Commercial breaks. They are moments in our TV watching when we go get a snack, run to the restroom, change the channel or tune out. Today, we are going to re-watch a commercial break that we skipped over that appears near the beginning of the Abraham narrative. This commercial break is too important to skip over for it concerns the man, the mystery, and important biblical character—Melchizedek.

The Bible’s First Throw-down [Genesis 14:1-16][1]

Genesis 14, interrupts with a great war breaking out—the first war of many recorded in the Bible—between four powerful regional rulers and five others fighting for control of trade routes, loot, influence, slaves and women in the land-between. Lot’s city is taken captive, and he becomes a POW. Word gets to Abram about Lot through an escapee. So Abram pulls together 318 of his own trained warriors. Once a homeless guy living in a tent, now he’s doing pretty well with his own personal posse. The rescue mission proves to be successful. Abram liberates Lot, the loot, the women, and even spares the wicked people of Sodom.

The Battle Belongs to the LORD [Genesis 14:17-24]

Do you see Abram’s faith in God put on display through the great battle? First, in faith, he graciously rescues his knucklehead nephew Lot living in the wicked and defeated Sodom by taking on the control-freak kings [v.14]. He gave them a good whipping dealing with them quickly and thoroughly. Not too mention he is nearly 75 years old.

Second, in faith, he honors God’s sovereignty [vs.21-24]. He could have taken the credit, but he recognized he was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God [cf. 12:1-3]. God blesses Abraham AS HE SAID. God blesses those who bless Abraham AS HE SAID. God curses those who cursed Abraham AS HE SAID. God made Abraham a great name AS HE SAID. God is beginning to let Abraham have an international influence AS HE SAID.

Third, he was a testimony of faith to those around him. Abram, the warrior-ruler, was gracious to the self-centered king of Sodom, and was praised by the priest-king Melchizedek. Melchizedek also recognized it was God who won the day [14:20]. Abram had a contagious faith. Now Abram’s faith was not perfect, but the object of His faith was.

Introducing Priest-King Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20][2]

Who is this man named Melchizedek? Melchizedek is a man of mystery to many. He has a curious resume and no recorded genealogy, which is odd for a major character in Genesis. The lack of details on Melchizedek has caused some Bible commentators to believe that he was a Christophony [cameo appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ], but he has no connections to YHWH. Instead his connections seem to lie with El [God Most High], the highest of the pagan gods in the Canaanite pantheon. Others believe Melchizedek was an angel, a type of Christ, or just a powerful man.

It appears from Genesis that Melchizedek is just a powerful man. First, he was the king of Salem [“peace”], which is likely Jerusalem. Second, he brought bread and wine to fellowship with Abram, not to be mistaken with communion, but simply to help out hungry and thirsty men that just finish trekking and fighting in a great battle. Third, he was a priest. At this time the priesthood from Aaron had not yet been established. Fourth, he blessed Abram like God had, and he blessed Abram’s God. Fifth, Abram recognized him by giving him a tenth of his possessions [note: this is where the church has often imposed the 10% tithing thing; cf. Numbers 18; Leviticus 27:30–33; 2 Corinthians 8-9].

Whoever Melchizedek was, Abram’s response to him is one of great faith. The powerful and wealthy Melchizedek offered Abram more great wealth, but Abram rejected the offering. He understood God had promised to bless him, protect him, and make him prosper. If Abram accepted wealth from Melchizedek it could conflict his loyalties to God. By faith Abram leaves his fate and future in God’s hands.

The Ballad of Melchizedek [Psalm 110][3]

This song of King David was written 1000 years after Abraham and 1000 years before Jesus. It gives more details about Melchizedek. How did David know about Melchizedek? He did his devotions [cf. Deuteronomy 17:14-20]. His song describes two oracles about the infamous priest-king [vs.1&4]. The first oracle declares the position of the Messiah as conqueror, “seated at the God’s right hand.” David acknowledges and anticipates his Messiah—the king who is to come after him. David points to Jesus who is greater king [Mark 12:35ff; Acts 2:34-36]. The Torah points to Jesus who fulfilled the Law, is greater than the priestly system, and is greater than the sacrificial system [Hebrews 1-13]. Heaven points to Jesus who is greater than angels and whom God exalts with a seat at His right side [the side of conquest, Acts 5:30-31; Hebrews 10]. It all points to Jesus.

