Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2, page 11
“Your God has smiled upon us this day,” said Bera as he surveyed several carts of plunder passing by. “When I return to Sodom I will make sacrifice to Him. You must be very great in His eyes.”
“The Lord has delivered my enemies into my hands because He has willed it, not because of my greatness,” replied Abram, “and because they were His enemies as well.”
“How gratifying it must be to know that your enemies are His enemies,” said Bera. “He has destroyed a great power in Kedorlaomer. The world will be grateful.”
Abram couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy in the presence of Sodom’s king. It was as if he had befriended a wild animal who might turn on him at any time. The sooner they concluded their dealings the better!
“Now as far as settling the accounts of war,” Bera continued, eyeing the spoils, “I have a proposition for you…”
Bera’s voice faded as Abram focused on the other figure approaching them in the valley. As the stranger came closer, Abram studied the man. His appearance was kingly, but without the haughty demeanor of kings of this land. The stranger stopped about 20 yards from where Abram and Bera were conversing. He gave a command and the camel kneeled down. The man dressed in royal garments dismounted and, reaching into his pack, brought out a small bundle. He approached Abram.
“The blessings of the Lord be upon you,” said the man, “for the marvelous victory He has wrought. You have defeated a scourge who has plagued this land for many years now. Please accept this humble offering of bread and wine for refreshment on your journey.”
“Thank you, friend. I will,” said Abram, taking the gift. “But whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?” Abram was still a little mystified by the stranger.
“I am Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God,” he said. “Take also this blessing upon you, for this too is why I have come.”
Melchizedek closed his eyes, stretched forth his hand toward Abram, and declared:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies
into your hand.”
Abram fell to his knees, as did Lot and the rest of his people who were standing with him. Even Bera acknowledged the God of Abram and Melchizedek, albeit with a halfhearted bow of his head. Melchizedek took Abram by the hand and bade him stand. As Abram rose, he gestured to indicate all of the goods he had captured from Kedorlaomer.
“Please, take these things as my offering to the Lord for his continued deliverance of myself and my family,” said Abram. Bera’s eyes grew cold but he said nothing. “Truly all things belong to the Lord. Take them.”
“The Lord of Heaven and earth does not require it of you. He has blessed you with these and many other things. He has preserved you and made you wealthy many times over,” said Melchizedek. “But because your desire is to please the Lord and not to keep these things unto yourself, and because this expression is one of thanksgiving to God who has been with you, I will receive an offering up to the tenth.”
Abram thanked Melchizedek and immediately gave the order to his servants for the transfer of one-tenth of all his goods to Melchizedek. He even provided the burden animals and servants to carry the goods back to Salem. While the spoils were being loaded on the animals, Bera’s countenance was grim. He could not understand why Abram would so willingly give away so much to a stranger. At least he didn’t give away everything, he thought to himself.
“The Lord bless you forever, Melchizedek, priest of the living God,” said Abram. Melchizedek, heavily laden with Abram’s offering, mounted his camel. He bowed a graceful nod of the head and departed. Abram and Bera watched him disappear on the horizon toward Salem. How humble was this king. Abram could not help but make a comparison between Melchizedek, alone on the desert, and Sodom’s king with his retinue of servants.
Bera felt that it was now his turn to talk to Abram. He approached him, cleared his throat and began talking.
“As I was saying, in order to settle the accounts of war in an equitable manner, I propose the following division of the spoils. Let me have the prisoners, but you keep all the goods to yourself. After all, you were the one who defeated our enemies.” Bera figured that he could make more of a profit selling live property at the slave market than by peddling merchandise. “I will take the people with me, but you keep all of the rest.”
Abram turned to Bera and said, “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 may never be able to say ‘I made Abram rich.’”
“My friend, I intended no insult to you or your God,” replied Bera. “I am merely proposing that I take the prisoners and you keep the goods. A very fair exchange, I feel.”
“Fair indeed, Bera, considering that by right of conquest all of this is mine anyway—prisoners as well as goods. But I am interested in nothing except the rightful share that will go to the men who fought alongside me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. They will each get a share. The rest you may keep. I will take with me only what I have eaten.”
“Who am I to come between your conscience and your God? The bargain is made!” said Bera with a smug feeling of satisfaction that he had made a fool of Abram. Bera turned to some of his men. “You…and you there! Get these things back to Sodom. And be careful with the prisoners. They’re very valuable to me.”
With the goods divided between Bera and Abram’s three allies, the two companies parted. How glad Abram was to be rid of Bera. He didn’t particularly relish giving so much to him, but the thought of taking anything from Bera repulsed Abram completely. Abram looked down at the offerings of bread and wine that Melchizedek had presented to him. He pondered his dealings with the two kings as they set out for home.
Several evenings later, as Abram prepared for sleep, he began reflecting upon the recent events of his life. Who would ever have thought that Abram, an immigrant from Ur of the Chaldees, would consort with kings? Or become embroiled in local war? Or become so fabulously wealthy in such a relatively short time? If only his family in Ur could see what had become of him!
