Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE ALREADY BEGINNING TO FALL. War is made by confederate kings or princes against the people of the wicked cities of the plain, who by their propinquity would naturally be leagued together, but by their common rebellion against Chedorlaomer were involved in a common danger. Notice the indication of the future judgment given in the course of the narrative - "the vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits." God's vengeance underlies the wicked, ready to burst forth on them in due time.
II. THE UNFAITHFUL LOT IS INVOLVED IN THE JUDGMENT. He and his goods are taken. For while before it is said he pitched his tent near to Sodom, now we find that he is in Sodom.
III. THE MEDIATION OF ABRAM, representative of that of God's people in the world, procures the deliverance of the backsliding. He has already succeeded in drawing strength to himself; and doubtless Abram the Hebrew represented a nucleus of higher life even in that land of the idolatrous and degenerate which was recognized as in some sense a refuge to which men could appeal.
IV. THE VICTORY OF THE CHILD OF GOD, with his small company, over the great army of heathen is typical. It represents, like the victory of David over Goliath, &c., the superior might of the spiritual world (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27-31).
V. THE HOMAGE PAID TO ABRAM as the conqueror both by the heathen king of Sodom and the priest-king of Salem is typical of the superior position of the covenant people. Abram gave tithes to Melchizedek (cf. Hebrews 7:1-7) as an acknowledgment of the superiority of the position of Melchizedek, but Melchizedek blessed Abram as the possessor of the promise. The idea is that Melchizedek was the priest of a departing dispensation, Abram the recipient of the old and the beginning of the new.
VI. ABRAM'S STRICT SEPARATION from the worldly power, which he rested on an oath of faithfulness to God, shows that he is decidedly advancing in spiritual character. The contrast is very striking between his conduct and that of Lot. He at the same time does not attempt to enforce his own high principle upon others. The Church of God has suffered much from its attempts to apply its own high rules to the world instead of leaving the world to find out for itself their superiority and adopt them. - R.
I. THE LITTLE ARMY; emblematic of the handful of Christ's disciples at the first, and of the comparative feebleness of the Church still; yet "God's strength is ever made perfect in weakness," and so "the weakness of God becomes stronger than men."
II. THE TRUSTY CONFEDERATES; regarding the Amorite chieftains as possessors of the true faith, suggestive of the united purpose and action by which the Church of Christ in all its parts should be governed, and of the weakness that springs from divided counsels.
III. THE RAPID MARCH; a picture of the holy celerity and earnest zeal with which the Church should set about her enterprise of conquering the world for Christ; a reminder of how much may be lost by delay.
IV. THE SKILFUL TACTICS; proclaiming the same doctrine as Christ - that his people should be wise as serpents; revealing the necessity for the Church making use Of the most brilliant abilities she can command on all her different fields of action.
V. THE SPLENDID VICTORY; a foreshadowing of the final triumph which awaits the Church, and of the blessing which, through its instrumentality, will eventually descend upon the world. - W.
trained servants," pursues the enemy, comes upon them "by night," divides his small band into three companies, and makes an assault at once on the right, the center, and flank of the enemy. He routs and pursues them, smiting many and taking much spoil. He accomplishes above all his one desire, the restoration of Lot to liberty. As Abraham returns, flushed with conquest, he is met at the gates of Salem by Melchizedek, bringing to him bread, wine, and the Divine benediction.
I. THE DESIGNATION AND CHARACTER OF MELCHIZEDEK. He is king and priest. His name means, king of righteousness. He dwells in Salem, the place of peace. He did not go out to war, and had no part in the quarrel between Chedorlaomer and the king of Sodom. He had lost no relatives, and had no reason for fighting. Had cunning foes attacked his city of peace, he would doubtless have driven them off if possible. A king of righteousness, he would not think it his duty to submit to unrighteousness. He was, however, left unattacked by the fierce Chedorlaomer, and took care to provoke no quarrel. Perhaps he was not assailed because universally respected as a man of peace and a priest of God. This reason may have availed in that early age, and in respect to the first war of which we have any account, but it is not certain that it would be accounted a sufficient reason now. Various have been the speculations as to who Melchizedek was. Some believed that he was Enoch come back to earth, or Job, the tried one; others, that he was Shem, the best son of Noah. This is possible, as, according to calculations made, Shem survived Abraham forty years; but it is improbable, because Moses would have spoken of Shem by his proper name, and because that would not apply which is said of Melchizedek, in Hebrews 7:3 - that he was "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." We know the ancestry of Shem, but not that of Melchizedek. The difficult passage, the third of the seventh chapter of Hebrews, means, probably, merely this - that his descent was not known, and that his priesthood was not inherited or derived from others, but one resting in his individual character. Thus Noah, Job, Hobab or Jethro, and Balaam acted as independent priests, and their offerings were recognized by God. Melchizedek, in his maintenance of the worship of God, came to be accepted as a priest, and his life was like a star shining amid the general heathenism of Canaan. He also came like a streak of light, neither the coming nor the going of which could easily be discerned. We are told of him that he was "without beginning of days or end of life." Some