Abraham, Pt. 4: Rescue and Reward

Scripture: Genesis 14:1-24, Malachi 3:8-10, Genesis 15:1
Date: 02/28/2004 
The fourth in a 12 part series on the life of Abraham. His experiences are a miniature story of what happens to God's people in later times. Lot is like God's people who were carried away in war and then rescued.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I am looking forward to a miracle. I don’t know exactly what form that will take but as we pray together as a family this week for God’s guidance regarding the next step we’re praying God will show us where to go and provide the place and the means to do that. I want to welcome you if you are a visitor. For those who are regular members and attendees at Central Church you know that we are going through a series of studies dealing with the ultimate patriarch Abraham and today will be the fourth installment in that study, part four in Abraham, the Ultimate Patriarch dealing with Rescue & Reward. Please turn with me in your Bible and before we begin our study we’re just going to actually read part of chapter fourteen. The Lord has worked things out where these chapters make nice divisions for us to do our study on father Abraham.

Chapter fourteen, I’m going to begin by reading oh, maybe the first thirteen, fourteen verses and then we’ll stop and see if we can delve into some of the lessons that are along the way. “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). And these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).” They evidently lost that battle because they were taxed by Chedorlaomer for twelve years. “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer,” meaning that they had to pay tribute “and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year,” a year after they refused to pay their taxes Chedorlaomer gathered together a series of kings to come and support him in his battle against the kings of the valley. “In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth.”

Now that word rephaim is translated some places “giants” the emim. This was a kingdom of giants and he beat them. So this is a formidable force involved in this battle. They’re coming down from the north and it is a coalition of four different kings. They defeated “the Rephaim in Ashteroth, the Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh and Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir.” Later the mountains of Seir were occupied by the descendants of Esau known as the Edomites, but during this time it was the Horites that were there. “…as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and they came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and then they attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites...” Don’t forget the Amorites are attacked by this coalition of kings from the north.

That will come up in a moment. “…who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. And the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Sidim against Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.” Four kingdoms, four armies against five. Of course four big ones against five little ones. This is the first record of a war in the Bible. This is the only record in the Bible of a war where Abram was involved. You might say this is the first war. It’s being fought in the lowest part of planet earth. War is the lowest thing that can happen to humanity. So often it’s the innocent that suffer at the hands of the wicked. Wars seem to take the righteous and the wicked together and often millions of lives are needlessly lost. “Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled and fell there…”

They had tar pits and not to mention all the mineral pits that they have today. “…and the remainder fled to the mountains.” Evidently the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah managed to escape and they fled to the mountains. Their armies got stuck, mired down in the tar pits there. “And they,” the kings of the north, “took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and they went their way.” Now this was quite a windfall. Remember when Lot went down to Sodom and Gomorrah why did he go there? Because it was watered like the Garden of the Lord. This was a very prosperous area of the world. And here these kings from Damascus conquered it and they took everything of value with them. They’ve got a lot of war booty with them. They took all the goods, verse twelve, “They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom…” That was the biggest mistake they had made. If they had taken everything and left Lot they could have gotten clean away, but they shouldn’t have touched Lot. Someone was suggesting a sermon title called “Abram had a Lot to lose.” “…and they departed.

Then one who escaped came…” One of the soldiers that escaped from this battle he managed to get up to the mountains of Hebron and he “told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite…” Now notice that the Amorites were also attacked. Abram’s friend, another nomad that doesn’t live too far away his name was Mamre he is an Amorite so he’s got a reason to get involved in this battle. They end up joining Abram. I just wanted you to notice that his people were also attacked. “…the brother of Eshcol and the brother of Aner; they were allies with Abram.” So there were some people in the land that he had made friends with. His influence maybe had led them to worship the true God. They still, of course, had their national identity. And Abram is living under a tree or by a tree back then that was so prominent, I mean, you’ve heard of Gibraltar is named after the rock of Gibraltar. Very seldom is a country named after a tree, but keep in mind trees, when they came from the hand of God, were magnificent, symmetrical, massive compared to any that we have in the world today.

It may even be possible that a couple of trees survived the flood and one of these may have begun to flourish again after the flood and was spreading out there up in the mountains of Hebron. You know the Bible tells about a great tree in the book of Daniel chapter four and the whole nation is fed by this tree and it’s under its shade so when it talks about this tree I want you to picture a tree you can drive a tank through. And it was probably a very prominent tree there that the whole country was familiar with. If I told you to come visit us up in the hills and say, “I’ll be by the fir tree.” They’re everywhere. You wouldn’t find it. And so it says, “he dwelt by the terebinth tree of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol the brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram.” Now Lot is carried away and he is taken captive by his enemies and this story, and I want to just restate something I mentioned earlier because some of you haven’t been to each presentation. One of the things I’m learning as we study about the life of Abram, later known as Abraham, the experiences of Abraham seem to relive or live in miniature what is going to happen to God’s people later. You remember Abram goes down to Egypt, his wife is taken, plagues fall on Egypt and he gets his wife, he goes out, the Pharaoh gives him great bounty.

