Friday after the First Sunday after the Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord
Scripture: Genesis 14:8-24 (NKJV)
8 And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. 14 Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.
17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him.
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And 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.” And he gave him a tithe of all.
21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 23 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’— 24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
Although no place was safe against the violence of avaricious kings, Lot chose a place that was considerably more vulnerable in that regard. There had been conflict between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s, but there was no enmity between the uncle and the nephew, as Abram quickly assembled his household guard and his allies’ men and went after the malefactors who had taken Lot.
Alliances then, as now, are important. They served for the purpose of mutual defense, but were not without other advantages— “to the victor go the spoils.” Abram would have none of it for his own gain, but did accept operational expenses and that which rightly belonged to the allies under his command. He would not, by enriching himself with material gain, take credit for a victory that belonged to God alone.
It was, in a very narrow sense, a victory that was not a victory. Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem (also known as Jebus and Jerusalem) was present to speak a blessing on Abram. He serves here to point to the fact that Jesus, Who is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, would suffer and die in Jerusalem. His was a defeat that was not a defeat, as Jesus rose again on the third day, victorious over sin and death forever.
We pray: Lord of Heaven and Earth, keep us focused on Your Word, both that which foretold our deliverance at Jesus’ expense, and that which speaks more directly of His suffering and death in our place on the cross at Jerusalem; for it was not with silver or gold that we were redeemed, but with the precious blood of Christ. Amen.