Many times he had discussed these things with his wife, Sarai. How fortunate they were to serve a living God, one who was concerned with them—not like the gods of his ancestors, who were deaf to the affairs of men and women. How blessed they were with cattle and goats, and silver and servants. There were very few estates comparable to his in all of Canaan, and Sarai was the envy of many ladies.
And yet, despite all the success and blessing, a larger question loomed in the back of his mind and seemed to make the significance of their prosperity pale in comparison: What did the Lord really intend? Why had God called Abram out of his homeland and away from his family? Surely He could have prospered him in Ur, if His intention were merely to prosper him. But there was more to it all: there was the promise.
Abram recalled the remarkable chain of events that led him from Ur to Canaan.
There was in those days an upheaval in the population of Mesopotamia: it seemed that everyone was moving somewhere! Abram’s father, Terah, became caught up in this emigration fever and decided to move the family to Canaan. Despite the promises of opportunity that the new land might afford, Abram was hard-pressed to convince Sarai to leave her friends and family for this “land of purple”—as Canaan was called because of its purple dyes.
Ur was a magnificent city. The arts flourished; the culture was enviable; the library was magnificent; the palaces were beautiful; the commerce was tremendous. Ur represented a golden age of Sumerian culture. It seemed to Sarai that there was plenty of opportunity right there! But behind the facade of prosperity and perfection was a looming catastrophe. Ur was rotting from within. Idolatry, political corruption, moral degeneration, and finally war would take their tolls; the city of Ur was destined to become a casualty
Upon arriving in Haran, a stopping point on the trip to Canaan, Terah began to lose the urgency for travel and the family settled there. Abram recalled how his father decided that Haran, a sister-city of Ur with tremendous cultural and commercial ties, had “tremendous potential.” In truth, he was simply ready to settle down again—and this they did for the next 20 years until Terah’s death.
After his father’s death in Haran, Abram heard from God. The Lord told Abram to leave his father’s family there and move on to Canaan, where He would make Abram into a great nation! That meant an heir! What a promise—especially since Sarai was unable to have children. This time she didn’t need as much convincing to move on—she just hoped Abram had heard correctly from God! They departed soon afterwards, and Lot, their nephew, came with them.
Many years passed and Abram grew prosperous. He found favor with the local inhabitants and soon separated from Lot because the sizes of their respective flocks were too large to inhabit such a small area. After Lot took his flocks east toward the Jordan, the Lord spoke again to Abram, promising that Abram’s offspring would be so numerous that they would be like the dust of the earth!
Now the events of the last few weeks began playing themselves out in Abram’s mind in a whirlwind of images: the messenger telling of Lot’s capture; news of the defeat of the Canaanite coalition; organizing a pursuit with 318 men; Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre volunteering their aid; meeting the enemy at Dan and routing Kedorlaomer’s forces all the way north of Damascus. Then the most recent encounter with the kings of Sodom and Salem. What eventful days!
You’ve certainly lived an interesting life, Abram told himself. But interesting as his life was, there was still the one missing piece of the puzzle that gnawed at him—which he thought about every day as he saw himself and Sarai getting older and older; which would make him feel complete; which would establish forever the integrity of the Creator’s word—they still had no heir. And certain as he was that God was more than able to deliver on the promise, he could not help but be anxious as he saw the dream of a son and heir becoming more and more distant with each sunset.
“How low the image of God has fallen among men.”
The Council of War was waiting for Lucifer to determine their next move against Abram. Although there was no immediate sign that an heir would be born to Abram, the promise of a coming son hung over the rebels like a heavy fog—suffocating and dreary. Kara chattered on, insisting that his agents were on top of the situation and acting as if a positive breakthrough was imminent. Pellecus looked at Kara with his usual disdain.
For years now, the war against the Seed had been in a stalemate. Both the holy and the fallen angels had observed Abram’s constant wavering back and forth. Often when it seemed that Abram might despair completely, he would recover his strength in the Most High. He always seemed to rediscover his faith—and that was the problem.
“Don’t be so encouraged, Kara,” said Pellecus. “How many times has human weakness and double-mindedness dashed our hopes?”
“Ah yes,” said Kara, “but we must count on humans to win the war. And Abram is as foolish as any of them.”
“The Most High’s covenant with him is assured,” Pellecus responded. “The Seed will come through him in spite of him. Our attempts to discourage him and bring him down through his wife’s constant complaints or his own family’s greed have thus far failed. I would declare the war a dismal failure.”
“That is why you are not ruler here,” said Lucifer, entering the clearing near Abram’s settlement at Bethel, where they had assembled. All of the angels immediately came to order. Kara sat down, enjoying Pellecus’s discomfort.
“I didn’t mean to imply that the fault was yours, my lord,” said Pellecus, trying to recover his indiscretion. “I merely am pointing out that the war goes without noticeable signs of progress.”
