Worship: Proclamation, Giving, Ritual
1 Chronicles 15:1–16; Genesis 14, 17, 28
Samuel Lesson #146
September 11, 2018
“Father, tonight as we come together, we are reminded again of Your grace, of Your goodness to us, Your manifold provisions for us, the way You give us what we need through Your Word and through God the Holy Spirit, that we may walk by the Spirit, and that through Him and through Your Word, the character of Christ, the image of Christ is developed within us.
“Father, we pray that as we study Your Word tonight, and we continue to talk about worship, that we may take this to reflect upon our own mental attitude, for worship takes place within each of our own minds. It is our own mental attitude. It’s not determined by external things but by our own focus, our own volition, our own decisions to focus upon You. We pray that You would help us to understand how this can be enhanced in our own life, especially through our reflection upon Your Word. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are in Genesis 12. We’ve been talking about tracing worship as it develops through the Scripture. This is something unusual for some people; it’s the idea of progressive revelation, that God revealed Himself to Adam and Eve in the garden. It may surprise you to think about the fact that if God had not revealed Himself as well as other things, but if there was not revelation to them in the Garden, what would they have known to do? Think about that. What would they have known about the world around them? What we see is fundamental to really human life and being human as being in the image and likeness of God is divine revelation. Man is created to have that rapport with God where God is the source and the foundation of his knowledge.
We live in a post-Enlightenment world today where we think that knowledge comes primarily and foundationally either from our senses or from our reason. It is forgotten that it is God Who gave us the senses and God Who gave us the reason and God Who informs us still through general revelation and then, as we come to His Word, through special revelation. That’s what we see at the very beginning in Genesis is this emphasis on revelation and then the disobedience to God’s revelation that occurs in Genesis 3, and then God provides the means of restoring that relationship to Him through sacrifice.
We’ve been focusing on sacrifice as a foundational element in a post-Fall world in order to have a relationship to God.
What we have seen is that failure to know the Word leads to a break down in worship. It is important for us individually that the Bible is, to coin a word, “LOGOS-centric”; it is Word-centered. LOGOS is the Greek word for “the Word” it is also the word for the “written Word” as well as the “living Word.”
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the LOGOS and the LOGOS was with God, and the LOGOS was God.” The Bible is LOGOS-centric, and we need to be LOGOS-centric and theocentric, or God-centered, in our lives. Otherwise, we don’t have worship. Worship is not me-centered or ego-centered. Worship is not man-centered; it’s not anthropocentric. Worship, as we see developed in the Scripture, is always related to the response to divine revelation.
The second thing we’ve learned is that sin must be dealt with before worship can take place. The worship that existed in the sanctuary of the Garden of Eden was broken by sin. God had to restore that, and He did so through teaching them about sacrifice when He clothed them with animal skins. Sin has to be dealt with first and foremost.
The third thing we’ve seen is that worship is on God’s terms, not man’s terms. We define worship on the basis of what God says. It’s not how we feel. It’s not how other people around us feel. It’s not even the environment that we’re in. Think about that because one of the fads that has been developing over the last 20 years is to create a certain ambience for worship.
Think about something as we go throughout these passages in Scripture. What kind of an ambience did God create in Genesis 3? What kind of ambience is created as Noah, his sons, their wives and his wife come off of the ark, and he begins to cut down wood or to find wood so that they can have a burnt offering and to find the seventh of the clean animals so that he can slaughter it and roast it on the fire as a burnt offering to God? What kind of atmosphere is there? Do the lights dim? Does the music come up slowly? Is there a little fog machine that blows smoke out to create the right atmosphere? None of those things.
As we go through the Scripture, we don’t see anything like that happening anywhere. Modern man has rejected God and the importance of a personal knowledge and walk with Him to such a degree that he has to artificially create what he has defined as the right worship tone and mood, so that he can call it worship. What we see in the Bible, and some things I may read tonight if we get to it, is that worship comes as a result of our personal understanding and walk with God and our reflection upon that and how that impacts our own soul. We start with God’s definition, not man’s definition.
We see that worship is based on sacrifice because of sin. That doorway to God, that entry to God must open only because there is a sacrifice, and there’s either the penalty paid or cleansing of sin. As we saw in our study in Genesis 12, worship leads to the proclamation of God’s character, which is what that phrase means “to call on the name of the Lord.”
At the end of Genesis 4:26, with Adam’s grandson, the statement was made, “Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” Then in Exodus 34 and Exodus 33 where God Himself is said to call on the name of the Lord, which tells us that it’s not prayer. It’s defined in the following verses as God displaying and describing verbally His character, His forgiveness. This comes right after the sin with the golden calf, and God talks about how He is gracious and merciful and forgiving. That is what it means to call on the name of the Lord—to talk about His essence, Who He is, and to proclaim that to people.
