Genesis 14.17–24: Owing all to God alone (13 January 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Abram Rescues Lot

1Four kings, Amraphel of Babylonia, Arioch of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer of Elam, and Tidal of Goiim, 2went to war against five other kings: Bera of Sodom, Birsha of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (or Zoar). 3These five kings had formed an alliance and joined forces in the Valley of Siddim, which is now the Dead Sea. 4They had been under the control of Chedorlaomer for twelve years, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled against him. 5In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and his allies came with their armies and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in the plain of Kiriathaim, 6and the Horites in the mountains of Edom, pursuing them as far as Elparan on the edge of the desert. 7Then they turned round and came back to Kadesh (then known as Enmishpat). They conquered all the land of the Amalekites and defeated the Amorites who lived in Hazazon Tamar.

8Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela drew up their armies for battle in the Valley of Siddim and fought 9against the kings of Elam, Goiim, Babylonia, and Ellasar, five kings against four. 10The valley was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah tried to run away from the battle, they fell into the pits; but the other three kings escaped to the mountains. 11The four kings took everything in Sodom and Gomorrah, including the food, and went away. 12Lot, Abram's nephew, was living in Sodom, so they took him and all his possessions.

13But a man escaped and reported all this to Abram, the Hebrew, who was living near the sacred trees belonging to Mamre the Amorite. Mamre and his brothers Eshcol and Aner were Abram's allies. 14When Abram heard that his nephew had been captured, he called together all the fighting men in his camp, 318 in all, and pursued the four kings all the way to Dan. 15There he divided his men into groups, attacked the enemy by night, and defeated them. He chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus, 16and recovered the loot that had been taken. He also brought back his nephew Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other prisoners.

Melchizedek Blesses Abram

17When Abram came back from his victory over Chedorlaomer and the other kings, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (also called the King's Valley). 18And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, 19blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram! 20May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised!” And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered.

21The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Keep the loot, but give me back all my people.”

22Abram answered, “I solemnly swear before the LORD, the Most High God, Maker of heaven and earth, 23that I will not keep anything of yours, not even a thread or a sandal strap. Then you can never say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich.’ 24I will take nothing for myself. I will accept only what my men have used. But let my allies, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, take their share.”

The Parable of the Sower

1That same day Jesus left the house and went to the lakeside, where he sat down to teach. 2The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it, while the crowd stood on the shore. 3He used parables to tell them many things.

“Once there was a man who went out to sow corn. 4As he scattered the seed in the field, some of it fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some of it fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn't deep. 6But when the sun came up, it burnt the young plants; and because the roots had not grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up. 7Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and choked the plants. 8But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants produced corn; some produced 100 grains, others sixty, and others thirty.”

9And Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!”

The Purpose of the Parables

10Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

11Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has. 13The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. 14So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them:

‘This people will listen and listen, but not understand;

they will look and look, but not see,

15because their minds are dull,

and they have stopped up their ears

and have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, their eyes would see,

their ears would hear,

their minds would understand,

and they would turn to me, says God,

and I would heal them.’

16“As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. 17I assure you that many prophets and many of God's people wanted very much to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower

18“Listen, then, and learn what the parable of the sower means. 19Those who hear the message about the Kingdom but do not understand it are like the seeds that fell along the path. The Evil One comes and snatches away what was sown in them. 20The seeds that fell on rocky ground stand for those who receive the message gladly as soon as they hear it. 21But it does not sink deep into them, and they don't last long. So when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they give up at once. 22The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear the message; but the worries about this life and the love for riches choke the message, and they don't bear fruit. 23And the seeds sown in the good soil stand for those who hear the message and understand it: they bear fruit, some as much as 100, others sixty, and others thirty.”

The Parable of the Weeds

24Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man sowed good seed in his field. 25One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26When the plants grew and the ears of corn began to form, then the weeds showed up. 27The man's servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?’ 28‘It was some enemy who did this,’ he answered. ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ they asked him. 29‘No,’ he answered, ‘because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. 30Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.’ ”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

31Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.”

The Parable of the Yeast

33Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with forty litres of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.”

Jesus' Use of Parables

34Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable. 35He did this to make what the prophet had said come true:

“I will use parables when I speak to them;

I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world.”

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds

36When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, his disciples came to him and said, “Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means.”

37Jesus answered, “The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; 39and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are gathered up and burnt in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: 41the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather up out of his Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all others who do evil things, 42and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth. 43Then God's people will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

44“The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl

45“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, 46and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.

The Parable of the Net

47“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. 48When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into their buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away. 49It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good 50and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth.

New Truths and Old

51“Do you understand these things?” Jesus asked them.

“Yes,” they answered.

52So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who takes new and old things out of his storeroom.”

Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth

53When Jesus finished telling these parables, he left that place 54and went back to his home town. He taught in the synagogue, and those who heard him were amazed. “Where did he get such wisdom?” they asked. “And what about his miracles? 55Isn't he the carpenter's son? Isn't Mary his mother, and aren't James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56Aren't all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this?” 57And so they rejected him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town and by his own family.” 58Because they did not have faith, he did not perform many miracles there.

Rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem

1This is how the city wall was rebuilt. The High Priest Eliashib and his fellow-priests rebuilt the Sheep Gate, dedicated it, and put the gates in place. They dedicated the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel.

2The men of Jericho built the next section.

Zaccur son of Imri built the next section.

3The clan of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They put the beams and the gates in place, and put in the bolts and bars for locking the gate.

4Meremoth, the son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz, built the next section.

Meshullam, the son of Berechiah and grandson of Meshezabel, built the next section.

Zadok son of Baana built the next section.

5The men of Tekoa built the next section, but the leading men of the town refused to do the manual labour assigned to them by the supervisors.

6Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah rebuilt Jeshanah Gate. They put the beams and the gates in place, and put in the bolts and bars for locking the gate.

7Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, and the men of Gibeon and Mizpah built the next section, as far as the residence of the governor of West Euphrates.

8Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith, built the next section.

Hananiah, a maker of perfumes, built the next section, as far as Broad Wall.

9Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the Jerusalem District, built the next section.

10Jedaiah son of Harumaph built the next section, which was near his own house.

Hattush son of Hashabneiah built the next section.

11Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath Moab built both the next section and the Tower of the Ovens.

12Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of the other half of the Jerusalem District, built the next section. (His daughters helped with the work.)

13Hanun and the inhabitants of the city of Zanoah rebuilt the Valley Gate. They put the gates in place, put in the bolts and the bars for locking the gate, and repaired the wall for 440 metres, as far as the Rubbish Gate.

14Malchijah son of Rechab, ruler of the Beth Haccherem District, rebuilt the Rubbish Gate. He put the gates in place, and put in the bolts and the bars for locking the gate.

15Shallum son of Colhozeh, ruler of the Mizpah District, rebuilt the Fountain Gate. He covered the gateway, put the gates in place, and put in the bolts and the bars. At the Pool of Shelah he built the wall next to the royal garden, as far as the steps leading down from David's City.

16Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of half the Bethzur District, built the next section, as far as David's tomb, the pool, and the barracks.

Levites who Worked on the Wall

17The following Levites rebuilt the next several sections of the wall:

Rehum son of Bani built the next section;

Hashabiah, ruler of half the Keilah District, built the next section on behalf of his district;

18Bavvai son of Henadad, ruler of the other half of the Keilah District, built the next section;

19Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, built the next section in front of the armoury, as far as the place where the wall turns;

20Baruch son of Zabbai built the next section, as far as the entrance to the house of the High Priest Eliashib;

21Meremoth, the son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz, built the next section, up to the far end of Eliashib's house.

Priests who Worked on the Wall

22The following priests rebuilt the next several sections of the wall:

Priests from the area around Jerusalem built the next section;

23Benjamin and Hasshub built the next section, which was in front of their houses;

Azariah, the son of Maaseiah and grandson of Ananiah, built the next section, which was in front of his house;

24Binnui son of Henadad built the next section, from Azariah's house to the corner of the wall;

25-26Palal son of Uzai built the next section, beginning at the corner of the wall and the tower of the upper palace near the court of the guard;

Pedaiah son of Parosh built the next section, to a point on the east near the Water Gate and the tower guarding the Temple. (This was near that part of the city called Ophel, where the temple workmen lived.)

Other Builders

27The men of Tekoa built the next section, their second one, from a point opposite the large tower guarding the Temple as far as the wall near Ophel.

28A group of priests built the next section, going north from the Horse Gate, each one building in front of his own house.

29Zadok son of Immer built the next section, which was in front of his house.

Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, keeper of the East Gate, built the next section.

30Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, built the next section, their second one.

Meshullam son of Berechiah built the next section, which was in front of his house.

31Malchijah, a goldsmith, built the next section, as far as the building used by the temple workmen and the merchants, which was by the Miphkad Gate, near the room on top of the north-east corner of the wall.

32The goldsmiths and the merchants built the last section, from the room at the corner as far as the Sheep Gate.

Barnabas and Saul are Chosen and Sent

1In the church at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon (called the Black), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the governor), and Saul. 2While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, to do the work to which I have called them.”

3They fasted and prayed, placed their hands on them, and sent them off.

In Cyprus

4Having been sent by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul went to Seleucia and sailed from there to the island of Cyprus. 5When they arrived at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues. They had John Mark with them to help in the work.

6They went all the way across the island to Paphos, where they met a certain magician named Bar-Jesus, a Jew who claimed to be a prophet. 7He was a friend of the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor called Barnabas and Saul before him because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8But they were opposed by the magician Elymas (that is his name in Greek), who tried to turn the governor away from the faith. 9Then Saul — also known as Paul — was filled with the Holy Spirit; he looked straight at the magician 10and said, “You son of the Devil! You are the enemy of everything that is good. You are full of all kinds of evil tricks, and you always keep trying to turn the Lord's truths into lies! 11The Lord's hand will come down on you now; you will be blind and will not see the light of day for a time.”