Later that happens to his posterity. His people are slaves in Egypt and Egypt is plagued and they come out with great wealth. These four kingdoms that come down from the north and attack, one Bible commentator suggests these represent the main four empires that occupied the land of Israel and that carried them away captive. Where you’ve got Babylon, Media Persia, Greece, and Rome. And they came down from the north and attacked, but in the end the same way Abram is victorious, God’s people will be victorious. The devil wants to take us captive. You read for example in Isaiah 61 when Jesus began his ministry he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” he quoted from this verse, “because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,” notice “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to those that are bound.” Many in this world are captive and Jesus came to set the captives free. Abram is going to go rescue his brother that is taken captive. Jeremiah 13:17 he says, “My eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive.” Now here is the question. Are we saving the captives? You notice that Abram has a brother that’s carried away captive by the enemy. He is preparing to go after him.

We have brothers and sisters who have been carried away captive. We, I think, need to pray that God will work a miracle and help us to recover them. Amen? So Abram prepares to do something substantial to rescue his brothers that have been taken captive. You know, I was looking at history and studying some of the great rescues of history. We’re about to read lot about one of the greatest most unlikely rescues of history. Some of you who are a little older remember back in 1976 the famous Entebbe rescue and that’s one for Palestinian terrorists boarded an Air France jet filled with about 105 Israelis. They took it captive down to Uganda. They felt they were safe there because that was a largely Islamic country then led by the infamous Idi Amin. Any of you remember that him? Who welcomed them. He welcomed these terrorists with their captives. I mean this guy was such a scoundrel. And then they said unless the Israelis release 53 political prisoners they were going to kill these Jewish tourists and just citizens “like diseased cattle.” That was there words.

They were just going to kill them like diseased cattle. Well, of course the Jewish government had a real calamity on their hands. They thought they had a little progress in that they said, “Can we have a few days for negotiations?” They said, “We’ll give you until July 5 and then it’s over with.” Well they did release some of the non-Israeli crew and that was good news who managed to get back to Israel and they filled in the Israel military with what they knew about this airport where they were holding all of these captives there in Uganda. Interestingly enough it was an Israeli architecture firm that built the Airport. So they then prepared and planned one of the most amazing rescue missions, very daring, very bold, very risky where they were going to fly a team into a foreign Islamic country and rescue their citizens from these terrorists. And it was a very clever plan and they had to figure… they had just a very short time to develop a plan, to get the best soldiers they had in the country and they were led by a man named Jonathan Netanyahu.

I don’t know if he’s related to the former prime minister but he was their captain and this was a heavily armed SWAT team that went in. They got a limousine, I’m sorry a Mercedes that looked exactly like Idi Amin’s Mercedes, they forged the license plate to look like his very license number. They had a number of them dress up like Palestinians. They even got somebody who looked like Idi Amin to stand up through the sunroof I think. They did then flew a Hercules C-111 which was like one that he had into the airport of course unannounced, opened up the back of it, those of you know the C-111 has got a ramp. This black Mercedes drives off with these men that are dressed like other Palestinians and they never dreamed, the terrorists never dreamed they would actually enter the country to try to rescue these hostages. In one hour they had killed all of the terrorists who were holding them captive. Two of the hostages were killed in the crossfire and the Captain Netanyahu was shot by a sniper from the tower, but the managed probably one of the most incredible rescues in history to go into this foreign land because they had made up their mind they were not going to, you know the policy of Israel is we do not negotiate with terrorists and they had to stick to that, and they did stick to it.

They showed that… and since then I think Israel probably has some of the safest air security in the world and we’ve been studying with them since the 9/11 attacks. Abraham now is going to with a very small force attempt one of the greatest rescues in ancient history where you’ve got a shepherd going against four kingdoms that had just conquered five kingdoms including a kingdom of giants. What are his odds? Not very good except with God’s math, please don’t forget, you and God are always a majority. God and anybody is a majority. And as long as you know that you’re doing what God wants you to do you’re on the winning team, right? And you just need to remember that because we have a tendency to look at things like the soldiers back in the days of David. All they could see was the size of Goliath and David said, “I’m not coming against the giant.

