had to send down fire and burn up the offering. And their Gods didn’t seize the opportunity! There was no answer! When Elijah finally took his turn, he called once, and God answered in a torrent of supernatural flame that burned up the stone altar as well as the offering. There was no middle ground. Either God would respond, or he would not. But He did!

The prophet Micaiah, in 2nd Chronicles 18, effectively gave himself a death-sentence, when he prophesied the death of King Ahab. He was immediately put in prison, to await the return of the angry king. The king disguised himself and went into battle incognito, but was killed in spite of his deception. He never came home to carry out his wrath. There was no “gray area:” either an angry king was coming home for vengeance, or a dead king had fallen under the wrath of God.

When Jehoshaphat was king in Jerusalem, according to 2 Chronicles 20, he was given notice that an invading army (several nations together, actually) was about to attack. He knew he was not able to defend against such a host, and went before God in the temple to ask His protection. He called on all of Judah to fast and pray with him. A prophet (Jehaziel) was sent to tell him the news that God was taking full control of the battle—the king and the people of Judah were not required to fight, but only to watch. Jehoshaphat believed God, and responded by banding the people together, with the temple singers in the lead, praising the beauty of holiness. When they began to sing, God ambushed the invading army, and they began to fight amongst themselves, with the supernaturally-complete result that not a single one of the invading troops survived the melee. Now, if the prophecy had been false, Judah would have been doomed—they had no “plan B”. They were utterly dependent upon the promise of God. Either the promise was true, or it was false. “Black and White!” But, like the God who gave it, the promise was good!

What about other Choices?

Before he died, Joshua told the people to make a choice—to follow the Lord or not—but that he and his household would follow God. There were only those two choices. The decision was Black and White.

In the instances we already listed, the men and women of God chose to trust God’s Word, and obey. They were declared righteous by faith, but their faith resulted in obedience, and, in those particular cases, obedience saved their lives.

We can trace through the Biblical history and see that Israel, as a nation, was constantly faced with Black and White choices which they inevitably blurred into Shades of Gray…and when they did, they eventually were confronted by God with the fact that they had simply chosen to disobey. There were no “Shades of Gray,” except in their own imaginations! They deliberately blurred the truth until it was unrecognizable by reasonable people, and then they loudly advocated a “progressive” path away into darkness, idolatry, rebellion, and spiritual blindness. (Does that sound familiar? Have we seen a nation doing something similar today?)

But think back: who was the first to “blur” the Black and White Truth of God’s Word into a multi-shaded gray mirage that turned out to be a deadly lie? It was Satan, speaking through the serpent in the Garden: He said, “Hath God surely said….?” Then he misquoted the truth so as to “paint it gray.” Eve tried to answer truthfully, but she was not familiar enough with God’s Word to give a clear answer. (We are not told why Adam did not speak up, though he was evidently there, too.)

But, once the doubt had been sown, the Deceiver proceeded to flatly contradict God. The trap was set: the two innocent people must either retreat into God’s Word, and walk away from the temptation, or continue to flirt with death. They did not flee to God: they believed the tempter, and chose to disobey God. And we see the results daily in the news and in our own lives, today.

So, with what choices are we confronted, daily, in our lives today? They really can be just as “Black and White” as the choices we have listed, if we see them in the light of God’s Word. Sometimes they certainly seem to be in various shades of Gray—but are they really?

Some Choices are very clear:

  • Either Jesus’ blood is sufficient payment for my sins or it is not.
  • I will either place my trust in His atoning death, burial and resurrection or I will not.
  • Either God has established one way of salvation through Jesus Christ (as Jesus himself so clearly stated) or He has not.
  • If there truly are “many ways to God,” then Jesus is not even one of the ways, because He himself said that there is only one way, and He himself is it. There is no plan B! So that would make Jesus a terrible liar, and not even “a” way to God.

Isn’t it interesting that Adam and Eve had only one way they could disobey God and be lost… and that ever since that moment, there has only been one way to obey God and be saved?

What about my daily decisions as a believer? Well…I will either love my neighbor as myself, or not. I may choose to see it in a whole spectrum of “Shades of Gray,” but God calls it Black and White: I either commit myself to the good of those around me, or I choose to ignore them, and meet my own needs to the exclusion of theirs. Does that enslave me, then, to the whole of humanity? Are my needs to be completely ignored; never to be considered? The answer to both questions is “No! I am to serve God, and to be available for His use at all times. When he says “go” I must be listening—when he says don’t go, I also must be listening. God does say to feed his sheep. He does not say “break down the fence and invite a herd of wild pigs into the garden.” In fact, he gives certain boundaries to giving, and to service. We might see that as “Shades of Gray”, but the real question is still Black and White: “Will you—or will you not—obey God?”