have therefore thought that Melchizedek was an angel or a pre-incarnation of Christ; if so, Christ would have been the type and the antitype. But that which is thought to be spoken of the man refers to his office; it was without definite beginning or ending. The Levitical priesthood had a definite beginning and ending; that of Melchizedek is never ended. The one stood in carnal ceremonies, the other in the power of a holy character. The Levitical was introduced because of the unfitness of all to become "kings and priests unto God;" but that of Melchizedek, being according to character, has no "end of days." It foreshadowed the priesthood of Christ, whose work never passeth away, but who abideth a priest continually. Melchizedek was a type of Christ, the one great High Priest, the holiest of all on earth, and who enters for us into the holiest place. The omissions concerning parentage or the beginning of his priesthood were probably designed by God, that in Melchizedek - the most prominent of patriarchal priests - there might be a more significant type of him who is a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. This would explain the force of the prophecy in Psalm 110., and the words in Hebrews 7. Indeed the Levitical priesthood could not supply a perfect type, for it had no one who was at once a priest and king. Moses claimed not to be priest or king. David ventured not to intrude into the priestly office. Solomon, at the dedication of the temple, when he blessed the people, gave sacrifices for the priests to offer, but he slew them not. Uzziah attempted to intrude into the priestly office, but was stricken with leprosy. Under the Jewish dispensation there was no one who in his person could represent the twofold character of Christ as the only High Priest and universal King. Under the patriarchal dispensation, and in Melchizedek, there is this very plain type of Christ in his priestly and regal character. Melchizedek may never have imagined how great was the dignity put upon him as a type of Christ. Living a quiet, pure, and devoted life, he becomes accepted by his fellows as a priest of the Most High, and becomes the type of him who was the Savior of the world.
II. THE SIGNIFICANCE IN THE RECORDED ACTS OF MELCHIZEDEK.
1. Refreshing the weary. "Brought forth bread and wine," that Abraham might eat and be strengthened. Possibly part of the wine was poured out as an oblation. When those who met wished to seal a friendship, they brake bread or partook of a meal together. Thus the Lord's Supper is the indication of our union with Christ - of a friendship on his part for us sinners, cemented by his suffering. He gave himself to be the Bread of Life for us. We are in a spiritual sense to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, or we have no life in us. Christ oft thus comes forth to meet the weary pilgrims and soldiers of the cross. We must remember that it is the previous weary march, the confusion and the conflict, that fits us for the enjoyment of the sacred ordinance of the Lord's Supper. We have had to battle with temptations of various kinds, and come stained with the dust and blood of battle to the table of our Lord, and here he meets us and refreshes us. We begin here to see the meaning of all the conflict and burden of life. His word acquires more meaning, and his Spirit rests upon us with greater power, as, just outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, we sit and rest awhile ere pursuing our way and battling again with sin. What thoughtfulness there was in this act of Melchizedek I Single acts like these tell what is the character of a man. How it hints at the thoughtfulness of Christ for us in all our spiritual struggles!
2. Melchizedek also "blessed" Abraham. He pronounced upon him the blessing which belongs to an unselfish performance of duty. God's blessing is Abraham's great reward, and a man was its mouthpiece. Because God's approval was his reward he would not retain the spoil, although urged by the king of Sodom to keep the goods, and simply hand over the persons of his captive subjects. The approval of God expressed through conscience or the words of the good should be the Christian's one desired reward. The blessing will always come in the way of duty.
3. Melchizedek claimed the honor of the victory for God. "Blessed be the most high God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand." Before the king of Sodom Abraham is reminded of his dependence on God; thus before the world the Christian shows forth his dependence on the Spirit's help and "on the Lord's death till he come." We may never be ashamed to confess Christ. Abraham readily recognized the claim of God. He gave as a thank offering a tenth part of all he had taken. That which he gave, was his by custom and right. He gives it to God. God would not accept that which is wrung, by force, from another. He would say, "Who hath required this at your hand?" "I hate robbery for burnt offering." God only accepts that which is righteously and willingly offered. If taxes are imposed men pay them, but often when it is left to their conscience they neglect their duty. Better, however, that no tenth or tithings, no ratings and taxings, should be paid than that God's cause should be sustained unwillingly. As God gives us all we possess in love, as he sustains and pardons us in love, the least we can do is to love him and readily serve in return. We should devote all we are and have to Christ. Talents and possessions are his, and should be held in stewardship as from him. Let us not, however, make the mistake of thinking that it is by our gifts or good works we are saved. Many err here. It is only through Christ that our doings or persons can be accepted, even as Abraham's gifts were through Melchizedek. Christ is our Priest and Sacrifice. Do not attempt to slight him. Trust in his merits, work, and intercession. Let him have the pre-eminence. Christ must rule in our hearts and lives. The will must be given into his hands. Life must be held as a gift from him, and eternal life will be his certain bestowal hereafter.
