Have you had the experience? You meet someone for the first time, but somehow you already feel connected to them. Or maybe they are a person that you only see once in a while but when you’re reunited it seems like no time has passed at all. They are people who may not know your life story, nor you theirs, yet somehow they make you feel “known” by them.
Bob Snedaker is one of those people for me. He’s the owner of Simpler Life, a company that specializes in emergency preparedness products. I met him through my line of work as an Emergency Manager and we became instantly connected. I soon learned why… Bob is also a Christian and he is not shy about his faith. We always talk about emergency preparedness when we see each other, but it doesn’t take long to learn what – or should I say Who – we are most passionate about, our Lord Jesus Christ.
When our conversation turns to the Lord, we both light up. We share what He is doing in our lives and how He is leading us. We talk about what He’s teaching us, both through our failures and successes. It’s energizing. It’s inspiring. It’s a beautiful connection each and every time. Bob is always so sweet to end our time together by praying over me and for me. It is so special and I am always blessed. He is a beautiful man. Our brief encounters are precious.
There is a brief encounter recorded in Genesis 14 (v.17-20) that reminds me of my special moments with Bob and other fellow believers like him. The story is of Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham). Abram had learned that his nephew Lot, Lot’s family, and all of their possessions had been taken captive by a group of kings. These kings had joined forces and had defeated another group of kings that included Lot’s ruler, the King of Sodom. When Abram heard this, he rallied his men and they went to war against that victorious group of kings. Abram’s men defeated the kings, rescued Lot and his family along with all the others taken captive. As they were returning home, the King of Sodom went out to meet Abram. He brought with him Melchizedek, the King of Salem who was also described as, “The priest of the Most High God.”
Melchizedek is an interesting and somewhat mysterious character of the Bible. The author of Hebrews talks about him in Hebrews 7. His name means “King of righteousness” and he ruled over Salem, which means “the peace.” So he was the king of righteousness who ruled over peace. Sound like any “One” you know? There is no lineage mentioned of him which has made some believe that he might have been eternal with no beginning or end. Theologians have pondered for centuries over who he really was but what we do know is what the writer of Hebrews says about him. That is, he was one who “resembled the Son of God.” (Hebrews 7:3) Melchizedek alone could be the subject of many blog posts, but what I don’t want to miss from these few short verses is the amazing encounter this must have been, particularly for Abram.
When we talk about the God of Israel He is often referred to, especially in Genesis, as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s people started with a promise to Abraham – well, Abram to be exact – that through him, God would produce a nation. Imagine, God started the nation of Israel by having a personal encounter with just one man, this fellow, Abram. Abram didn’t have a synagogue to go to on a weekly basis to learn about this God and connect with other believers who knew Him. He didn’t have a Bible he could pick up to read inspiring stories about other followers of God who endured difficult times. All Abram had was a handful of very unique, life-changing, individual encounters with God. It must have been lonely. He must have at times struggled with doubt especially early on. It had to be difficult to be what seemed like the only believer on the planet!
On top of all this, one of God’s first instructions to Abram is to, “Go.” (Genesis 12) God didn’t tell him where he was going, He just told him to go. He left his family (except for Lot). He left everything he knew and settled in a foreign land. God promised to make him a great nation in this new place but He didn’t say anything about there being other believers there. Remember, he’s it… this new nation is going to begin with him. As far as he would have known, there were no other believers.
So here he is in a foreign land on his way home from having defeated four kings who had just defeated five kings. He’s rescued his family members and all those taken captive. I’m sure the victory was sweet. But, even a sweet victory doesn’t change the fact that he is in a foreign land at the request of a God he barely knows in fulfillment of a promise he doesn’t see coming to fruition. Even in this amazing rescue mission there must have been a bit of bewilderment. Now what?
Then he sees, these two kings coming out to meet him, to congratulate him in his victory, a victory they were unable to obtain for themselves. All we know from that encounter is that Melchizedek is not only a king but he is also a priest of the God Most High. I just imagine Abram’s eyes lighting up when he is introduced to this king. I can see a smile break across his battle-wearied face. God Most High… you know HIM? Surely, this had to be the same God that was speaking to Abram. There really is someone else who has heard His voice? Someone else who is following the direction of this God? Imagine that encounter, that realization. Imagine that feeling of connection. Brother! I can almost hear Abram shriek.
