The first campaign on record is given in Genesis 14. It is quite impossible to say what its political results may have been, but there emerged from it a spiritual outcome, the value of which shall be “for ever.”
The King of Shinar and his allied monarchs fought with the King of Sodom and his, overcoming them, and taking away captives and spoil. That is all we know. Amongst the captives, however, was the nephew of Abram, who, having left the company of his uncle, had selected the well-watered plains of Sodom for his abode, and had thus become entangled in the misfortunes of that godless place.
Little did Abram concern himself with the quarrels of the potsherds of earth. It was of small consequence to the pilgrim of Mamre, whose expectations were set on a “city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” what occurred to the contending nations around him; but, when he learned that his “brother” was among these captives, his whole soul was stirred within him to deliver this “righteous” but easily-tempted man from the power of hostile hands. He at once armed his band of servants, overtook and vanquished the enemy, chasing him as far as Damascus, and regaining the captives and spoil.
All this he brought back. As a reward the King of Sodom offered the spoil to the victor; but such a reward from such a man he would not accept. He had lifted up his hand to God that he would defile himself by no such bribe. Suffice it that Lot was delivered. All this was clean work; for Abram wrought with God. But, if he did so, he must count on the opposition of Satan; for, in a world governed by the devil, faith in God need look for no quarter. It was just then, however, that God intervened for the encouragement of this man of faith.
Here is the first spiritual outcome of this very unimportant war: “And Melchizedek,” we read, “King of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him … And he (Abram) gave him tithes of all.”
Melchizedek was “the priest of the most high God,” he was also “King of Salem,” that is all we know of him. A mysterious, but highly typical personage, he steps upon the stage, with his bread and wine, and blessing. Abram owns his superiority and gives him tithes of all; for, as ever, the less is blessed of the better. Abram is “blessed of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth”; and in the consciousness of this, he is prepared to decline the snares of the King of Sodom.
Let this action of Melchizedek towards the victorious Abram engage your close attention. Who was he? In what order did his priesthood belong? Was it continuous, or was it transmissible? This is elaborated in Hebrews 7. There we read that he was “made like unto the Son of God,” (wonderful fact) and that he “abides a priest continually.” He was greater than Abram who gave him tithes, and greater, therefore, than Aaron, and his priesthood than Aaron’s.
And, mark, in Psalm 110, Christ was made, by the oath of God, “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Is it wrong then to say that, out of this passing imbroglio in the slime pits of Sodom, there should come to us a spiritual issue that should last “for ever”?
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform!”
The battle of Sodom, the capture of Lot, his deliverance by Abram, the appearing of Melchizedek and the continuous high priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ all hang mysteriously and wonderfully together; and, incidentally, but with surpassing sweetness, He is able, to “save for evermore them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25, A.V., marg.).
Did ever a war of nations evolve such a result? or, if it were not an actual result, is not the coincidence very striking? What immense value attached to the holy and separate and faithful position of Abram! To him the credit belongs and to the grace of God in him. We may say that but for Abram and his spiritual life at Mamre, as also for his vigorous action at Damascus, there would have been no such priestly act of Melchizedek. Such a loss is, of course, inconceivable; but, what is conceivable and imperative is that the attitude of Abram on Mamre should be imitated by every man of faith, and that his example should be followed. The path which carries blessing is not one of association with the interests of the world, but one of communion with and faithfulness to God.
Well, then, the overtures of the King of Sodom were refused, and thereby Abram was placed in a position of peril. What then was his resource? “The word of the Lord,” we read, “appeared to him in a vision, saying, ‘I am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward’” (Gen. 15:1). God becomes the shield of his defence from the foe, and the great compensation for every loss—a precious experience surely for Abram, and a further result, so far, from “the slaughter of the kings” in the valley of Shaveh.
Still further results follow in train right down the course of time from this act of Abram. A son was given him when all hope was gone. God had taken the place of not only being his shield, but also his reward. Abram believed God, and was reckoned righteous. He was justified by faith. In due time that son was born.
Then followed Jacob and his twelve sons, and the nation, whose chequered history and present dispersion is one of the wonders of the world—one of the proofs of the verity of the Word of God, and whose future, as the chief of all nations, is mapped out on he prophetic page; so that, be the ambitions of other nations what they may, this people, which sprang from the loins of Abram, and of whom as pertaining to the flesh came our Lord Jesus Christ, God over all, blessed for ever, shall yet be the head and other nations but the tail, in the administration of the glorious millennial kingdom.
Hence, we may say that, transitory as was the victory of the King of Shinar over the King of Sodom, that of Abram over the former was fraught with a result of spiritual events and interests whose value shall be for ever.
The wrath of man shall praise God.