Summary: Three important things we learn about the tithe from Abram’s encounter with Melchizedeck.
#2 The First Recorded Tithe
Genesis 14: 17-24
After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
"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."
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. The king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself." But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the LORD , God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ’I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me-to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share."
The story of Abram’s battle with the kings and the ensuing encounter with the king-priest Melchizedeck, is a story of great significance to New Testament believers. While many spiritual principles can be learned from all of the Old Testament characters, the Bible attaches special importance to the man Abram (Abraham). Paul the apostle said this:
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:6-9
The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. Galatians 3:!8
When it comes to salvation, the New Testament teaches that we are justified by faith. The price needed to pay for sin was remitted when Jesus died on the cross. All we must do is believe and receive. The Bible teaches that the covenant God made with man through Christ is immutable and therefore it cannot and never will be rendered void.
(This is not the case for other covenants God made with man. For example, the covenant of law is no longer in force since it was replaced by the new covenant through Christ. This does not mean that the law is set aside as far as a moral code. It does mean that no one can be justified (made right with God) through keeping the law. The law was given to demonstrate how utterly hopeless it is to attempt to be righteous, for no matter how hard we try our sin nature is more powerful and we end up failing.)
That faith is the only way for mankind to be saved is something God wanted to make clear very early in his dealing with mankind. So, he chose a man through whom he could demonstrate principles of living that he decreed are timeless. That man was Abraham and through him God established powerful precepts (examples) of how we are to understand and live the Christian life.
The word “tithe” simply means “tenth”. Throughout the Bible the paying of tithes was practiced by bringing one tenth of every increase, to the place God appointed. In the Old Testament, tithes were paid to the priests who used them to advance the worship of Israel.
In the New Testament, Christians pay their tithes to the church. (More about why we do this in a future study)
The first recorded person to pay tithes was Abram and the account of this is found in Genesis chapter 14, (quoted above). I will in this Bible teaching, talk about three important truths as they relate to the tithe. They are: warfare, faith, and worship.
Wars are a fact of fallen human nature. There is no dispute about that and Christians are by no means exempt. In fact, Christians fight battles in the highest possible sphere, in the realm of spirits. In Ephesians 5:10-19, Paul wrote about the nature of spiritual warfare and about the armour one must wear in order to both defend against evil, and advance against it.
Abram understood these principles. With 318 trained servants he went up against four kings and their armies. The odds were impossible. If ever there was a David and Goliath struggle it was this one. Abram had three allies; Mamre, Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were Amorites. (Genesis 14: 14). The amorites were descendents of Shem who formed a dynasty of kings that embraced the larger part of Mesopotamia and Syria. Their chief city was Babylon.