From the record in chapter 12 of God’s command to Abram (Abraham) to leave behind all he might have once held dear and to embark on a new future, and the account of God’s protecting His promise from the threat that the surrender of Sarai might have posed to it, we move to chapters 13-15 which form something of a unit. Today, we look at 13-14, tomorrow at 15.
As you read these two chapters note that at the heart of the covenant blessings promised to the world through Abram and his descendants is the revelation that there is only one who is truly God and a revelation of what He is like. This was in contrast to the multiplicity of gods that were presented to Abram and his contemporaries in the surrounding cultures, and to the uncertainties of the needs of those gods that worshippers were required to satisfy in their prayers and offerings. It is a great blessing that the one and only God has made himself known to humanity in the long history of the revelation associated with Abram and his descendants. We easily overlook what an immense blessing this is. Where revelation is lacking, our thoughts about ultimate reality are confused and confusing. Where no god is acknowledged, we are left at the mercy of an inflexible and mindless ‘Nature’.
The separation of Lot from the Promised Land for very practical economic reasons forms part of a recurring theme of “obstacle and advance” in Abram’s story: the land was to be Abram’s and his descendants. It was not to be shared by Lot and his descendants. God brings about Lot’s departure. The victory over the kings in chapter 14 in the rescue of Lot is a further expression of God’s purpose to give the land to Abram. On that occasion it was won by force of arms.
The figure of Melchizedek becomes the subject of later theological reflection in Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5, 7, and 8 when the priestly character of the Messiah is considered in relation to the New Covenant. Do read those chapters if you have time.
We can give thanks that God has revealed Himself to us all in the life and history of Abram and his descendants. We must also give thanks that we have a continuing great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
The King in Waiting
There is an interesting parallel to be drawn between the incident in the cornfields recorded here and the reference Jesus makes to David. As one commentator has noted David felt he could eat the Bread of the Presence because he was in fact the already anointed king of Israel even though he was only leading a mixed bag of followers and Saul was still on the throne. Here Jesus is God’s anointed King in waiting along with his followers who were not the people most likely to impress the national leadership. Here he does what God’s king would do in the face of need.
The second incident gives a practical example of some of the things that Jesus will teach his disciples in the following section. It also sadly records what happens when light and love encounter spiritual darkness and entrenched convictions.
Perhaps in our current circumstances the question of Sabbath observance may be quite different: we may need to give practical consideration as to how we personally incorporate into our Lord’s Day observance the “rest principle” of Israel’s Sabbath and its purposes in our own lives.