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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Abram chooses the blessings of Salem over the trinkets of Sodom
Text:Genesis 14:17-24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Giving your heart to God

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2014 Canadian Book of Praise

Bible translation: NKJV

Psalm 138:1,2

Hymn 53:2

Psalm 110:1,2,3,4,5,6

Psalm 85:3,4

Psalm 138:3,4


Read:  Genesis 14

Text:  Genesis 14:17-24

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, when he returned from rescuing Lot and when he took back with him all the people of Sodom and all their goods, he was met by two kings:  the king of Sodom and the king of Salem.  The king of Sodom tried to strike a deal with Abram:  “Give me the people and you take the goods.”   The king of Salem, however, came with a blessing: a blessing upon Abram and a blessing upon God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, the One who delivered Abram’s enemies into his hand.

And with meeting these two kings, Abram was faced with a choice:  what should he do with the spoils of war, with the people and the goods of Sodom?  The king of Sodom said, “Acknowledge me as the rightful king of Sodom and you have all these things and you can have them now.”  The king Salem, however, said “Acknowledge God, the One who owns all things and the One gave these things into your hand and rest in the future hope of God’s abiding presence and His continual blessing.

And isn’t that a challenge we all face?  Although we know that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, isn’t it tempting, sometimes, to put God to the side and bask in our own glory instead?  When things go well, isn’t it tempting to say,

“My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth”?  (Deuteronomy 8:17)

But Abram’s choice would not just affect him: Abram’s choice would also affect all who came from him – his descendants and indeed all those who would be counted as children of Abram.  If Abram took what Sodom had to offer, he would have to turn his back on Salem.  And turning his back on Salem, he would be turning his back on the blessings of Salem.  He would be exchanging the promises of the LORD for the goods of Sodom.  Abram would no longer be looking to God but would be turning his back on what the LORD was holding out to him  But Abram did not do this.  He said to the king of Sodom,

“I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”

And so I preach to you the Word of God from Genesis 14 under the following heading: 

Abram chooses the blessing from Salem over the trinkets of Sodom.

  1. The battle is the LORD’s.
  2. The glory goes to God.

1. The battle is the LORD’s.

Genesis 14 is a very interesting chapter of the Bible from a historical point of view.  The first half of this chapter is a bit of a “who’s who” on the world stage of the Ancient Near East in the days of Abram more than 4000 years ago.  It tells us in considerable detail about names and places, of how Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him descended upon the cities in the Jordan valley and captured them.  It is a very old account, so old in fact that the book of Genesis explains how a number of places mentioned now had new names.  So Bela was identified with Zoar in verse 2 and 8, the valley of Siddim was called the Salt Sea in verse 4, En Mishpat was identified with Kadesh in verse 7 and the valley of Shaveh was called the Kings’s Valley in verse 17.  And, although Genesis 14 does not mention it, we know that Salem, where Melchizedek was king, was later known as Jerusalem.

Now this is what was happening in those days.  Chedorlaomer was king of the Elamites, a nation not so far from Babylon and Ur of the Chaldeans, where Abram came from, and in a region that is now a part of modern-day Iran.  The Elamites are known to have been a powerful kingdom in the days of Abram.  Now king Chedorlaomer made an alliance with three other kings: Amraphel king of Shinar, from the region known as Babylon, Ariod king of Ellasar (which was most likely somewhere between Babylon and Ur, the city where Abram came from ) and Tidal king of Goiim, which simply means “king of nations”, as it is translated in the New King James Version of the Bible.  These kings made an alliance together and they went all the way to the Jordan valley, attacking the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboiim and Zoar.  They must have been a mighty force, an efficient war machine, to have gone all the way to the Jordan Valley to subdue the cities that were there.  It is likely that the reason why they did this is because there was copper in the hills around the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and this was needed to make bronze for weapons and other implements.

  So these kings went down and they made war with the five kings of the cities in the region that is now known as the Dead Sea.  Chedorlaomer and his allies won that battle and for 12 years the cities of the Jordan plain were forced to pay tribute to Chedorlaomer and the kings who came from parts of what we now call Iraq and Iran.  But then in the 13th year they rebelled.  Weighing up their chances the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim took a gamble and refused to pay a cent more to these far-away kings.

  And that lasted for about a year but then in the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came back.  They swept in, coming down what was known as the King’s Highway, an ancient road system on the eastern side of the Jordan River, and they went far south and west, wiping out the Amalekites and the Amorites as they went.  And then they came to the valley of Siddim, that is the Salt Sea, the Dead Sea.  And there they clashed with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and the three other cities of that region.  But alas the gamble of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah did not pay off.  When Chedorlaomer and his allies attacked them, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled.  Some of their men fell into the asphalt pits and the remainder fled into the mountains.  And then Genesis 14:11 says,

“Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way.”

And normally, that is where the story would have ended.  But at the end of this account it says this in verse 12.

“They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.”

