April 17: Jerusalem I: Melchizedek and Abraham

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Jewish tradition holds that the Temple in Jerusalem was built where Abraham once made ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac – or as Muslims believe, Ishmael – to the Lord (Genesis 22). So Jerusalem was already a place of sacrifice before a great city grew up there.

Yet before this event, Melchizedek, who met Abraham after one of his battles with bread and wine to share (Genesis 14: 18-20), was already established as the ‘Peaceful King of Salem’ at, tradition insists, Jerusalem.

The bread and wine he shared with Abraham suggests that this was already an agricultural centre. I ask myself, therefore: where was Melchizedek, Priest and King of Salem, when his esteemed neighbour came to the hill behind his town in order to kill his own son?

Perhaps he had already sat down with Abraham and Isaac, talked through their plan. Perhaps, as High Priest of the Lord and King of Peace (Hebrews 7:1-7), he was the ‘Angel of the Lord’ who stayed Abraham’s hand, restored Isaac to his father (and mother – Sarah seems to have had no part in this), and provided the ram for the offering (Genesis 22:11-14).

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The Angel of the Lord who intervenes in people’s lives is more likely to be a flesh and blood human than a being from another universe. Perhaps by sitting down over a cup of tea or a glass of wine, there will be an occasion for you to en-courage a friend or a stranger today.

On the Monday morning I wrote this I was greeted at the railway station by a smiling supporter of the Samaritans. ‘We don’t just hear you, we listen.’ A good motto for each one of us, on Monday or any other day!

The Samaritans

MMB

Max Emanuel Ainmiller, Claudius Schraudolph, Heinrich von Hess; Royal School of Glass Painting, Munich,  c1850: chapel window, Peterhouse, Cambridge. ‘Abraham  Sacrificing Isaac’. Photograph  by MMB.
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