We begin now the history of what we can call “particular redemption.” God now calls a particular man, Abram, out of the world to be His chosen servant and to father His chosen people. He calls him to leave behind what he has in the world by faith; to exchange it for what God will give him. And God makes him a promise: Abram will be a great nation, his name (his reputation) would be great so that he will be a blessing, his allies will be God’s allies and his enemies will be God’s enemies, and in him would the whole earth find blessing.
This promise is multifaceted. From Abram would come the nation of Israel. His reputation does indeed become great in his day and forevermore, as Abraham would father what are in our day three distinct religions. Islam calls Abraham their father, but believe the promise passed through Ishmael. The Jews call Abraham their father because they believe they are the physical seed of Abraham God promised. And we call Abraham the father of our faith because “it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7).
As this promise unfolds throughout the Bible, we see that the physical seed promised to Abraham is ultimately Christ (see Gal 3:16). The physical nation of Israel was also his physical offspring, but they preserved the physical lineage that the promised seed (of Abraham and of Eve – see Gen 3:15) might be born. But there is a greater spiritual promise, here. All who have faith like Abraham are his true offspring – this is how the whole earth finds blessing in Abraham. And that faith is in Christ. So both promises are ultimately Christ.
So Abram went. We see his faith in action. And we are told his age: seventy-five years old. We are told this because we will see that God is not limited by any earthly limitations. As Abram comes to the land of Canaan, God promises him that his offspring will inherit this land. This is what Noah prophesied (Gen 9:25-26).
The story now establishes another pattern that we will see throughout the rest of the Bible. God does not choose His people based on their works or their “goodness.” Abram is shown to be both selfish, dishonest, and lacking faith in Egypt. He is willing to sacrifice his wife’s purity and the sanctity of his marriage to protect his physical well being. And yet, God saves him anyway. What’s more, God prospers him! Abram leaves Egypt with much more than he comes with – a pre-figuring of the Exodus and the nation of Israel looting and leaving Egypt.
In chapter 13, we have the separation of Lot from Abram. God had blessed them so abundantly that there was no practical way for them to dwell together. And Abram gives Lot his choice of land, and Lot selfishly takes the fertile Jordan Valley. We are told that he makes his new home among notorious sinners in Sodom. Symbolically, when Lot leaves Abram, he leaves the Lord. And the company he now keeps causes him great trouble.
Then Abram winds up in the middle of Canaan, and God reaffirms His promise about the land. But notice that God promises Abram that he and his offspring – who would be as numerous as all the dust of the earth – would possess the land forever. The only problem is, this is never literally fulfilled. Abram never owns but a single field in the land, and the nation of Israel loses the land not once, but twice. And the second time, they do not get it back. So as the story of redemption unfolds, we will see that this is not a physical promise of a physical people inheriting a physical land, but a pointer to a greater spiritual reality. Abram understood this (see Heb 11:8-12).
In chapter 14, we are told of the battle between two confederacies of kings*, including the king of Sodom, who is defeated, and whose possessions are taken by the victorious kings, including Lot. Abram hears of Lot’s capture and takes his trained men, which we are specifically told numbered 318, on a rescue mission. We see in this number two things. First, God has greatly blessed Abram. Second, God is not limited by earthly limitations. 318 against the armies of four kings (who just defeated the armies of five kings)? No problem!
After his victory, Abram meets Melchizedek**. His name means “king of righteousness.” He was the king of Salem (which means “peace,” and is later called Jerusalem, which means “possession of peace”), and we are told that he was also priest of God Most High (see Heb 7:2). This man blesses Abram, and declares that he is also blessed by God Most High. So what we have in this Melchizedek is a picture of Christ. He is prophet, priest, and king. He is the king of Salem. Christ is our great Prophet, Priest, and King. And He is the Prince of Peace.
What is important to note is that Melchizedek was a priest before the priesthood of Israel was established in the law. Abram tithed to him before the tithe was established in the law. Also note that twice in these three chapters, Abram makes altars to the Lord and worships Him (Gen 12:8 and 13:18). In 14:22, we see that he makes an oath to God before laws about oaths are given. What we see is that the proper worship of God was established by Him before the law and the Mosaic covenant. This is important to note for a proper understanding of the law and its fulfillment in Christ.
Chapter 14 ends with an act of faith by Abram. He knows Who won the victory, he knows Who his earthly blessings come from, and Abram will rely on Him alone. He does not take any spoils for his victory. God is his reward!
* Notice how some places are named, and then parenthetically called by another name. This is because between the time of the events and the time of Moses writing this (around 600 years), the names of these places changed. We will see some of these name changes occur in the book of Genesis.
** There are varying schools of thought on who this Melchizedek is. Some say he is an old Shem (the math works, Shem would have still be alive). Many say this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ Himself. Many others say that the Bible purposely leaves out details of who he is because he is just a man and the focus is meant to be on how he pictures Christ. I favor the third for a number of reasons. Abram does not worship him, but tithes to him as a priest. Psalm 110 – a Messianic Psalm – calls the Messiah a priest “after the order” of Melchizedek. Most convincingly, the book of Hebrews (chapter 7) makes a comparison between Melchizedek and Christ which only makes sense if they are two different people. The point of the character is to show how the priesthood of the Levites and the Aaronic high-priesthood – priesthoods based on physical descent – are temporary and inferior to the spiritual priesthood of, and in, Christ.