Morality is more important that legality.
Genesis(85) (Part of the Origins(83) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on September 12, 2021 (Sunday Morning(281))
“Philip Yancey wrote of a friend of his named Susan, a Christian who told Yancey ‘that her husband did not measure up and she was actively looking for other men to meet her needs for intimacy’:
When Susan mentioned that she rose early each day to ‘spend an hour with the Father,’ I asked, ‘In your meetings with the Father, do any moral issues come up that might influence this pending decision about leaving your husband?’
Susan bristled: ‘That sounds like the response of a white Anglo-Saxon male. The Father and I are into relationship, not morality. Relationship means being wholly supportive and standing alongside me, not judging.’”
Source: Jeremy Lott, "American Gnostic," Books and Culture, November/December 2002; p. 37.
She is choosing legality over morality. She was focusing on her legal right to be able to divorce her husband and find happiness with another man. She was ignoring the moral standard that the Father set in His Word.
We got rear-ended while sitting at a stop light in California
My parents were with us and Levi was in his car seat
We were going to pick Wade and Seth up from school and were planning to go to a Anaheim Angels baseball game
I had been given some free tickets and we got two more tickets for my parents
We never made it to the baseball game, because our minivan was totaled
Moral vs. Legal
Certain lawyers would have told me that I had a legal right to sue the individual who rear-ended me
They would help me to get all I was entitled to
We didn’t choose that route
We did go to see the doctor and had some therapy sessions with a chiropractor and massage therapist
We were pleased with how the other individual’s insurance company treated us
They worked with us to rent another minivan while my parents were still with us
They gave us more than I expected for our minivan
God provided for us through this accident
I was glad that we trusted in Him instead of a lawyer
I believe that we chose well and God was honored through it all
Morality over legal right
Every one of us probably has a time when we’ve had to choose between our moral right and legal right
Take a moment to think about what you chose (morality or legality?)
Two kings meet Abram after he returns from defeating Kedorlaomer. Both of them offer him items. Abram accepts the items from one king, but not the other. Abram had the legal right to accept the items from both kings, but he did not have the moral right, as we’ll see. Abram had to choose well. We’ll learn from Abram that . . .
BIG IDEA – Morality is more important than legality.
GOD (Genesis 14:17-24)
Background (vv. 17-18a)
Abram has defeated Kedorlaomer and his allies
He has made the long journey back from Hobah, north of Damascus and is just south or east of Jerusalem in the Valley of Shaveh (shaw-vay’), also known as the King’s Valley
Two kings come out to meet him
Blessed (vv. 18b-20)
King of Salem (shaw-lame’)
Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness”
Most scholars agree that Salem is referring to Jerusalem
Psalm 76:1-2, In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
This would make sense since the Valley of Shaveh (shaw-vay’) is just south or east of Jerusalem
Salem means “peace”
Priest of God Most High
Melchizedek was not only the king of Salem (shaw-lame’), but also a priest of God Most High
This is the first time that the word “priest” is used in the Bible
It’s probable that Melchizedek is a Canaanite king
We don’t know what gods he may been worshiping
We’re not given much information about him
There was not a Canaanite deity with the name El Elyon (ale el-yone’) [God Most High]
We’ll see in the blessing that Melchizedek further identifies God Most High as the Creator of heaven and earth
It would seem as though Melchizedek is a priest of the One and only true God, but this is not definitive
As king and priest, Melchizedek offers two things
Bread and wine (king)
Bread represents more than just bread, but food in general
“The expression ‘bread and wine’ refers to daily but luxurious provisions.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 149]
Melchizedek is providing a feast/banquet for the returning soldiers
The second item Melchizedek offers Abram is a blessing
Melchizedek blesses Abram first by God Most High
Then he blesses God Most High and recognizes one of His many attributes
God is our deliverer
Melchizedek understands that God Most High is the one who gave Abram the victory over Kedorlaomer and his allies
I mentioned last week that God is the One who gave wisdom to Abram to divide his men after dark in order to defeat the four kings
Melchizedek is just acknowledging that fact and highlighting this attribute
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people recognize His power to deliver.
What has God delivered you from recently?
Have you acknowledged that God is the One who delivered you?
It’s so easy to forget that God is the One who has delivered us
Our first reaction should be to praise/bless the Lord for delivering us
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge that God has delivered me from ___________, by His power.
Melchizedek offered Abram nourishment and blessing
Interesting thoughts about Melchizedek
“Melchizedek appears from nowhere; his parentage is not given, even though Genesis excels in genealogies. Yet even this omission is deliberate, for, according to the writer of the Hebrews, it signifies an eternal priesthood (Heb. 7:3).” [Baldwin, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Genesis 12-50, 47]
Hebrews 7:1-4, This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever. Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!
Who is Melchizedek – do we really know?
