God’s Gifts Inspire Us

October 13, 2019

Pastor John Hering

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 lined up for battle in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, they fell there.  Those who survived fled to the hills. The raiders took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food, and then they went on their way. Because he had been living in Sodom, they took also Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, and his possessions and went on their way.

One person escaped and came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks that belonged to Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and Aner. They were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his relative was taken captive, he led out all his trained men who were born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and pursued them as far as Dan. During the night he divided his servants into groups to attack them. He struck them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. He brought back all the possessions. He also brought back his relative Lot, and his possessions, and the women also, and the rest of the people.

After Abram’s return from the defeat of Kedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High. He blessed Abram and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the goods for yourself.”

Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted up my hand to swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, so that you cannot say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except that which the young men have eaten and the share belonging to the men who went with me, namely, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share.”

Genesis 14:8-24

I have three pairs of boots in my closet.  I would really like to have a new pair of boots.  What kind should I get?  Justin’s? Ariat’s?  Tony Lama’s?  Durango’s?  I have a couple pairs of boots at home with some miles on the heel, but I could really use a nice pair for church this winter.   So, how much will money, you know—the numbers—drive my decision?   I would really like to pick out boots without worrying about how much they will cost. 

You’ve probably gone through a similar discussion with yourself when it has come to purchasing a home, a car, clothes and maybe even the food you eat.  I know our leadership at Divine Peace has these discussions.  While it is true that Divine Peace goes through a budgeting process, you’ll be happy to know that the numbers don’t really drive what we do, but our ministry does.  In other words, our EC and Coordinators set out the work we are going to do as a congregation and then we come up with a spending plan to make those activities happen.  Our offerings make these activities possible.  During this process you will hear, “What can we do as a church to share God’s love and forgiveness with more people?”   We really do want to use the blessings God has given to us through God’s people to carry out our ministry.”

I can tell you one story of a person who said their church raises their support by having bazaars and an annual carnival to raise their funds.  He was surprised to learn that we didn’t.   I had a proud pastor moment when I could say, “Our church is funded by the offerings from our people.”  Today, I would even argue that since there are some mighty generous givers at Divine Peace, it proves that

God’s Gifts Inspire Us!

His gifts are remarkable      

We have had several Old Testament readings recently about Abram.  He left his home country to set up shop as a shepherd in a new land.  He had his nephew, Lot, along and they ran into a “good” problem.  The Lord had blessed them so richly that their cattle didn’t have enough water and they had to split up.  Abraham generously offered Lot the choice of land. Lot picked the greener pastures, but the areas of wicked population.  And you got the point of today’s Word of God—Abram had been so blessed by the Lord that he had enough men taking care of his flocks that when the bad guys came in and kidnapped Lot and his neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham put together a little army of 318!  Off he went, chased down the bad guys, defeated them, rescued the people and their belongings and brought them back home.  Whew!   Remarkable!

Yes, the rescue was remarkable, but on the way home something even more remarkable happened! Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  So, what’s your first question?  Who is this priest?  Up to this point in Genesis we can trace back the ancestry of the people talked about in Genesis.   But, we have no such record for Melchizedek.   Maybe you could think of it like this.  Your mom puts a piece of bread in the toaster and runs into the laundry room to throw the wash into the dryer.  You just happened to walk into the kitchen about 45 seconds later and “Pop!” a piece of yummy toast came flying out of the toaster!   So, while we don’t know specifically who Melchizedek was, we do know he was there to give glory to God and serve Abram!  Remarkable!

Maybe you’re not impressed.  Let’s answer a second question: What does Melchizedek mean?  “Melcki” means “king” and “zedek” means “righteousness.”   And the 3rd question: Where did he live?  “Salem” which means “Peace.”   In this account where most of the kings were ruling with force, he was a “king of righteousness” who ruled with “peace.”    Remarkable!

You also noticed that he was a priest, that is a go-between of God Most High.”  A priest would know how important is was to have a mediator between sinful people and a holy God.  Later on in the Old Testament, the people would bring their offerings to the priests to be sacrificed for sin.   The animals they sacrificed were the temporary substitute for their sins as a foreshadowing of The Substitute, Jesus Christ, who would offer his perfect life through death on a cross to wash our sins away.  God’s gifts are Remarkable!

The account also seems to indicate that this was the first meeting between Melchizedek and Abram, and what concern was shown! Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  But, there was so much more!  What passed from his hands to Abram’s tummy was nothing compared to what passed from his words to Abram’s heart!  He blessed Abram and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.  What a blessing from God!  He announces the goodness and kindness from God which just showed itself at the defeat of enemies.  God’s gifts are Remarkable!