Slides 4 and 5
When it comes to sacrifice, the issue is not that it is seen by men but that it is seen by God. Later men may see it, but that is not the point. This is the point Jesus confronted the Pharisees with that they were doing things to be seen by men, and He says, no, you need to pray in your closet, which was an old Elizabethan word for your private chamber, your bedroom, not what we think of as a clothes closet. If you had to go pray in your closet, some of you may not be able to fit in there. Others of you have way too much room.
Fundamentally, we don’t do it to be seen by men. It is to show our submission to exalt God and to express our gratitude to God. It is a gift; that which we bring is of value.
We talked about when you bring the firstborn of the flock. This is something that takes a lot of effort and observation. You have to know which lamb was the firstborn in the spring. To make sure you don’t lose that lamb among all the others that are being birthed at that time, you have to pen that lamb off, and specially prepare the lamb and feed the lamb because this is the lamb you’re going to sacrifice to God. That’s going to cost time, effort, energy and money to take care of this lamb. I compared that to watching a junior-high or high-school kid in 4H or Future Farmers of America taking a young calf or any animal and raising it for a year or so to bring to the county fair or stock show.
Third, we see that sacrifice is the basis for fellowship with God. We see it in Genesis 3:21—that’s the very beginning— and then in Genesis 8:20–21. We see with Abraham, sacrifice becoming the basis for proclamation.
We just had that phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” once at the end of Genesis 4. They’re doing it throughout those generations leading up to the flood. There were probably some who were calling on the name of the Lord between the end of the Flood through the tower of Babel incident— not there, but just those who were on the earth, the descendants of Noah—and then at the time of Abraham.
As we’re going to see tonight, when Abraham comes back from his victory over the armies of the east, and he meets the priest-king of Salem who is a worshipper of God, where did he come from? Here you have a Gentile priest-king who is a worshipper of God Most High Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. There is nothing pagan about him, as we will see. There were those who called upon the name of the Lord. They’re just not mentioned in Scripture, but it’s surely indicated by the presence of Melchizedek.
One of the things we’re going to talk about as we get into the life of Abraham and work our way through Abraham and worship through the period of the patriarchs is I want you to have a conception of the geography we’re talking about. What I put up here on the screen is a map of the Middle East.
This large area that comes down here in the center is the Arabian Peninsula; most of that today is Saudi Arabia. Down at the base, you have Yemen and Kuwait and some other places along the Gulf. Here you have what was historically the Arabian Peninsula. This small peninsula up here, just below the red circle on the left is the Sinai Peninsula, at the base of which is traditionally the location of Mt. Sinai. We don’t know exactly where it was but somewhere on that peninsula. This is the ancient Middle East.
Over here to the right of the large peninsula, the Arabian Peninsula, you have the Persian Gulf. We hear a lot of talk about the Persian Gulf. To the right or east of the Persian Gulf, you see a lot of rugged territory, mountain ranges, and everything there. That today is called Iran—that is ancient Persia. Go to the area north or just above the Persian Gulf, you see the word Shinar. Shinar was the original name for Babylon, the Plains of Shinar. In the Second Gulf War when the American troops invaded Iraq, they came up from the south here, the two rivers that flow down through the Plains of Shinar, the Tigress and Euphrates. Somewhere near the end where they flow into the Persian Gulf is where Ur of the Chaldees was located. This is where Abraham lived when God called him in Genesis 12:1 and said, I’m going to take you to a land that I will show you. Leave your home; leave your family. This area was known in the ancient world as the Kingdom of Sumer.
Abraham was not a Sumerian; he was later called in Scripture as a wandering Aramean. Aram, is located in the area where you have the uppermost red circle. That area today is modern Syria. In northern Syria, about the middle of where that circle is, was a city called Haran.
This is where Abraham’s family had originated. He had left and established himself. He was probably a merchant of some sort down in Ur of the Chaldees. He leaves and goes back to Haran until his father Terah dies. Then he still has his nephew Lot with him, and he leaves there and comes into the center of this area, this circle on the left, which at that time is the land of Canaan.
That gives you your basic geography, your basic orientation. Up here in the far north, central to the west, that peninsula sticking out is modern Turkey. It was a number of different regions and nations in the ancient world.
We’re zooming in just a little bit more. We have Ur of the Chaldees identified on this map at the lower right. Haran is in the upper circle. Then I have three circles to the left in the land of Canaan. The northern most is identified as Dan, that is ancient Laish. That’s important because we’re going to look at what happens in Genesis 14.
In Genesis 14, you have these four kings who come from the Tigress–Euphrates, the area of Babylon, and they brought a major army with them. They are invading the land that God is going to give to Abraham and his descendants. This is a power control thing. Throughout Scripture, you always see this contest, this battle back and forth between Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon representing the kingdom of man, and Jerusalem representing God’s kingdom and God’s plan.
At the far north is the town later called Dan, but in the Canaanite period, it’s called Laish. Abraham will come down from the north, and as he comes down, he’s going to go past Laish, and he drops down to about the middle of this circle to Shechem.
