Sunday, November 9, 2014

Melchezidek's Money

Who's money is it?

It's Veteran's Sunday and we find ourselves in a scripture containing a very soldier-like scene.
Yet, the man involved is not someone you would normally think of as a solider. Abraham has worn a lot of different hats since leaving his home land in Ur. Herdsman. Prayer warrior. Priest.
Today's scripture shows us that this 'soldier' feels that giving is pretty important. So, this scripture also involves the subject of money. And, that's important, because we are going to spend a few Sundays talking about money, finance, tithing, and offerings.

What is the truth about tithing and offerings and why is it so important to our Christian faith that we do so? These are some questions we will try to answer in the next three weeks. It seems that giving to God out of what we have is a practice that goes back to mankind's very origins. Our earliest stories show people being created from the dust of the earth. People being created from a rib in the side of a man. Then we see human being giving offerings of their hard word and labor back to God. Cain and Abel's story is actually our earliest mention of giving an offering back to God. It is important to note that an idea or mention of giving or tithing predates the law. The reasons are not made clear, but for some reason, the idea that we should give to God out what we have is pretty important to the life of a believer.

The scripture we are settling on comes from Genesis 14. Abraham has just rescued Lot from a band of marauders around the city of Sodom. There has been some fighting amongst the kings in this region and some raiding of the cities, namely all the food and possessions in the city of Sodom. Abraham's nephew, Lot, is carried away with many of these raids and Abraham has to rescue him. In doing so, Abraham and his men have accumulated much wealth and possessions. Lets look at the scene as the chapter reaches it's end.

Genesis 14:17-24

New International Version (NIV)
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

It's not clear why Abraham feels the need to give a tenth of everything to Melchizedek. It's the first time we see anybody doing such a thing. There are actually only two references to such an offering in the Old Testament before the Law of Moses. The next one is when Issac is in the story around Genesis 26. All the promises have been passed from Abraham to Isaac. God will now make Isaac to receiver of the great blessing. God will make his offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky. In this chapter, we see Isaac come to great prominence and in a place where he can give something back to God. It leaves one wondering if a person needs to be in possession of many riches before they feel the need to give back to God out of what they have.

Maybe a little further research on Melchizedek is in order. The scripture here says that he is a king and he is also a priest of the "Most High God".However, any reasearch we do on that avenue will prove as fruitless as his name is mysterious. There's not much to go on when researching "Melchizedek". Looking at his name closer keys us in on some meaning. In Hebrew, his name is broken down into two parts. malki zedek  However, in the Old Testament, it is read as one word. The church historian, Josephus, would interpret the two parts as meaning malki - the king and zedek - righteousness or justice. 

There is something about his presence here that causes Abraham, in soldier mode, to stop and give a tenth of all he has. This is a priest of the Most High. I'd like to think that Abraham is viewing all that he has as being given to himself. So, he should give back out of what he has since it was never his to begin with. All that he has accumulated has been through the spoils of war. Through the Old testament account, we see people carrying off possessions they have come to own through war. Some things they want. Some things they don't. Some things they should have. Some things they end up paying a price for taking.

We are looking at why we give back to God. maybe there's something in what exactly the offering is in the first place. This account in Genesis 14 serves as a backdrop to some story that will come. Lot & Sodom. There is a moment where Abraham and Lot will have a discussion about how large the encampments have grown. They can't stay in the same place because they are walking all over each other. They will have to choose between different areas. It says here that Lot was carried off in the midst of the raiding and waring between the kings. It seems that he has seen a bit of what is in the cities, namely Sodom. He has seen the lushness and the wealth. Later, when the two of them decide to go their ways and choose their paths, Lot chooses to go towards Sodom. 

Abraham, on the other hand, doesn't seem to want anything to do with Sodom. Our account in Genesis 14 says that after Abraham return with all the possessions that the waring kings took away, then the king of Sodom comes out to meet them. He wants his people back but tells Abraham that he can "keep the goods". Abraham doesn't want them. If the future story about what is going in Sodom and Gomorrah tells us anything about the character and righteousness of these cities, then maybe we understand why Abraham doesn't want any of their things. Also, Abraham doesn't seem to be enthused with the idea of taking things that don't belong to him. He is concerned with making sure people get back with belongs to them. he is concerned with making sure his emn are fed and taken care of properly. But, he makes no provision for himself. 

So, why does he give a tenth of all he has to this obscure king/priest who suddenly shows up on the scene? Lets also look at where this king comes from. It is said that he is the "king of Salem". The word in our times has been associated with such things as witches and mischief. Salem, in Hebrew and in OT times, would have been a place of blessing. In the northern part of Israel, Gerizim serves as the place where Salem most likely would have been. many people, known as Samaritans later in the OT account, and would have been viewed as the actual place where the temple of worship to God was to be built, and not in Jerusalem. Regardless of the residence of Malkizedek, Samaritan tradition identified a "Salem" as a place on the slopes of Mount Gerizim which served as a blessing place of the children of Israel upon their initial crossing of the Jordan river. Maybe the issue of tithing has something to do with where Melchizedek is from. God says he is going to make Abraham's children as many as the stars in the sky. The idea of receiving a blessing from God means we in turn bless God with what we have. The attachment that Melchizedek is a priest of the Most High God in this light is unmistakeable. Maybe Abraham gives his money to the priest of the Most High because God has blessed him with so much.

It's also worth asking here, who's money is it?
Is it Melchizedek's money? Is Abraham giving it to the priest?
If malki zedek is receiving this offering, then what is he doing with it? Well, if he is truly a "king" of "righteousness" or "justice" then there would be much he could do with it. Are there hungry and homeless in his time. Certainly there are. Is there people oppressed or in need? The righteous thing to do would be to help anyone who needs it. And, if "Salem" is place of blessing the children, for the sake of my imagination, I can see an orphanage or a place to bring your child to be blessed. There is much good that can be done here by "the king of righteousness". It's not about the priest that Abraham is giving this money. It's not Melchizedek's money. It is because of the Most High God.

So, maybe we've just muddied the water a bit.
My hope is that some of this shows the beginning of why we tithe. Next week we will go a bit further and see what history shows us after the Law of Moses. As we prepare for that, if behooves us to ask the question - why do we tithe? Tithing reflects a grateful heart that wants to give back to God a portion of what He has given us; in reality, what is already His. Tithing is our opportunity to show God that He is first in our lives. James 1:17 says that “every good and perfect gift is from above ...,” so we have an opportunity to tangibly show God He is the “owner” of our finances by giving back to Him the first of what He gives us.

After the war was over, Abraham makes sure he shows that God is first in his life.
He gives to the priest of the Most High God a offering, a tenth of all he has.

What do you have in hands today? Money? Time? Wealth? Possessions?

What can you give back to God out of what He has given to you?

No comments:

Post a Comment