“In other words, Pellecus, the war is a failure?” asked Kara, with relish. Others joined in Kara’s effort, having various scores to settle with Pellecus, whom they considered the most arrogant among them.
“Enough of this!” snapped Lucifer. “The war is neither won nor lost. At this point I think it is fair to call it a draw.”
Lucifer settled down among the others around the remains of a pagan altar, recently destroyed by Abram’s men on his orders. Lucifer picked up an emblem of pagan worship, an amulet, that had been partially burned in the destruction.
“The war continues…as always,” Lucifer said, focusing on the amulet as if he were speaking only to himself. “You see this relic? It was once a proud instrument of worship.” He turned to Tinius. “As I recall, Tinius, this bit of ground was dedicated to you…one of your manifestations?”
“Yes, lord,” said Tinius, a bit embarrassed. “I actively engaged many humans here in worship. I had assumed a local deity and was directing them in certain bits of sorcery. That is until the land became Abram’s and he profaned this site.”
“As I said, the war is neither won nor lost,” repeated Lucifer. He cast the amulet to the ground. “Take heart, Tinius. Humans are incurably religious. I’m sure you will be able to raise another following elsewhere.”
“In fact, lord, I already have,” he admitted proudly. “Near Sodom the humans are begging to have the wisdom of…gods. I have begun to accommodate them.”
“Excellent,” said Lucifer. “Now if you might only achieve godlike wisdom!”
“Many of you have achieved a following among the humans,” continued Lucifer. “This is necessary and I encourage it. Some of the more vile among us, have even caused the humans to degrade themselves in the most debauched form of…of…”
“Worship, my lord,” said Kara.
“Ah yes,” Lucifer agreed, smiling. “Worship. How low the image of the Most High has fallen among men. I told you that human sensuality was a fine weapon. Now in the name of the Most High they behave in every animalistic way imaginable. So you see, the war is not entirely lost. Humans will always prostitute themselves for a price.”
“Most humans, lord,” said Pellecus, causing heads to turn his way.
“Yes, Pellecus,” said Lucifer. “Abram has yet to fall to the sort of nonsense most humans are prey to. And it remains true that in spite of every setback, every attack, every weapon we have formed against him, his faith has survived intact.” Lucifer threw up his arms in disbelief. “Do you realize that the Most High has not even spoken to him for 13 earth years and he still remains true?”
The group began muttering among themselves, speaking to the injustice of it all. Lucifer watched the effect of his words on the group and then spoke again.
“There are, of course, others who are true to the Lord,” he said. “Others who have not bowed to the gods we create or given in to the usual human depravities. No, Abram is not alone. But he is the chosen one…God has made a covenant with him and the Seed will come through him.”
Berenius stood, exasperated by it all. “This we know, lord,” he said. “And if we could get to Abram all of the other faithful would become irrelevant to the outcome of the war. But we cannot get to Abram.”
“Perhaps then, Berenius, we should not be going after Abram.” Lucifer looked over the puzzled group with glowing confidence. “Perhaps we are trying to catch a leviathan when we should be fishing for smaller game.”
He began pacing around the others, drumming his chin with his fingers as he spoke. “We need a new approach to the situation. Open force is useless right now—at least until Abram is in a position to compromise. What we need is something subtle…something indefensible…something that takes the battle out of the realm of combat and moves it into the realm of legality. And I believe I know how.”
Michael and Gabriel were enjoying the worship and fellowship among the Host in the Great Hall. Duty to the Most High was the supreme honor, but basking in His Presence was
This very special custom, known as the Day of Presentation of the Host, had taken on an even greater significance since the rebellion. Lucifer had taken with him upwards of one-third of the Host, including some of the most highly placed angels in the Kingdom. Their absence was noticeable and served as a constant reminder of the grim fate that awaited those who transgress.
The angels would approach the Most Holy Throne, and being careful not to look upon the Presence, would bow most humbly and speak a vow of loyalty to Him who was the giver of all life. Michael and Gabriel, as archangels, had already presented themselves. Now the teachers of the Academy of the Host were making their way to the Throne in solemn procession.
A hush that was uncharacteristic of the occasion swept the room, causing Michael to look up very discreetly in the direction of what appeared to be some sort of disturbance. What could possibly be going on? he thought to himself, as Gabriel too looked up. They both were amazed to see Academy teachers pulling away from a figure who made his way up the center of the Great Hall in measured steps. At the same instant, the name “Lucifer” was by now being echoed throughout the room.
Lucifer nodded at Michael, who barely restrained himself from personally removing him from so holy a proceeding. Gabriel looked on, astonished but not completely surprised at Lucifer’s appearance. Such nerve! And yet, Lucifer carried on as if he belonged; as if this was something that was normal—almost expected of him. Lucifer continued up the aisle, by this time completely alone, robed in ceremonial garb that he no longer had authority to wear.