The Lord is coming against the giant and God and I are a majority.” And he was right of course. So they engaged them. The Bible says… I want you to go with me to Genesis chapter fourteen. “Now Abram when he heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants.” He is going to rescue his brother at any costs. He arms his three hundred and eighteen servants. Now you know I began to wonder about the numbers and I started looking at that number then it occurred to me because all of these things, these stories, I believe that they are somehow allegories of things that will later happen. From this event it was about three hundred and eighteen years until Moses came out of Egypt who ends up being the one to rescue the people from captivity later. Isn’t that interesting? And so he arms his servants. Now Abraham we know has a very large household. They believe in the head of their clan, their sheik Abraham and they trust him. They know that he worships the true God and he says, “We’re going to war.” And it says that they were trained in war.

He gives them weapons. Evidently part of their regiment was to you know we milk the cattle and we graze the sheep and we do our war practice. They needed to not only have weapons they needed to know how to use them because, remember what I said this is the first big battle that is ever mentioned in the Bible. They had to protect themselves from other clans and tribes that might attack them. They had to protect their possessions. So he’s just got a small armed force that really mean to protect their sheep and he’s getting ready to go against armies. Very daring rescue. You do things out of love you would not normally do. You’ve probably heard stories where mothers see a bear or mountain lion grabs one of their children and there this flimsy, slight mother will take off after a mountain lion and I read where one a mother during a picnic somewhere in Texas a mountain lion got a hold of her child, she took a knife and killed the mountain lion. Not too many women would go after a mountain lion with a knife but if they’ve got your child you might do it. Love makes you do amazing things, right? You remember King David, he came home one day from out raiding and while he and his men were gone the Amalekites had raided the town of Ziklag and carried off their family, their children and they were a big army.

David had six hundred men and he prayed, “What should I do?” And God said, “Go, I’ll be with you.” And they hit them at night while they weren’t expecting it. Surprise is a very important element in a battle and they were able to conquer the Amalekites and matter of fact four hundred of them escaped and that’s after slaughtering them all night long so I don’t know how many they killed. But he was able to recover the whole family. Well, Abraham does something similar here. He arms his servants. Before you go to battle you want to be armed. The Lord has captives in this community and he wants you and I to be used to rescue them. We must be armed. What is our armor? You can read in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God and the only offense weapon we have is sword of his word. The Bible is sharper than any two edged sword.

So it says when he heard this, “he armed his three hundred and eighteen servants born in his own house.” These are people who are born in his house. He gets those who are loyal. These were not captive servants or slaves or something. And he goes in pursuit “as far as Dan.” He’s going to the very northern part of the Promised Land. That’s where Dan was. “And he divides his forces against them by night.” Aner and Eshcol go with him, his confederate friends from the area. “He divides his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attack them and pursue them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus.” They completely expel them from the territory of the Promised Land and they soundly defeat them because they weren’t expecting it. And so I really like this part. “So he brought back all.” You know when it talks about David fighting Ziklag it says “he recovered all.” The rescue of Abraham is a complete victory. The Bible says, “God so loved the world that he gave his Son that whosoever…” the provision is made for all. That’s not saying that everybody is going to be saved. It’s saying that the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to save, to cover the sins of the whole world. He recovers all the captives and the provision that Jesus is made is able to save “whosoever will.”

He brings back all the goods. He also brings back his brother Lot and his goods. Now I need to pause for just a moment. How did Lot get captured? You remember where we left chapter thirteen? And it says that Lot pitched his tent towards Sodom. If you camp too close to the enemy you will share in their judgment. For whom has the Lord prepared the lake of fire? It says the lake of fire is prepared for the devil and his angels. The lake of fire was not prepared for any humans but if you pitch your tent too close to the devil and his angels you will share in his judgment. The plagues that fall on those who worship the beast and his image Jesus tells us in Revelation chapter eighteen, “Babylon is fallen. Come out of her, my people, that you receive not of her plagues.” If we stay in Babylon we will share of her judgment. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches? And so Lot was camping too close to the enemy and so when judgment came to the enemy he had to share in that judgment. There is a lesson there for us, friends. We want to watch where we pitch our tent. Amen?

So he brought back all the goods. He also brought back his brother Lot and his goods as well as the women and the people. In saving Lot many others were saved. You know it is still a true principal that there are people who are blessed and as God blesses them that blessing spills over on those around them. Have you ever considered that God, I mean especially with what’s in the headlines today this is an interesting context. When you just read that these kings from the north attacked Sodom and Gomorrah and defeated them did that bother you? Probably not too much until you heard Lot was in the group. Have you ever considered that God saved Sodom and Gomorrah before he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Have you read in the book of Jude where it says, “The angels that kept not their first estate, He has now reserved in everlasting chains of darkness awaiting judgment.”