This is where he first builds an altar and calls on the name of the Lord in Genesis 12:6–7. God is going to make a promise there that He’s going to give all of this land that he sees to Abraham. That is where he first calls on the name of the Lord, and then he will leave there and go a little further south to camp out between Bethel and Ai. Then he goes past this little Canaanite village called Jezreel or Salem, which is later renamed Jerusalem.
He will then go further south down to Beersheba. We see that displayed on this zoomed-in map. We have Dan in the north, then Shechem, then Bethel to the north and Ai where he camps out.
That’s such a cool thing; you’ve heard me talk about it before. The first time I was driving on that highway, and we stopped and the guide said, “Over here on your left is Bethel, and over here to the right, you can see that hill that’s Et-Tell. That’s where Ai is located. We’re right in the middle.” I was back there two years ago with Joel Kramer, and he took us to a site, maybe three or four hundred yards off of that highway where you could still see the floor of a Byzantine church that was built there in the 4th century.
In America, we got here late. We got here around the 1600s or 1700s, and we go somewhere, and someone tells us legend about some site, and there’s no documentation or anything. When you go into the Middle East and somebody says around AD 200 or 300, this is where Abraham sacrificed to God, where Isaac sacrificed to God, then you can pretty much take it to the bank that they know what they’re talking about because they’ve been commemorating things on that site for maybe 2,000 years already.
When the Byzantine church was built there, it was built on something that was already there as a memorial to what had happened there just between Bethel and Ai and events we’ll look at tonight and maybe next week.
Then Abraham goes south to Beersheba, and he will spend much of his life in and around Beersheba, but a few other times, he will come up north, and he will come up to the area around Shechem again.
What we learned from observing his sacrifices and the sacrifices later on is that sacrifices are not made because God needs us, but because we need God. We’re not bringing food to God. This is the pagan idea that somehow they need to feed God. The Canaanites would bring beer and put it on the altar, like God needs a beer. You’ve heard me joke about this, but there are strong drink offerings in the Levitical laws and legislation. It’s not bringing scotch and vodka.
Strong drink is a bad translation—again the thundering diction of the King James. The Hebrew word refers to barley beer. Why is that important? Because the barley harvest has come in, and you are producing something from the barley. Beer in the ancient world was not quite as alcoholic as it is today, but it is a way that many times, workers would carry that to lunch. They had some sort of gourd or wineskin or something like that that they would carry beer in because it was nutritious, and it was easy to carry. That’s what they’d drink for lunch. Some things haven’t changed much except perhaps the alcohol content. When God wants a strong drink offering, this is bringing the best, the produce of the field. It was an agricultural culture.
What we saw last time was in Genesis 12:5. One of the reasons this is important is in Genesis 15:6, so you might want to turn there. This is one of the more interesting debates that goes on in the Old Testament. It’s very important to understand this because a lot of people don’t really know how you got saved in the Old Testament. C.I. Scofield really didn’t understand that. In his Scofield Reference Bible, he thought they were saved by keeping the Law. You’re not saved by keeping the Law; you’re saved the same way in the Old Testament that you’re saved in the New Testament—by grace through faith in the promise of God.
In the Old Testament, the promise was a future Savior, who would pay for sins. Now we look back to a completed salvation by a risen Savior. That’s the difference. In the Old Testament, they believed the promise of God. He made a promise to Eve in the Garden that her Seed, the Seed of the woman, would defeat the seed of the serpent. They believed that.
More is added as you go through time and through progressive revelation, but when we get to Genesis 15:6, we have this statement, “And he—that is Abraham—believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” The word there for “accounted to him for righteousness” is the Hebrew word, chashab, which means to “account something.” It’s an accounting term, to reckon it to their account. Today in modern Hebrew, chashab is used for a computer and computing—various forms of the word. It’s like God is adding up your sins, but you’ve been given righteousness, so that cancels out the sins, and you have the righteousness of God that’s given to you.
Abraham gets righteousness. The debate that comes up is when did he believe God? What did he believe from God? I touched on this last time, and it wasn’t until I started going through this recently that I’ve come to understand the significance of this. In Genesis 15:6, it’s sort of a paraphrase. God has promised him that he’s going to have a seed, and that seed is going to come from his own body. It’s not going to come through adoption through his servant, Eliezer.
He makes a promise at the end of Genesis 15:5, “So shall your descendants be.” Then it says Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the Lord.” A lot of people just read it without understanding what lies behind the Hebrew tenses there. They think Genesis 15:6 follows verse 5. But when it says, “And he believed,” it uses a verb construction, a past tense that indicates that Genesis 15:6 is really a parenthetical reminder that God is making this promise to Abraham because he has already at some unspecified time in the past believed in Yahweh, and God imputed it to him as righteousness at that particular point. When you look at that, then you know that Abraham has already believed.
