Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God (Hebrews 7:1-2)
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” ( Hebrews 7:1-2 ).
Four kings went to war against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and their allies. As the kingdoms fell to the four kings, the defeated people were carried off along with all of their possessions ( Genesis 14 ). This included Abraham’s nephew Lot because he was living in Sodom. When Abraham heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called together 318 trained men born into his household to pursue the kings. He divided his men into two groups and attacked them during the night recovering everything that had been taken. He brought back Lot, the people’s possessions, the women and all the rest of the people that belonged with them.
Abraham restored and redeemed Lot and all the rest of these people when they were taken into captivity. He didn’t keep anything for himself, but everything was returned to the kings and their people. As he was returning from this victory, Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God came out to meet him and blessed him.
Abraham recognized Melchizedek’s position and in return gave him a tenth of the choicest portion of his possessions. This wasn’t demanded of him instead it was a natural response to the favor and blessing he received. This gift was outflow of his heart when Abraham recognized the greatness of Melchizedek. Even the writer of Hebrews marvels at this in verse 4, “Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! ( Hebrews 7:4 ). The priesthood of Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the priesthood of Jesus. By comparing the two we can gain insight into the role that Jesus holds.
Melchizedek was called a priest of the Most High God. Throughout the New Testament, these words, “Most High” or “highest” are used in reference to Jesus. The term was used when the angel announced to Mary that she would conceive the Messiah. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” ( Luke 1:32 ). It was prophesied by Zechariah that John the Baptist would be his forerunner, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him” ( Luke 1:76 ). The Demons recognized this position of “Most High” as Jesus went about teaching, preaching and healing, “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” ( Mark 5:6-7, Luke 8:28, Acts 6:17 ). And the people recognized it when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” ( Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:10, Luke 19:38 ). It was recognizable to everyone that Jesus was sent by the Most High God.
Secondly, Melchizedek’s name, when translated means ‘King of Righteousness’. Righteousness is the condition of being acceptable to God. To be righteous means that we attain a state approved and acceptable to God. Melchizedek was called the King of Righteousness. Jesus also owns this title. In the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer, quoting from Psalm 45 says, “about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy” ( Hebrews 1:8-9 ). To be the king of something means that your rule is characterized by it. Both Melchizedek’s and Jesus’ kingdoms are signified by righteousness, which means the subjects of those kingdoms also partake in the state of being approved and acceptable to God.
Lastly, Melchizedek was the King of Salem, which many believe was the ancient name for Jerusalem, when translated it means “King of Peace”. Peace is a state of tranquility. Peace is the absence of turmoil in the midst of trouble. Peace to the believer is the tranquil state of the soul assured, secure and content before God. Melchizedek was called the King of Peace just as Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” ( Isaiah 9:6 ). To be the King of Peace means that your subjects enjoy the state of peace. The angels, when announcing Jesus’ birth heralded, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” ( Luke 2:14 ). This peace didn’t exist in the natural realm among mankind; the peace that was announced was peace toward mankind on behalf of God because the Messiah had just born.
Like Melchizedek, Jesus is a priest of the Most High God and we can ascertain characteristics of this role by looking at what the scriptures say about Melchizedek. Like Abraham, we should also recognize the position of Jesus when encountering the many blessings of God. Gratitude for the gifts bestowed on us is the natural response to such blessings. Gaining insight into all of this helps us to understand the role of Jesus, who serves continually as our High Priest before God.