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In the Order of Melchizedek

by Walt Hasbach

 

As I was reading Hebrews chapter 7, I became interested in who and what Melchizedek was.  The more I followed the Chapters foot notes the more interested I became.  Everything we know about Melchizedek comes from Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7.  I accepted this complex challenge and wrote this article.  The first stop was Genesis 14:14–20.  In the book of Genesis, Melchizedek appears (out of nowhere) to bless Abraham.  Abraham then pays tribute to Melchizedek by sharing a tenth of his spoils from his raid in Sodom.  Melchizedek is the first high priest mentioned in the Bible.

Genesis 14:14-20 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.  He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.  After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).  Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.  And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand."  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Melchizedek is described in Genesis as “a priest of the highest God” and the “King of Salem.”  The word Salem means “peace,” making Melchizedek the “King of Peace.”  Melchizedek is characterized as being, “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither birth, nor end of life; but made like the Son of God; and will remain a priest continually.”

The 110th Psalm is a prophecy that tells us two things God promised to do for Jesus; make Jesus the king in Zion and make Jesus a priest.  The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever.

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.  Rule in the midst of your enemies!  Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.  The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Then some 2,500 years later Paul wrote the book of Hebrews.  Hebrews 7 11-20, If the Levitical priesthood could have achieved God’s purposes, and it was that priesthood on which the law was based, why did God need to send a different priest to come from the line of Melchizedek, instead of from the line of Levi and Aaron?  And when the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it.  For the one we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members do not serve at the altar.  What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned Judah in connection with the priesthood.  The change in God’s law is even more evident from the fact that a different priest, not by meeting the old requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed.  And the psalmist pointed this out when he said of Christ, “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek.”  Yes, the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and unless.  For the law made nothing perfect, and now a better hope has taken its place.  And that is how we draw near to God.  God took an oath that Christ would always be a priest, but he never did this for any other priest.  Only to Jesus did he say, “The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: ‘You are a priest forever.”  Because of God’s oath, it is Jesus who guarantees the effectiveness of this better covenant.   (This statement emphasizes the superiority of Christ's Priesthood through Melchizedek to the Levitical Priesthood.)

Genealogy was everything to the Jews.  Paul had to remind the Jews (Hebrews 7: 3) that there was no record of Melchizedek’s parents, his birth, or his death and it is lineage that separates the Jews from the Gentiles.  Paul positioned Melchizedek above Abraham so that he could prove the Levitical priesthood was temporary from the beginning.

Being a biological descendant of Abraham was considered a matter of eternal life.  Paul in Matthew 3:9; told the Israelites “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.  Then in John 8:39 Abraham is our father," they replied. "If you were children of Abraham," said Jesus, "you would do the works of Abraham

In short, Melchizedek serves as a representation for the ministry of Jesus Christ. While the Old Testament separated the line of kings from the line of priests, Melchizedek holds both titles.  Genesis 14:18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was priest of God Most High.  His lack of a genealogy symbolizes a lack of either beginning or end.  And, since he is honored by Abraham, his priesthood is logically superior to that of Abraham's children.  God's promise to establish a prophetic figure in the priesthood of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4) and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Given this fulfillment of prophecy, Paul gave the Jews a difficult challenge.  Which temple and which man would they honor?  Which man and temple will be their hope for eternal life?  The Priest standing in Jerusalem’s temple with its annual services, or the Man in Heaven’s temple, sitting at the right hand of God having the scars of a new covenant in His hands?

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