This priest gives Abram and his men a beautiful and meaningful gift, bread and wine. Of course as Christians we immediately see the significance of this gift. We relate it to the communion we partake in as a church on a regular basis. Although Abram wouldn’t know the future significance of those two items, it had to be refreshing to have this priest desire to share a meal with him. He could have brought him gold, or fine robes, or lambs, or camels, or grain. But he brought him a meal. Something to eat and drink and perhaps even invited them to enjoy it together with him – so intimate an encounter. I love that God included that detail for us to see how blessed we are to share bread and wine together with fellow believers. How easy it is to take that for granted Sunday after Sunday. But for Abram, this was a first. He was finally connected to another who believed as he did and this momentous occasion was celebrated with bread and wine.
Then, to remove any doubt that may have been lingering, this priest imparted a blessing to Abram. He said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth.” (v. 19) He was not only a priest of this Most High God, but he was affirming for Abram that Abram belonged to that same God, and that God was blessing Abram. He then gave God the glory for Abram’s victory by saying, “and blessed, praised and glorified be God Most High, who has given your enemies into your hand.” (v. 19-20a) Again, he was affirming that Abram and he served the same God, a God who gives victory to those whom He is with. It was like Melchizedek was saying back to Abram, Yep, we’re brothers, pal. Make no mistake, we are connected by God Most High. And that God just gave you a huge victory. Let’s celebrate!
And how did Abram respond to all of this? Another biblical reference for us believers, “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (v. 20b) Abram gave Melchizedek a tithe, 10% of his spoils. This is the very first reference we have in scripture about the tithe and it is long before the law about tithing is ever given. The point is, Abram wanted to give back to God. He recognized, like Melchizedek did, that the victory was not his, it was God’s. And his first response was to give back. Again, there is power in this connection between these two fellow believers. They are pointing each other back to their Creator, honoring Him, glorifying Him in what He has done for them. Their words are meant to not only bless each other but to bring glory to God. Can you feel the synergy between these two believers? It’s palpable.
Look at the contrast we see in the King of Sodom’s words to Abram in the next verse. “The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.’” (v. 21) WHOOSH… right over his head. He’s missing it! He is not connecting with these two brothers in the Lord. He is watching it unfold in front of him but he doesn’t see it. He doesn’t get it. He can’t relate. He wants his share of the spoils and Abram can keep the rest. Simple as that. He oblivious to the deep encounter these two are having.
Abram’s response is poignant. He says, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.” (v. 22-24). First of all, he uses the same words that Melchizedek used to describe His God. He was now affirming back to Melchizedek that they believed in the same God Most High. Then he tells the King of Sodom, I don’t want anything from you. I serve God and He is the only one who will be credited for what I have. Imagine turning down the gifts of a King! I’m sure the King of Sodom didn’t know what to make of it all. If he was puzzled before about this strange connection between Melchizedek and Abram he was even more puzzled now.
Haven’t you seen that in your own connections? When you connect with a believer and have those encounters like I described with Bob, have you observed non-believers scratching their heads? There is nothing like the connection that bonds us as believers in Jesus… nothing like it! It is powerful. It is inspiring. It is iron sharpening iron. And, it is eternal.
I am convinced these few moments for Abram must have reignited his passion, his faith, his belief in all that he was doing at the Lord’s direction. In the very next Chapter, Chapter 15, we read, “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.'” (Gen. 15:1-6)
We have no way of knowing this, but what if, what if, that encounter with Melchizedek was that spark in Abram’s faith that he needed. Abram believed the Lord and that belief was credited to him as righteousness. Did God use Melchizedek as that nudge, that reminder that says, “YES! We believe in a God who really does exist, who really loves us with all of His heart, and Who’s promises are true.” We won’t know for sure until we can ask the Lord in heaven, but one thing is for certain, this is a divine appointment. And God recorded it for us to read thousands of years later so that we could see how valuable and precious those divine appointments are.
Don’t you want to be a Melchizedek to someone? Don’t you want to be that spark that ignites in a fellow believer the love, and joy, and goodness that God is? That is a what people like Bob do for me and I hope I do that for others. God has connected us believers, made us a part of His family for a reason. I believe it is for precisely what we see in this brief encounter between Abram and Melchizedek. We are to be reminders to each other of Who God is and reflect His goodness, His love, and the faithfulness of His promises so that we may strengthen each other in our faith and be energized to carry out the plan He has for us without losing hope. Our journey in life may be lonely at times. It may be difficult and we may feel at times like we are the only believer on the planet! But God has been and will continue to be faithful to unite us, connect us as a family so that we may glorify Him and draw others to His love.
Lord, thank you for those encounters You have orchestrated for us with other believers. They are so precious. May we never miss a one of them. Help us to be faithful, open, and obedient to be Melchizedek’s in the lives of fellow believers. Use us as you see fit and according to your perfect timing. Energize us with Your Spirit and pour out Your love through us. In Your Son’s name we pray, amen.