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Better than Theater

A Prophetic Picture of Epic Proportions

I was cruising along in my Genesis reading—it was still early in January, when all Bible-reading plans are pursued with great zeal—when I got a crazy idea.

It happened precisely at chapter 14, the story of a foreign invasion, the capture of Lot and his family, Abraham’s pursuit and recovery of the victims, and Abraham’s resulting encounter with the priest-king Melchizedek. I was struggling through this story, not because it isn’t interesting, but because it’s laden with long names that really should have mattered only to the people of that day. But, I thought to myself, God saw fit to preserve all these names in the eternal Word. Why?

In search of an answer to this nagging why—which is the question that prompts most crazy ideas, I’m convinced—I started looking up the meaning of all the names of the invading kings, the defeated kings, and the places they inhabited. (This is what happens when an employer hands over the keys of Bible study software to people like me.) Then I recast the story without using any proper names to get a sense of what it must have meant to people who lived then. I also injected a few interpretive generalizations only implied by the text. This is how it went:

In the days of the hordes of hell—the secret king of pride, the great king of rebellion, the powerful king of blindness, and the dreadful king of all nations—these kings made war with the fallen race—the kings of the burned, scorched, ruined, bloody, wild, and intimidated lands.

It was 4 against 5, but it was still easy for the wicked kings. (The time for the fallen race to serve the hordes of hell had been fulfilled a year earlier; that’s why they had revolted.) The hordes of hell came after them with a vengeance, following the exact same path the high father, the chosen father of the redeemed race, had once taken when God called him away from his homeland. On their way, these evil kings defeated all of the fallen race’s neighbors, wild and terrifying people of idolatry who were living in futility and bitterness.

So the kings of the fallen race prepared by joining forces in the valley of death and judgment, a valley full of tar pits. During the battle, many from the fallen race fell into the pits, and others fled into the hills. So the evil enemy captured all the possessions, provisions, and people of two fallen cities, including a very special veil—the only vital connection between the fallen race and the father of faith.

But one person escaped and ran to tell the high father. When this redeemed father found out that the special veil had been stolen and was now in the hands of the wicked, he gathered his warrior friends and 318 men of his own house. They pursued the hordes of hell all the way to a place called the city of judgment. During the night, the high father divided his fighting men into two groups, and they routed the hordes of hell, even pursuing them through the land of blood and burning, all the way to the place of secret darkness, which lay beyond. The high father brought back all the enemy had stolen, including the veil, as well as the possessions and people of the fallen race.

On the father’s way back, the fallen king of the burned-up wasteland came to meet him in the high king’s valley. But before they met, the King of Righteousness, the King of Shalom, brought a sacred covenant meal to the high father. This Righteous King of Peace was not only a king, but also the Priest of the Most High God. He blessed the high father, calling him the possessor of heaven and earth, and he blessed the Most High God, who had given the high father the victory over the hordes of hell. Then the high father gave the King of Righteousness one-tenth of all the spoils of war.

When the fallen king of the burned-up land arrived, he told the high father that he wanted all the people back, of course, but that the high father could keep all the possessions—a generous offer of great wealth. But the high father of faith said to the fallen king, “No! I have a covenant with God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I should not derive any wealth or power from the fallen race. He is my only source of life, not you. I’ll take only what my warriors have eaten and whatever their share of the spoils is. I want nothing to do with the rest of it.”

There’s a lot of room for interpretation in that story—the significance of the veil (Lot’s name), for example, which could perhaps represent God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. But however each element is interpreted, there are some pretty intriguing lessons on spiritual warfare, the incarnation of Jesus (the Melchizedek figure), and personal consecration.

In fact, I think this piece of history may be a prophetic picture, a divine drama depicting the story of the human race from about Genesis 3 to about Revelation 19. There’s a vicious enemy, an entire country of defeated victims, a representative of the people of God whose mission it is to recover what was lost, an encounter with a Messiah-like priest-king (replete with bread and wine), and a commitment to remain pure and serve God. Sounds a lot like the Bible in a nutshell to me.

In many ways, it also sounds like our mission—yours, mine, every Christian’s. Like the disciples on whom Jesus bestowed authority to go to all nations and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), trampling on snakes and scorpions along the way (Luke 10:19), Abraham was sent to fight the worst kind of evil and recover what was lost. By association with Jesus, that’s our mission too.

The bottom line is that you and I are characters in an epic of good and evil and redemption. Genesis 14, along with many other parts of Scripture, is the script. It’s a rough battle but a great adventure, and one day in the screening room of heaven we may even get to see the film.

But for now, be brave and fight hard. Pursue the captives, overtake the enemy, and recover what’s been lost. And never forget to spend some time in worship and gratitude toward the priest-king who comes to meet you after battle.

[ more information on the names and symbols of Genesis 14 ]



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