GREAT MEN OF THE BIBLE: The Old Testament

Abraham
A Man of the Tithe

Abraham

Gen. 14:1-15

PRELUDE

The Battle of the Nine Kings (14:1-12)

Before we get to the main point of this particular study, let us see what happened just prior to the time when Abraham offered the tithe to Melchizedek. In the previous study, we saw that the land was not big enough for both Lot's and Abraham's herds; therefore, Abraham gave Lot the choice of the part of Canaan he wished to occupy—Abraham would take the rest. Lot chose the "best" part, that is, the land near the Dead Sea (Salt Sea) which was green and verdant, good for teh flocks. Abraham was apportioned the hill country, which did have grass but not as much grass as the territory Lot chose.

1 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar ). 3 All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea ). 4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled. . . . 8 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 ) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and [his 3 allies]-four kings against five. 10 Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12 They also took Lot, Abram's nephew , and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.


With lush pastures comes abundant, rich living—living which would attract the notice of distant kings. For a period of time, Sodom and Gomorrah with 3 other cities paid tribute annually to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam (southern Iraq). After 12 years of paying tribute, the 5 kings rebelled. This incited Chedorlaomer's wrath. With 3 other allies, he sweeps down and engages the 5 kings in battle. What is the outcome of the battle?

What happens especially to Lot?


Would it have been easy for Abraham to have felt vindictive against Lot?

Would it have been easy for him to have felt vindicated at Lot's expense?


Abraham's Response (14:13-16)

13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.


Instead of licking his chops at Lot's misfortune, how does Abraham respond to the news of Lot's capture?

What does Abraham's action tell us about his military skills?

Too often we have a quaint view of Abraham. Such a view not only belittles him, it is also false. Probably the most accurate way to view Abraham is to view him as a mighty sheik. If you've ever seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia, think of him in terms of the Anthony Quinn character, Auda Abu Tayi, a leader and warrior for his people.


ABRAHAM AND MELCHIZEDEK (14:17-24)

17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all. 21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself." 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, 'I have made Abram rich.' 24 "I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre ; let them take their share."


Two incidents in this passage expose Abraham's attitude towards wealth. Remember that he is a mighty sheik who supplies and heads up an army of 300 warrior/servants. He knows money. On his return home, whom does Abraham meet and how does Abraham respond to him (verse 18-20)?

An interesting side note here. What does this king in v. 18 bring out to Abraham? Does this action remind of any event in the NT?

What does this king of Salem do to Abraham (v. 19)?

Does the higher bless the lesser or does the lesser bless the higher (Heb. 7:7)?

Therefore, who is greater, Abraham or the king of Salem?

It is interesting that the author of Hebrews claims that Jesus who did not belong to the priestly tribe (the Levites) represents the high priesthood of Melchizedek who blessed Abraham and to whom Abraham paid tithes.

Now what is interesting here is that Moses doesn't give a command about tithing. By giving us the story of Abraham, he assumes that tithing is the natural and appropriate response of a person to God financially.

Response to some objections:

  1. Isn't tithing legalistic? If tithing is legalism, then are baptism and taking the Lord's Supper legalistic?
  2. Isn't tithing legalistic? Abraham lived at least 400 years before the Law was given by Moses; therefore, it was not part of the legalistic system.
  3. Isn't tithing just OT? Aren't we past the OT? Well, if so, somebody forgot to tell Jesus because Jesus assumed we would tithe (Matt. 23:23-" these are the things [tithing] you should have done without neglecting the others [performing acts of mercy]").
  4. But I want to live strictly by faith. Then tithe. No man was ever a man of faith more than Abraham, and he tithed. Abraham (the tither) was such a man of faith that he is actually called "Abraham the believer" or more literally "Abraham the faith-er." If Abraham the faith-er was a tither, then who am I not to tithe if I am also wanting to live by faith? The life of Abraham undercuts all our objections to tithing.

The theological key to tithing is found in Abraham's response to the king of Sodom: "I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, ____________________ of heaven and earth." Tithing is probably one of the few ways that you can live out this truth. We own NOTHING; all things belong to God. I remember B.F. in one of his sermons undermining the myth that we all believe—that we own all these possessions. The truth is that even if you pay off your home, it's not yours. In another hundred years (if the Lord tarries) somebody else will own your property.).

But it sure does sound legalistic. It's not though. What we believe in our hearts will come out in our actions. In fact, most of the time our actions truly demonstrate what we believe in our hearts. For example, one of the main reasons we are baptized is so that we can demonstrate our faith that Jesus' death/burial/resurrection actually means we too died/were buried/resurrected with Christ because of our faith in Him. The reason we eat the bread and drink the juice is to demonstrate our faith that we have participated in His sacrifice on the cross. Our tithe demonstrates our faith that the Lord God is Possessor of heaven and earth; we are simply giving back to Him the % He wants for us to demonstrates that we truly believe this.

Tithing is basically a spiritual issue. Malachi introduces his discussion on the tithe with these words: "From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts. "But you say, 'How shall we return?'" (Mal. 3:7). It is only then that Malachi mentions the tithe. Giving the tithe to God is a dominant way in which a person turns to God. Jesus utters just this same principle when He claims: "For where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also" (Matt. 6:21).

The truth is that a person will only go so far in one's relationship with God until the tithe issue is broached. The person who tithes goes forward in his relationship with God; the person who does not tithe will hit a roadblock and actually regress. Again, Jesus' statement in Matt. 6:21 serves as the scriptural basis for this claim.

8 "Will a man rob God ? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. 9 "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows . 11 "Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground ; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes," says the LORD of hosts. 12 "All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land," says the LORD of hosts.