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.

Without Beginning of Days or End of Life (Hebrews 7:3)

“Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever” ( Hebrews 7:3 )

I was talking with a friend who has always struggled over the significance of Melchizedek. He wasn’t sure why he was mentioned in the Scriptures and didn’t understand why it was important to us today. He wrote off this quest for understanding after his Sunday School teacher told him it wasn’t that important, after all Melchizedek is only mentioned three times in Scripture. I on the other hand believe that understanding who Melchizedek was and why Scripture mentions him so many times is very important, especially since Jesus became a High Priest after and with the rank of his order ( Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:17 ).

This passage in Hebrews 7 is quite an amazing statement because it says Melchizedek had no beginning or ending. There are no records of his father, mother or ancestral line. In the same way there are no records of his death. This is odd because genealogy is very important to Jewish heritage. If you’ve ever read through Scripture chances are you eventually read through some long lists of genealogy. Even Jesus’ genealogy was covered from every angle. Matthew showed it through Joseph’s line. Luke told of Mary’s ancestry and John showed his connection to God as his one and only son. But Melchizedek has no records.

The writer of Hebrews makes this connection that without records, Melchizedek had no beginning or ending of life. In other words he has always and will always exist. Because of this, he remains a priest forever as the position of High Priest was a lifetime position ( Numbers 35:25 ).

This is extremely significant to us because Jesus has been appointed our High Priest before God after the order of Melchizedek, not the order of Aaron. The Levitical priesthood was subject to and interrupted by death. But Jesus’ priesthood was after the pattern of one who did not die,  which means that His priesthood is forever and as such He will always be able to intercede on our behalf ( Hebrews 7:25 ). Death has no power to remove this office from Jesus.

Because Jesus is of Melchizedek’s order, we can ascertain certain expectations about Christ and His priesthood. First, as mentioned it is an eternal position ( Numbers 35:25, Hebrews 7:25 ). Secondly, it is based not in ancestry, but according to the power of an indestructible life ( Hebrews 7:15-16 ). Next, the change in priesthood also changes the law and its requirements ( Hebrews 7:12, Galatians 3:13, Colossians 2:13-14 ). Lastly, just as Melchizedek met Abraham and blessed him, through Christ we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing ( Ephesians 1:3 ).

Adding up all these things helps us to understand why Melchizedek is mentioned in Scripture and why it is important.  He is the pattern that shows us the incredible office that Christ Jesus holds. Understanding Jesus’ role as our High Priest brings us to a place where we can boldly approach God through faith. When we do, we know that we will find grace and mercy to help us in our times of need ( Hebrews 4:16 ).

The Greatness of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:4-7)

“Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater” ( Hebrews 7:4-7 )

No one would dispute the greatness of Abraham. Throughout the entire Scriptures he is mentioned, his covenant with God is referred to and his faith is talked about. He was the only Old Testament patriarch that was called a friend of God. We can learn a lot from Abraham. His faith paved the way for righteousness to be credited to all who believe.

As Abraham returned from redeeming Lot from captivity, Melchizedek went out to meet him. As great as Abraham was he still recognized the greater one and paid due respect. As Melchizedek blessed him, Abraham gave him one tenth of the choicest portions of the spoils. He responded appropriately to Melchizedek’s position and greatness.

The interesting thing is that the covenant and promises of God belonged to Abraham ( Genesis 15 ). He even established circumcision as the sign of this covenant with Abraham and his descendants signifying that it was an everlasting covenant ( Genesis 17 ). God went as far as to change both Abraham and Sarah’s name to reflect the promise ( Genesis 17 ). This is why Abraham is called the Father of Many Nations because everything we have as believers stems from this covenant.

Abraham was a great man, which is why it is important for us to pay attention to what happened between himself and Melchizedek. He gave him a tenth of everything. Now the law, which was introduced 430 years later ( Galatians 3:17 ) described the tithe ( Leviticus 27:30-34, Numbers 18:23-28 ). The tithe was brought to God and then dispersed to the priests. The priests were of the line of Levi, who came from Abraham. Melchizedek was before this, without family ties without record of beginning or ending. So the gift Abraham gave was not out of obligation to the Law, it was a response to the greatness of Melchizedek.

Where blessings are concerned, the lesser person is always blessed by the greater person as is the case with Abraham and Melchizedek even though it was Abraham who possessed the promises. No one refutes the greatness of Abraham, so taking this into account we see how amazing Melchizedek was. This matters to us because Jesus is our High Priest after this order ( Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:17 ).