Those angels were once saved. They are now doomed. The Bible talks about the pig that was washed returning to wallowing in the mire and the dog returning to his vomit. Here they had been saved, but it wasn’t long before they turned back. I’ll have another chapter to deal with that as we go on. And so he brought back everything and he rests them. Now this is where the story gets very interesting. Verse seventeen, “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).” Where did the king of Sodom come from? He wasn’t part of who was captured. You remember I told you earlier it says some of them fled into the mountains. The king of Sodom, he headed for the hills when his people were conquered. Now he realizes, word has reached him, that Abraham has rescued everybody.

He comes out of the cave where he has been hiding that later will be occupied by Lot. Are you with me? I’m just using my imagination, but you know God told Lot, “Flee into the hills lest you be consumed.” And he probably went back up to the cave where the king of Sodom had been hiding after he had been conquered. I don’t know. Fun to think about it. And so he goes out to meet them in the kings’ valley after the return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blesses him and says: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, who has delivered your enemies into your hands.’” One of the first things that happens now when Abram gets back is a leader of the most high God praises God for the victory. God is getting the credit for the victory. When we have victories and by the grace of God a brother or sister who is captive is reclaimed do we forget sometimes to give God praise for the victory? When you in your struggles with temptation, you know we always talk about confession and repentance because we’re so easily overcome. What about the times that you are not overcome?

What about the times when you are tempted and by the grace of God you’re successful? Do you thank him for those times or do you think to yourself well, they’re so rare that why make a big deal out of it? I think if we would praise God more consistently for the times that we do not fall we would fall less. Praise him for your victories. First of all, whenever you thank somebody for a gift given you open the way for future benefits. Whenever we thank and praise God for something good that he has done or given you open the way for future benefits. When you praise God for victories that he’s given you over sin and temptation I think that you make God want to give you more victory. When you take those victories for granted I believe that that’s the wrong attitude. So one of the first things that happens is he praises him for the victory. Now we probably need to stop here and think a little bit about who is Melchizedek. You have to admit it does seem sort of peculiar that all of a sudden in the landscape of history Abram is led all the way across the desert from Mesopotamia.

He comes into a land that is inhabited largely by pagans. The reason the land of Canaan is called the land of Canaan is because the children of Ham, Canaan were the tribes that largely first possessed and inhabited this area. And all of a sudden out of nowhere it says here you’ve got this man who is a king and the priest of the most high God and you’re going, “Wait! Where did he come from? What tribe is he from?” It doesn’t say. He just suddenly appears without any genealogy explaining where he has come from and there is not a word in the Bible that tells where he went. And Abraham of course ends up giving him this large gift of tithe. Now I don’t want to shock you but I’ll tell you what’s out there. The Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem, these are some of the oral traditions connected with the Hebrew Scriptures, say that Melchizedek was Shem. Shem, the son of Noah. Those of you who were here for the first program on Abraham I showed you a timeline and I illustrated to you Shem who lived before the flood, through the flood and after the flood actually outlived Abram if you do the math. Now I am not saying this was Shem. I’m just telling you this is some of what’s out there. I kind of have a problem with that because I don’t know why it doesn’t just call him Shem.

That would impress me. It could be king of righteousness could have been a title they gave this final survivor of the flood. I don’t know. Some say the symbology is so obvious that Melchizedek is a type of Christ it probably really was Jesus in a pre-incarnate form. Well, I’ve got a problem with that too. I do believe that he is a type of Jesus. Matter of fact, you can read in Hebrews 6:19 where it’s talking about, and verse 20 where it talks about Melchizedek, “this hope we have is an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast which enters the presence behind the veil where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Now Christ cannot be Melchizedek and still be after the order of Melchizedek or he would be a priest after the order of himself, you see what I’m saying? The reason it says that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, the Levites were priests for the nation of Israel. Melchizedek evidently was a priest for everybody. The other reason that Paul says in Hebrews that Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek is found in verse, and it’s part of our scripture reading, verse three chapter seven. I did that backwards, chapter seven, verse three. “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days or end of life, but made like unto the Son of God.” Notice it doesn’t say the Son of God, but like the Son of God. That tells me Melchizedek is a type of Christ, he wasn’t Jesus.

Did Jesus appear to Abraham in the Old Testament? The Bible says, Christ says, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Melchizedek was not that person. It tells another time who that is. It says he’s like Jesus. But why does it say, Doug, without father, without mother? I mean, doesn’t that mean Jesus? No, Paul is simply saying no genealogy appears. It doesn’t look like he’s got a beginning or an end like Christ who is everlasting without father or mother. It’s just saying because there’s no genealogy listed he seems to be open-ended. It doesn’t say when he was born or when he died. He’s a type of Christ. That’s all it’s saying. A very vivid type of Christ. What does the word Melchizedek mean? Melchizedek means king of righteousness which is another title for Christ, isn’t it? Jesus is our king of righteousness and you just think about it and look at the very vivid symbols that you find here. What does he bring out to Abram? Here you’ve got, he brings out bread and wine. What did Jesus do for the church just before he died during the last supper? He illustrated the salvation covenant with his body and his blood. Bread and wine. And look at the powerful symbols. Melchizedek is a priest. Jesus is our priest, right? Melchizedek is a king. Jesus is our king. Melchizedek is a king of a place called Salem.