When did he believe in the Lord? Then you turn back, and you see that he shows all of these acts of faith in Genesis 14, 13, and 12. In Genesis 12:1, it just begins in the middle of Abram’s life, and it says that “Now the Lord had said to Abram,” and then you have this command of God lek lǝkā to get out of your country and from your family and from your father’s house. Is He talking to Abram as an unbeliever or as a believer?
He’s talking to him as a believer because we know that when he leaves home and goes to Haran—and this is what I was pointing out last time—that Genesis 12:5, “Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered,—this is when they’re in Haran after his father died—and the souls whom they had made in Haran.” That’s the literal translation from the Hebrew.
The way it’s translated is awkward because it looks like they had acquired slaves and servants while they were in Haran, but it doesn’t use the word for acquisition there. It doesn’t use the words that are used for purchasing or owning a slave. It uses the simple literal meaning that “they had made these souls.” How does that happen?
Is the first time that he calls on the name of the Lord when he builds the altar at Shechem? No. He was already calling on the name of the Lord, but this is the first time he calls on the name of the Lord in the land that God had promised him. That’s why that’s emphasized. The implication here from Genesis 12:5 is that while he was in Haran, he is making proclamation about who Yahweh is and what He has done for him. That means he is proclaiming the gospel in Haran, and they have made these souls in terms of they have been born again. They have come to salvation, and now this huge entourage of people come with him.
In Genesis 14, we’re going to see that it is over 300 young men that are there that are warriors that he has put together as an army. He’s a great military commander because he goes after this major army from the kings of the east and defeats them. We see this view of Abram where he is compared to a Bedouin sheik or chieftain because he put together this huge, huge army, and he has such wealth in terms of the number of people who are with him and their flocks and their herds.
I pointed this out last time, this is what happens, that he understands Who God is, and he makes proclamation about that and as a result, he goes to Shechem, and he goes further. He’s making proclamation all the way down through the land.
He builds an altar at Shechem. He goes down to this location between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, and he calls on the name of the Lord. He does this all of the way through his life. We get to Genesis 21:33 near the end, just before the command to sacrifice Isaac, and we’re told that he plants a tamarisk tree—that has a memorial sense to it—in Beersheba. There he “called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.”
Here we see that there’s something added in terms of this name of God, that He is the eternal God. There is a progression that occurs in terms of Abram’s understanding of Who God is, and his understanding of the essence of God and his proclamation of the gospel. I would guess that most of you here who have been saved for more than 15, 20, or 30 years, that your understanding today of the gospel and of the Trinity and of Who Jesus is and what He did on the Cross is much more profound than it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. You can do a much better job of proclaiming the gospel because you have a better knowledge base.
This is a tamarisk tree at Beersheba. It’s not the one that was there, but that’s what a tamarisk tree looks like—a bit like a mimosa tree or something like that. It doesn’t have large flat leaves; it has skinny leaves like a mesquite tree.
Slide 14 skipped
What we see is that Abram has a very different view of God than the pagans around him. He has a view of God as a holy God, and he has a very high view of this God. This God is not like the pagan gods who are part of creation, but his view of God is that God is the Creator-God who made the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them. He understands that everything he sees, everything that has been made, everything comes from God, and has been created out of nothing. He has a view of ex nihilo creation that no pagan in the ancient world had.
There’s no pagan religion that has any kind of view of a creator-god. The gods are already in existence in terms of their mythology. There may be descriptions of battles between gods, who have very physical type bodies. One of the gods is killed, his body is cut up, part of the body is used to make the heavens, and part of the body is used to make the earth. Those are the kinds of things you find in paganism. With Abram, he has a distinct God, a holy God, and this is a very high view of God.
Something we learn in worship is that a high view of God should go hand in hand with a robust view of sin. Often what we find when we talk to people is that they don’t have a very high view of God, and they have a very low view of sin. Their view of sin is trivial, pretty superficial. If we really spend the time thinking and reflecting upon Who God is, that’s part of worship. The Bible talks about it as meditation. Biblical meditation isn’t letting everything go out of your mind; it is focusing your thoughts and reflecting on Scripture.
Bible study can be part of worship. You go through your basic foundational way of learning the Bible which is to read it, and then as you read some passages, you think “I wonder what that means?”
You may do any number of things. If you’ve gone through the Bible Study Methods course, you could do word studies, you can break it down, you can look things up in a commentary, you can look to see how I taught the passage. That’s going to give you a better understanding, but you need to take time just to think about it yourself on the basis of what you know about Scripture. That’s called meditation.
When we look at the Psalms for example, we see the results of David’s meditations as he’s reflecting upon Who God is, and he reflects upon God’s plan and God’s promises to him.
Just recently—I’ve known of this individual for some time historically—I came across a book called The Devotions of Sir Lancelot Andrews. Lancelot Andrews was the head of the translation committee for the King James Version. He was arguably a child prodigy in languages. He picked them up like children pick up dirt. By the time he was 10 or 11 years old, he knew all of the biblically-related languages plus he was fluent in several other languages in Europe at the time. He becomes one of the most profound language and biblical scholars of his generation.