And with these words a seemingly irrelevant battle suddenly becomes very relevant to  Abram and to the future of God’s promises. 

On the one hand, of course, Abram could have ignored Lot’s predicament.  It was Lot’s own fault that he’d been taken captive.  Lot had been greedy for the wealth Sodom could offer him and so he had gone down to live there.  Lot had chosen foolishly and now he got what he deserved.  And anyway, although Abram might have been sad about what had happened, what could he do? Chedorlaomer was a man of war, but Abram wasn’t.  What could Abram and his 318 men do against such a strong army?

But Abram did not think that way.  Although Lot had been foolish and, to an extent, it was his own fault that he now needed to be rescued, Abram recognized Lot as a fellow believer and as a brother.  In Genesis 4 Cain had asked God concerning Abel, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but here in Genesis 14 Abram knows: he is his brother’s keeper.  Lot was in trouble and so Abram would do something about it.

Abram, a man who was already now quite an old man.  Abram with his 318 trained men.  Abram, who, even with his own allies, Aner, Escol and Mamre, couldn’t have had an army of more than a thousand men.  Abram, a minnow, a nobody on the world scene, would take on the mighty powers of the region.

And Abram did it.  He stopped the unstoppable.  He defeated the undefeatable.  He conquered the unconquerable.  Getting his men together, Abram set off in pursuit.  He and his men went from Hebron in the south all the way to Dan in the north, a distance of over 180 km.  And when Abram finally reached the enemy, he divided his forces against them at night and he sent Chedorlaomer and his men running.  Abram then pursued them for another 100km, all the way past Damascus and so his victory was complete.  And so, Genesis 14:16 tells us,

“he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.”

The surprise attack worked: Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him panicked; they were defeated, chased out of town, and Lot and his goods and the women and all the people were saved.

And so Abram was a hero.  He succeeded where everyone else had failed.  He was the victor.

But was he?  Was this Abram’s doing?  Could he claim credit for the victory?  Yes, it was clever of Abram: he had the element of surprise.  Chedorlaomer and the kings with him had no reason to suspect that they would be pursued.  And to attack them at night, to cause confusion and then to chase them out of town was a brave and a clever thing to do.  But could Abram claim the victory?

The king of Sodom clearly thought so: and for good reason.  As far as the king of Sodom was aware, Abram was just like the rest of them.  That’s why the king of Sodom, who had previously fled with his tail between his legs, had now come to Abram to negotiate with him in an attempt to get his people back.  But Abram was not like the rest of them.  Abram was a Hebrew, Genesis 14:13 tells us.  He was a descendant of Eber, of the line of the Shem.  And Abram the Hebrew was a child of God.  Abram had been called by the LORD and Abram walked with God.  Abram had built an altar where he lived among the terebinth trees of Mamre, and there he worshipped God.  Abram confessed  “I am the LORD’s and all that I have is the LORD’s.  He has blessed me.  He has provided for me. I love Him, I believe in Him and I trust Him.”

And Abram knew that it was the LORD who had given him the victory.  The LORD had promised to be with Abram and to bless him.  And the LORD, the Almighty, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, had done what he had promised.

But now what should Abram do with the things that he had acquired?  What should he do with the goods and the people?  What should he do with the trinkets of Sodom?  Should he keep them?  Or should he look for something, yes for Someone, else?  We will see this in our second point.


2. The glory goes to God.

When Abram came back from the battle and was met by the king of Sodom in the Valley of Shaveh, a place not so far way from Jerusalem, he was also met by another king: Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was the king of Salem, later known as Jerusalem, and the difference between these two kings could not have been greater.  Bera, the king of Sodom was king over an exceedingly wicked city – so wicked in fact, that Sodom would soon be destroyed.  Melchizedek, however, was “the priest of God Most High”  (Genesis 14:18).

But who was this Melchizedek, and what was he doing in Canaan in the days of Abram?  We don’t know much about Melchizedek: where he came from, who his parents were, how he happened to be king of Salem, nor what it means that he was the priest of God Most High.  This is the first time, in fact, that the Bible ever mentions someone being a priest of God.

What we do know about Melchizedek, however, was that he was a worshipper of the true God.  On the one hand that is surprising news:  Abram was not the only one in Canaan who knew and worshipped the LORD, God Most High.  On the other hand, however, it should not surprise us too much to learn that there were other believers in Abram’s day.  In addition to Melchizedek we have reason to assume that Job also was also living in roughly the same time as Abram.  Although the spiritual decay had been rapid and almost everyone had turned away from the LORD, the Flood had not been all that long ago, and when people were scattered over the earth following what happened at Babel, some of those who were scattered did know and worship the true God.    So Melchizedek was a real person and he was a true believer, a real follower of God.

And Melchizedek was also king.  In fact the name Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness” – something that is pointed out in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews.  Being the King of Righteousness, Melchizedek stood for righteousness.  Melchizedek lived in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation and the kings around him were wicked and unholy kings, but he lived and upright and a holy life and he was an upright and a holy king. 