Most believe that is later known as Jerusalem, which is peace. He is the king of peace. It says that he as a priest brings bread and wine symbols for the body and the blood. The word melchizedek means king of righteousness which is a type of Christ. Jesus gave his blood and he gave his body for us. And then finally it says he blesses Abraham. Now have you read in Hebrews where it says “the lesser is always blessed by the greater”? Do you know how significant it is when Joseph brings his old father Jacob to the Pharaoh and Jacob blesses the Pharaoh? And Jacob is like, I don’t know, a hundred and thirty years old at that time. He’s over a hundred. When Jacob blesses the Pharaoh basically it sends a signal that Jacob is greater than Pharaoh and the pharaoh is not offended by that because here is the father of Joseph who saved the nation. So Pharaoh he’s humble enough to accept that. But the Bible teaches the lesser is blessed by the greater so what does it mean when Melchizedek blesses Abraham? Which of the two is the greater? I don’t know who he was. That would be interesting if it was Shem, huh? But it would be hard to imagine that Abraham made that journey to the Promised Land with his father and Lot and all these people are mentioned and it never mentions “Oh, yeah, Noah’s son. He’s with us.”

It’s hard to comprehend unless he made the journey first. But we don’t know who he is. I’m looking forward to getting to Heaven and finding out exactly who Melchizedek was. Amen? And it says that then Abraham does something that’s interesting. Here let’s go back to our story. “Blessed be Abraham of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” What God does Melchizedek worship? The God of Abraham the Most High God. You notice it calls him the “possessor of heaven and earth”? There has just been… One of the greatest exchanges of wealth in Bible history has just taken place. These kings that had conquered everybody around them and then conquered Sodom and Gomorrah if you do the math and all these different nations they conquer they are now heading back up towards Damascus heavy with some of the greatest wealth and people… they had basically just they were on the verge of becoming a world empire. Do you think that’s safe to say? These kings that had just conquered these five kings in the valley of Sodom they had conquered this whole territory that would later be occupied by world powers. They’re heading home with this fabulous wealth and they get it all and then they lose it all, a big exchange of wealth.

So that could be why Melchizedek said, “God is the one who possesses the heaven and the earth.” Abram hears that and he remembers this is not my treasure. This is God’s treasure. Now evidently it says here “and Abram gave him a tithe of all.” Abram gives a tithe to Melchizedek. What does the word tithe mean? Who knows? The word tithe in its own nature means a tenth. And this is the first record you’re going to find in the Bible of tithe and what it is. Now he did not give him a tithe of the property he had rescued and returned. He was giving him a tithe of what he had taken from the other kings. He wasn’t saying, “Hey, Lot, I realize I recovered a hundred percent of your property. I’m going to give ten of it to this guy here.” He gave their stuff back to them. He was giving a tithe of the booty he had taken from these four kings. The first thing that he thinks of after this tremendous victory is not what belongs to him but what belongs to God. That’s why Abraham is the ultimate patriarch. He had… and you know what the laws of war are?

The laws of war are that when you conquer, Abraham was the leader of this little confederacy that went and conquered these kings. Who did it all belong to according to earthly law? The conquering king owns it. He not only owned all the treasure that he had taken from these kings of the north. He also owned all the people. They became his slaves when he conquered them. It was all his to keep. But you know he had evidently made a vow to the Lord. And he said, “Lord, if you give me victory in this battle I will make a vow to you that I will not take anything. I will give you what is yours, Lord, and I will go home and I will trust you to prosper me not through war and conquest but just through your blessing.” And so that’s what he does. So he gives “him a tithe of all”. Now you will notice in your bulletin, Richard already referred to a little handout that deals with the subject of tithe and I’ll take the blame for this. It’s something I put together. Just a combination of a few principles that have to do with tithing and a little bit on point four on offerings.

This church, I am very proud of, is comparatively a very faithful church in tithes, but as with any group of people this big I am concerned because there are some of you who are hurting yourselves because you still have not taken that step of faith when it comes in regard to tithe. I thought it was appropriate during the offering appeal Richard talked about people who say, “Well, I can’t afford to pay tithe because I’m still in debt.” You know that it backward thinking if you don’t mind my saying so. Tithe is not something you give from your abundance. How much of what we own belongs to God? Point number one, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. It all belongs... What percentage would that be? A hundred percent. And when we start to think, “Well, I realize God is asking me to give ten percent to him.” He’s asking you to return a tenth as a sign of your faith. How much of your time belongs to God? Can God take your time away? What happens when he takes your time away? When he takes your time away you die, right? Does God ask us to remember that a hundred percent of our time is his by treating one day in seven as holy? Isn’t that correct? A hundred percent of all that you posses is his. You are simply a steward. He’s asking you to constantly remember that by giving a tenth of all your increase to the Lord. How do you rob God? You get his account numbers and do something clever on the Internet and you transfer his funds? How do you rob God if he owns everything?