He preached many times at the court of St. James: James I of England who becomes king after Elizabeth died, who was Elizabeth I, the queen of England. He was considered by some to be the greatest preacher of his generation. He rises through the ranks. He is the man who, if you read in your King James or New King James Bible, translated the Hebrew into the King James from Genesis through 2 Samuel. That was Lancelot Andrews.
My signature on my e-mails, sometimes when I put it in, the closing quote is from Lancelot Andrews. He said, “We preach not what men wish to hear, but what men at one day in the future will wish they had heard.” That is a profound statement.
He was a man of his time. We don’t produce people like this. There are some people who do something like this. They like to journal and they like to write diaries, but that’s not something that is endemic to our culture. When you don’t have television and you don’t have movies and you’re not constantly being entertained by your iPhone and your iPad and whatever else you might have that entertains you, then what do you do with yourself? You think profound thoughts.
You’ve heard me say on many occasions about the classic hymns—I want to talk about what I just said a minute. For about 10 or 15 years, I’ve heard this phrase that someone or something is “old school.” It always rubbed me wrong. I’ve thought about this recently, and “old school” is a term used to minimize and dismiss something that may be very, very good, but it’s considered old-fashioned, and it’s treated as if, you know, we just do it better now.
Let me use a fashion analogy. In fashion, you have fads and trends. We’ve all seen them come and go. You’ve also seen things that are classic. A navy-blue blazer is a classic. No matter what the fads do, a navy-blue blazer is always in style; it’s a classic style. You have certain dresses that women wear that are just classic designs. They’re as much in style today as they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago—purses, hats—because they’re just of a classic style.
There are things about music and hymns that are classic. They endure through the ages. Most of the “contemporary Christian choruses” that were sung when I was in college and then later in my 30s at a church I took over in Irving are no longer sung. They’re not classic; they will not endure. They are something that is ephemeral and will blow away in the breeze because there’s no depth to them. They’re not the product of somebody who has reflected profoundly and has been impacted profoundly in the depths of their soul.
At the time of Lancelot Andrews in the late 1500s to early 1600s, people would write down their thoughts, and they would compose prayers and think through those prayers. Those prayers were deep and profound personal reflections of the Word of God. After Lancelot Andrews died, it was discovered that he had been writing down his prayers. He would write them down so that he could concentrate and reflect and pull up key phrases and ideas from Scripture which he knew. He wrote them down so that he could pray those prayers, and they would not just be something off the top of his head at the moment of the day. That’s not something that was unique to him. There are books and books of these kinds of things that were produced in the Church of England and among Puritans and separatists during this period of the 16th century.
I have downloaded this. I’m going to read some of these as we go through the coming weeks to give you an idea. This was never written to be seen by anybody. This is an individual who is writing this between him and God, and when he talks to God, he wants to say it the best way he can, and he wants to get it right. It’s not written for anybody else to ever see, but it was seen and it’s been published as many were.
This is his view—talk about a high view of God and a high view of sin—this is a prayer of confession of sin. Now some of the language is a little different, it’s antiquated. The opening line he says:
Merciful and pitiful Lord … —Now pitiful today means something quite different; its root meaning was full of pity, and by pity they meant compassion. So, we think of pitiful as something that’s really sad, but that’s not what it meant at that point, so I just wanted to make that point—longsuffering and full of compassion, I have sinned, Lord. I have sinned against Thee. O wretched man that I am, I have sinned, Lord, against Thee much and grievously in observing lying vanities—often, when you and I have been exposed to Hollywood’s version of the Puritans, we get this impression of this arrogance and this legalism. That’s not what you see here; this is a man who looks at himself and sees like Isaiah in Isaiah 6, he’s unworthy to be in the presence of God in his prayer. He’s working his way through confession.
I conceal nothing. I make no excuses. I give Thee glory, O Lord, this day. I denounce against myself my sins. Indeed, I have sinned against the Lord, and thus and thus have I done. I have sinned and perverted that which was right and it profited me not. And what shall I now say or with what shall I open my mouth? What shall I answer seeing that I have done it without plea, without excuse, self-condemned am I. I have destroyed myself, O Lord. Righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto me, confusion of face. And Thou art just in all that is brought upon me for Thou hast done right, but I have done wickedly. And now, Lord, what is my hope? Art not thou Lord? Truly my hope is even in Thee. If hope of salvation remaineth to me, if Thy lovingkindness vanquish it the multitude of my iniquities. O remember what my substance is, the work of Thy hands, the likeness of Thy countenance, the reward of Thy blood, a name from Thy name, a sheep of Thy pasture, a son of Thy covenant. Forsake not the work of Thine own hands. Hast Thou made in vain Thine own image and likeness, in vain if Thou destroy it? And what profit is there in my blood? Thine enemies will rejoice. May they never rejoice, O Lord. Grant not to them my destruction.