The New Testament letter to the Hebrews also highlights something else about Melchizedek:  he was the king of Salem, and Salem means peace.  And the peace that Melchizedek stood for was not just peace with the people around him, but the peace that he stood for was peace with God.  He was in fact, a priest to God Most High.  As a priest he made sacrifices, not just on his behalf but also on behalf of the people. 

And now this king of Salem, Melchizedek, came to Abram and he brought out bread and wine.  Many Bible commentators assume that when Melchizedek brought out bread and wine, he was doing no more than feeding a famished army who had just returned from a long march.  But when Genesis 14:18 records that Melchizedek brought out bread and wine it immediately adds that “he priest of God Most High.”  We need to see this, therefore, as more than giving some food and drink to a hungry and thirsty army.  In fact, considering that they had won the battle and had brought back many goods, it is quite likely that Abram and his men were not as famished as some people think.  So rather than see this act as simply feeding the hungry, we need to see that Melchizedek was giving this bread and wine as a priest.  He was doing this on God’s behalf.  And therefore it was not just a matter of Abram receiving this bread and wine from Melchizedek, but he was receiving it from God Himself.  Through Melchizedek, the LORD was nourishing His servant Abram with the life-giving victuals of bread and wine. 

And having given the bread and wine for Abram and his men to eat, Melchizedek blessed him and said:

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed by God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Melchizedek had come to Abram to remind him that it was God who had given him the victory and it was God, the One who is the Possessor of heaven and earth, indeed all things, who would bless him.

And Abram believed Melchizedek’s words and he received his blessing as coming from God Most High Himself.  Abram recognized Melchizedek as God’s priest and he gave him a tithe, 10% of all that he had.  He gave it to Melchizedek because by giving this to Melchizedek, Abram was giving it to God.  Abram acknowledged that all the spoils and all the victory belonged to the LORD, and he gave a tithe to confess that truth.

Standing on the sidelines, however, was the king of Sodom.  And he came not with a blessing but to made a deal.  The king of Sodom said to Abram,

“Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”

“Let’s do a deal, Abram.  Your time of living in tents is over.  Come and join me and let me give you all that you recaptured from Chedorlaomer.  Only recognize me as the legitimate king of Sodom and give the people back to me.”

But Abram can’t have the trinkets of Sodom and the blessings of Salem at the same time.  He has to make a choice.  Either he will take what Sodom had to offer or he will embrace the blessing of the king of Salem.

And Abram knows what to do.  Having given Melchizedek a tithe of all that he had captured, he would not take anything for himself.  Instead he said to the king of Sodom in Genesis 14:22,

“I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”

Abram would allow the men who went with him – Aner, Eshcol and Mamre, to take their share, but Abram himself would look to God, not to Sodom, for his blessing.

It must have been tempting for Abram.  It must have been tempting for him to reach out his hand to take a shortcut and seize what God had promised.  The Lord had said to Abram, “To your descendants I will give this land.”  And now the king of Sodom was offering him a way to take some of it, and to take it now.  But it would not work, of course.  It would not work for Abram to be joined to the king of Sodom.  And so Abram rejected the trinkets of Sodom and instead embraced the blessing from Salem.

But now what about you?  The devil is still trying to get us to set our eyes on the trinkets of Sodom, the things of this world, rather than embrace and live from the blessings of Salem.  The devil is still trying to get us to turn from God and from the glorious future He holds out to us in order to settle for the things that this world says are good for you.  But what are you living for?  Whose glory do you seek?

And so they sat down together, Abram and Melchizedek, and they had a meal of bread and wine.  What a time of refreshing that would have been for Abram!  What a blessing it was for him to have fellowship of a priest of God Most High in the land Canaan.  We don’t know what they would have talked about, Abram and Melchizedek, but they must have talked about God Most High, the God whom they served.  Abram may also have talked about the promises God had made to him, that not only would he be blessed to be a great nation and to receive the land, but that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed.  The Bible does not tell us all that Abram and Melchizedek talked about.  But the Bible does tell us what happened later.  The Bible does tell us that all that the LORD had promised Abram did come to pass.  And the Bible also tells us that many years later Another Melchizedek, the true King of Salem, the true King of Peace, the true King of Righteousness, came.  And that Other One was our Lord Jesus Christ.  And He came to bring not just bread and wine – although interestingly, He gives that to us in the Lord’s Supper – but He came to give us life and to give that to us in abundance.

So turn to Him.  Take your eyes from the trinkets of Salem and fix them on the blessings of Salem.  Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the LORD Jesus Christ and the promises that He came to fulfill.  Remember and believe that He is the Possessor of heaven and earth and that He holds out to you so much more than the world could ever give.  Look to Him for all things and walk in His ways, and it will be well with you.  He will give you His peace and His righteousness.  And you will be blessed.  Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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