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Open Our Eyes, Lord

Date: May. 24, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

2 Kings 6:1-23

Key Verse: 2 Kings 6:17

“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Have you ever heard the expression “hidden in plain sight?”  It is used when something seems hidden and cannot be found, when actually it is not hidden.  This happens often with my keys.  Sometimes I’ll put my keys on the kitchen table, and then forget that they are there.  When I’m about to leave the house, I realize I don’t have my keys, then I search everywhere – my coat pockets, my bedroom, my bookbag, only to realize later that I put them on the kitchen table.  For some reason my brain didn’t think to just check the kitchen table.  I could have just found my keys by looking there.  So here you see, that we can be blind, even though we can see with our eyes.  There are many forces at work that are real, but we cannot see.  We can’t see the wind, but it’s there.  We can’t see light, but it makes everything else visible.  We can’t see microwaves, but somehow our food gets hot when we put it in that box.  In the same way, God is invisible, but he is always at work.  He determines what we can see, and what we cannot see – and again, there are many things we cannot see, so we are blind, and we are lost.  The good news is God is able to open our eyes, he is able to make us see, and show us the truth if we come and seek him, believe in him and trust him.  In today’s passage, we will see how God is able to help each one of us individually, as well as protect an entire nation by showing us his power.  May the Lord open our eyes to see him.

Our passage begins in verse 1, “The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us.’”  Up to this point, we have seen Elisha perform great miracles for the glory of God.  He parted the Jordan river with a rolled-up cloak.  He healed bitter, undrinkable water for the people of a city.  He helped a poor widow by instructing her to pour a small jar of oil, which miraculously multiplied to fill numerous larger jars.  He raised a woman’s son to life, healed a pot of harmful stew, fed one hundred prophets with 20 small barley biscuits, and he healed one man’s leprosy.  Word of his deeds and power spread far and wide, he was the prophet of Israel, and more people were coming to learn to serve the Lord.  The company of the prophets was like a little school to train up teachers and preachers of God’s word, with Elisha as the head prophet.  They were growing, and the place where they were meeting now was becoming too small, so they asked Elisha if they can build a new, bigger meeting place by the Jordan river.  Look at v.3, “Then one of them said, ‘Won’t you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied.”  Like a child, or a dear friend, one of the prophets asked, “Won’t you please?”  They loved and respected their master, and asked kindly that he would join them, and he did.

They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees.  As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water.  ‘Oh no my lord!’ he cried out, ‘It was borrowed!’”  A prophet was just chopping a tree, near the river – and if you’ve ever tried to chop a tree, it takes a great deal of strength and swinging, over and over again to cut the tree down.  So the prophet was chopping away, swinging the axe, when suddenly, the axhead flies off the handle and lands into the river.  “Oh no my lord!” he cried out.  Fear, and terror seized his heart.  What’s the big deal about the axhead?  Don’t axes cost $20 at Home Depot?  Keep in mind that this was around 3,000 years ago, steel wasn’t invented yet, and iron was not mass produced.  It was rare and expensive to get a strong, fine quality axe to chop down trees.  The axe was a very important tool – it can be used to cut trees, to build homes, to cut firewood, and to make things.  To lose an axhead would be a great cost, and it could also mean this prophet would need to go into bonded labor in order to pay off the axe.  Prophets were a poor group of people.  The loss of the axhead also becomes an inconvenience to the person who owns the axe, so the prophet was not only worried for himself, but the owner as well.