Are you catching on?  Melchizedek was a type, a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Great Priest, King and Prophet.  Jesus’ had a unique heritage from the line of King David, but was conceived by the Holy Spirit—by God himself.  Jesus’ name = God’s saves.  And Christ = Anointed One is perfect for his unique mission to save the world from the curse of sin.   Also, as our King, Jesus defeated Satan by crushing his power while on the cross to give us true peace, and then ruling our hearts and the affairs of the whole world for our benefit.  Jesus has all power to fill closets, cupboards, freezers and garages with all sorts of blessings way beyond what we all need.  And the best—Jesus fills our souls with peace of sins forgiven.  He sacrificed himself as our Substitute to pay for our sin.  Finally, Jesus is our Prophet who announced the Good News that we are freed from the power of Satan, the curse of sin, and the power of death itself.  God’s gifts are Remarkable!  Jesus is God’s greatest gift that is so inspiring!   We praise God for his remarkable gifts!   Then we also get to

Reflect His Gifts in our Life

Would you agree that the Bible portrays Abram as a very capable person?  He’s with it, wouldn’t you say?  Well, after Abram meets Melchizedek it is also clear that nothing went unnoticed by Abram.  He got it.  He understood.  He realized there was no parade necessary, and that gracious gifts were poured out from God through Melchizedek to a sinner just like you and me.  But, those remarkable gifts left an impression on Abram’s heart.  Abram gave him a tenth of everything.  Why 10%, not 5%, 8%, or 12%?  We aren’t told.  But, we do know this gift was reflective.  It means Abram put some thought into it.   If Abram was here in this pulpit right now speaking to us, what might he say?  “Well, take a look around!  I have been so blessed by God to have so many cattle and servants, yes even an army to rescue my nephew!   I have been so blessed!  Remarkable!  So, I put some thought into it.   I really didn’t think, “How much should I give this guy?” but more like, “WOW! How remarkable that I have been given so many blessings from God to manage.  And not just from any God, but God Most High, the only God there is, the God who saw the misery of my sin and promised a solution for it.  Remarkable, so I put some thought into it.  I thought my gift should proportionately reflect the thankfulness of my heart.  Look, Melchizedek just gave me some food – that’s a remarkable gift, too.  I’m so grateful, I think I’ll put some thought into it.”   I see a patterned developing here.  You, too?  Abram was looking at the remarkable gifts he had already received and reflected on how his gift might proportionately reflect his thankful heart from the blessings he had already received from his good and gracious God.

How different from the King of Sodom.  To be sure he was thankful for Abram’s work, but it’s interesting that he wanted to “pay” Abram. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the goods for yourself.  At first we might think, “Well, that was a nice gesture!”  But Abram could sense this man’s motives.  He was out for something in return.  So, Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted up my hand to swear to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, so that you cannot say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except that which the young men have eaten and the share belonging to the men who went with me, namely, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share.  Abram wanted no part of gifts that were not freely given.  How insightful as Abram reflected on the gifts of God’s grace freely given to him through Melchizedek and said, “Yes!  I want any offering of time, talents and treasures to reflect a heart that is giving joyfully and freely.”

So, did you think this sermon was going to be about offerings and giving to the Lord?  If so, maybe that’s just your own conscience bothering you.   I hope you realize this sermon is about much more.  It’s about all your life’s gifts from God and what your motivation looks like to serve the Lord with your whole life.   As you give your life to God let your giving always start with God giving his life for you.   We’re not offering our lives to God so we can bargain with God, “Lord, I’ll give you such and such, and in return you better make sure my life goes well!”  That’s hardly remarkable.   How silly to say, “Lord, I’ll offer so much of my time, talents, treasures to you, but this month I have to use lots of my time, talents and treasures in order to maintain the many blessings you’ve given to me so you’ll have to be satisfied with my leftovers.”  That’s hardly remarkable.   No, rather let all your gifts to the Lord reflect the remarkable gifts of grace God has already given to you.  These gifts start with your life, redeemed by Jesus Christ for all eternity.  You can’t put a price on that!   I can tell you it was free, but it sure wasn’t cheap! (+)!   Go ahead, reflect God’s Gifts in your life because you know his remarkable love for you.  Today I give thanks to the Lord for an example of this—namely the generous givers at Divine Peace who have been so inspired by God’s remarkable gifts, and have reflected on their blessings as they support our church.

So, I would really like to have a new pair of boots.  Here’s the process I’ll work through and you see if you like it.  First, I want to remember God’s love for me in Christ.  Next, I want to remember all the blessings God has given me to enjoy and to manage well on this earth.  Then I want to reflect on the things for which I’m responsible: family, food, taxes, mortgage, bills, and the support of the gospel ministry at my church.  I want to reflect on those things first because I want to be sure that my process and my motivation reflect God’s remarkable generosity to me.  Finally, I’ll see if my wife is good with me buying a new pair of boots?  If the answer is yes, then I’ll go buy a pair and wear them to the glory of God.  But, if the answer is No, then I’ll choose to be content with the blessings God has already so generously given to me.  I will also thank God that he has given me the opportunity to reflect on his remarkable gifts to me, and my response to those gifts to his glory—even if I’m just talking about boots.  For our godly management of all our blessings may God’s Remarkable Gifts Inspire You to thoughtfully use all your blessings to God’s glory and to share Jesus’ love with more and more people.  Amen!

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