For example: when God says that you should daily be feeding on His Word, and desiring the sincere milk of his Word, and maturing to feed on the strong meat of His Word…hiding his Word in your heart, that you might not sin against Him…do you choose to daily feed on His Word, and work at memorizing at least some key passages? Regardless of the reason why; if you choose not to do so, you are choosing to not do what He said you needed to do. That is a Black and White decision. One by one, day by day, we set aside the choices God asks us to make, and we use up the time He has given us in which to serve Him.

Sometimes it may be difficult to know exactly what to do. We tend to say, “Well, now, there is a ‘shade of gray’ for you!”—but is it? If both choices are potentially good, then perhaps it really echoes the host of “living-color” choices that were offered to Adam. He had millions of things he could do, and was given a free choice as to what he wanted—except in that one forbidden thing. We are given countless choices, too—and many of them are perfectly acceptable. God does not dictate a single path as “His will for the believer.” He gives a general direction, and, if we are willing, He will frequently lead us step by step—but if we are refusing to do the things he commanded…which are NOT optional, then why should we expect the “direct leading of God” in the comparatively inconsequential things of life…or in anything at all, for that matter?

If you know that God has commanded you

  • to study your Bible,
  • to pray continually,
  • to rejoice evermore,
  • to give thanks in all circumstances, and
  • to offer eternal life to those around you, by sharing the Gospel with others:

and you are not doing those things, then it seems a bit unreasonable to expect God to lead you step by step in the regular and common trials of life. You already demonstrate that you really are not interested in His will. You would like to know it, so that you can consider doing it, but you are not committed to doing it no matter what it may be, because you are not doing the things you already know are his will. You have “painted” them all in Shades of Gray, and are choosing not to see the Black and White issues of God’s authority. I know this, because I have done it too!

What about Repentance?

How can we change our patterns, then? Are we doomed to continue our bad choices? God says that we can start with confession. 1st John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  That’s pretty Black and White, don’t you think? If you see that God is correct in pointing out the error of your ways, then agree with Him! That is what confession is! Agree with God, concerning your sin, and accept his forgiveness. Then begin again to search his Word daily, to feed your new nature on the sincere milk of God’s Word; to pray continually, and to apply the scripture to your daily life. God is pleased by the mere effort, and will meet you in your attempt, and help you to walk with Him.

Conclusion:

Down through all the ages, God has called for his people to turn to him in prayer, in repentance, in confession, and renewed obedience. He is still calling today: Don’t be distracted by the World around you. In 1st John 2:15-17, God says “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.

Whether you know it or not, the world is passing away, and the only thing that will stand is God’s Word, and those who believe it. The only thing that is eternally relevant is his Word. The bottom line in our choices must not be “is it convenient, is it financially or socially profitable, is it popular, etc.”, but “Does it honor God?” And, “Is it in keeping with my God-given job as an ambassador of Christ?”

Please think carefully about the choices you are making. They are not really Shades of Gray. Some choices are “living color”, as God has given you free will to choose most things in life. But the rest of them are Black and White!

Lord Jesus, open our eyes, and allow us to see the clear choices you put before us every day. Help us to choose to serve you with our lives, and not to be deceived by the Enemy.


Finding Jesus in Genesis—Lesson Six

Finding Jesus in Genesis—Lesson Six

© C. O. Bishop

Introduction:

We have been studying the book of Genesis, specifically looking for Old Testament evidences of the Person of Christ, just as Jesus taught in Luke 24:27. We have seen a few “pictures” or object lessons regarding the Christ, as well as at least a few personal appearances. We have also seen at least one clear prophecy regarding His coming Person and work. In Genesis 14 we see two pictures of Christ, I think. One is in Abram himself, the other is in the mysterious person called Melchizedek.

Genesis 14—Melchizedek

In Genesis 14 there is a small war. Four confederate kings attacked five neighboring kings (Each city was its own little “nation,” apparently) and captured them, along with Lot, who by that time was living in the city of Sodom. (Incidentally, these five little city-nations are the same five God proposed to destroy, in Genesis 19.) Abram heard about the raid and took 318 trained fighters from his own household, and went after them, in company with several of his neighbors, Mamre, Eschol and Aner. They caught up, and slaughtered the opposition, and recaptured all the people and all the loot.

In those days, the phrase “to the victor go the spoils” really meant something. If Abram and his associates had chosen to do so, they could have kept the people as slaves, kept all the animals and possessions, and released nothing. Nothing was said to indicate what their intent was, until the end of the chapter. But both the King of Sodom and the King of Salem showed up nearly simultaneously.