Have you ever lost something valuable that you did not own?  This almost happened to me last week.  Our ministry owns an Apple MacBook Pro, the computer itself costs over $1000, and an installation of a Bible software, Logos, that costs several hundred dollars.  Every week, whoever is working on the message, gets to take the laptop home to use.  We switch off so that we can use the software on the computer to help prepare our messages.  The laptop is also used to record and store our sermons, and also sometimes to create the powerpoint slides for our worship service.  It is a valuable tool in our ministry.  Well last week, it was my turn to take it home, and Dan passed the laptop to me.  At the time I was cutting the birthday cake, so I left it next to the trash can.  By the time we left around 1pm, I had forgotten I put it there, and left it next to the trash can, in the chapel, after everything was cleaned up.  Later that night, around 9:30, Mary asks, “Did you bring the laptop home?  I saw it by the trash can.”  Just then a wave of terror flashed through my spine … “Oh NO!  I left it in the chapel!!!!”  I was restless, worried, and all I could think about was getting to the chapel, and what a terrible person I was.  Mary said “I’ll pray, you sure you don’t need me to go?”  And I said no, because I wanted to rush out.  My thoughts were racing through my head at 1,000 miles an hour, “What if another group was in the chapel?”  “What if the cleaning people thought it was garbage and threw it out?”  “What if the cleaning people took it?”  “Ohhhh crap I just lost a thousand dollar laptop!!!”  So I rushed out of the house, and made it to the chapel.  I park, run over to the window, and look next to the garbage can – and what do I see?  I see the laptop right there, next to the garbage can.  “THAAAANK GOD!!!” I thought to myself, and I praised God.  All this time Mary was praying for me too.  I called public safety, and they came over to unlock the door, and I was able to retrieve the laptop.  It was such a relief.  Had it been lost, I might have had to visit all of your houses and do your dishes to pay it off.  It would also have become a huge inconvenience to the ministry, but thank God, he kept the laptop safe and we were able to get it back.

When he lost the axhead, the servant cried out to Elisha, “Oh no my lord!  It was borrowed!”  The Jordan river was a muddy river.  It may have also been deep where the axhead fell – it looks like the prophet couldn’t just jump right in and pick it up.  Think about dropping something in the Chicago river.  The average depth is about 10 feet, but it can get as deep as 26 feet.  But even if you dropped something in 10 feet of muddy water, it would be very difficult to find it.  So the prophet went to Elisha.  He didn’t know what Elisha would or could do, but he did seek him to tell him what happened.  Elisha, showing compassion and a desire to help asked, “Where did it fall?”  When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.  Let me say that again: Elisha cut a stick and threw it on the spot where the axhead sank, and made the iron float.  The iron did what?  It floated.  When I was in kindergarten, a classmate did a science project on objects that floated or sank in the water.  Crayons could float in water, but nails sink.  This axhead was a dense piece of iron, it is supposed to sink – but this was a miracle.  God over-ruled the laws of nature, and caused the iron to float up to the top of the river.

Elisha told the prophet, “Lift it out.”  The man reached out his hand and took it.  Elisha told the man to get it.  This way, the man could touch and see this miracle for himself.  The axhead floating on the river was not an image or a trick – it was the axhead he had lost, and it was restored to him.  This event would strengthen the faith of the prophet as he witnessed the supernatural work of God, and also cause him to give God glory.  This story shows us once again the power of God over nature, and teaches us that God can and he does care for us.  Who was this prophet?  He was just a regular guy.  He lost an axhead, it was only his problem, but God cared for him and helped him, and his love for us is just as personal.  This story teaches us that we can and should trust God, who is understanding and able to take care of us.  And what does it mean to trust God?  It means to believe in him, that all his ways are right, and to depend on him in all situations.  Whatever your situation is, pray, and take your cares to the Lord.  Trust him.  Sometimes his answer will be yes to your prayers, sometimes, they will be no, or maybe later.  Even if his answer is no, trust him.  What you want may not be what you need.  God knows what you need.  He has the ability to do miracles, and remember, even the peace God gives you in your heart, and the strength to trust him, is a miracle.  Don’t only look at the world to find supernatural things, see the supernatural things God is doing in your own heart.  When you have worries, or cares or anxieties, bring them to God, and he will help you.

We have learned how God helps people in their “small,” personal troubles, and now we turn to see how God is also powerful enough to protect an entire nation.  This next passage is the last miracle we see Elisha perform in this book of 2 Kings, although we will continue to see him work as a prophet of God in Israel.  Look at v.8, “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel.  After conferring with his officers, he said, ‘I will set up my camp at such and such a place.’”  The last great battle Israel had with Aram was over the city of Ramoth Gilead, a city that belonged to Israel but Aram did not give back.  It was in this battle that Ahab was killed.  Ever since, it seems Aram was still at war with Israel, but engaged in some type of guerilla warfare with small raids throughout the country.  The servant girl of Israel who served in Naaman’s household was captured in one such raid.  Now it seems the king of Aram wants to capture the king of Israel in this same way.  Not with an all out war bringing his entire army, but taking a small camp with him and trying to ambush the king.  It’s kind of like the game of chess that our boys play during lunch time, and the kings are trying to get each other.

