Stewardship: A Token of Gratitude.

July 11th, 2009

Genesis 14:20  and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gave him a tenth of all.

Stewardship is taking care of the things God has given us, and managing them well. Here Abraham gives money, a tythe back to God. OK, question time, but first read the entire chapter of Genesis 14.

What happened here? Abram is in conversation with a local priest of God named Melchisidek. The first phrase is the tale end of the words being spoken by this high priest. "blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” The short answer is that we give back to God not only for what he has given but also for the protection he offers to us.

Jump back a few verses and we read how Abraham had been delivered and protected in a big way. Earlier, he had been sitting at home, minding his own business, when a man comes running up to his house. He had word that his nephew had been taken captive. Read all the way back to the start of the chapter and we find there were several local kings who got to fighting and went all through the valley doing battle. Abram's nephew was caught in the middle of the hostilities. He was taken captive along with several others.

The city where Abram's nephew lived was considered an evil place, and I'm sure that if it wasn't for the detail of the nephew being captured, Abram would have gladly left things be. He loves his nephew and so gathers up his men to go after the warring armies to reclaim what is his. He's getting involved in the fight, not taking sides or getting involved in the politics, but only to take back his nephew and his nephew's men. Besides, he's an 80 year old man. Possibly as old as 86 or so. Not quite a spring chicken anymore. He isn't out to prove anything to anybody, he just wants to help out his loved one.

Abram uses some good military strategy and defeats the enemies, and gets back all the captives and their possessions. Heading back to Sodom, he is greeted by two people, the King of Sodom, and Melchisedek, a King of Salem. Neither had gone out to fight. The King of Sodom should have, since he had a loss of people and valuables on the line. The King of Salem, or King of Peace apparently had nothing taken or lost. As a King of Peace, he was probably doing the same as Abram had been doing, not getting involved in somebody else's fights.

Melchisedek greets him with refreshments, ministers to the physical needs of Abram and his men, and blesses Abram, and gives the glory of the victory to God. Which is where our verse comes in. Abram saw the gratitude and a kindred spirit and gave him the tythe for his kindness and blessings. The tythe was simply a token gift back to God for taking care of the entire event for Abram.

What about the ten percent? Why that number, where did it come from? I don't know. It probably seemed like the right amount and the right thing to do on Abram's part. It was probably based on what little funds that Abram had on his person. People who go out to do battle tend to not carry an abundance of money on them., It might not have been very much at all, even though Abram had plenty of wealth back at the ranch. . One possible source of it might be from the property and valuables he rescued. He hadn't quite given back the goods to the King of Sodom yet so possibly it was a tenth of that. Given what happens next in the story, I tend to doubt it though.

Speaking of those valuables that were rescued, let's take a brief look at the character of the King of Sodom. The King of Sodom had nothing to offer to Abram on his return. Despite the extent of the losses of people and property he experienced, he didn't do anything to tend to Abram. Maybe he forgot, maybe he figured that Melchisedek's modest gift was enough. in a nutshell he was selfish and only had his eyes on his own things comeing back, and not giving any kind of help or support. You can tell by Abram's words that he must have already known this kings character, and what might happen if he should accept any reward. I can imagine Abram as he approached Sodom thinking to himself, "now just watch. That guy will probably snatch these people and things back without even a 'thank you', or 'how do you do'. Even if he does give me the tiniest amount, he'll probably hold it over my head forever about the high price I charged him for delivering what was his. He's just that kind. I'll just turn down anything from him. At least my nephew is safe, and that's all the reward I need." Abram's responce was to avoid being indebted in any way to this evil person.

Do you know somebody who is selfish and forgets to see the things that they get, but watches the things they give away under a magnifying glass? The best thing to do is to be involved as little as possible with them. Let the satisfaction of doing the right thing be its own reward, and don't accept favors to become indebted to them. But that's a bonus lesson, and getting away from the topic of Stewardship and tytheing.

Abram's act toward Melchisedek was a small token of recognition of his deliverance from the enemy and deliverance of the people. That act probably was the beginning of a series of more good things from God. The cash reward from the King of Sodom would have only been used and be gone after a while.

Was it worth it for Abram? Keep reading the next few chapters. Chapter 15 finds Abram meeting with God to recieve a covenant and prophecy for his life. Chapter 16 tells of the birth of Ishmael. Chapter 17 tells about the promise ofIsaac to be born within the year, and both Abram and Sarai have their names changed.

Was Abram blessed by God after this event? Do you think the far reaching affects of God's promises and covenants were far beyond the cash that the King of Sodom might have given Abram? I think so. God already had great plans for Abram. Melchisedek's blessing and the tythe might have contributed little to God's eventual blessings, but it certainly didn't hurt. Taking the cash, and becoming indebted to evil might have had some echoes of hardship that could return later. For example: The events about Ishmael's birth wasn't the plan God had for building Abram's nation. Ishmael did become a nation, and was later a returning sore spot for the nation of Israel all through their history.

Tytheing and being good stewards of what we have have impacts that extend beyond immediate riches. The change in attitude, the peace of mind, the assurance that a legacy will continue for decades, even centuries after we are gone can't be bought with money. Wealth is nice, but seek after the riches that God can provide.

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