The second oracle declares the position of the Messiah as priest, “you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Law of Moses stated a king could not be a priest, and a priest could not be king. King Saul tried to be both, but God would not permit it. David did not want to make the same mistake. Only Jesus will be the ruler and priest over all [Revelation 19:11]. God used David to prepare the way. When he became king in Jerusalem he moved the tabernacle and priestly system there, and for the first time the king and priest are in the same town [2 Samuel 6-8].

Jesus Christ Compared to Melchizedek [Hebrews 5 & 7]

The author of Hebrews is teaching new Jewish Christians who are wrestling with the fact that Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, so how could He be a priest? Therefore the author shares details that compare Jesus with Melchizedek. The purpose of the character Melchizedek is now clear; He points you to Jesus:

  1. His name means king of righteousness [7:2].
  2. There is value to his missing records of mommy, daddy, or genealogy [7:3a]. His Father and ancestry is God.
  3. He is like the Son of God, an eternal son [7:3b].
  4. He is a priest of his own order [7:4-12]. Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is not a priest according to Levi [like the priests under the Law] He is of the tribe of Judah [7:13-14].
  5. He took an oath unlike a Levite [7:20-21].
  6. He is the guarantor of a better and eternal covenant [7:22].
  7. He is a permanent priest who continues forever [7:23-24].
  8. He intercedes and saves completely [7:25].
  9. He is the perfect mediator between God and man [7:26].
  10. He sacrifices once and for all [7:27-28].

Hebrews 8:1-2 goes on to say, “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, One who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” [cf.4:14-5:10]. His name is Jesus Christ. Do you know Him?

In conclusion, Melchizedek is probably the most important commercial breaks in Scripture. Abraham and Melchizedek are pointers to Jesus Christ [Genesis 14; Romans 4]. Abraham’s faith in God’s promises is a golden brick road that leads to Savior. Jesus, the priest-king, in the order of Melchizedek rules and intercedes for those who have faith in Him alone. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, He is your High Priest today.

I need a priest to sacrifice for me. Jesus sacrificed for my sins once and for all. He is my High Priest of priests.

I need a king to subdue me. Jesus is my sovereign ruler. He is my King of kings.

I need a prophet to speak truth to me. Jesus is the Word in flesh showing me God’s redemptive plan. He is prophet of prophets.

Jesus has done all for He is all.

[1] Here we are introduced to the continual battles that this piece of real estate would face [modern day, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey].  The piece of land that God would give to Abraham was the cross roads of the world at that time. Throughout the history of this piece of land there has been turf battles. Whoever, controlled this narrow strip of land and its trade routes, controlled the world at that time.

[2] Only 3 passages teach about the biblical character Melchizedek: Genesis 14; Psalm 110; Hebrews 5-7.

[3] Psalm 110 is quoted more times in the NT than any other psalm. For more on Psalm 110, check out D.A. Carson’s sermon, Getting Excited about Melchizedek.

journey of faith

Have you ever been on a road trip when you got lost taking a wrong turn? I remember back in college after finals I drive home for the holidays. Back then I did not have a GPS or cell phones. I had a few college buds with me along for the ride via Chicago. I drove while the 13-hour trek while the one sitting shotgun navigated with an old Randall McNally map. When we reach Indianapolis we got on the I-465 beltway. It was sometime after midnight, we were getting tired. With the windows cracked, Mountain Dew running through our veins, the music cranked to DC Talk, and sunflower seeds all over the car seats we made our way around the beltway. I do not think any of us were paying attention to the road signs and detours because of the construction on the beltway. We missed our exit. For the next 2-hours we drove around and around the Indy beltway before we realized that we were just going in circles.

I am sure you have been there, right? Sometimes life can be like that too. You seem to be going somewhere and then you find yourself lost, spinning in circles, and delaying the journey. Life is a journey, especially if you are living a life of faith. Abraham is on that journey of faith. His journey of faith might not be that much different than yours.

DIRECTION FROM GOD FOR THE JOURNEY: A Call to Faith [Genesis 12:1-9]

God calls Abram out of a sinful people and nation to go to a place he does not yet know. As Abram goes, God makes a promise to him that He will make him a great nation. At this moment Abram is 75 years old, without an heir because his wife is barren, and attached to his father’s possession. Abram does know how God is going to fulfill His promise, but in faith he goes. When he reaches Canaan [a dead end for a nomad] he sets up an altar of worship for God will give him this land. As Abram and his family settle in the land they face a series of obstacles that from the human perspective seem like major detours.