Elisha was not going to let that happen.  He sent word to the king of Israel:  “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.”  So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God.  Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.  Imagine being the king of Aram – you have done your homework and found out where the king of Israel travels, and when he has guards with him and when he does not.  Maybe he likes to go hunting in certain places, or likes to ride his horse on some trails.  You set up your camp, and then wait for him.  You finally see your target … but wait, he has twice as many body guards around him.  What’s going on?  Who takes that many body guards out for a ride?  Ah, guess we have to come back another day, or try another spot.  But every time you set up a new camp, the king suddenly has more guards.  What is going on?  It’s like if Jun Mo is playing chess with Jimmy, but before Jimmy makes a move, Jun Mo sets a piece up to thwart that plan.  And it happens over and over again, and then Jimmy in frustration flips the chess board over and says, “Are you reading my mind?”  The king of Aram feels the same frustration.  Look at v.11, “This enraged the king of Aram.  He summoned his officers and demanded them, ‘Tell me!  Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’ The king of Aram has caught on that somehow the king of Israel knows his every move, so it is understandable that he believes someone in his own camp is a traitor.

The king of Aram does not really know what is going on, but one of his officers replies, “None of us [are on the side of the king of Israel], my lord the king, but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”  Elisha’s reputation as a prophet has spread far and wide, and some how this officer knew.  It was not the Elisha himself could read the mind of the king of Aram, but it was God who revealed the motives of the king to Elisha, who passed the information on to the king of Israel.  What we learn here is that God knows what’s in our hearts, and we cannot hide from God.  We can fool men, but we cannot fool God.  Isaiah 29:15 says, “Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us?  Who will know?’”  Have you ever done bad things in secret thinking, “Who sees this?  Who will know?”  Jeremiah writes, “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?”  declares the Lord.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”  declares the Lord (Jer 23:23-24).”  The Lord is both a God nearby, and a God far away, who fills heaven and earth.  King Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most glorious kings of Babylon said to the prophet Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery. (Dan 2:47)”

God knows what’s in our hearts.  King David writes in Psalm 139:1-4, “You have searched me Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”  Before we even speak, the Lord knows completely what we will say.  King Solomon, David’s son, writes, “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say. (Ecc 10:20).”  Our thoughts are known to the Lord, even our secret thoughts.  If your all thoughts were projected on a screen now, would you be ashamed of what you read?  So what should we do?  We should not deny that our thoughts are wicked, we should not deceive ourselves.  We should acknowledge our faults, and confess our sins to God.  And we don’t confess to God because he doesn’t know, he does know, but we confess for our own good, that we may acknowledge that we are sinners before God.  He is faithful and just, and he is merciful, and there is forgiveness for those who trust in him.

Ben Hadad, the king of Aram, then ordered his men to find out where Elisha was, so that he could send men and capture him.  It’s funny that that king of Aram wanted to send men to capture Elisha.  Elisha was the one who was giving out his secret locations, and telling the king of Israel the very words he speaks in his bedroom.  You would think he should know that God will also protect Elisha, and prevent his capture.  So the report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then the king of Aram sent horses and chariots and a strong force there.  They went by night and surrounded the city.  Dothan was the same city that Joseph’s brothers had betrayed him in (Gen 37:17), and it was a city built on a small hill.  Early the next morning, the servant of man of God went out and saw an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city.  Imagine waking up one day, and then going outside for a stretch, a jog, or some breakfast, and then you see police cars surrounding your house.  The servant was terrified, this does not look good.  He cried out to Elisha, “Oh no, my lord!” just like the prophet who lost the axhead, and asked, “What shall we do?”  Elisha’s servant might not have known that the army was there for his master, but he perceived that everyone in the city may be in trouble.  He goes immediately to his master, the man of God, and asks him, “What shall we do?”

Look at Elisha’s response in v.16, “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered.  “Those that are with us are more than those who are with them.”  Elisha gave a calm, confident response.  This was such a strange answer, but we see what Elisha is talking about in v.17.  Can we read v.17 together, “And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  What an amazing sight!  While he saw the Aramean army out in the distance, closer to them he saw God’s army, and army of angels surrounding Elisha and the servant.  What a comfort, what a security, what a protection God provided!  These were horses and chariots of fire that the Aramean army could not see.  It was an army that had a heavenly radiance.  These were like the horsemen and chariots of fire that Elisha had seen before, when Elijah was taken up into heaven.  The same army that delivered Elijah from death would now deliver Elisha from the king of Aram.

