This is now our fourth sermon about Abram. In the first one — when we looked at verses 1 to 3 of Genesis 12 — we saw that God called him to leave his father’s household and to go to the land God was going to show him. And when he came to the land, God gave him certain promises. Do you remember? First of all, of course, he was going to give him the land. Abram and all his descendants would possess the land of Canaan and they would live in it. Secondly, Abram was going to have so many descendants that a great nation would come from him. And thirdly, God promised that he would bless all the nations of the world through one of Abram’s offspring.
And we thought about how those promises were fulfilled in an earthly, ordinary and provisional way because from Abraham there came the Twelve Tribes of Israel and all the Jewish people. And God gave the Israelites the land of Canaan to be their home. So, those promises were fulfilled in an earthly, ordinary and provisional way. But we also thought about how those promises are fulfilled in a spiritual, greater and eternal way because the promise of descendants points forward to the church and to all those who share Abraham’s faith. And the promise of land points forward ultimately to the Promised Land of eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth which we read about in the last book of the Bible where all of God’s believing people will live for ever and ever. And the promise to bless all the nations of the world through Abram’s offspring is fulfilled by Jesus Christ who — according to his human nature — was descended from Abram. And all who believe in him are blessed by God because God gives to all who believe in Jesus Christ the assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life. So, God’s promises to Abram are fulfilled in these two ways: an earthly, ordinary and provisional way and in a spiritual, greater and eternal way.
But then we moved on to think about the rest of chapter 12 in another sermon. And because of a famine in the land of Canaan, Abram and his wife, Sarai, had to go down to Egypt for a time. And there they got into trouble. Do you remember? The Pharaoh took Sarai for himself. And it seemed that God’s plan to bring a great nation out of Abram and Sarai was about to come to nothing because Sarai had become separated. But the Lord God rescued them from the Pharaoh and Abram and Sarai were re-united and allowed to go free. And just as the Lord protected Abram and Sarai in those days so we can trust in the Lord to protect and defend his church throughout the ages and to work out his great plan for our salvation. We can trust in him to build his church and to ensure that the gates of hell will not prevail despite whatever opposition and dangers the church may face today.
And then, last week, we looked together at chapter 13. Abram and his nephew Lot had to separate because the land could not support all their livestock. Both of them had become very wealthy, with lots of sheep and goats and camels and donkeys. And there wasn’t enough food for them all. There wasn’t enough water for them all. So they had to separate. And when it came to choosing where to go and which land they want to take for themselves, Abram could have put himself first and snatched the best land for himself. But he didn’t. He let Lot have first choice of the land. And in doing so, he points us forward to the Lord Jesus who did not put himself first, but who put us first when he went to the cross and suffered and died to pay for our sins.
And then, afterwards, when God spoke to Abram and repeated his promise to give Abram and his descendants all the land that he could see, we’re reminded of God’s greater promise to bring all who believe in his Son into the Promised Land of Eternal Life. God promised to give the land to Abram. And he promises to give eternal life to us and to all who trust in his Son.
So, those are some of the things we were thinking about before. And while I was thinking about Genesis 13 during the week, it occurred to me that God’s promise to Abram at the end of chapter 13 speaks to us of Jesus Christ and the gospel in another way. You see, God was promising to give Abram many descendants and he was promising to give him the land to live in. Well, in John chapter 6 the Lord Jesus tells us how God the Father promised to give him a people for himself. Before the world was made, God the Father promised to give his Son a people, a kingdom, for himself. He would be their Head, their King for ever. And they would be his people. And in the gospels we read how the Lord Jesus came into the world to deliver his people from their sin and misery by dying on the cross to pay for their sins. And then he rose again and ascended where? To the Promised Land of Heaven. And one day — and we were thinking about this last Sunday morning from John 14 — one day he’s going to come back to earth for his people. And he’s going to come back and take all of his people to that place so that we will be with him and with his Father for ever and ever. God promised to make Abram into a great nation. And he promised to give them a land to live in. And God promised to give his Son a people. And what does it say about them in Revelation 7? They will be a great multitude that no one can count from every nation, tribe, people and language. And this great multitude of men and women and boys and girls which God the Father has given to his Son will live with him for ever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth which God himself will establish for us as our eternal home. God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 13 speaks to us of God’s promise to his Son to give him a great kingdom of men and women and boys and girls who will live with him for ever.