He’s not mentioned with the six groups/kingdoms that Kedorlaomer and his allies defeated on their way to battle the five rebellious kings
He’s not mentioned with the five kings of the Dead Sea area, even though Jerusalem is in that area
He’s not mentioned as one of Abram’s allies
Some scholars believe that Melchizedek is the preincarnate Christ
Gangel and Bramer mention that “many interpreters believe this was another Christophany, a demonstration of the preincarnate Christ.” [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 133]
Psalm 110:4, The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
This Psalm was written by David
The theme of the Psalm is the credentials for the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah
Perhaps, Abram has just been nourished and blessed by Christ, Himself
If that is true, then Abram’s reaction to the nourishment and blessing are even more powerful!
He gives Melchizedek a tenth of everything from the plunder
If Melchizedek is Christ preincarnate, then Abram is tithing one tenth to the Lord
For Abram it would be an acknowledgement that the Lord owns everything and that He graciously allowed Abram to steward His wealth [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 78]
PRINCIPLE #2 – When we tithe, God is glorified; because it acknowledges that He owns everything and has the ability to provide for us.
This is the first time that tithing is mentioned in the Bible
Abram was already tithing before it was mentioned in Jewish law
Important thoughts about tithing
Tithing is giving the Lord 10% of our income
“If the Old Testament Jew under Law could tithe, how much more ought New Testament Christians under grace!” [godly deacon cited by Wiersbe, 78]
The attitude with which we give is important as R.G. LeTourneau states, “If you tithe because it pays—it won’t pay!” [Wiersbe, 78]
“After a morning session at vacation Bible school, my grandson, Macky, complained to a friend that there weren’t enough red crayons to go around and he only got one cookie at snack time. ‘Well,’ said his friend, who remembered their offering, ‘it really wasn’t too bad for a dime.’”
Source: Aleene Sanders, Poplar Bluff, MO. Today’s Christian Woman, “Heart to Heart.”
Whom we give to is also important, “We do not give our tithes and offerings to the church, the pastor, or the members of the finance committee. If our giving is a true act of worship, we will give to the Lord; and, for that reason, we want to give our very best (Mal. 1:6-8).” [Wiersbe, 79]
Perhaps the first question we have to ask ourselves is, are we even tithing at all?
Some people just take whatever is in their wallet and put it in the offering
Does that represent 10% of all that God has given to us?
Does that kind of giving acknowledge God’s ownership of everything we have?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Begin tithing 10% of all that God has given me to steward.
Does our tithing glorify God?
Does our tithing acknowledge that God owns everything and has the ability to provide for us?
Too often we are concerned with not having enough money to pay our bills at the end of the month, that we believe we can’t afford to tithe
This simply proves that we don’t truly believe that God has the ability to provide for us
“In 1987, the largest, single-day stock market crash since 1929 took place. In one day [my wife, Renee] and I lost more than one-third of our life's savings and the money we had put aside for our kids' college education. I was horrified and became like a man obsessed, each night working past midnight, analyzing on spreadsheets all that we had lost, and the next day calling in orders to sell our remaining stocks and mutual funds to prevent further losses. (Of course that turned out to be the absolute worst thing I could have done.)
I was consumed with anguish over our lost money—and it showed. One night when I was burning the midnight oil, Renee came and sat beside me. ‘Honey,’ she said, ‘this thing is consuming you in an unhealthy way. It's only money. We have our marriage, our health, our friends, our children, and a good income—so much to be thankful for. You need to let go of this and trust God.’ Don't you hate it when someone crashes your pity party? I didn't want to let go of it. I told her I felt responsible for our family and that she didn't understand. It was my job to worry about things like this.
She suggested we pray about it—something that hadn't occurred to me—so we did. At the end of the prayer, to my bewilderment, Renee said, ‘Now I think we need to get out the checkbook and write some big checks to our church and ministries we support. We need to show God that we know this is his money and not ours.’ I was flabbergasted at the audacity of this suggestion, but in my heart I knew she was right. So that night we wrote some sizable checks, put them in envelopes addressed to various ministries, and sealed them. And that's when I felt the wave of relief. We had broken the spell that money had cast over me. It freed me from the worries that had consumed me. I actually felt reckless and giddy—‘God, please catch us, because we just took a crazy leap of faith.’
Source: Richard Stearns, The Hole in the Gospel (Thomas Nelson, 2010), p. 213
Challenge to tithe more than 10%
Perhaps there are those of us here who have faithfully tithed 10% for many years
God has continued to provide for us
“Tithing is a good place to begin; but as the Lord blesses, we must increase that percentage if we are to practice the kind of ‘grace giving’ that is described in 2 Corinthians 8-9.” [Wiersbe, 79]
Many years ago, when we lived in Missouri our pastor preached a message on giving and challenged those in the congregation to consider giving more than 10%. Judy and I took that message to heart and began to pray about what percentage God was asking us to give. When we finally decided on the percentage, the Holy Spirit had placed the same percentage figure in both of our minds, individually. So, we began giving at that percentage. Over the years, we have gone back to 10% when we have moved and changed jobs. A couple of years ago, we were prompted by the Holy Spirit to consider increasing the percentage we give again, which we did.
I want to give everyone the same challenge that our Pastor in Missouri gave to us
#3 – My/Our Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord what percentage of my/our income I/we should be giving to Him.
So, we see that Abram’s reaction to being nourished and blessed was to tithe a tenth to Melchizedek
Abram was also offered something from Bera, king of Sodom
What would his reaction be to that offer?
