Some of the highest spiritual peaks in life are immediately followed by the valleys of temptation. Staying vigilant and being alert for the temptation to lose our trust in God when times are tough and our resources are lean is one thing, but what about the other times? What about the times when we are prospering, when we are successful, when we are well-fed rather than starving? The tempter comes not only when our need seems great, but also when it seems that we have no need at all.
From a human standpoint, things could not have been brighter in the life of Abraham as he made his way home from rescuing Lot. He was now without a doubt the greatest hero in all the land, doing what nobody else had been able to. With a small force, he had completely routed the armies of Chedorlaomer and the kings of the East, and now he was leading a procession of grateful rescued captives along with all of the looted treasures of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no question that Abraham was at this time considered to be the most famous and powerful man in all of Canaan.
Not only this, but Abraham had just encountered the priest of God, Melchizedek, and had enjoyed fellowship with him. This enigmatic gentile king and the very first Hebrew had come together and partaken of the Bread and the Wine of the Lord’s Supper, looking forward to the day that the Lord Jesus Christ would secure their own redemption through His death and resurrection. Melchizedek at this time reveals to Abraham that God is the El Elyon, the Most High God, Possessor of Heaven and Earth. What a profound experience of the presence of God this must have been!
No sooner has Abraham left the table of Communion with Melchizedek then he is met by the King of Sodom. I am sure that the king of Sodom had a broad smile on his face as he poured out praises and adorations to the returning hero. Patting him on the back, he tells Abraham,
“Great job, Abraham! you did it. Your mighty power is unmatched, what a victory you had over Chedorlaomer. You have my undying gratitude and I want to personally present you with the key to the city of Sodom. We already have plans to build a twenty foot statue of you in the town square, and the Chamber of Commerce would like you and Sarah to have season tickets for all the home games of the local football team. Abraham, the world is your oyster. What a fantastic job you did beating those kings and chasing them all the way to Hobah, your name has been in the headlines of the Sodom Times every single day for the past three weeks. I tell you what, you have definitely earned the right to keep all of the goods that those Eastern kings plundered from us, why don’t you just let me have the people and you can keep everything else for yourself, how does that sound?”
Sodom is a portrait of this world. The King of Sodom represents the prince of this world, Satan. The temptation is that Abraham will get his eyes off the things of God and turn them to the things of this world. Had he accepted the offer of the King of Sodom, he would have been beholden to him. Even though Abraham had a right to receive a bounty for delivering the wealth of Sodom back to the king, doing so would have put him under subjection to him. For the remainder of Abraham’s days, anytime that Abraham would have told anyone how God had prospered him there would always be this footnote; his legacy would forever bear the parenthetic annotation that the king of the wicked city of Sodom had contributed to Abraham’s success. The glory that belongs to God alone would have been divided with the prince of this world.
What a striking similarity this temptation shares with our Lord’s own temptation in the wilderness. “Give me the persons”, says the king of Sodom, “take for yourself the goods.” The devil makes the same enticement to the Lord Jesus Christ, Take for Yourself the wealth, the goods, the very kingdoms of this world, but give unto me the souls of men (Luke 4:5-7). What an ironic contrast between the type of man that Abraham was and the type of man that Lot was: Lot, who symbolizes the backsliding believer, was willing to sacrifice his fellowship with God and with Abraham that he might partake of the wealth of Sodom (this world), Abraham was unwilling to sacrifice his fellowship with God even for all the wealth of Sodom – which is exactly what was now being offered to him. Lot wanted all that Sodom had to offer, Abraham wanted not a single part of it.
There are those who believe that it does not matter how or from whom the child of God receives a “blessing”, they just naturally assume that any wealth or increase that comes their way is free for the taking. I shudder to think that if Abraham had been a proponent of modern Prosperity Theology, he would have accepted everything that the King of Sodom offered him and then asked him for more. He would have just assumed that this was God’s way of rewarding his faith and that it was his faith that had secured for him the riches of this world. God indeed provides for those who are His own, but we must decide if we will have our eye on the things of God or the things of this world. Are we going to trust in God or are we going to trust in the prince of this world? Is our own heart interested in the eternal spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), or are we seeking to lay up for ourselves earthly treasures which thieves can steal and that rust corrupts (Matthew 6:19-21)? Abraham had learned the lesson that what he had in God was not for sale at any price. His nephew, Lot had not learned it yet. Have you?