The First Tithe (Genesis 14:18-20)
In Genesis 13, Abram and Lot are forced to go their separate ways because of the prosperity of their “flocks and herds and tents” (13:2-9). Lot chooses the “well-watered” land in “the plain of Jordan” and Abram dwells “in the land of Canaan” (13:10-12). While the land of “Sodom” was likely good for raising livestock it was not a good place for a spiritual family. Genesis 13:13 says, “the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” In chapter 14 we read of “the king of Sodom” going to battle with other kings (14:1-10). During this battle Lot himself is taken as a captive along with his goods (14:11-12). Upon hearing the news of his kinsman neighbor, Abram is called to action and begins the work of delivering his nephew, Lot, from danger and rescuing his goods (14:13-16). Abram is successful in his rescue attempt but, importantly, does not credit himself for Lot’s deliverance.
Instead, when Melchizedek king of Salem comes upon the scene, referred to as “the priest of God Most High,” he blesses Abram and says, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand” (14:19-20). Melchizedek makes it clear—Abram did not deliver Lot due to his own military might or political prowess but because of God’s involvement in the situation. Abram’s response to this fundamental message and “the priest of God Most High” is that “he gave him a tithe of all” (14:20). This “tithe” (a Hebrew word meaning “ten”) is the first example of such giving in the Scriptures. While we do not see the “tithe” commanded in the New Testament it teaches us a valuable principle. We are not to credit ourselves for the great blessings of God in our lives, but to credit God as our Helper and our Deliverer, the Ultimate Source of our spiritual blessings! God, our Creator, is the source of all blessing.
Several Old Testament psalms use a similar ascription as Melchizedek did as they speak of our powerful God.
• “May you be blessed by the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 115:15).
• “My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
• “Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).
• “The Lord who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!” (Psalm 134:3).
• “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them…” (Psalm 146:5-6).
Each of these psalms use the Hebrew word, AZAR, as they speak of the Creator’s “help” or “blessing.” These psalms remind us God equips us with the help we need to live our lives for Him. We are not self-sufficient. Thus, our giving back to God is an acknowledgement we are grateful stewards of God’s blessings and are prepared to give back a portion to His purposes.
So, as we give may we give with the heart of Abram. He gave acknowledging the One who had already given Him victory. He gave promptly. He gave proportionately, a tenth of what He had been given. He gave a little to the One who has given us all!