And you see, whenever we read these Old Testament stories, we need to think about how they relate to the Lord Jesus Christ. And I mentioned this briefly last week. The whole of the Old Testament is about the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason I say that is because of what we read in Luke 24. After the Lord rose from the dead he appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. And do you remember Luke tells us that — beginning with Moses and all of Prophets — the Lord Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Do you see? He turned to the Old Testament — that’s what Luke means when he referred to Moses and the Prophets — he turned to the Old Testament and explained to them that it was all about him.
And the same point is made in John 5:39 where the Lord complained that the Jews diligently study the Scriptures because they think that by them they may possess eternal life. And so, that’s good: they studied the Bible to see how to have eternal life. But what they didn’t realise, the Lord said, is that the Scriptures testify about him. The Old Testament is all about him.
And so, as we read about the life of Abram — and as we’ll later read about the lives of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and Samuel and David and all the rest of the great characters in the Old Testament — we need to think about how their lives point us to the Lord Jesus Christ and our salvation. We have to ask ourselves again and again:
What does this tell me about what God has promised to do for us through his Son Jesus Christ?
And today’s passage speaks to us of Jesus Christ in at least two ways. It speaks to us of the Lord Jesus in what this passage says about Abram rescuing Lot. And it speaks to us of the Lord Jesus in what it says about Melchizedek, the king of Salem who appears in verse 18.
Verses 1 to 16
So, this passage speaks to us of the Lord Jesus in what it says about Abram rescuing Lot. In chapter 14 Lot — that’s Abram’s nephew — is caught up in this conflict between the various kings which we read about in verses 1 to 11. Now, although they’re called kings, really they were only tribal chiefs and their kingdom was really only one city and the area surrounding the city. Anyway, four of them are mentioned in verse 1. They make up one side in this war. And five of them are mentioned in verse 2. They make up the other side in this war. So, it’s four against five. And why are they fighting? Well, verse 4 gives us the answer: The five kings in the second group had been subject to one of the kings from the first group for 12 years. And so, after 12 years of subjection, they’d had enough and were determined to rebel.
Now this was fairly common in those days. Often there would be a great king, someone who was mightier and more powerful than the others. And he would make a deal with weaker kings, to look after them and to protect them so long as they remained loyal to him and paid tribute to him. But then, from time to time, the weaker kings would get fed up with having to pay tribute to the stronger king, and they would join forces against him. And so, you’d get one of these wars. And either the weaker kings won and got their independence. Or else — and this probably happened more often — the stronger king crushed the weaker kings and put them back under subjection. You know, he put them in their place.
And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Kedorlaomer is the strong king. And in verse 8 we read how the five weaker kings — including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah — got together and came out against Kedorlaomer and his allies. But Kedorlaomer and his allies were too strong for the weaker kings, who had to flee for their lives (verse 10). Kedorlaomer and his allies therefore seized the goods of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and made off with them.
Now, no doubt Kedorlaomer and his allies are pleased. They’ve done a good job and it’s been a successful campaign for them. They’ve re-established their authority and proven their might. They also (verses 5 and 6 tell us) managed to defeat some other kings as well. So, no one can touch them. They’re invincible. Undefeated. The champions.
However, we see in verse 12 that they also carried off Lot and all his possessions. Lot — you will remember from chapter 13 — had chosen to live near Sodom and so he got caught up in this conflict. And Lot, Moses reminds us in verse 12, was Abram’s nephew, his relative. So someone ran off to find Abram to tell him the news. And as soon as Abram found out what had happened to his nephew, he immediately mustered his men and went out to rescue Lot. And in verse 16 we read that Abram was successful: he recovered all the goods and brought back his relative and all his possessions safely.
Well, as we read of Abram, forgetting the danger and setting out immediately to go and rescue his nephew, we can’t help but think of the Lord Jesus. Because isn’t that what he did for us? You see, back in Genesis 1 and 2 we read how God made this perfect world. Everything that he made was very good. There was no sadness. There was no disease. There was no fighting. There was no death even. Everything was just perfect. But then the first man and women sinned against God. They disobeyed the Lord’s clear commandment. And, of course, the result was that everything was spoiled and ruined. And now there was misery. And sickness. And jealousies and fighting and hatred and death. And throughout the rest of the Old Testament we see that everyone was like this. Everywhere you went, there was this misery and sadness which was a result of that first sin when Adam fell into the state of sin and misery which we’re all so familiar with. And that’s how the Old Testament ends. Everyone has been overwhelmed by sin and by death.
