Have you ever noticed some of your greatest trials come after you’ve won your greatest battles? After Israel defeated and captured Jericho their self-confidence got them into a lot of trouble and defeat at Ai (Joshua 7). Elijah fled in fear after a major win at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 19). You cannot let your guard down after a victory – that’s when the real battle begins. Abraham faced this same challenge after returning from battle (Genesis 14). Two kings met him with great gifts and this doesn’t sound like a bad deal upon first glance. King Bera of Sodom brought all the spoils of the war in exchange for the people and King Melchizedek of Salem brought bread and wine. Let’s see…a small meal verses all the spoils of war…which one would you choose? Abraham rejected King Bera’s offer and chose the smaller gift from King Melchizedek. Plus Abraham gave him ten percent (tithe) of all the spoils he had from war. This is the first mention of tithing in Scripture (Genesis 14:20). So let me get this straight – he chose the lesser gift and gave away some stuff instead of choosing the greater gift? It doesn’t sound like he made the right choice…or did he?
Abraham knew what he was doing. Better said, Abraham knew Who he served. These two kings had two vastly different ways of life and kingdoms. King Bera’s city Sodom was wicked (Genesis 13:13). Bera’s way of life followed the world’s value system and sought fleshly desires foremost (Ephesians 2:1-3). Lot, Abraham’s nephew, chased after this system and lost everything. On the other hand, King Melchizedek, which means “king of righteousness”, ruled in Salem, which means “peace”. Did you know Scripture connects Melchizedek with Jesus? Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7 show the connection with Jesus, who is the ultimate King of peace and King of righteousness. Choosing to side with Melchizedek was choosing to side with the Lord. And think about the bread and wine gift – what foreshadowing symbols of Christ’s sacrifice for us!
Abraham chose correctly because he had his head on straight. He was focused on the Lord instead of his flesh and his recent victory. He realized it was the Lord who gave him the victory and sustained his life. Abraham could have taken all the spoils but he knew there were more important things in this life than what the world had to offer. Abraham also knew if he gave up the people to King Bera they would be returned to evil purposes. He instead most likely gave these people a new chance at life to trust in the true God and greater way of life. Melchizedek had something greater to offer than Bera – the blessing of God. Abraham chose the blessing of the Lord rather than the spoils of this world.
Remember, the best the world has to offer can never compare to the blessings of God. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul (Mark 8:36)? Before the battle Abraham vowed not to take the spoils – God was all he needed. During the battle he trusted God for victory in faith. After the battle he rejected the offer of a wicked king which ultimately said yes to the King of Kings. We must trust and remain faithful to the Lord before, during and after victory. “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).