“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, 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’-except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.’”
“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’”
The King of Sodom and the King of Salem
After going into war with 318 trained servants from his household, Abraham defeated his enemies and returned triumphantly. After the battle, when Abraham was returning like a victorious general with many people and the spoils of war, two men came out to receive him. They were the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. Although both these two kings went out to welcome Abraham, their attitudes were very different.
Let’s first look at Melchizedek the king of Salem, who was appointed by God as an everlasting priest. When Melchizedek went out to meet Abraham, he took bread and wine and offered it to Abraham, and then he blessed him as follows:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand” (Genesis 14:19, 20). In saying these things, Melchizedek had fulfilled his priestly duty. Abraham then offered to the king of Salem a tenth of all the spoils of war that he had brought along with him.
Even before the establishment of the Tabernacle, the priestly tribe of Levi, and the sacrificial system, all of which foreshadowed the birth of Jesus Christ, God raised the king of Salem up here in the Book of Genesis and called him the king of peace and an exalted priest. In other words, God raised a heavenly priest called the king of Salem on this earth even before the actual establishment of the sacrificial system, and by doing so He foretold us about the birth of Jesus Christ beforehand. Like this, God had already prepared Jesus Christ’s work of salvation to perfection from long ago.
When Seen from the Dominion of Faith
The Bible says that Melchizedek king of Salem was the priest of the Most High God (Hebrews 7:1). This king of Salem, whom God had personally appointed to be a heavenly priest even before the actual establishment of the sacrificial system, refers to none other than Jesus Christ to come. When we take another look at today’s Scripture passage based on this knowledge, we can clearly realize the Truth that’s revealed in this Scripture passage. The king of Salem, who symbolized Jesus Christ, blessed Abraham by giving him bread and wine, and Abraham having received this blessing, offered a tithe of all his spoils to the king of Salem who, as mentioned, foreshadowed none other than Jesus.
What does this passage really mean? That the king of Salem, that is, Jesus Christ blessed Abraham with bread and wine manifests that Jesus Christ has saved us through bread and wine—that is, through His own flesh and blood. When we turn to John 6:55, we see Jesus saying, “My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.” As I have explained it in detail before, the flesh of Jesus refers to His baptism, and His blood refers to the condemnation on the Cross.
Melchizedek, king of Salem and the priest of Heaven offered bread and wine to Abraham, and blessed Abraham while praising God. Like Melchizedek, we can also come into God’s presence to praise Him and put all our faith in Him because we believe in the bread and wine of Jesus. In other words, it’s because we believe that Jesus Christ has saved us through His baptism and blood that we are able to praise God and trust Him on account of this faith.
The same is also true for Abraham, our father of faith. When we think of Abraham, we are prone to think of him only as someone who had become a righteous man thanks to God’s unconditional blessings, but Abraham also became a blessed man of faith by believing in the salvation of the water and the blood offered by the Lord. As we see in today’s Scripture passage, the king of Salem blessed Abraham with bread and wine. And as Abraham believed wholeheartedly in the sacrifice of the water and blood offered by the Lord, he became a righteous man thanks to Jesus Christ. This implies that Abraham, the father of faith, also believed in the same gospel of the water and the Spirit that you and I believe in now.
Only the priest of Heaven could bless Abraham like this. Even the king of Israel could not enjoy the same privilege as the priest. Only the priest could bless the people of Israel, asking God to bestow His benediction on them, and manifesting His glory. In return for receiving bread and wine from the king of Salem, the heavenly priest, Abraham offered a tithe to him. This king of Salem foreshadowed Jesus Christ, and it is through him that Abraham obtained benediction and praised God. Let me once again reiterate here that the king of Salem appearing in today’s Scripture passage manifests none other than Jesus Christ.
Abraham Rejected the King of Sodom Tempting Him with Material Gains
Someone else received Abraham in a very different way from the king of Salem, and this man was none other than the king of Sodom, who can be described as the king of the flesh. Let’s turn to the Scripture again. The king of Sodom said to Abraham, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself” (Genesis 14:21). The king of Sodom was telling Abraham to give him all the people whom he had rescued and take the goods for himself. This may make sense in worldly terms, but Abraham rejected what the king of Sodom was offering him and swore by the name of the Lord that he would take nothing from him. So Abraham did not take anything from the king of Sodom, excepting setting aside some of the spoils for the men who had gone to war with him, and gave the rest of the spoils back to the king of Sodom so that he would not be able to say, “Abraham became rich by taking these spoils.”
What does this passage mean? Even though the king of Sodom told Abraham to give him the people and for him to take the goods, Abraham actually took only the portion of the men who went with him as his allies. This teaches us that the gospel preachers and the righteous—that is, we the faithful—should cast aside all greed for the riches and focus only on the soul. It’s when we cast aside our material greed and run towards the soul that God becomes our shield and our Shepherd who gives us faith and provides for all our needs, just as God appeared before Abraham and said to him, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
After defeating four kings, Abraham returned with a great deal of spoils, but he did not succumb to greed before all these riches. He clearly rejected the proposal of the king of Sodom to join hands with him. And immediately after this, God appeared before Abraham and gave him the blessings of Heaven, saying to him, “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1). If the Lord’s followers turn greedy over material possessions, they cannot truly gain any souls. In contrast, if they cast aside their greed for the riches of the world knowing that a soul is far more precious than any riches, then God will come to them, bless them, and reward them.