I’ll suggest to you, you know what we’re robbing God of? God wants to bless us. When you fail to pay your tithe you are robbing God of the opportunity to bless you. He can’t even though he wants to. He says, “Give me a chance.” Malachi chapter three, “Prove me and see if I do not open for you the window of heaven and pour out a blessing that you don’t have room to receive it.” It saddens me that some of us have not had the faith to prove God on this. Either God is a liar or it works. My experience… how many of you would testify that when you pay your tithe God has come through for you and been faithful? David said, “I was young and I am now old and I have not seen God’s seed forsaken or his children begging bread.” God will take care of you, but he wants us to trust him. You know if God’s people would all pay a faithful tithe and I should mention at this point tithe is not the end. It’s the beginning. Tithe is not the ceiling. It’s the basement. For those who love the Lord, when you’re thinking about what the purpose of tithe is and what the funds and the offerings do why do we give to the church at all? Tithe, offering, anything, why do we give? What’s the purpose? Isn’t it because we love the Lord? We know that it takes resources to operate the church and the purpose of the church is to be a lifeboat to save the lost. If you love the Lord and you want to just give because you love him sometimes you give gifts expecting nothing in return to those you love, correct? And if you love the lost and you want to see the captives rescued then what’s involved in tithe is do you really love God, do you really love your fellow man and do you trust God that he will provide for your needs?

When we are not paying a faithful tithe it’s an indication of a problem in our love for God, our love for our fellow man and our faith. Those are serious problems for a Christian; to not have love for God, to not have love for our fellow man, and to not have faith. I don’t know how he does it, but God, you know he can get money out of a fish’s mouth. There are a thousand ways he can provide for your needs and sometimes when we fail to return our… I’m not going to read all this to you. That’s why I gave it to you so you can read it in your spare time and there’re some quotes there that I think you’ll find beneficial. When we fail to return our tithe we really rob God of an opportunity and there are so many times when you say, I don’t see any way if I pay my tithe how am I going to make ends meet at this time? Well, how can God work a miracle for you if you don’t put your feet in the water? You’ve got to give him an opportunity. You take a step of faith and watch what he does for you. It seems like every time there’ll be some tightness in the Batchelor budget, and we have those times, that all of a sudden when you least expect it… I think just yesterday Karen put some mail on my desk and we’ve had some unexpected bills and things in the recent weeks and I got a royalty check from the “Review and Herald”. I had forgotten, never knew, I don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe they sold some books. Praise the Lord! And so these things happen and you don’t know. He’ll surprise you. And you have to give him a chance.

He says, “I will” not only does he say he will bless you. He’ll say you won’t be able to handle the blessing. “‘Prove me now herewith,’ says the Lord.” You all know Malachi chapter eight, if you’re a Christian you should know that. No, chapter three, verse eight. Sorry. Thank you. I’m glad you stopped me. You all know that, don’t you? He says, “I’ll open up for you the windows of heaven… and there will not be room enough to receive it.” Now I’m just wondering how many of you don’t have room enough for your stuff now? Are you willing to show your hands? But it doesn’t mean he’s going to give you more clutter. It means he’ll supply your needs. Prove me now and see if I don’t do this for you. So Abram gives tithes of all. That to me is a marvelous thought. It’s an incredible thing when you consider. First thing Abraham thinks about when he recovers a king’s ransom is he thinks about giving to the King. Really. I mean he was a billionaire at this point and the first thing he thinks about is how can I give to God? Who gave first? Melchizedek or Abram? Melchizedek does. He brings out bread and wine. Who gives first? God or us? God gives to us first. He shows us his love, he offers his blood, he offers his body and then if we love him we should obey his commandments and tithe is not a suggestion, as some churches teach. I believe it is still a commandment. There are those who say, “Well, tithe was the Old Testament economy and tithe is not really taught in the New Testament.” I respectfully disagree.

