When Abram and Lot enter the land God promised, their prosperity becomes so great the two cannot practically live in the same area. Lot decides to settle in an area near the city of Sodom. Soon after, Sodom is invaded and Lot is taken into captivity.
Abram mobilizes his servants and rescues Lot, along with the loot the raiders had carried away from Sodom and its four allied cities.
On his way back, as a prosperous and conquering hero, Abram is greeted by two leaders.
The first is one of the most mysterious characters of Scripture: Melchizedek. He is a king as well as a priest. He greets the conquering Abram with a gift of bread and wine. Melchizedek reigns over the city of Salem (which means “peace”), later known as Jerusalem. Melchizedek paints a picture of Jesus Christ, the coming prince of peace and true high priest, who gave humanity a gift of his body as bread and his blood as wine.
Abram gives to this priest of God a tenth of everything he recovered from the raid. Hebrews tells us this was a tithe, the earliest mention in Scripture.
The king of Sodom has a different approach. He starts to bargain to regain the people. Abram answers by declaring that he doesn’t plan to keep a single thing for himself because he does not want Sodom to be able to have any claim on him. His integrity and freedom are of much greater importance.
We are often faced with the same choice. Will we use our wealth, opportunities, relationships, and commitments in a way that pleases the Lord? Or will we bow to the empty idol of “More”? Will we “tithe” to God, or cling to our possessions? Will we pay homage to Melchizedek or Sodom?
“After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
– Genesis 14:17-21