Before the war, when conflicts arose between Abraham and Lot, Abraham told his nephew, “Go wherever you want to go, and I will go in the opposite direction to you.” God then had appeared before Abraham and said to Him, “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever” (Genesis 13:14-15). According to this Word, Abraham had a chance to gain a great deal of riches and many people from that war. And when he returned from the war, the king of the flesh said to him, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” What would have happened to Abraham if he had done as was suggested by the king of Sodom? He would have made himself vulnerable. If the king of Sodom had taken the men, and used them to attack Abraham on his way back home, then Abraham would have been defeated, since his men would have been too shackled by all the spoils to defend themselves effectively. Material possessions are completely useless. But Abraham, the father of faith, did not take the goods. On the contrary, he responded to the king of Sodom with some very wise words, telling him to take all the goods. He said this lest the king of Sodom go around saying that he had made Abraham rich. Even though there was so much wealth, Abraham showed no greed whatsoever.
My fellow believers, through today’s account, the Lord is speaking to us about the preciousness of the gospel and admonishing us to care about the soul. Money can come and go—one day we may have it, the next day we may not, and then the following day we may find ourselves awash in money again. Temptations revolving around material possessions, on the other hand, keep visiting us endlessly, just as Abraham had continued to face many temptations promising riches and worldly gains. But Abraham defeated all these temptations by placing his faith in God. And we should remember that whenever Abraham overcame such temptations of material gains, God appeared before him and blessed him.
What Are You Interested in the Most: Money or Souls?
We need to ponder carefully here to see where our interest really lies, whether we are more interested in money or the soul. What Abraham did in today’s Scripture passage is very commendable. He had gone to war against four kingdoms, defeated them all, plundered their possessions, and rescued prisoners. If an average man had been offered the same proposal by the king of Sodom, he would have accepted the riches in their place to live a wealthy life. But what would have happened down the road? Since this person would have only riches devoid of any righteous causes, this would shackle him down with unrighteous mammon. Once one is drawn into the ocean of material greed, even that person would not be able to put up any fight and be defeated and killed for sure. For those who are interested only in material wealth and put their trust only in money, their ultimate end is as obvious as this.
What is more important? Is it the riches of the world? Or is it the human soul? We should take this present opportunity to think about what we would do if we were in Abraham's shoes, and examine ourselves to see where our interest really rests. God is telling all of us today at this very hour that anyone whose interest lies in money can never do God’s work.
We have been publishing many books to spread the gospel through our literature ministry, and although no exact calculation has been done, we know that a tremendous amount of money has gone into this ministry. Deaconess Jeongsoon Lee alone has offered over $200,000 for this ministry, and an even greater sum has been pledged by all of us. But there is no one among us who has ever shown any greed over this money. That’s because we are all interested in the soul, not in any riches. If a soul could be saved by spending $100,000, then even this large sum of money means nothing to us. Of course, if our ministers were just greedy and had no interest in saving souls, as so many Christian leaders seem to be nowadays, then they would have taken this money for themselves or spent it to build extravagant church buildings. How about you then? Are you more interested in money or the soul? You have to think about this question and answer it honestly before God. Put differently, you need to assess your faith to see whether it is right or wrong. And if it’s not right, then you should boldly cast aside what must be cast aside, and take what must be taken. In short, you must set your heart clearly.
It’s actually not that easy to be so resolute as Abraham was. If you were standing before so much spoils of war, would you be able to give up all that wealth and say, “I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap” (Genesis 14:23)? Could you forsake any and all material riches of this world if this would enable you to preach the gospel to many souls and save them? Remember that it’s only those who answer this question with a firm ‘Yes’ that God appears before them to become their Shepherd and rewards them.
Although It’s Difficult, No Servant of God Should Ever Seek Material Gains
My fellow believers, no believer should ever follow after material riches. That’s because material possessions by themselves are not what’s important; they are just something that is necessary for us to spread the gospel. The material possessions that I am speaking of here do not just mean money. Following any fleshly values is akin to following material riches. By any chance, do you love yourself more than the gospel that the Lord gave you, or even God Himself? This too is to follow after material gains. No one who loves himself more than God can serve His gospel with complete devotion. If you are such a person, then I ask you to cast aside all your selfish desires.
When compared to you and me, Abraham is a truly honorable man worthy of our respect. After all, he had forsaken all the spoils of war and taken none of them even though so much wealth was offered to him. Now then, imagine that someone showed you $100 million and asked you the following question: “I will give you all this money if you stop serving the gospel. Will you give up $100 million and continue to serve the gospel, or will you take this money and live the rest of your life in comfort, since you have already been born again by believing in Jesus?” What would you do then? Perhaps you would resort to a clever trick and say, “I will take $100 million and still serve the gospel.”
However, my fellow believers, there is no middle ground before the just God. You cannot serve two masters. Between money and the gospel, if you want complete possession of one thing, then you must infallibly give up the other. What would you give up then? Would you give up the gospel or $100 million? A hundred million dollars may not seem that large a sum in words, but it is in fact a huge sum that is beyond our wildest imagination. If we were to stack $100 million in $10 bills, it would fill this whole room and there still would be tons of bills left. Even $1 million is a great deal of money. But still, you and I must give up that $100 million, not just in our heads, but in real terms.
Abraham gave up far greater wealth than $100 million as depicted in today’s Scripture passage. And after this, God appeared before Abraham and blessed him. This Almighty God is also our God of reward, bestowing His awards on all of us.
Do not underestimate Abraham. He truly was a man of great faith. It is my hope and prayer that God would also make us into such people of faith as Abraham. I have every confidence that God will indeed shape us into such people of faith, and I give all my thanks to Him for this.