These horsemen and chariots of fire were not merely images, but they are real, spiritual beings that exist, that we cannot see because God has hidden a spiritual world from our sight.  The Bible does tell us a lot about angels and what they do.  Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”  This sounds a lot like what the angels are doing for Elisha and his servant.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear God, and delivers them.  Psalm 91:9-11 says, “If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;”  God sends his angels to guard us in our ways, for those who trust in him.  Heb 1:14 says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”  Angels are sent to help us and to guard us, but remember, it is not in angels that we put our trust in.  No disrespect to angels, for they are powerful and glorious beings, and we thank God for them.  But our trust ultimately is not in angels, our trust is in God, and in Jesus Christ, who is the commander and king over the armies of angels.  They submit to God, as we should as well.

As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.”  So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.  Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city.  Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.”  And he led them to Samaria.  The Aramean army was struck with blindness, but it was not a blindness where they could not see.  It was a blindness of confusion- where they suddenly did not know where they were, or who they were looking for.  It is similar to where things are lost in plain sight.  It’s like driving down a highway, and you plan to make an exit, but somehow you get distracted and you totally miss the exit.  The enemy army saw Elisha, they should have known who he was.  Maybe it was well known that he was a bald man.  But Elisha did not wear a disguise.  Instead he just said to them plainly “This is not the road and this is not the city.  Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.”  It’s funny because they were looking for Elisha.

They were actually on the right road, and in the right city, but in their blindness Elisha was able to deceive them.  They must have been able to see, because they followed him to Samaria, which was 12 miles away, to the south.  This army of horsemen, chariots, and a strong force could not have marched to Samaria if they could not see.  But if they really knew where they were going, they would not have entered Samaria.  It was like entering a lion’s den.  Samaria was the capital of Israel, and a secure, walled city.  It’s like ISIS fighters being led into the Washington D.C.  That should be the last place they want to be.  What you can see here is how easily we can be deceived when we are blinded.  My dear friends, we may be able to see with our eyes, but if we are blind to God, we can be easily deceived, and easily led astray.  Hollywood, movies and television give us the wrong idea about sex, beauty, drugs, alcohol and violence.  Advertisements create desires in us for things we don’t really need.  And without a firm foundation in God, we are influenced by godless people in and around our lives.  We may follow in the footsteps of our parents, and inherit their vices, or kids might find community in gangs.  Even if we meet good people, and never join a gang, or fall into the sins of our parents, we can still be influenced to deny the truth about God, and the truth about ourselves.

The Aramean army would soon wake up to find themselves in the heart of enemy territory.  After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.”  Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.  There they were, inside Samaria.  They may have been surrounded by Israelite soldiers, with swords and spears pointed at them.  They were definitely not in a friendly place.  When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father?  Shall I kill them?”  The king called Elisha “father,” which is a sign of respect and honor.  The king of Israel was probably made aware in advance that Elisha was leading a band of Aramean soldiers into Samaria, and prepared to receive them.  But he was probably more impressed at the power of God to deliver the enemy right into their hands, and for this, he paid respect to Elisha.  He even Elisha for permission to kill the enemy.

The Aramean army was at the mercy of Elisha, and there before them stood their opposing king who wanted to kill them.  What did Elisha say?  Look at v.22, “’Do not kill them,’ he answered, ‘Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow?  Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’”  Mercy!  They were shown mercy!  First, although kings can and have done whatever they wanted with prisoners of war, it was considered inhumane to kill them.  Today, there is an international law, stated in the Geneva Convention, that prisoners of war must be treated humanely.  The Geneva Conventions are a series of treaties set up after World War II to describe the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and soldiers who are incapable of combat.  They have made the killing of POWs a war crime.  The Geneva Convention did not exist 3,000 years ago, so Israel may have had a different standard with the treatment of POWs.  But here Elisha is also saying that these prisoners were not captured by Joram’s (the king of Israel’s) army, but they are God’s prisoners, so he prohibits them from being executed.  More than that, he requires that they be fed, and released to return back to Ben Hadad, the king of Aram.