We too are the recipients of a great promise and covenant with God. Like circumcision, the seal given to us is the deposited Holy Spirit; guaranteeing the promise. Like Melchizedek, Jesus bestows on us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm ( Ephesians 1:3 ). So our response should be that of Abraham, a gift from the heart not stemming from obligation. This encompasses far more than money. Our response to the greatness and awesomeness of Christ should be our lives. We can look at the priesthood of Melchizedek to gain insight into Jesus as he was the pattern of that which was to come. If Melchizedek was great then Jesus is awesome. And God has given us this precious gift to guarantee our intercession before him. What less can we give in return to this blessing than a life fully devoted to our savior and faithful High Priest?

Our Gifts End Up with the Lord (Hebrews 7:8-10)

“In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor” ( Hebrews 7:8-10 )

One of the great things about being a believer is that we can serve God well in whatever station of life we are in. Throughout the Scriptures we see this example. Paul told the church in Colosse, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” ( Colossians 3:23-24 ). He told the Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” ( Ephesians 6:7-8 ). We do not have to be a missionary in Africa to bless the Lord and be used mightily. We can advance the kingdom from our cubical at work or our kitchen at home by putting this principal into action; whatever we do, we do it as unto the Lord.

This fundamental concept is explained in this passage in Hebrews. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of his possessions when he saw the greatness of this High Priest. The author of Hebrews is drawing the connection that the gifts the Levitical priesthood received also ended up with Melchizedek because Levi, the father of this line, was still in the body of Abraham when this offering was made. This shows us that our gifts and offerings, when given in faith, really go to God.

As New Testament believers we can rest assured that when we give, our offerings become a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord ( Philippians 4:18 ). Paul told the Philippian church that the gifts that were given were then credited back to their account. We also see this between Melchizedek and Abraham. As the offering was made, Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek.

This passage illustrates an amazing concept because it shows us that everything we do boils down to a matter of the heart. God said to Samuel when on mission to anoint the next king of Israel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” ( I Samuel 16:7 ). When we give we give as unto the Lord. When we serve, we serve as unto the Lord. When we work at our jobs, we can do it as unto the Lord. We know that whatever we do in word and deed we can do it as if it is the Lord himself we are serving. Understanding this can change your perspective and you can live a radical life for Jesus right where you are.

The Need for Another Priest (Hebrews 7:11)

“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” ( Hebrews 7:11 )

When Adam and Eve were created, they were created into a perfect fellowship with God. They always enjoyed the Sabbath rest, in which they were created, right from the beginning. They were blameless before God and enjoyed an intimate fellowship with him.

This is still the goal. This passage says if perfection, or perfect fellowship between God and mankind could have been attained by the Levitical priesthood, then there would not have been a need for another priest. However, it could never be achieved in this way so there was a call for another priest, not from the line of Aaron, who mediated on behalf of the law, but from the order of Melchizedek who retained his position on the basis of an indestructible life ( Hebrews 7:15 ).

This is a profound statement. This shows us that a right relationship with God can never come through the law. In fact, the very next verse says, “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law” ( Hebrews 7:12 ). This means the old law, the old system of doing things, no longer applies. Instead, we have a new High Priest and a new law. In fact, it is so radically different that we cannot even use the Levitical priesthood as a basis for understanding it, which is why there is nothing in Jesus’ ancestry to connect Him to it.

“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” ( Hebrews 7:18-19 ). This hope is Jesus. The law merely served as an illustration, a type and shadow of Christ ( Hebrews 10:1 ). But now that He has come, there is no longer the need for this illustration ( Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 9:9-10 ).

“First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” ( Hebrews 10:8-10 ).

Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for the sins of the world which restored the perfect fellowship between God and mankind. ( Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 9:26, Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18, I John 2:2 ). Jesus accomplished what the law could never do. Through faith we enter into the Sabbath Rest in which Adam and Eve were created and God promised to the Israelites ( Hebrews 4:1-3 ). This is why there was need for another priest to come in the order and with the rank of Melchizedek; because He was able to restore this relationship. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about the forgiveness of sins making us holy by faith ( I Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 4:24, Hebrews 2:11 ). If we are holy, then perfection, or the perfect fellowship between God and the worshipper has been restored. If it is restored, then we can approach God confidently through faith. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” ( Hebrews 4:16 ).

 

The law could never do this because it reminded us of our sin making us unsure and guilty before God ( Romans 3:20, Hebrews 10:1-4 ). However, Jesus restored our confidence by completely wiping away our guilt and shame. This is why Jesus is after the order of Melchizedek and not the order of Aaron.

Juli Camarin

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