He goes on for three more pages. That’s just the prayer of confession. What that tells us is this is a man who has thought about the Scripture. He’s read it, he knows what it means, he’s gone to Bible class, he’s done his Bible study, and what it brings him to is a personal face-to-face encounter with the Holy God of Scripture. As such, he knows he is not worthy to even come to Him in prayer without first confessing sin. You read through it, and you see that he understands grace. He understands his sin is paid for, but confession doesn’t mean to treat sin cavalierly or lightly. I’m not saying that we need to be going through this, but what I’m saying is that when we think about worship, it’s not superficial.
When we read the classic hymns of the faith, we see that the people who wrote those thought deeply and profoundly about who God was and what God had provided for them. There is a depth there that continues through centuries. We sing these hymns generation after generation, decade after decade, century after century, because they are classic, and they teach and reflect upon the basic doctrines of Scripture. That’s what we see there. It shows that he has a very high view of God and a very high view of sin. Many people who are grace-oriented have a low view of sin. When we reflect upon what it took for Christ to pay for our sin, it might give us a greater appreciation of the damage.
Sunday morning, I talked about the reparation sacrifice that that is the word used to describe Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross. Someone asked me, “What all did Christ have to pay back, in what sense did man defraud God?” God created the heavens and the earth and the seas and everything was perfect, and by one decision, man destroyed everything that God had made. That’s a pretty serious defrauding. Jesus Christ paid for all of that beyond anything that we can possibly imagine. He did everything ten times over by the payment of His death because of sin. That’s something to reflect upon; not to mire ourselves in some sort of guilt trip or anything like that, but because it should lead us to a wonder of God’s grace and forgiveness.
We look at what happens, as I talked about before in Exodus 32, about the golden calf incident, and we see God declaring His name (Exodus 34:6–7), God calling upon the name of the Lord. What’s He doing? He’s emphasizing His lovingkindness, His graciousness, His mercy, His forgiving to the thousandth generation. All of this describes the depth of His love and His mercy. How frequently do we stop and spend 15, 20, 30 minutes just thinking about how that impacts our own lives? That’s what builds in us a profound spiritual maturity and depth. That’s what we see when we read some of these types of things. As I said before, they’re not written to be read; they were just someone’s individual private reflections upon God designed to help them focus more in their own prayer life.
We come to Genesis 14. Genesis 14 is the story of this war that takes place. Genesis 14:1, “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations.” The real leader in this group is said to be Chedorlaomer when the first one listed is Amraphel, the king of Shinar. Shinar is Babylon. He’s the real leader of this coalition.
They come in; they’re going to make war with the five kings of the valley, which include the two kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. These aren’t great kings; these are territorial rulers over the area of Sodom, the area of Gomorrah, the area of Admah and Zeboiim and Bela which is called Zoar. They come in and they swoop down and they destroy these towns and capture all of the plunder that they can including the sheep and herds. They move south of the Dead Sea and then back up to the north. Among the captives—it doesn’t talk about them killing anyone—they take Lot, his wife and his daughters, captive and head north.
Abram hears that Lot’s been taken captive in Genesis 14:14, and he takes 318 trained servants. Often, we move past that pretty quickly. This is his security team; these are his Shomrim, to use a Hebrew word that was the precursor to the IDF, the Watchers. These are trained warriors, and he’s going to go into combat. It doesn’t say that these are the only ones that were there; he took some of the Hittites from the area with him. They go up and they go in hot pursuit of these four kings as they head north.
They have attacked these cities on the east side of the Dead Sea. Here’s Zoar as we believe it is on the southern tip of the Dead Sea. They’ve come around to the west side, and they’ve headed north. Abram and his men are going to overtake him at the Canaanite city of Laish.
One of the interesting things we do when we go to Israel is, we go up to Tel Dan. This is the ancient Canaanite gate at Laish. You’re looking at a gate that Abram looked at. Isn’t that cool? Abram probably went right by this gate on his way, and he may have even gone past it on the way back. This is the size of it at the archeological dig. Actually, the picture on the left was taken 12 years ago. The picture on the right was taken this summer .
This is the model that they put together, so that we can see what this gate would have looked like when the city was strong and when it had its walls around it for protection. They’ve got little figures down here on the steps walking up to the gate.
Here’s a close-up of it on the right of what we see on the left. That’s the gate at Laish.
Abram defeats them. Why does Abram do that, other than just rescuing Lot? Why is he rescuing everybody else? Why doesn’t he just send in an A-team to pull Lot and his family out? He completely destroys the military capacity of the enemy, and he recovers all of the plunder, he rescues all of the captives, and he’s going to restore them. Why does he do that? Because God told him in Genesis 12:3 that you are to be a blessing. He’s fulfilling his divine mission to be a blessing to his neighbors.