I find where Jesus says in Matthew 23:23 “You pay tithe of your mint your anise and your cumin, you’ve omitted the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, and not leave the other undone.” Speaking of the tithe, don’t leave that undone. And whenever God has a law in his word in the Old Testament, if he’s altered it or replaced it that will be clear in the New Testament. But whenever it’s spoken of in the New Testament it’s always assumed it’s still intact. Matter of fact, when you get to Hebrews and it talks about tithe it says “we now have a different form of priesthood” but he never says we don’t have need tithe anymore. Matter of fact, what the New Testament does is it goes beyond tithe. The offerings are I believe much more heartfelt and benevolent in the New Testament than even the Old Testament. And then this is really amazing. Here Abram owns everything and the Bible says in verse twenty-one the king of Sodom says to Abraham, “Give me the people,” give me the citizens, “you can take the goods for yourself.”

Well, is the king of Sodom in any position to negotiate with Abraham? No, but still listen to what Abraham says. “Abram said to the king of Sodom,” verse twenty-two, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” Now you have probably met people as I have that when they offer you something you don’t want to take it because there’s strings attached. Or they’ll remind you later, “Remember what I did for you?” And you regret you ever took it. Didn’t need it anyway, but they use it as leverage. He was also going to avoid any appearance that he had benefited from this war. He did not fight the war for treasure. The only war that’s ever mentioned Abraham being involved in is fought for one reason, to rescue a captive. Isn’t that right? He does it to save a person. What was the important thing to Abraham in this war that he was fighting, the stuff or the people?

The king of Sodom says, “You give me the people, you keep the stuff.” Abraham says, “I don’t want the stuff. I did it to rescue the people.” Does Abram say, “I’ll sell them back to you” or does he rescue them to liberate them? This is very important. You’ve got to know how they thought back then. When you conquered somebody all the people in Sodom that had slaves Abram rescued the people and their slaves. They could have been his slaves. They were property, but here he rescues them to liberate them. Did you catch that? You know for you and us today you think, “Well, that’s the politically correct thing to do.” It wasn’t back then! This was crazy thinking. That’s why the king of Sodom even had to say, “Will you please let the people go free?” He said, “I’m not only going to let the people go free. I don’t want the stuff!” Talk about faith and generosity. Could you do it? Oh, you can say it now sitting where you are maybe, but basically he had just received Bill Gates’ bank book. Do you understand what a sacrifice this was? Do you know how much was involved here?

He now, you do the math, you’ve got those four kings who fought against five kings and he went back up into their country and he conquered them all. That was including the Rephaim, the giants, the Ammonites and the Amalekites and the whole bunch everybody mentioned in the first part, first fourteen verses, Abraham now is sitting on all of it and he walks away from it. Why? Well, for one thing he was already heavy with wealth, wasn’t he? He was looking for another foundation and he did not want to look like he had become wealthy through violence or grasping. He said, “If I’m going to be wealthy, it’s going to be God doing it for me and not me doing it for myself. It’s going to be because God is obviously blessing me and I’m not taking advantage of another person’s misfortune. It’s not going to be as payment for rescuing someone.” He refused a reward. “I will not take a shoelace. I’m going to pay tithe.” And then he goes on to say, “The young men who have eaten and gone with me.” In other words there are soldiers that had to eat during the battle and his friends Eshcol and Mamre.

He said, “You know, I can’t speak for them. If there is something they want that’s between them, but I’m not taking anything and my family is not taking anything.” Is there a time to refuse a reward? Yeah, if it’s coming from the king of Sodom you better refuse it. Elisha tells Naaman to wash in the Jordan River and his leprosy will be cleansed. Naaman is cleansed from leprosy. He has brought a lot of silver and gold to pay for it. He comes to the house of Elisha and says, “Take a gift.” And Elisha says, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” He urged him to take it but he refused. Why? Because it’s a symbol of salvation and you can’t pay for it. Why did Abraham refuse a reward? Because he had just set the captive free and you can’t pay for it. What price are you going to put on that? It’s a gift. He liberated them for nothing.

Prophet of God comes and gives a message to King Jeroboam and he says, “I want to give you a reward.” And this is in I Kings 13:8. “If you would give me half of your house, I would not go in with you; nor will I eat bread or drink water in this place.” You’re not going to reward me for telling the truth. As soon as you start taking a reward for preaching the truth then those with the money can control the truth. Did you hear that? That’s important. King Belshazzar says to Daniel, Daniel 5:17, Interpret the handwriting and I’ll give you a reward. “And Daniel answered, and said, ‘Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another.’” You don’t talk to kings like that, but Daniel knew that he wasn’t going to be king when the sun came up that morning. But I’m still going to read the writing. I don’t want a reward.

