Daily Devotion for February 1, 2012
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
A song about God's forgiveness by the Sharon Singers (of the Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute)
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
~ Abraham Lincoln
Genesis 14:17-24 (ESV)
The Story of Abraham 
After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. And the king of Sodom said to Abram, "Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself."
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.' I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me. Let Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share."
Notes on the Scripture
Of all the hard names in Genesis 14, the one worth remembering is Melchizedek, for he is one of the most puzzling people in the Bible. He simply pops up here, in the story of Abraham, without introduction. He is the king and "priest of God Most High" in Salem, which is certainly an early name for Jerusalem.
Moreover, this God Most High seems to be the true Lord God worshipped by Abram for a number of reasons. Melchizedek's song of praise sounds like a Psalm of David. Abram honors him. Paul certainly considered him a true priest of God, for he called Christ "a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek". (Hebrews 7:17)
So we cannot think of Abram as a sole instigator of monotheistic worship of God or the sole heir of Noah's devotion. Melchizedek is a priest whose authority probably extends back through Noah to Adam. Moreover, the interaction of Melchizedek with the King of Sodom indicate a relationship between a monotheistic priesthood, centered in Jerusalem, and the cities whose name has become synonymous with evil. Both God and the early Hebrew morality were known to, and acknowledged by, Sodom and Gomorrah.
We take the existence of morals for granted, but we should not; most non-Judaic cultures had attitudes towards human life, sex, and property that we would find shocking. The very advanced Greek civilization just before the birth of Christ often extolled the sexual exploitation of little boys, and in Rome, murder and orgy were a way of life. The very notion that there is something inherently wrong with, say, murder, was unknown to most early civilizations, for it presupposes the existence of an almighty god who has forbidden it. Risking oversimplification, one could say that the Jews invented morality.
But despite his acknowledgment of Melchizedek, and thus a separate line of what will become Judaism, Abram chooses to distance himself from the Jordan Valley cities. Perhaps he already knows of their wickedness. He declines an invitation to build an alliance with them. If the Mesopotamian army had not taken Lot and his family, Abram might well have never intervened, for even though he acknowledges Melchizedek, he already seems to hold these cities in contempt.