First of all thank you all for coming here today. I would like to specially thank my family from the east coast for coming all the way here.
For those of you who don't know, the Torah is the first five books of the bible. My Torah portion is called Lech Lecha, and it's near the beginning of the Torah. The first couple of times I read Lech Lecha it didn't make too much sense to me, so I kind of picked a section at random. Then I studied the section I picked for a long time, and now I know a whole lot about it that I didn't see the first time around. The portion that I just read is about 4 kings battling 5 kings over bitumen. The portion names each king and the place he comes from. I looked on a map and saw all these places. They are located around the Dead Sea. My portion says that this area is full of bitumen wells. I looked on line to learn about bitumen. Bitumen is an oil like substance that burns with a bright flame and is used to make paper and can make things waterproof. Bitumen was found in pits in Mesopotamia. Under those pits today are the great oil fields of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Sound a little like today? Countries fighting over oil fields?
Now enter Melchizedek. This quote comes out of my portion: "But Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God the Most High." We looked on the map to find Salem, and we couldn't. It turns out that Salem in Hebrew is "Sha-lem," and it is the same word as "shalom," which means "peace." We also looked in a concordance, which is a book that lists every word in the Bible and every place that it is used. And we learned that this is the first place in the Torah that anyone is called a priest. Melchizedek was known as the king of peace and a priest to God.
We typed the name Melchizedek into Google and found all kinds of weird things. We found a supposed timeline which says things like: "1986: Melchizedek Bible first published." "The third of June in 1998 the Dominion of Melchizedek declares war on the leader of Serbia." It's weird! It's just weird!
When I first learned about Melchizedek he reminded somewhat of a character in Star trek named Q. Melchizedek is only mentioned once or twice in the Torah and Q is only in several shows. Q is also a peace maker by the way helps people figure out problem situations by asking questions without giving answers. In one episode took the Captain of the Starship out of his time zone and brought him to the past. The captain stepped in a blob. It turned out that the blob was the first living thing, I guess you could say. So when he steps in it he damages human life, and there is a way to fix it. But only Q knows. And so to help him, Q lets him ask yes or no questions only. But as soon as he asks one that isn't a yes or no question, Q disappears and forces him to think on his own.
Q and Melchizedek are different from each other. Q can take any shape or form whenever he wishes. He is omnipresent. He can also be in two different time spaces at the same time and can never die. He is also partially omnipotent. But there are some ways that Q is like Melchizedek because no one really knows a lot about Q the same as no one knows a lot about Melchizedek. And just like Q did something kind of confusing, so did Melchizedek. Remember when he brought out bread and wine and gave them to Abram? We thought a lot about the bread and wine and what they might mean. They're kind of mysterious. They obviously mean something important, but it's hard to figure out what. We had different theories on why, but we never came to a definite conclusion.
First of all, we have to think about who he gave the wine to. Abram wasn't one of the five kings. In fact, he wasn't a king at all. During the battle the four kings seized Lot, who was Abram's nephew, and his household and his animals. It was only when Abram heard the news that he went with some of his servants and rescued Lot. It was after that that Melchizedek gave him the bread and the wine. One theory was that Abram won the battle, and now he could go home and rest. Melchizedek might have given him bread and wine to tell him, "It's over for now. You can go home and relax." On the other hand, Melchizedek was a priest. Maybe the bread and wine were religious symbols. They certainly are for both Jews and Christians now. The point is that you don't know what the bread and wine mean, and you have to figure it out by yourself if you really want to know.
All these nine kings are greedy. They are fighting over this bitumen and the side that wins gets everything from the losers. That's what kings are like. They just want more of everything. You see someone that is weak and you say, "We're just going to take them over". You want more money and you say, "We're just going to raise taxes." Sometimes that's not a bad idea. Like if you're trying to find a cure for something you will continuously want more and more money, because you'll require more and more research until you find the answer. Abram is different than that. He didn't get involved in this fight. He wasn't greedy. He just said, "I need to go rescue my nephew." And he did that. He actually got a bunch of stuff along the way, but he didn't try to get any of it.
He got a different kind of reward with the bread and the wine from the King of Peace. We don't know exactly what that gift means, but we know that when we think of bread and wine, we think of family and community and spirit. If you're trying to waterproof a boat then you want bitumen. But you can't use bitumen to have a good time with your family. There is something special about a gift of bread and wine that you can always wonder about. But you know it has something to do with happiness.
© Jerry Young 2004
updated 10/21/2004 - rge
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