DETOUR #1: Making up your own story is not part of God’s story [Genesis 12:10-20]

As Abram settles in Canaan, another challenge arises for Abram and his family. There is no food. So Abram, being the man of his house, takes action and heads south to Egypt. Afraid that he will lose his beautiful wife he crafts a story, “Sarah, babe, those Egyptians are going to think you are a smokin’ hot! Surely they will kill me to get you. Let’s pretend you’re my sister.” Lying is never part of God’s plan; truth is always the best option. Truth is part of God’s plan.

Indeed, when Abram and Sarai roll through town, Pharaoh’s prince’s gawk at Sarai—like men whistling at a passing girl next to a construction sight. They ran back to the palace bragging about her beauty to Pharaoh. And what Pharaoh wants, Pharaoh gets. Lucky, for Abram, Pharaoh is feeling particularly nice and spares Abram’s head. Unlucky for Pharaoh, he and his house get stuck with a plague. Knowing something is wrong he calls for Abram, “You have some explaining to do? Everything was groovy around here until you can around. Is there something you want to tell me about this woman? Why did you lie to me?” God had his hand on Abram. He should have been executed for lying to the ruler of Egypt, but God had grace on him through Pharaoh. Abram must have learned a valuable lesson that day: speak the truth and let God deal with the possible obstacles.

DETOUR #2: Sometimes the most obvious choice is not the right choice [Genesis 13]

I am not sure Abram and Sarai did much talking on the way home from Egypt. So Abram worships at the altar [13:4, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8] and then goes back to work with Lot among their herds. Both men have large herds. Their herds are so large that their workers were not getting along [over turf, pooper scooper duties, etc.]. As a peacemaker, Abram asks Lot to leave, but gives him first choice of the land. Lot chose the greener grass, eastward [towards Sodom].

I am sure this was a hard decision for Abram. God gives him a nephew—possible heir—but they are forced to separate. Could Lot be the seed God was promising? According to Abram, the choice was not working out as he planned. He sits and sulks about his conflicted family separation, but God is working out His plan. In fact God says to Abram, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth [i.e. countless], so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” [13:14-17; cf. 12:7] God has a different choice for Abram’s seed in mind, but He also reaffirms His promise to Abram it will happen,

DETOUR #3: Expect unexpected challenges with unexpected results [Genesis 14]

A great war breaks, Lot’s city is taken captive, and Lot becomes a prisoner of war. Word gets to Abram through an escapee, and he pulls together 318 of his own men who are trained warriors. This gives you an idea of the wealth of Abram that he had his own personal army and defeated those holding onto Lot. Abram was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God who promised to protect him and curse those who cursed him [cf. 12:3]. Abram then praised by kings [i.e. Melchizedek, more on him next week] who also recognized that it was God who won the day [14:20].

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: The Seed will come from through Abram [Genesis 15]

Following these three divine detours God sheds some light onto the path for Abram. God tells Abram in a dream that the promised seed would come through his seed. There is just one major problem: Abram has no children and he’s really old. Notice For the first time Abram speaks up, and asks God a question, “What about Eliezer?” God responds and reaffirms His covenant with Abram, “I will not use Eliezer [a non-related heir], but one of your own children.”

Again, with radical faith, Abram believes God [15:6; cf.12:4], and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6, becomes central to Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith [Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]. Also, James quotes this verse to teach that true faith in God results in good works in life with God [2:23-24]. God’s covenant with Abram was confirmed with a sacrifice and the shedding of blood, which foreshadows the New Covenant confirmed with Jesus’ sacrifice of His own life on the cross and the shedding of His blood.

DETOUR #4: Ignoring the possibility of the impossible [Genesis 16]

Sarah is not mentiond in the promise [cf. 15:1-6]. Abram does not even consider Sarai. Sarah is old and barren, and too old for it to be humanly possible for her to carry a child. They had waited a long time on God to come through with His promises. What options did Abram have? Taking matters into his own hands, he logically concludes that Hagar—one of his servant girls—is a prime candidate to carry his seed. Of course, Sarai spearheaded the faithless idea. So Abram slept with Hagar and she bore him a son [Ishmael, the son of Islam].

Is Abram immoral? Is he doing what he thinks God wants him to do? Impatience on God is never right the option.[1] If you are unsure waiting on God is always the best option. Ironically, Sarai bitterly blamed Abram for the split in their family because he slept with Hagar, and Hagar flees from the Sarai’s fury. Again, God intervenes.

COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God gives a sign and specifics to His covenant [Genesis 17:1-18:21]

God reaffirms who He is and how He will fulfill His promises through Abram. Abram immediately worships [17:3, maybe seeking forgiveness; cf. 12:8; 13:4]. First, God confirms his covenant by giving Abram a new name and give a symbol for the covenant between God and Abraham, circumcision.[2] Second, God confirms his covenant with Abraham through Sarai by giving her a new name and saying the promised seed will be born through her barren womb. In one moment, God’s promise becomes very specific to Abraham and Sarah. And with a miraculous divine intervention God will open Sarah dead womb at 90 years old and give her a son who will be the living Seed of Promise [cf. 21:1-7].

DETOUR #5: Failing to see trials that purify your faith [Genesis 19-21]

In short, God sends His wrath upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their perverse sexual sin, which leaves a salty crater where the cities once stood [Genesis 19]. Lot and his daughter are not much different than the community he lived and farmed [19:30-38]. Again, Abraham lies and gives Sarah away to another man, almost identical to the situation with Pharaoh [20:1-18; cf. 12:10-20]. God in His grace and sovereignty intervenes preventing Sarah from getting pregnant by another man. Then tensions stir between Hagar son, Ishmael, and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Ishmael is the one favored by everyone in the passage, except Sarah; however, God does not favor him in relationship to the covenant promise, but cares and provides for him. These detours are looking more like construction zones where God is at work growing your faith.

FINAL COURSE DIRECTION FROM GOD: God uses sacrifice as the proof of faith [Genesis 21-23]

25 years after the promise and nearly losing his wife twice, God gives Abraham and Sarah a son. He finally has his boy. They name him, Isaac, meaning laughter, which is fitting for a boy born from an old lady. Isaac is the promised seed. However, in a climatic twist God tests Abraham’s quarter century churned faith. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son.

Up to this point in the narrative, Abraham has seen God fulfill promise after unbelievable promise and made a womb that was dead-dead alive. Echoing his call [12:1-3], he immediately responded in faith. Was he really going to kill his son on the altar? I think so. I think he knew God would raise his son to life because He has already done it through Sarah’s dead womb.

God answers by providing a sacrifice caught in the thicket. In doing so He fulfills all His promises just as He said. What about the land? The last promise that we do not see fulfilled is the land promise. In an obscure way, Sarah’s small and insignificant burial plot was the only property Abraham own in the Promised Land [Genesis 23]. The land that was promised to his heirs would not arise as a nation until God would call another man, Moses, who would take God’s people to the Promised Land [cf. Exodus & Joshua].

In Hebrews 11:8-12, Abraham went where God asked, even though he did not know how God would work it out, but his faith believed God would work it out. God blessed his faith then and offers it to you now through His Promised Seed—His Son—Jesus Christ. The story that climaxes with Isaac, ultimately climax with Christ:

  • Isaac and Jesus were both sons promised many years before their birth.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both born to women who could not have conceived apart from a miracle.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both firstborn sons.
  • Isaac and Jesus were both loved by their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both carried wood to their sacrifice.
  • Isaac and Jesus both willingly laid down their lives to their father/Father.
  • Isaac and Jesus both laid down as a burnt offering for sin.
  • Isaac was resurrected figuratively and Jesus was resurrected literally.
  • Isaac was just a man, but Isaac was the God/Man who came to save mankind.

[1] Abram marries Hagar while married to Sarai. The result of this polygamy is truly tragic, as is the case with other instances of adultery and polygamy in Scripture. God’s intention is that each man would have one wife [Genesis 2:18; Matthew 19:4-6]. The first man to take more than one wife was the godless man Lamech [Genesis 4:19-24]. Two women is two too many. Polygamy is wrought with favoritism, fighting, jealousy, and mistreatment [i.e. Genesis 25:28, 27:1-45, 35:22, 38:18-28; 2 Samuel 3:2-5, 13:1-29, 15:1- 18:33; 1 Kings 11:1-4]. In the New Testament church elders serve as the pattern for Christian families are to be one-woman-men [1 Timothy 3:2,12].

[2] It is uncertain why God chose circumcision as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. Possibly the seed comes from the male organ and/or Headship is an important concept to God. God used symbols to convey his covenant with mankind [i.e. a rainbow was a sign of covenant between God and Noah; Genesis 9:14]. Throughout the rest of Bible the concepts of covenant and circumcision are built upon to include Christian who are the descendants of Abraham by new birth. Circumcision points to the circumcision that God brings to our hearts through His covenant relationship with us [Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 44:7-9; Romans 2:25-29; 4:1-12; Colossians 2:11; Galatians 3:6-8].