Bribed (vv. 21-24)
It is more of a request or demand than an offer, per se
Bera’s audacity and attitude show a lack of humility and gratefulness
He has no right to make any request or demand, because the victor is the one sets the stipulations for the dividing of plunder [Waltke, Genesis, A Commentary, 235]
Abram was the one who had the legal right to determine how things would be divided and dispersed
Bera wants to have the people of Sodom returned to him
The Hebrew word for “people” also has the meaning of “soul”
From a spiritual perspective, Bera was asking for the souls of the people of Sodom
The people of Sodom had been sinning greatly against the Lord (Gen. 13:13)
Bera didn’t want to give up the souls of the Sodom sinners
We see a contrast between Melchizedek (“king of righteousness”) and Bera (“son of evil”)
What we see here is the age old battle between good and evil
Abram was having to choose well
Every one of us have to choose well when confronted with two options – morality and legality
Bera doesn’t care about the goods
He is fine with giving the goods to Abram
Satan is fine with us keeping the goods of this world as long as he can have our souls
We see Abram’s reaction to this “offer”
What we see is Abram’s personal refusal of Bera’s offer
Abram refuses for two reasons
First, and most important, is his desire to keep the oath he had made to the Lord prior to the battle
Abram had raised his hand to Jehovah
He had taken an oath
Think about being sworn in as a witness in a court of law, where they make you raise your right hand and take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God
I’m also reminded of those who become citizens of the United States and how they raise their right hand and take an oath
This kind of oath taking is also found in the military, police force, and the President of the United States when they are all sworn in
Abram was not going to break his oath before the Lord, simply because he had the legal right to the goods
For Abram, morality was more important than legality.
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is honored when we keep our word.
Whether we have taken an oath before the Lord or with other people, God is honored when we keep our word
It may not be easy to keep our word sometimes, because we may have taken an oath or made a promise too quickly, without thinking
Numbers 30:2, When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
Read Deuteronomy 23:21-23
Matthew and James instruct us in the New Testament not to swear or take an oath, but to say either “Yes” or “No”
Read Matthew 5:33-37
James 5:12, Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
What oath or promise do you need to keep to the Lord or to another person?
I encourage you to do that this week
#4 – My Next Step Today Is To: Honor God by keeping my word.
Abram uses the same words as Melchizedek in calling Jehovah, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth
Abram is affirming that the One true God is God Most High who created everything
Second, he wanted the Lord to be glorified and not man
Abram wasn’t going to take even the smallest thing (a thread or shoestring) from Bera
Abram was relying completely on the Lord to provide for him and bless him
If he had taken the goods from Bera, then Bera could have claimed the glory for making Abram rich
Abram wasn’t going to let that happen
While Abram doesn’t accept any goods for himself, he doesn’t require his soldiers or his allies to adhere to the same conviction – it was a personal conviction and oath that Abram had made
Abram’s corporate acceptance
He acknowledges that the food they had already eaten, he would accept – that is a foregone conclusion
He also encourages Aner, Eshcol and Mamre to accept their share of the goods
Abram chose well in accepting the food, drink, and blessing from Melchizedek and refusing the goods from Bera
He showed that his moral obligation to keep his word was more important than his legal right to the goods that Bera had offered him
Have you recognized God’s power to deliver you and have you thanked Him for doing so?
Are you glorifying God through your tithing? (Does it show that you believe God owns everything and has the ability to provide for you?)
Are you honoring God by keeping your word?
We can thank the Lord publicly for how He has delivered us and provided for us.
We can ask others to hold us accountable to an oath or promise we have made.
“The movie Nuremberg, based on the book Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, by Joseph Persico, is about a series of trials held in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945-46, in which former Nazi leaders were tried as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal.
In this scene, Nazi defendant Hans Frank (played by Frank Moore) is attempting to explain his actions to Army psychologist Gustav Gilbert (played by Matt Craven).
Frank explains, ‘I turned my diaries over to the Americans voluntarily. You see, they prove that I tried to resign as Governor General of Poland. I did not approve of the persecution of the Jews. Anyone reading my diaries, they will know what was in my heart. They will understand that such things I wrote about Jews, the orders I signed, they were not sincere.’
‘I believe you, Frank,’ says Gilbert. ‘And yet, you did do those things. How do you explain it? I don't mean legally; I'm not a lawyer or a judge. I mean how do you explain it to yourself?’
‘I don't know,’ replies Frank. ‘It's as though I am two people: the Hans Frank you see here, and Hans Frank the Nazi leader. I wonder how the other Frank could do such things. This Frank looks at that Frank and says, ‘You're a terrible man’’
‘And what does that Frank say back?’ asks Gilbert.
Frank, appearing to plead for understanding, replies, ‘He says, ‘I just wanted to keep my job.’’”
Elapsed time: Measured from the Warner Bros. logo, this scene begins at 51:50 and ends at 53:32.
Content: Nuremberg is not rated. It does contain some profanity and graphic scenes from actual concentration camps.
Source: Nuremberg (Cypress Films, 2000), directed by Yves Simoneau.