4. Melchizedek gave to Abraham cheering words and stimulus. This was more almost than the refreshment. Here, as we meet in communion with one another and with Christ, we have great joy. Christ cheers us. We feel we can go forth boldly, and that when sin meets us we can, in Christ's strength, say, "Stand aside;" when hopes are cut off, as Lot was from his home, we can recover them through the cross. Thus our arms are nerved and hearts made strong for the future conflict. All the joy, however, is only a foretaste of that which will be ours when Christ shall meet us at the gate of the New Jerusalem, and shall lead us in to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Melchizedek, and all those who have been faithful to him. What will be our joy when we shall enter to abide in the "city of peace" with the "King of righteousness" for ever I May none of us know what will be the bitter pain of those who shall vainly call from without, because the door is shut, and the Master has entered in with those who were ready. - H.
Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5., 6., 7.). We may so regard him here, and consider his act in its typical light. Outwardly the transaction was of little mark. A band of men under Chedorlaomer carried off Lot, along with other spoil, from Sodom. Abram, on learning this, armed his household, pursued the invaders, routed them, and set the captives free. On his return Melchizedek, the head of a tribe near the line of march, came out to offer refreshment to his men; and as priest of his tribe he blessed Abram. Whether the type was understood by Abram or Melchizedek matters not. These things are written for our learning. We see in them Christ bestowing his blessing.
I. THE OCCASION OF THE BLESSING. After conflict. Our Lord the antitype of Melchizedek, as King of peace (Isaiah 9:6; cf. Luke 2:14; John 14:27). Yet the Christian life is emphatically one of warfare (Ephesians 6:11-13; 2 Timothy 2:3; cf. Genesis 32:24; 1 Peter 5:8; also Revelation 2., 3. - "to him that overcometh," &c.). The nature of that fight is against temptations to unbelief. The fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). The renewal under Christ of the battle lost in Eden (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 John 5:4). Circumstances may vary. The trial may be apparent or not. There may be no outward suffering, no visible hindrance. But what a struggle is implied in 2 Corinthians 10:5. It is the struggle against unbelief; to resist the power of things seen; to overcome "How can these things be?" to realize habitually the "city which hath foundations" (cf. Philippians 3:20); to rest on God's promises in simplicity (Philippians 3:7). As often as this struggle is honestly waged a blessing is bestowed (James 1:2; cf. Matthew 7:13; Matthew 16:24; Acts 14:22). We naturally love spiritual ease, but trial is better (Psalm 119:71).
II. THE SOURCE OF THE BLESSING. "The most high God, possessor," &c.
1. All blessing is from God. We acknowledge this; but Isaiah 10:13 is a natural feeling. We instinctively look to second causes; yet without this "looking upward" we cannot truly pray, "Thy will be done;" we cannot really live a Godward life. Compare Melchizedek's words with our Lord's (John 14:13-16; John 16:23), and their fulfillment in his receiving for men (Psalm 68:18) all needful gifts - forgiveness, sonship, right to pray, means of grace, opportunities of work.
2. All creation used by him as means of bestowing his blessing (cf. Romans 8:28). Sorrows (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:11) and joys (Romans 2:4) are alike instruments of good (cf. Psalm 116:12; Psalm 119:67).
III. THE FRUIT OF THE BLESSING. Closer walk with God. The events of this chapter were followed by more vivid spiritual manifestations to Abram. And thus our spiritual life advances. The blessing is God's free gift; but through conflict with evil the soul is prepared to receive it (cf. Psalm 97:10). As in natural life powers are increased by exercise, or rather by God's gift on this condition, so in the spiritual the conflict of self-denial, our Savior's blessing, and the "spirit of adoption" are inseparably linked together. "Grace for grace" should be the Christian's motto; ever pressing onwards. And as we can assign no limits to God's blessing, so neither is there any limit to our nearness to him. - M.
I. THE ENEMIES OF THE CHURCH. Like Abram's -
II. THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH. Like Abram's -
III. THE THANKSGIVING OF THE CHURCH. Like Abram's -
1. Due to God most high.
2. Offered through the priest of the most high God.
3. Expressed in self-consecration to the service of God. - W.
I. ABRAHAM WISHED TO AVOID PLACING HIMSELF UNDER OBLIGATION TO A WORLDLY MAN.
II. ABRAHAM WISHED TO AVOID THE APPEARANCE OF TOO GREAT INTIMACY WITH AN UNRIGHTEOUS MAN.
III. ABRAHAM WISHED TO SHOW THAT THE SERVANT OF THE MOST HIGH GOD CAN DO GOOD WITHOUT HOPE OF REWARD.
IV. ABRAHAM WISHED TO SHOW HOW UNDESIRABLE A PRACTICE IT WAS, TO GAIN BY THE MISFORTUNES OF OTHERS.
V. ABRAHAM WISHED TO SHOW THAT GOD, AND A SPIRIT OF CONTENTEDNESS, WERE A GOOD MAN'S TRUE RICHES. How much better to act thus than to permit the ungodly to point the finger of scorn and say, with respect to professedly religious men, that they are just as greedy and worldly as the most irreligious. - H.