But then, the New Testament begins and we read how the Eternal Son of God left the glory of heaven and came all the way down to earth in order to rescue us. Just as Abram left his home to rescue Lot, so the Son of God left his home in heaven to rescue us from our sin and misery.
And here’s Abram going out to face mighty kings. No one has been able to stop them. They’re invincible. Abram could easily have been destroyed himself. But he didn’t think of his own safety, because he was thinking of only one thing: rescuing Lot. And the Eternal Son of God didn’t stop to think of his own safety and security, because he was thinking of only one thing: rescuing us from our sin and misery in order to give us forgiveness and eternal life.
Abram went off immediately to rescue his nephew and in the New Testament we read how the Eternal Son of God left the glory of heaven and came down to earth in order to rescue us and to give us eternal life. Do you see? We read of Abram here in Genesis 14 and it speaks to us of Jesus Christ our Saviour!
But here’s the thing. Abram rescued Lot by going off to war and by defeating these kings. He and his men went out to fight against them and to kill them in order to rescue his nephew. But Jesus Christ rescued us not by killing anyone, but by being killed himself. Without any thought for his own safety, Abram set off to rescue Lot. And without any thought for his own safety, Jesus Christ went to the cross and he suffered and died there in order to rescue us from our sin and to give us eternal life. Do you see? When we read this passage, we’re to put ourselves in Lot’s shoes. We’re the ones who have been taken captive by sin. We’re the ones who are oppressed by sin and by death and by the Devil. We’re the ones who need someone to rescue us. And thank God for Jesus Christ, because he came to rescue us and he came to save us and to set us free from the sin and misery that every single person is in until they hear of Christ and believe in him.
Verses 17 to 24
So this passage speaks to us of the Lord Jesus and how he came down from heaven to earth to rescue us. But it also speaks to us of the Lord Jesus through this king called Melchizedek.
After Abram’s victory, two people came out to meet him. First of all, there’s the King of Sodom. And look how the King of Sodom greeted Abram in verse 21. In fact, there was no greeting. Nor did he give thanks to Abram for defeating Sodom’s enemies. Without any greeting and without any thanks, he demanded that Abram hand over the people who presumably had been taken captive by Kedorlaomer and his allies. So, he demands the people but he tells Abram to keep the goods.
Now, what goods is he talking about? Well, when Kedorlaomer and his allies defeated Sodom and his allies, they seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah. Do you see that in verse 11? Then, when Abram defeated Kedorlaomer and his allies, he took back the goods which Kedorlaomer had taken from Sodom and Gomorrah. These goods now belong to Abram. He now possesses what once belonged to Sodom.
And I think that’s why the King of Sodom is so gruff with Sodom. He knew that Abram now had all his stuff and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t take the goods off Abram. But he’s hoping that Abram will at least give him back his people who had been taken captive.
But look at verses 22 and 23. Abram tells the King of Sodom that he will not keep the goods for himself. He doesn’t want anything to do with this King who ruled over the city of Sodom which was notorious for its wickedness. Abram wants nothing to do with him. And he doesn’t want anyone to be able to say in the future that Abram owed his wealth to Sodom. So, he refused to keep the goods. He gave them back to the King of Sodom.
So, that was the King of Sodom. The second person Abram met was Melchizedek. We’re told in verse 18 that he’s the king of Salem which most likely refers to Jerusalem. And he’s altogether different from the King of Sodom. His name is different for a start: The King of Sodom was called Bera (see verse 2) and his name means: ‘In evil’. But the name Melchizedek means ‘King of Righteousness’. And Melchizedek is also known as the King of Salem which can be translated as ‘King of Peace’.
So, they were very different. And they approached Abram in a very different way. Whereas the King of Sodom was gruff towards Abram, Melchizedek brought some bread and wine for Abram and his men to eat. No doubt they were famished after all the fighting; so some food and drink would help to revive their tired and weary bodies. And as well as bringing out some food, Melchizedek also pronounced a blessing on Abram, because as well as being a king, Melchizedek was also a priest. And listen to his blessing. He said:
Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.
