Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 1 August 2017

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  Hebrews 11, verses 8-11.

When I was a kid, Jerry Lewis used to call himself “the super-Jew” because he would entertain the entire world for 20 hours straight on his annual Labor Day telethon.   Every year, “Jerry the Super-Jew” would sponsor A-list entertainers to work without pay to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).   Over forty years, he raised hundreds of millions of dollars by singing, dancing, vamping, and doing whatever he could to raise awareness that there were thousands of children afflicted with deadly diseases that could be cured.  According to Wikipedia, Lewis began to host telethons to raise money for heart disease.   Later, people with knowledge about muscular disorders came to him and broke his heart.  He had pity that people would respond in kindness when presented with the news that their fellow man needed help.

That’s faith.

Much like Abraham.  I don’t know if God ever told Jerry Lewis to go on TV to raise money, but He told Abraham to simply go to live in a new place.   Abraham did it.   Can you imagine hearing a strange voice from inside you, telling you to leave everything you know and go into some new place?   And it wasn’t as if Abraham did it on a whim.   He was an old man when he first acknowledged God’s command, and what a command it was.   God promised to bless ALL peoples of the earth through Him.  All Abram (as he was then called) had to do was believe and obey.

That’s a tall order, even in Bronze Age Mesopotamia.  ‘Obey me by leaving your home and going to a strange land full of strange, hostile people.   Go there and you’ll be blessed.’   Let’s face it:   we’d both be hard-pressed to say ‘yes, Lord, I’ll go.’   Not Abraham.   He believed that God would bless his fellow man so he left.   He left and headed northwest, to Canaan.   He didn’t know specifically where or why, just that God told him to do it and God would keep his promises.

Beyond these things, we don’t know much about Abram’s upbringing to give us any background as to why Abram would so willingly accept God’s promise as true.   Perhaps that’s the most miraculous part of the mystery.   Abram took God at His word and believed Him.   It’s almost as if he intrinsically understood that this God meant only love and hope for him.  Abraham trusted that God would do good no matter what He told him.   For this, Abraham is remembered as the first of the Semites:  descendants of Noah’s son, Shem, who followed God and became His chosen people.

That’s the real “super-Jew.”  Would that you or I could have such faith and be super-Jews who believe in Jesus.   Here’s the kicker:   we can.   Nothing from God is stopping us.   When we don’t exercise such faith, it’s not God’s doing.   It’s something else.  What’s in your way today?   Will you let it block you, or will you listen to the voice that says “go” no matter where it takes you?   In Matthew 28, Jesus echoes the same command He once gave to Abraham.   Jesus tells us to “go.”   Will you go today?  Where will you put your faith?

Jerry Lewis is still very much alive (currently 91 and still both super and Jewish) but the telethon became a shadow of what it used to be.   In 2011, the MDA unceremoniously dismissed Jerry  after decades of his service because they didn’t feel he connected with younger audiences.   As of 2014, the annual event was discontinued.   I find that sad.   To tell the truth, it was always a bore for a little kid to watch the Labor Day telethon because it was on all three channels and my family wasn’t interested in the Las Vegas entertainment it showed.  Yet I find myself amazed now at the faith this actor and comedian had in his fellow man to simply help kids in need.  I’ve heard Jerry Lewis can be a tough man to get along with.   Perhaps Abraham was as well.   Both men must be shrewd and wise, but also very kind of heart.   Those are super qualities for anyone.

For further reading:  Genesis 12:1-18, Acts 7:2-4, Hebrews 6:17, Hebrews 12:22, Revelation 21:2, Matthew 28.19.

Lord, may I go where You lead me today.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 January 2017

This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.  Hebrews 7, verses 1-3.

Let’s talk about Melchizedek.   He’s been mentioned several times throughout Hebrews, and we’ve chatted about him a little bit already.   In the Genesis account of Abram’s life (before God renamed him Abraham), Melchizedek suddenly appears out of nowhere while Abram is journeying from Mesopotamia (likely in today’s Syria or southern Turkey) to Canaan (today’s Israel).  We know little about him other than he’s a revered man, a holy man, a priest.  He was king of Salem – the predecessor settlement to Jerusalem – and was God’s high priest there.   Not a pagan like the other inhabitants of Canaan, Melchizedek knew the true God and strengthened Abram’s faith.

Wikipedia reinforces much of this narrative.  It also discusses corroborating evidence about Melchizedek from early Hebrew Torah commentaries, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even some Greek documents.   Even the pagan Quran, written centuries later, references Melchizedek.  At the end of all this ancient evidence, we’re still left not knowing exactly who Melchizedek was.   All that we can really know is that He was important to members of both the Jewish and early Christian faiths.  Indeed, if you read these verses closely it’s easy to see why many folks believe Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Jesus (a “Christophany”).  It’s more than possible.   It’s also more than possible that (as we’ve discussed before) Melchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noah, who had survived the flood and was the forefather of the Semites, Abram’s historic lineage.   It seems likely that Melchizedek was the vocational ancestor of all who would be ordained as either royalty or ministers.  But to tell you the truth, I don’t know; nobody does.   And to get wrapped around the axle about exactly who he was misses the main point about him.

Melchizedek represents unquestioning devotion to God.

Melchizedek is ‘king of peace,’ ‘king of righteousness.’   Melchizedek has no historical beginning or end since we don’t know where he was born or where he died.   He simply existed to give praise and meaning to God, encouraging the chosen man of God’s will at a time when Abram needed it.   Abram had traveled many miles from home for many years, living a nomadic life in obedience to a promise God made to him.  God had been faithful to His promise to bless all peoples through Abram, but hadn’t shown Abram just how He would do that.  Enter Melchizedek, who gives selflessly and provides an example for Abram to do the same.  In doing so, Abram’s faith was strengthened and his devotion sustained.   So much so, in fact, that Abram gave Melchizedek a portion of all he owned.   Some translations of Scripture (including the NIV I use) say it was a tenth of all he owned, perhaps instituting the precedent for the ten percent tithe many believers donate to God even today.   After Abram has won a battle against local pagan kings, Melchizedek visits Abram and bestows on him God’s blessings.  Then he disappears.  Melchizedek plays an important part in God’s historic family and then, like so many other believers, is simply gone, lost to history with his part in the play having acted out.

Again, in all these things, it doesn’t matter who he was but very much matters what he did and believed.  Melchizedek represents that unquestioning faith in God.   He followed God.   He lived a life devoted to God.   He was an example of and a precursor to Jesus, who became the inheritor of Melchizedek’s temporal priesthood.   Melchizedek did in act what Jesus would later do in both act and Spirit.

That’s a lot to understand from someone who is mentioned by name in only three places in the Bible (in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and in the book of Hebrews).   If you consider it, however, that’s more than most people are documented anywhere in history.   Maybe God is trying to tell us something we need to remember.  Maybe God is trying to say “don’t worry about who he was.   Remember who he believed in.” Many thousands of years after he lived, that makes Melchizedek timely and relevant to us.

For further reading:   Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 76:2, Psalm 110:4, , Matthew 4:3, Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 5:6.

Lord, thank You for teaching about Melchizedek.   Thank You for his ancient example of faith in You that can still encourage me today.