On his way back, he’s met in Genesis 14:17 by the king of Sodom. The king comes out to meet him, and the king of Sodom wants to get a little credit for some of this as well— he’s in it for what’s in it for him.
They stop here at the Valley of Shaveh. Jerusalem is located right here below this second circle. The Valley of Shaveh is off to the west of Jerusalem. They are going to have a meeting with the priest-king of Jerusalem. You’ve got to remember that probably at this time, because later on when you get to the city of Jebus, it’s only about six or seven acres; it’s not that large. You get here, and it’s probably much smaller than that—maybe two or three acres. But a priest-king comes out.
In Genesis 14:18, we’re told, “Then Melchizedek …” which means “king of righteousness.” That’s not his name; that’s his title. Melchi means king. Melekh is the Hebrew word for king, so when you put a possessive on it, it changes to melchi. Zedek is the Hebrew word for righteousness. This means “king of righteousness.” Now that’s interesting. He is the king of Salem.
The Jewish tradition here— and this goes way back before the time of Christ— is that this is Shem, the son of Noah. I think that’s possible. At least if you work out the timelines, Shem would have been by this time four or five hundred years of age, but he wouldn’t necessarily have died yet, looking at how long men of his generation lived. He would not have died until Abraham was probably 150 years old.
It’s interesting what some of the Jewish traditions bring. We can’t give it the credibility of Scripture, or we can’t check it out anyway, so you can’t be dogmatic about it, but I’ve always thought that would make a lot of sense because it is that line of Shem that is a spiritual line from Noah.
It is the line of Shem in Noah’s prophecy there [Genesis 9:21–28], when the boys got him drunk and shamed him because he’s lying naked, drunk in his tent. Ham ridicules him, and the other two back into the tent holding a blanket showing respect for their father. Then he awakes and announces this curse on the descendants of his sons, and Shem is going to be the one that has the spiritual focus. Abram is a descendent of Shem.
Genesis 14:18, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.” This isn’t communion. You’ll find some people who will say, that’s communion. That’s typical. We’re going to have a celebration; we’ve had a great victory. We’re going to bring out food! We’re going to bake all of this bread and have all of this wine, and we’re going to have a party. We’re going to have a great time and a great celebration.
You think about all the festivals later on in Israel. They were times of celebration. All of the families would come together at Passover, at Pentecost. You would go and you would worship the Lord, but you’re not home. You don’t have the chores on the farm to do, and everybody gets together and celebrates God’s grace in their lives. It’s a great family time just like at Christmas in our culture; we all get together. Families come at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we have a great time and eat way too much food.
Melchizedek comes out; he brings out food, and he blesses Abram. He pronounces a blessing on him, and he says, Genesis 14:19, “Blessed be Abram of El Elyon.” El is the word for God; Elyon is the word for all-powerful, almighty God. He identifies God as the “God Most High.”
Then he says He is—it’s translated “the Possessor of heaven and earth.” The Hebrew word is qanah. It sounds like the same root word for Cain. Remember Eve says in Genesis 4:1, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” There’s this homonym that also means “to create.” It’s possible that’s what Eve is saying there is, “I have created a man with the help of the Lord.”
According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, which has been a standard Hebrew lexicon, this word is used of God as “originating” or “creating.” What Melchizedek is saying is “Blessed be Abram by God Most High—El Elyon—the Creator of the heavens and the earth.” He’s not a pagan because no pagan would ever think of any of their gods as the one who created the heavens and the earth. Abram and Melchizedek are going to have a bonding moment here because they both worship the same God.
In Genesis 14:20, Melchizedek goes on to say, “And blessed be God Most High.” That doesn’t mean they’re giving something to God; it means that they are praising God because God has given Abram the victory over the armies of the east. They’ve rescued everybody, and no life has been lost. He’s been able to recover all the plunder. “Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then we have this statement, Genesis 14:20b, “And he gave him a tithe of all.” Hmm. You’ve heard many sermons on tithing that Abram is giving a tithe here, and this is what we should follow.
The only difference is that in Genesis 14:16, we read, “So he—Abram—brought back all the goods,—that’s all the plunder that the kings of the east had taken from the five kings of the valley—and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people.” He’s giving a tithe of the plunder to Melchizedek; he’s not touching his own bank account here. I’m not saying that to minimize Abram’s generosity, but what he’s doing is from the plunder, what was stolen from the people, God had given it back to them. From that, he is giving a tribute of gratitude to Melchizedek.
This is not ever to be used as a pattern for giving because he’s not giving his own money. There’s no sacrificial giving going on here. It’s free-will giving; there’s no mandate to ever give ten percent. This had become standard.
What we learn from this is worship includes the paying of tribute or offering something in gratitude to God for some blessing in our lives. We give thanks to God, and we exhibit this by giving something in relation to the service of God.