So, their names were different. Their way of approaching Abram was different. And the way Abram responded to them was different too. Abram wanted nothing to do with the King of Sodom, but he was prepared to give Melchizedek a gift. Do you see that at the end of verse 20? Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils. Abram saw something in this kingly priest which made him want to pay tribute to him.
And then Melchizedek drops out of the story. And he’s not mentioned again in our Bible until Psalm 110. So, what does Psalm 110 say about him? Well, in the Psalm God is speaking to someone and he said:
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.
And that’s the last time Melchizedek is mentioned in the Old Testament. In fact, he’s not mentioned again in our Bibles until we get to the book of Hebrews where the writer to the Hebrews interprets for us what Psalm 110 is about. In Hebrews 5 we learn that God was addressing his Son, the Lord Jesus, in Psalm 110. And so, to his Son, God said:
You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.
Now, every priest who was appointed in Old Testament times was part of an order, or a group of priests. So, the priests who served in the Old Testament temple in Jerusalem were from the order of Levi. There were Levitical priests. That was their order. But the writer of Hebrews is saying that God made the Lord Jesus a priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Now, you want to scratch your head and ask:
What’s the writer to the Hebrews talking about? Where’s this heading?
Well, the writer of the book of Hebrews goes on to explain the significance of Melchizedek. You see, he says, Melchizedek just appeared and disappeared and we never hear anything more about him or what happened to him after he met Abram. And the Bible says nothing about his death. So, as far as the biblical record goes, he just went on living. As far as the Bible is concerned, Melchizedek’s priesthood never ended. And so, the writer of Hebrews explains, Melchizedek points us forward to another priest, who lives for ever and ever. And, of course, he’s talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. God sent his Son Jesus into the world and appointed him our Great High Priest. And as our great High Priest Jesus offered up himself as the once-for-all, perfect sacrifice for sins to reconcile God and sinners. And though he died, he rose from the dead afterwards and lives for ever and ever. And so, he holds his priesthood for ever and ever. And for ever and ever he appears before the face of God the Father with the very same body and soul in which our sins were fully punished and our salvation was won. And seeing our Great High Priest before him for ever and ever, God the Father will never, ever demand any further payment from us for our sins, because all our sins were punished in his Son who always stands before him on our behalf, guaranteeing our acceptance with God. Because he lives for ever and ever, and because he remains our priest for ever and ever, then we can be assured that the effect of his sacrifice will last for ever and ever and our sins will be permanently covered over.
And that means we can always come before God with confidence, knowing that — for the sake of Christ — our sins are forgiven and we are accepted by God and there is peace between us. Trusting in Jesus Christ, you can come before God in prayer. Trusting in Christ, you can come and make your needs and requests known to God. Trusting in Christ, you can be assured of God’s goodwill and kindness towards you. And trusting in Christ, you will one day step into the presence of God and be with him for ever and ever.
So, why do we have this little story about Melchizedek in Genesis 14? Because Melchizedek provides us with a wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. Look what he did for Abram in this passage. He brought Abram and his men some bread and wine to nourish their tired bodies and to refresh them. And, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, is the one who helps us every day.
But then Melchizedek blessed Abram. Do you see that in verse 19? He said to him:
Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
This priest pronounced a blessing on Abram. And because the Lord Jesus Christ offered himself as the once-for-all, perfect sacrifice to take away our sins forever, then we’re able to receive the blessing of God and not his curse, which is what we deserve. And so, we receive from the Lord Jesus Christ one spiritual blessing after another. Do you remember what they are? We learned them from the Catechism. There’s justification so all our sins are pardoned and we’re accepted in God’s sight. There’s adoption so that we’re adopted into God’s family. There’s sanctification so that we’re renewed in God’s image more and more. There’s assurance of God’s love, and peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Spirit and growth in grace and preserving. Christ our Great High Priest gives us all of these wonderful, spiritual blessings. He blesses us.
So, Melchizedek provides us with the wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus who helps us and refreshes us and who blesses us with one spiritual blessing after another.
And so, it’s because of Jesus Christ our Great High Priest that we can come before God on Sundays to worship him. And it’s because of Jesus Christ our Great High Priest that we can leave the service this evening hearing the words of the benediction — that is, with the words of God’s blessing on us — and not his curse, because through Jesus Christ our Saviour we have been delivered from the curse of God and we have received from God one blessing after another after another and after another.