Now why would Elisha do such a thing?  Why would he protect the enemy, give them food, and release them, without even negotiating a deal?  Why did he not allow the king of Israel to slaughter them?  It is because this would force the king of Aram to acknowledge God.  He would acknowledge God as the revealer of his secrets.  He would have to acknowledge that God easily captured his soldiers.  If they had been killed, his soldiers would not be able to testify how they were stunned, blinded, and led to Samaria.  If they had been killed, his soldiers would not be able to testify that they were shown grace and mercy.  Elisha spared these soldiers for the glory of God.  The king of Aram would be forced to recognize God’s power and sovereignty.  He would be forced to recognize his powerlessness against God.  He would be forced to recognize that God is merciful.  And because his soldiers were returned in peace, he might be more inclined to make peace with Israel, whose God is Supreme.

Now look at v.23, “So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master.  So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”  The king of Israel obeyed what Elisha had said, and it seemed he went above and beyond.  He didn’t just give them food and water, he prepared a great feast for them.  This command came from Elisha, but ultimately came from God.  It shows the character of God.  Prov 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  The same proverb is echoed in Rom 12:20-21.  Jesus commanded this in Matt 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  He taught his disciples in Luke 6, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them…but love your enemies, do good to them…then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”  How can we love our enemies?  Without God, this is impossible – this is only possible when we realize that God had loved us, even while we were enemies to him.  The final result of this mercy was that Aram had stopped raiding Israel’s territory.  Finally, peace was achieved, even if only for a short time.  There was a peace, and it lasted for over a year, but we will see in the next chapter how forgetful and ungrateful the king of Aram was when he launches an all out assault against Israel.

Twice in this passage Elisha prays, “open their eyes.”  The first time was for his servant, and he sees the angel armies.  The second time was for his enemies, who see the danger that they are in.  Let us pray that God may open the eyes of our friends, our family, and even our enemies.  Let us also pray that God may open our eyes.  May God open our eyes to the reality and truth about God.  Acts 26:17-18 shows why God sent Paul, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  Paul was sent to open people’s eyes to turn them from darkness to light.  From their blindness to God to seeing God.  He was sent to open their eyes to turn them from the power of Satan to the power of God, who forgives our sins and gives us a place among his people.  May God open our eyes to see his sovereignty, how he rules over nature, and over kingdoms in heaven and earth.

May God open our eyes to see the danger we are in.  Like the Aramean soldiers, they woke up to find themselves in danger of the judgment of the people of God.  This is the danger that we are in.  If we remain blind to God, and blind to our sin, we will find ourselves one day in the judgment seat of God to give an accounting of our life before him.  May God open our eyes to see that we have been enemies of God, that we are sinners and sinful people against a righteous God.  May God open our eyes to see that we have deceived ourselves and been deceived by the devil.  That we have sinned against our Creator by sinning against his creation.  That we have sinned against God who loved us, because we have not loved God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.  1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”  

Finally, may God open our eyes to see that he is loving, merciful, and gracious.  “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).” God knows our thoughts, he knows our sinful hearts, but he has not removed his love from us.  God loved us, and he has loved us from the beginning, and he has proven his love to us in Jesus Christ.  The punishment for our sins is death, but God sent his son to die for us, to take our punishment away.  Therefore in Christ, we may receive forgiveness for all of our sins.  In Christ, peace has been made between us and God.  Like the prisoners in Samaria, in Christ we will find mercy, and instead of prison we will be welcomed into heaven for a banquet.  Christ has made us right with God!  In Christ, we need not fear.  Rom 8:31-32 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  In Christ, all of God’s good promises are true.  He will help us in all things, just like he helped the prophet who lost his axhead.  And because death has been paid for by Christ, there is no more death, but only an expectation of eternal life in heaven.  In Christ, you will never die!!  I’d like to end with a verse from Eph 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”  May the eyes of your heart be enlightened so that you may know the hope that God has called you to: the riches of his glorious inheritance, an inheritance for you who believe and trust in Jesus Christ to save you, an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade – eternal life, eternal peace, eternal joy in heaven above.  Open our eyes Lord!

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Daily Bread

Blessed Be Abram by God Most High

Genesis 14:1-24

Key Verse: 14:20

  and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

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