Salem versus Sodom

Melchizedek ( meaning “king of righteousness”), identified as the king of Salem, and as the priest of the Most High God (Hebrew, El Elyon) showed up and offered Abram bread and wine (which is interesting, all by itself.) Melchizedek blessed Abram, and blessed God for blessing Abram. Abram gave a tenth of the spoils (physical loot) to Melchizedek, evidently as a recognition that it was his God who had made possible the total victory over the enemy.

The king of Sodom (who had been conquered, and who had lost everything—his kingdom—his city, and his populace) also showed up and “offered” Abram all the goods, if he could have his people back. Abram didn’t owe him anything at all. In fact, had he been an opportunist, he could certainly have captured him on the spot and said, “One more slave!” But he flatly rejected the offer, not on the basis of its being invalid (it was), but because it did not honor God.

He said “I’m taking nothing! I don’t want you to ever be able to say that I “got rich” at your expense!” Further, he stated that he had already made a vow to God, to that effect. He was also careful to add that his decision did not affect his confederates, and that they would have to make their own decisions regarding the loot.

I think it is at least an interesting comparison, to see that, like Christ, Abram was offered a “short-cut.” Satan offered Jesus the worship and pomp of the World, in Matthew 4:1-11. Satan had very limited authority, as we can see in the Book of Job, and certainly did NOT have the “title to planet Earth,” as many commentators suggest—God does, and He always did.  Psalm 24:1 states that “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein!” Also, in Daniel 4:17, God says that “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will…”) God is the ruler on planet Earth, and always has been!

Satan claimed that the whole world had been given to him and that he could give it to whomever he chose. It was a lie, which should not surprise us: Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. Satan offered that which was not his to offer. Jesus did not argue the validity of the offer, but simply rejected him completely. The king of Sodom offered Abram that which was not his to offer. Abram did not argue the point, but, rather pointedly, rejected him completely.

Remember, too, that Lot had been very rich when he left Abram, but he was one of the people kidnapped in the raid. He could have asked Uncle Abram if he could rejoin him, but evidently nothing of the sort was mentioned. Sodom went back to being Sodom, and Lot went with it. The next time it is mentioned is just before it was destroyed. And Lot lost everything in that destruction, but he himself was “saved, yet so as by fire”. Does that sound familiar? How “tight” is your connection with the world? See 1st Corinthians 3:11-16. We, as Christians, can be so tied to the world that we have none of the eternal treasures of God, and when our works are judged, we can lose everything, though we ourselves will be saved—yet so as by fire.

Abram rejected the offer of the King of Sodom, and seized upon the promise of God. I think we need to follow his lead, looking at our choices carefully as to whether they honor God, or serve self, in keeping with the World’s thinking.

Melchizedek himself

But, what can we learn about Melchizedek? Who is he? Where does he fit into history? Why is it that he is even mentioned here? What is the significance of this short passage? We find him referred to again, very briefly, in Psalm 110:4 and finally, more extensively, in Hebrews 6:20-7:22. He is either a very pointed picture of Christ, or, possibly, a true Christophany—a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ himself. Most scholars believe that he was simply a gentile priest-king, presiding over the city of Salem (meaning “peace”), and that he is is just a handy illustration of some things about Christ. Let’s look, though: what does the scripture actually say?

Psalm 110:1, 4 says “The LORD said unto my Lord…” (God speaking to God—God the Father speaking to God the Son) “…Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” That is the prophet David speaking, regarding the Christ, but also a statement by God about both Christ and Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:20 quotes Psalm 110:4, and then sweeps directly into the only actual commentary we have from God about Melchizedek: Hebrews 7:1-22.

Facts about Melchizedek:

  1. King of Righteousness (meaning of his actual name)
  2. King of Peace (his office)
  3. THE priest of the most High God (his job)
  4. Without father (Really? Or just not known?)
  5. Without mother (Really? Or just not known?)
  6. Without descent (Really? Or just no genealogy listed?)
  7. Having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Really? Or just not listed?)
  8. Made like to the Son of God (At least very similar…maybe too similar!)
  9. Abideth a priest continually. (Present tense!)

That ninth fact puts a different perspective on who Melchizedek really is, in my mind. By the way, this is all given in what is called “indicative” mode…the assurance that all the statements made are definitely so. It is not allegory. It is not supposition or conditional, or anything like that. It says he “abides a priest continually”. In what sense can it be said that Melchizedek still is functioning as a priest? Where does he offer sacrifices, or prayers? For whom does he intercede before God? Give that some thought!

We are further told that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, and that his priesthood is therefore greater than that of Levi who was a great-grandson of Abraham. It is stated that Levi paid tithes through Abram, to Melchizedek. Levi would not be born for maybe two hundred years yet, and God said he paid tithes to Melchizedek. Interesting.