At once Elymas felt a dark mist cover his eyes, and he walked about trying to find someone to lead him by the hand. 12When the governor saw what had happened, he believed; for he was greatly amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

In Antioch in Pisidia

13Paul and his companions sailed from Paphos and came to Perga, a city in Pamphylia, where John Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem. 14They went on from Perga and arrived in Antioch in Pisidia, and on the Sabbath they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15After the reading from the Law of Moses and from the writings of the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message: “Brothers and sisters, we want you to speak to the people if you have a message of encouragement for them.” 16Paul stood up, motioned with his hand, and began to speak:

“Fellow-Israelites and all Gentiles here who worship God: hear me! 17The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors and made the people a great nation during the time they lived as foreigners in Egypt. God brought them out of Egypt by his great power, 18and for forty years he endured them in the desert. 19He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan and made his people the owners of the land. 20All this took about 450 years.

“After this he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21And when they asked for a king, God gave them Saul son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for forty years. 22After removing him, God made David their king. This is what God said about him: ‘I have found that David son of Jesse is the kind of man I like, a man who will do all I want him to do.’ 23It was Jesus, a descendant of David, whom God made the Saviour of the people of Israel, as he had promised. 24Before Jesus began his work, John preached to all the people of Israel that they should turn from their sins and be baptized. 25And as John was about to finish his mission, he said to the people, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not the one you are waiting for. But listen! He is coming after me, and I am not good enough to take his sandals off his feet.’

26“My fellow-Israelites, descendants of Abraham, and all Gentiles here who worship God: it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent! 27For the people who live in Jerusalem and their leaders did not know that he is the Saviour, nor did they understand the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Yet they made the prophets' words come true by condemning Jesus. 28And even though they could find no reason to pass the death sentence on him, they asked Pilate to have him put to death. 29And after they had done everything that the Scriptures say about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. 30But God raised him from death, 31and for many days he appeared to those who had travelled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now witnesses for him to the people of Israel. 32-33And we are here to bring the Good News to you: what God promised our ancestors he would do, he has now done for us, who are their descendants, by raising Jesus to life. As it is written in the second Psalm:

‘You are my Son;

today I have become your Father.’

34And this is what God said about raising him from death, never to rot away in the grave:

‘I will give you the sacred and sure blessings

that I promised to David.’

35As indeed he says in another passage:

‘You will not allow your faithful servant to rot in the grave.’

36For David served God's purposes in his own time, and then he died, was buried with his ancestors, and his body rotted in the grave. 37But this did not happen to the one whom God raised from death. 38-39We want you to know, my fellow-Israelites, that it is through Jesus that the message about forgiveness of sins is preached to you; and that everyone who believes in him is set free from all the sins from which the Law of Moses could not set you free. 40Take care, then, so that what the prophets said may not happen to you:

41‘Look, you scoffers! Be astonished and die!

For what I am doing today

is something that you will not believe,

even when someone explains it to you!’ ”

42As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to come back the next Sabbath and tell them more about these things. 43After the people had left the meeting, Paul and Barnabas were followed by many Jews and by many Gentiles who had been converted to Judaism. The apostles spoke to them and encouraged them to keep on living in the grace of God.

44The next Sabbath nearly everyone in the town came to hear the word of the Lord. 45When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; they disputed what Paul was saying and insulted him. 46But Paul and Barnabas spoke out even more boldly: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. But since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we will leave you and go to the Gentiles. 47For this is the commandment that the Lord has given us:

‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

so that all the world may be saved.’ ”

48When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the Lord's message; and those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers.

49The word of the Lord spread everywhere in that region. 50But the Jews stirred up the leading men of the city and the Gentile women of high social standing who worshipped God. They started a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them out of their region. 51The apostles shook the dust off their feet in protest against them and went on to Iconium. 52The believers in Antioch were full of joy and the Holy Spirit.

Reflect

Reflect on Genesis 14.17–24

This passage follows a rather complicated account of skirmishes between nine 'kings' – we're probably better thinking of them as tribal chieftains – which end up with Abraham's nephew Lot and his household being taken prisoner. When Abraham rescues them, he also succours the King of Sodom, among others. He refuses to take any of the spoils of war from Sodom, however, because no one should be able to say, 'I made Abraham rich'. Is this because Sodom was known as a wicked place and its wealth was tainted? Perhaps; but it looks more like a general principle. Everything Abraham has will come from God.

The question of how far Christians should be beholden to others for support – financial and otherwise – is very complex in our modern world. What's clear, however, is that this support should never compromise our faith; our ultimate and absolute loyalty is to God. When other considerations – perhaps financial, perhaps questions of relationship or friendship – start to get in the way, we need to think seriously about how we are making decisions and what is influencing us.

The mysterious King of Salem, Melchizedek, is also a 'priest of the Most High God' – the first to be given this title in the Old Testament. He appears in Psalm 110.4, and there is an extended discussion of him in Hebrews 7. In line with this, Christians see in his offering of bread and wine a foreshadowing of the priesthood of Christ. Melchizedek  appears out of nowhere, again indicating Abraham's accountability to God alone.

Pray

Pray

God, help me keep my eyes fixed on you, and let me never be distracted or compromised by what others might offer me.

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