August 3, 2014

(by Andrew Wheeler)
War had never been his plan, least of all war against the very rulers whose country he had left several years previously. But on hearing of his nephew’s capture at the fall of Sodom, Abram had gathered his men and, allied with three of his friends, had taken off after the four kings who had won the battle of Siddim Valley. 

From a human standpoint, it was a foolish move. Going after the powerful army from the East with only a few hundred men was a death wish. But Abram’s thought was not for his own safety. He considered that he was responsible to God for his nephew, and acted rather on faith than on rational thought. 

And now, God had given him victory! As he returned from the battle with his allies, Abram assessed the condition of his forces. To his astonishment, he realized that God had not only given him victory, but also kept his force intact. His men and the men of his three allies emerged virtually unscathed. 

On the way back, Abram was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem and a priest of God. Amazed to encounter another God-fearer in this land of strange gods, Abram instantly identified with Melchizedek’s pronouncement: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” 

Abram now had first-hand evidence of God’s faithfulness to his promise when he had initially called Abram to leave his country. Overcome with gratitude and joy that somehow had to find expression, he gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils from the battle. 

This is the first tithe in the Bible. Over 500 years later, God would give Moses detailed instructions for God’s people that included a regular tithe, and tithing would become a mark of obedience. But before it was a matter of obedience, the tithe was a response of joy and gratitude to God for his faithful provision. 

The same is true today. Giving is a response of obedience to God. But first and foremost, it is the response of a joyful heart out of gratitude for God’s blessings. This is the kind of giving that Paul exhorts us to in 2 Corinthians 9:7 – giving that recognizes the blessings of God Most High and flows not out of obligation, but out of joy and gratitude.