God compares the two priesthoods, and says that because the priesthood of Levi (Aaron—Levi’s Great-g-g-grandson) is constantly interrupted by death (and that of Melchizedek is not), the final priest had to be after the order of Melchizedek, and not Aaron. Good logic: one priesthood was flawed, through death and human frailty; the other was not.

But if Melchizedek is still functioning as the priest of the Most High God, where does Jesus fit in, as High Priest? And why would we say that he was “after the order of” (under the auspices of) a gentile priest-king, who, though we know little about him, must have lived and died almost 4000 years ago? How can that be? Why would Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and the ultimate source of Righteousness, be listed as being “after the order of” a dead guy from 4000 years ago, who somehow is also still a priest…Unless they are somehow one and the same? Because it could also be said that, since Jesus is a g-g-g-g-great grandson of Abraham, that He also paid tithes to Melchizedek, and thus was also “lesser,” just like Levi…and he is certainly not. But he may be equal, in which case there is no problem.

If Melchizedek was The priest of the Most High God, in the strictest sense—the one and only—the eternal Priest (and it seems he apparently is), then all the rest makes perfect sense. And it rejoices my heart to think that before God brought judgment to Canaan, he had offered His Grace to that region. The King of Righteousness and King of Peace had actually visited them, lived among them, and offered them a way to God. And, in reality, that is all we know about Melchizedek. We also know that it was immediately after this that the land was again promised to Abram—specifically naming the places, borders, and current inhabitants—but it was another 400 years before God evicted the Canaanites and all the other “-ite brothers.”

I can’t say with assurance that “Melchizedek was definitely Christ”, but I tend to lean that way in my thinking. There are too many things that otherwise don’t add up. If he simply appeared among the people, and eventually disappeared, then the “no father, no mother, etc” makes sense completely. A christophany is not born, and does not die—he is Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Living Word, who shows up periodically in Old Testament History, and then simply vanishes, leaving only the memory of his presence, and some sort of message from God. If that is what happened in Genesis 14, then He was the most intense and Personal christophany of them all. If it is not what happened, there, and he really was just a “gentile Priest-King” who happened to form a very good picture of the coming Messiah, then the story is just somewhat puzzling and mysterious…which, given the source, is not terribly unusual: there are many things we don’t understand, in God’s Word.

Application

But, what can we do with all of the above? The most obvious thing is to remember that, no matter who Melchisedec turns out to be, we will constantly be offered choices that fall into the “Sodom versus Salem” category, and we need to watch for them carefully, so as to make decisions that honor God, even if they do not seem to offer us the same “profit-margin” as the World offers.

There are many examples of people in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, who had a similar choice, and grabbed for the profit. Lot, in this immediate context, was a prime example, and it eventually cost him everything he had, leaving a permanent stain on his progeny, as well. He was a believer, according to 2nd Peter 2:4-9. But he left a terrible legacy, as we will see in Genesis 19.

Abram made what seemed to be a costly decision, here in chapter 14, turning away from an apparent windfall; but it was ultimately a very wise choice. He honored God with his words and deeds, and he is remembered as “the friend of God.” And God eventually blessed him in return.

Balaam, on the other hand, in the book of Numbers, was a genuine prophet of God, and, initially, was at least superficially obedient. But he strongly desired the rewards offered by the enemies of God, and eventually, on his own, he went and suggested how the Midianites and Moabites might cause Israel to stumble and fall, and be condemned by God. Incidentally, both these tribes were cousins to Israel, but are also bitter enemies, in spite of the family link.

The rest of that story is somewhat of a mixed blessing. It is in Numbers 22-25, culminating in Numbers 31:8. As we read that account, we can see that Israel’s position with God was secure forever, and that only their condition could ever be changed. Yes, they got in serious trouble, because of Balaam’s advice to their enemies: but God chastened them and brought them through, as a nation…and they were later sent to destroy their enemies, including Balaam. Today, Balaam is only remembered for his treachery, and is frequently referred to as a “false prophet.” But the truth is, he was a real prophet who sold out! He “bargained with Sodom,” instead of Honoring God. It’s a sad story, for sure.

We need to maintain a close walk with God, reading His Word, and seeking to obey Him, so that when that sort of choice presents itself, we can see it coming, and be prepared to make a Godly choice. We don’t want to follow the “Doctrine of Balaam”, and make choices that dishonor God.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts; correct our thinking, and draw us close to your side, so that when the World makes an offer, of options that look like great opportunities, we will see through the lies, and see the opportunities for the traps they really are. Help us to know the difference between your hand of sustenance and the hand of the enemy who seeks to ensnare us.