He was king of Salem and priest of God Most High
Abram rescues Lot (1-16), Melchizedek blesses Abram (17-20), Abram refuses Bera (21-24)
ABRAM RESCUES LOT (1-16)
An international war breaks out, 4 kings against 5 kings. The four kings beat the 5 kings. One of the kings defeated was Bera, the king of Sodom. The victors plundered Sodom and carried off silver, gold, possessions, servants, women and Abram’s nephew, Lot.
Upon hearing this Abram assembled his 318 fighting men and pursued the captors of his nephew. He finds them, beats them and recovers all that was taken – including Lot.
In these first 16 verses Abram proves several things about himself. First, his bravery. Second, his skills as a military tactician. Third, his devotion to his nephew, Lot. Fourth, his faith.
It is upon returning from this victory that Abram is greeted by the mystery man of the OT: Melchizedek.
MELCHIZEDEK BLESSES ABRAM (17-20)
Seemingly out of nowhere this mysterious person Melchizedek appears. He is here very briefly and then except for Psalm 110 he literally disappears from Scripture until the book of Hebrews. He stands out as a fascinating individual in the OT. Like the Nephilim in chapter 6 we’re left aching for more information on who this guy is.
Here’s what we know. He is both a king and a priest, verse 18 says he is king of Salem, which is an ancient name for Jerusalem (Ps 76:2), and he is priest of God Most High. His name, Melchizedek means king of righteousness, and king of Salem means king of peace (Heb 7:2).
A king is one who rules a kingdom, who has authority and sovereignty over a nation and a people who are subject to him. While Melchizedek did not involve Salem in the war at all, he comes out to the kings as they are returning from war. You can imagine the splendor of this priest-king arriving and the reverence of the other kings.
A priest is someone who approaches God for worship. A priest is a “go between” for God and man: representing God to man on one hand and simultaneously representing man to God on the other. In the OT, under Moses, the nation of Israel was given a priesthood. Of the 12 tribes the Levites were the only tribe allowed to be priests. And only descendents of Aaron, Moses’ brother, could be high priests. This priesthood was established at Mount Sinai after God delivered Israel out of Egypt.
Bread and wine were tokens of fellowship and joy. He is a righteous king-priest, and Abram is a righteous man – both of them worship God Most High.
Melchizedek and Abram seem to know each other. The short passage really emphasizes their connection and the feel of the passage is that Melchizedek came for Abram. In other words, he may never have made the trip if Abram weren’t there.
It becomes clear though that Melchizedek is the greater of the two. We can tell this first, because Abram pays him a tithe and second because Melchizedek blesses Abram (Heb 7:4,7). Turn to Hebrews 7 with me, the companion passage to our text this morning. Notice verse 4 and verse 7. Abram may be the greatest name in the Bible, yet, here this mysterious Melchizedek is one greater than Abram.
While the OT only speaks of Melchizedek here in Genesis 14 and in Psalm 110, the NT has more to say. The reason is because Jesus our Lord is said to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 17).
Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek. This means
- He’s not a priest like the Levites (Heb 7:11-13). Jesus was descended from Judah, not Levi.
- He is not a priest according to the Mosaic Law (Heb 7:
- His priesthood is superior to that of Aaron and the Levites (Heb 7:4-10)
- His priesthood is without end – it is forever (Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6; 6:20; 7:24-25)
- He is a priest not according to his ancestry, but by oath and designation (Heb 7:16-17)
Here’s what you need to know about this superior Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus: his priestly sacrifice for your sins is superior to any and all other sacrifices. Look at Hebrews 7:26-27. The Levites had to offer sacrifice after sacrifice day after day. But sins were not washed away. You know what other sacrifices are insufficient to wash away your sins? Your good life. Your being a good moral person. Your being a religious and spiritual person. That “sacrifical” living for God is a lifetime of sacrifice that in the end will be rejected. There is one sacrifice and one sacrifice alone that God accepts for sin. It is the sacrifice of his sinless Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross for your sins. He is the high priest who needed no sacrifice for his own sins, who does not need to resacrifice himself over and over to cleanse you. He lives forever so his one time sacrifice is absolutely sufficient to forever keep you washed of your sins and because he lives forever then when you believe in Him you too live forever because of Him.
APPLICATION: Stop offering sacrifices to God for your own sins. You are not a priest. God will not accept from your hand anything to absolve you.
ABRAM REJECTS BERA (21-24)
The contrast is stark: Abram and Melchizedek enjoy fellowship together but then Abram turns to Bera and will have nothing to do with him. Bera is king of Sodom, a nation that was “sinning greatly against the LORD” according to the previous chapter. Which explains why Abram, the man of faith, spurned him.
Psalm 26:5 “I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.”
APPLICATION: Make yourself distinct from the wicked. Abram would not touch the spoils because he did not want anyone to think a wicked king like Bera had helped him become rich. Everyone everywhere would know that it was the LORD who has blessed Abram – not Bera.