You find this consistently through the Bible and I think it’s because God is illustrating salvation is a gift. They had a series of commercials that probably is still going on but I remember one MasterCard shows a father at a stadium with his son at some baseball game and it said you know “One hot dog: $5.00. Your team’s t-shirt: $10.00. Tickets to the game: $20.00. The smile on your son’s face: Priceless.” For these things in life you’ve got MasterCard, but everything else is priceless. What price will you attach to salvation? You probably remember me telling the story one time where you know Lincoln did live long enough to see the emancipation proclamation declared. And right after that happened there was a slave in the north that had managed to escape, an old gentleman, and he came and he somehow got an audience with the president. Lincoln used to walk, this is before they had all the CIA and everything, he used to walk around the White House in the morning. And he said, “Mr. President” and he offered the president a gold $5.00 piece.

He said, “What’s that for?” He said, “I want thank you for my freedom and I want to give you something.” Lincoln said, “I can’t take that.” He said, “No, I’m just so thankful.” and he tried to press it into the president’s hand. The president said, “I can’t take that.” And he said, “But I want to. I’m so grateful.” And he said, “Let me explain something to you.” He said, “You see the house there?” Lincoln used to walk around the neighborhood. He knew the people in the homes. He said, “That house there. That mother has lost a son fighting to set you free. And that house over there, that mother has lost two sons, one fighting on the north, one fighting on the south. And that home over there, that family has lost two sons and the father fighting.” He said, “Now you’re going to give me $5.00? You can’t pay for it.” And when you think about what Jesus has paid to set us free you can’t put a price on it. It’s a gift. I normally wouldn’t do this but I had to read at least one verse of the next chapter in Genesis. Genesis 15:1.

Abraham has turned down all of this earthly reward. “And after these things” he’s saying after all this has happened the word of the Lord comes “to Abram in a vision” at night and God says, “I am your exceeding great reward.” I am your reward. You know Jesus said, “When you fast, don’t fast to be seen of men. That will be your reward.” If you give, don’t give to be seen of men. That’ll be your reward. If you’re giving just to get the credit of people. If you pray don’t pray these pompous prayers so others will notice. That will be your only reward. But when you do it do it in secret and the Bible says Matthew 6:4 “Your father that sees in secret he will reward thee openly.” Meaning others will see that God is your reward. What reward are you looking for? One that you can put a price on or a priceless reward? This is what… Abraham ended up richer than Bill Gates. He ended up, the land was his and he’s going to when payday comes I bet he’s going to be you’ll have the biggest bank account. What do you think? He’s going to have a nice mansion. I can promise you that. Why? Because he was a stranger and pilgrim here and Jesus is building a really nice mansion for Abraham there. Ultimately the lord wants us to know that he is our reward. You know I heard a story that’s true.

That this man, matter of fact, I’ve got his name written here somewhere. Yeah, wealthy Chicago publisher William D. Bryce he lost his way in a dense London fog and a British boy scout came and guided the man through the fog to his destination. He was so impressed because he tried to give the young man a tip and the young man said, “I’m a scout. I don’t accept a reward for doing a good deed.” and this man Bryce was so impressed by these British scouts that he came over to America and started the American boy scouts. Why? Because someone knew when to refuse a reward, because some things are more important. Basically you cannot pay the Lord for rescuing us. It was because Abram loved his nephew that he rescued him, and God has given us a mission. We have brothers and sisters that have been captured by the enemy out there. He wants us to rescue them. And this is one reason that we give our tithe and our offerings. It’s to help invest in arming the people of God with the tools needed to rescue those who have been taken captive by the enemy. With that thought in mind I’ll invite you to turn to our closing hymn “Rescue the Perishing.” This is what the mission of the church is all about. What is the number for that? 367 and let’s stand a together as we sing it.

I saved what I think is one of the important thoughts for the end here. Abram risked his life when he took his handful of part time shepherds and went and took on four kingdoms. He was willing to risk his life and put his life on the line to save his brother just as Jesus are elder brother did lay down his life in order to redeem us. You know I thought about that story of the rescue at Entabe where the Israeli forces went in. Their captain lost his life. They knew going into that that they might die rescuing those people. How committed are you to seeing others saved? You can show it through your love, through your prayers, and in your giving, and I pray that we’ll all have that passion to see the lost be saved. And then say, “Lord, the only reward is you. You are my reward.” Amen? Let’s sing the last verse. If some of you would like to come for special prayer. Maybe you need rescue. Come today and we’ll pray for you as we sing our last verse. Verse three.

Father in heaven, we are so thankful for the determination and love of Jesus who was willing to put his life on the line to rescue us from captivity. We’re so thankful, Lord that the gift of salvation is free. We cannot, we cannot pay for it. You will not take our works. Lord, I pray that each of the people who are here or those who may be listening or watching will also be inspired with the faith and the dedication of Abraham that we might model our lives after him and we’re so thankful for Jesus our High Priest who has offered the bread of his body, the wine of his blood that we might be refreshed and be citizens in that kingdom. Be with us now as we go from this place to not forget that we are children of Abraham if we belong to Christ and it’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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