Something else we see here that is involved in worship is that worship sometimes involves vows or making oaths. That’s going to relate to the fact that later on we’ll see that oaths are that which initiate a covenant. There were a lot of covenants in the Old Testament that didn’t involve sacrifice. Most people think it’s the sacrifice that initiates the covenant, but a sacrifice didn’t initiate God’s covenant with Phineas, the grandson of Aaron.
You don’t have a sacrifice with the oaths, the covenants that are made between Abimelech of Gerar, who is one of the Philistines and Abraham at Beersheba over who gets the water rights to which wells. There’s no sacrifice; there’s just an oath that is sworn. It’s the swearing of the oath that initiates a covenant.
The king of Sodom wants to get a little credit for all of this, and he goes to Abram and says, Genesis 14:21, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” You know you ought to get something out of this; there’s nothing wrong with that. Give me the people and take the goods. Genesis 14:22–23, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the Lord,—Yahweh, he has sworn an oath—God Most High,—El Elyon—the Possessor of heaven and earth, 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”—’ ”
Genesis 14:24, “except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me:—and these describe the sons of the Hittites from around Hebron—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”
Later on, as we go through this, we’ll see with Abram that worship involves rituals. In Genesis 17, we have the ritual of circumcision.
In the Church Age, what you’ll often see people do is they will relate this to the New Covenant, which many people think is in effect today, and it’s not. They say that it is the Lord’s Table. That’s not the analogy. The analogy is baptism.
Spirit baptism is that which makes the Church Age unique and distinguished from all other believers. That is the sign of the Church Age. It’s not communion; it is baptism by the Holy Spirit. It is our identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Worship involves rituals. That would include why we do water baptism or Christian baptism is because that is a teaching aid to teaching people about positional truth and baptism by the Holy Spirit.
We also see in Abram that worship involves intercessory prayer. What happens in Genesis 18 is that he finds out that God is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and he’s basically interceding with God to allow Lot and his family to escape before God judges Sodom.
Later on, with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, he pulls the same deal with him that he did with the pharaoh down in Egypt, and he says that Sarah is my sister—that was a half-truth because she is his half-sister—not my wife. Abimelech puts her in his harem, and then God begins to bring judgment on all the people in Abimelech’s household because He’s got to protect Sarah and the Seed from involvement by any other male other than Abram. They all get sick and when Abram realizes this, he confesses his sin, takes ownership for it, and then intercedes with God to restore their health and their strength. We see that worship is obedience, and worship is Abram being a blessing to those around him.
Two more things, and then we’ll be through with Abram. In Genesis 22:14, after God provides a ram as a substitute for Isaac, the whole scenario where Abram takes Isaac up to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him, and then God stays his hand. It was all about trust. It was not about God wanting Abram to kill his son. It was “Are you going to trust Me with the promise that I made to you? Do you really truly trust Me? I’ve given you everything you’ve wanted and now I’m asking you to give it all up, but I promise that you will always have it. Are you really willing to trust Me no matter what?” That’s what Genesis 22 is all about. When God provides a substitute ram for Isaac, Abram calls the name of the place Yahweh yireh, “The Lord will provide.” Genesis 22:14, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” God is the One who provides everything.
Last of all, worship involves burial by faith. I don’t think it’s right to take this to say that Christians ought to be buried. Some people do that, but that’s not what I’m pointing out here. I’m pointing out here that Sarah died, and in the ancient world, what you would have is that they would take you and put you in a tomb until the body decomposed, and the bones were left. Then they would take the bones, and they would put the bones into a pit or tomb with your ancestors. Thus, the phrase, “You’ll be gathered to your ancestors.”
Typically, what would happen was when Sarah died, they would take her bones back to Haran to be buried with her family, to have her bones gathered with her ancestors, but God’s given them a new land. [Genesis 23.] Abram is going to buy the cave of Machpelah; he’s going to bury Sarah there because this is the land; we are the ancestors; this is the land God has given us. I’m not taking her back somewhere else. What happens later on?
When Jacob dies in Egypt, what do they do? They take his body back and bury him in the cave of Machpelah. When Joseph died, Joseph made them promise that when God delivered them from slavery in Egypt, what were they to do? Take his body back, and they were to bury it in the Promised Land, and the burial site is in Shechem. You can to this day, and I’ve been there, go to the tomb of Joseph.
We see that all of these things are being developed for us to talk about worship because Abram and his family understand that all that there is, all that they have, and all the time that they have is all the Lord’s. It’s not theirs. That the mentality that’s at the core of worship. We’ll come back and talk about Jacob next time.
“Father thank You for this opportunity to study, to reflect, to be reminded of Your grace but also Who You are as the Creator God of all things. We cannot imagine this. We can sit and we can think and reflect, which we should do, but we cannot even begin to probe the depths of what it means that You are the Most High God, El Elyon, Creator of the heavens and the earth.
“And how foundational it is to worship, to understand that You are the Creator of all things, and thus this issue with evolution and this debate strikes at the very core of worship because it destroys Your identity as the Creator, the unique God, the Holy God of all creation. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”