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Jun 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 23, 2013 – Genesis Chapters 14-15

Abram’s Next Big Step

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”
Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” . . . And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:1-6

INTRO: There’s something we need to know before going on

Who was Abraham and why is he important?
– to Israel?
– to Christian faith?

. . .

“Abram” takes his next big step with God

Chapter 14, a brief history of the geopolitical situation

Four nations in the east–from the general area of Babylonia
– invaded and defeated kingdoms in the valley south and southeast of the Dead Sea
• including Sodom and Gomorrah
• the defeated kingdoms paid tribute for twelve years, then rebelled
– the eastern armies returned, conquered again, and emptied the cities
• they took Lot and his family – to use or sell as slaves
• that’s how we find out Lot had settled in Sodom
○ he and his family had been taken captive

A survivor escaped and came to Abram’s camp with a report
– Abram rallied his servants
• he also mustered his allies – literally, covenant lords
• i.e., their peace treaty included a commitment to band together for mutual defense
– they launched a night attack in which they defeated the invaders and chased them north
• Lot was rescued

The actual battles pass by us in a flash
– the story gives most of the space to the names of kings and their empires
• the boring stuff
• but the storyteller isn’t interested in glorifying war or warriors
○ for him, the good stuff comes at the end of the conflict

Two kings met up with Abram after the battle

King of Sodom, as we would expect
– but another mysterious character who comes out of nowhere
• not only a king, he was also a priest
• we’re not told anything of his religion, just that he was “a priest God Most High”
– there are a few things we need to notice:
• “Melchizedek” means, “king of righteousness” – to do right or justice
• he is “king of Salem” or shalom, “peace” – no doubt, Jerusalem
• he brought bread and wine for Abram and his troops
• he blessed Abram and he blessed God
○ he connected Abram to his god, “God Most High, Possessor . . .”
○ first time Most High occurs in scripture

Something happened to Abram when he heard that designation
– it was as if he received a new revelation
– Abram’s theological knowledge was growing
• not by reading (volumes of systematic theology), but by encounters
○ for Abram, this title for God explained his victory – “Possessor of heaven and earth”
• he honored Melchizedek – gave him ten percent of the spoils

Next, the king of Sodom made Abram a generous offer
• Abram turned it down
• he immediately applied his new revelation to this present situation
○ he had raised his hand to “Yahweh God Most High”
(notice how he connected this new insight with his God)
○ he chose God over goods

Three ideas have been introduced that are important themes in chapter 15

We first see how they work in human culture
– that provides the foundation for understanding what a relation with God would look like

1.) “The word of the LORD”
– God’s word is a “bridge” — between heaven and earth
• by his word, God creates, communicates, and controls (history)
• once he speaks, his word is a power or force in its own right
– God cannot be discovered in a lab, under a microscope, or photographed by a space probe
• whatever can be known about him, must be revealed to us
• God’s word is the agency of his self-revelation
○ Abram received a revelation from Melchizedek, the priest
○ now he receives another revelation here, by the word of Yahweh, “in a vision”

2.) “Righteousness” – basically means doing what is right
– it covered every aspect of human relationships
• “righteous” was to prove yourself true in all your relationships
– every relationship implies its own specific obligations
• to family (children are to honor their parents)
• to people in positions of authority
• to the wicked (avoid, detest)
• to the world of animals and nature
– a dilemma, explicitly stated by Job:

But how can a man be in the right before God? (Job 9:2)

• of course we can think of things like reverence, obey, worship
• but what is God most interested in getting from us?

Then he believed in the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness (15:6)

– we can believe in God for everything
• “I have a hard time trusting God” – believe in him for that
• “I’m not able to forgive” – believe in him to help with that

3.) “Covenant”
– that’s what this eerie nighttime experience was all about
• vv. 9-18, cutting up the animals and creating a path between their carcasses
• the parties would meet on the path and swear to the covenant (cf. Jer. 34:18-20)
○ the divided animals may have represented two halves of a whole, united by the covenant
○ they also could have been a warning for the parties swearing the covenant
(e.g., “So may God to me and also if ever I were to violate our covenant”)

Abram had asked, “How may I know that I will possess it?”
– what guarantee do I have?
• what can you put in my hand right now? (he was already wealthy)
– when Abram asked for assurance, God responded with a covenant
• its purpose: to have something in hand today that is linked tomorrow
○ it’s like owning the future
• but a covenant also created a bond between the parties
– when Jim filled in for me a couple of weeks ago, he made reference to the Song of Solomon
• he talked about how we all long for love
○ it’s true — from the time we were infants, we longed for a connection with another person
○ a stable, intimate relationship — to be loved and to love

I heard a man say refer to contemporary Christian choruses as “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs
– in the 1970s, a Brit visiting local churches said our musical worship was “like whispering sweet nothings into the Lord’s ear”
– but the man who spoke of “Jesus is my girlfriend” said the opposite is also true
• singers composing love songs, express longings for an experience only God can provide
○ “Our love is forever,” “Your loved has saved me,” etc.

God brings us into covenant with Himself as the answer to our deep longings
– a guaranteed devotion, an unheard of intimacy, an eternal love
• later on, the essence of the covenant will be expressed in a formula used throughout the rest of the Bible:
“I will be your God and you will be My people”

CONC: Remember where this story began – with kings, battles, and plunder

These things seem to have no connection to religion
– it’s only the normal politics and practices of world nations
• leaders, officers, and soldiers doing what they do
• just history taking its course
– but Melchizedek came to Abram and showed him God was there
• there in the thick of it – and infinitely greater than all of it
• and because Abram believed, the Possessor of heaven and earth became his possession
○ his “shield and exceeding great reward”

This is what we forget – this is what leaks out of our consciousness
– God is present in every moment
• even the moments that have no connection to religion
– if we could be present to every moment,
to every person and every event,
we would encounter God
○ we would hear his word
○ we would receive his revelation
○ we would be drawn into his covenant

The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant. (Psalm 25:14)

But it’s not likely we will be able to be present to every moment, person and event
– so where we can begin?
– by the simple act of once every day, bring our full attention to one thing we do
– the divine could break in at any moment
• while tying your shoes, feeding your cat, reviewing the monthly inventory, etc.
• God really doesn’t care what we’re doing when he breaks in
○  but it makes all the difference to us if when he does break in, he finds us waiting and watching

God is in this present moment
And he invites you to join him here and now

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