Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some Thoughts About Melchizedek

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver
"Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6; 7:17,21)

The significance of the question, "Who is Melchizedek?" comes from the fact that Jesus is made a high priest after his order. Most of what we learn of Melchizedek is found in Hebrews chapters 5-7 and he is referenced to teach us concerning Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Melchizedek is not some obscure character in the Bible, although he seldom finds his way into the average preaching agenda. However, the Scriptures actually exhort us to "consider how great this man was" (Heb 7:4). That is our aim here - to consider how great Melchizedek was and in so doing, better understand Jesus, who was made "after the similitude of Melchisedec" (Heb 7:15).

The Genesis Account. All of the record of Melchizedek is found in only 3 verses in the book of Genesis. Abraham had just defeated Chedorlaomer, king of Elam in order to rescue his nephew Lot who had been taken captive along with many others in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham "brought back all the goods, and also brought again his [nephew] Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people" (Gen 14:16). Kings from other nations came to visit Abraham to congratulate him and offer him gifts. Among them was Melchizedek.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine, and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, "Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand." And he gave him tithes of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

This is the account...all of it. And it may seem somewhat insignificant at first glance but this encounter, and Melchizedek himself, becomes a focal point in the epistle to the Hebrews, in doctrine of Christ our High Priest, and in the necessity of a new covenant.

The Psalmist Speaks. In reference to Melchizedek, the psalmist records a statement made by God to His Son, Jesus. It is recorded in the one hundred tenth psalm.

The Lord said unto my Lord, "Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth." The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." The Lord at Thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, He shall fill the places with the dead bodies; He shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way; therefore shall He lift up the head. (Psalm 110)

The Father, here, appoints the Son as "a priest for ever". This is a promise made with an oath (Heb 7:21). God had determined that His Son would be like Melchizedek, "a priest of the most high God" on the basis of an appointment - "the word of the oath" (Heb 7:28) rather than the way priests were appointed under the law. Under the law priests were made priests by being born into the tribe of Levi and the high priests were descendents from Aaron. But Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not Levi, yet was still a high priest. This is similar to Melchizedek. Thus, "after the similitude of Melchizedek there [arose] another high priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For He testifieth, 'Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek'" (Heb 7:15-17).

The Apostles' Doctrine. While the book of Genesis records the actual account of Abraham's interaction with Melchizedek, and the psalms recorded the decree, it was the apostle's who really opened up the significance of this man. The book of Hebrews speaks of Melchizedek in chapters 5 and 7 because the book of Hebrews is declaring to us that "we have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man" (Heb 8:1-2). Melchizedek is mentioned because he is a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. If it weren't for Jesus being our high priest, we would have never heard of Melchizedek.

Here are some of the things the apostles' doctrine has declared to us concerning Melchizedek:
  • He blessed Abraham. "And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better" (Heb 7:7). This shows us that Melchizedek was better than Abraham.
  • Abraham gave him tithes. The law teaches us that it was the Levites, the priesthood, that received tithes from their brethren. But Melchizedek was not from Levi, in fact, he was before Levi. This shows us that he was a high priest, not according to the Law, but according to his call from God. The implications of this is that the Levites, who would descend from Abraham, actually paid tithes to another high priest. (Heb 7:4-10)
  • He was a priest of a different order. This shows the impotence of the Levitical priesthood. It could not make men perfect. Men needed another high priest, one after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 7:11)
  • A change in priesthood means a change in law. When the priesthood changed, in the ordination of the Levites as priests rather than the firstborn males, it marked the beginning of what we call the old covenant. For, the Levitical priesthood was part of the Law of Moses. But when a priest from another order, of Melchizedek and not Levi or Aaron, arose - that is, Jesus Christ - this too marked a change in the law. When Jesus entered into the more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, the new covenant began. (Heb 7:11-28) 
  • He was the king of righteousness. The name "Melchizedek" means "king of righteousness". "Melchi", meaning "king" and "zedek" meaning "righteousness. (Heb 7:2)
  • He was the king of peace. "Salem" means "peace". Melchizedek was the king of Salem and therefore, the "king of peace". (Heb 7:2)
  • He had no genealogy. Melchizedek was "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life" (Heb 7:3). The absence of the record of this man's life, either beginning or ending, shows us that he was "made like unto the Son of God". Not that he was eternal but the lack of his record was a type of Jesus.

Was Melchizedek Jesus? Based upon the last three bullet points, many have concluded that Melchizedek was Jesus in the flesh before Jesus was born. He was an apparition. Being that the Scripture does not expressly say that he was Jesus or that he wasn't Jesus, I will give my opinion: I think Melchizedek was a type of Jesus, but not Jesus.

Reasoning based upon the translation of his name is not sufficient. Melchizedek, being a type, was a king of peace and a king of righteousness. But Jesus would be THE king of peace and THE king of righteousness. His name alone does not make him Jesus any more than Adonaizedek's name makes him Jesus. ("Adoni" means "Lord" and again, "Zedek" means "righteousness". This man too, was the king of Jerusalem, the "city of peace").

Reasoning based upon the absence of his genealogy also gives us a good type of Jesus but we shouldn't conclude that Melchizedek WAS Jesus from this, as shown above. He was made LIKE UNTO the son of God in this was but was not THE SON OF GOD. Jesus would actually be eternal and live for ever and be qualified to be "a priest for ever" who is able to save for ever those who draw near to God through Him for He "ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb 7:25).

It was "in the fulness of the time" that God "sent forth His Son" and this was when Jesus of Nazareth was born. He was "made of a woman" and "made under the law" (Gal 4:4). Melchizedek would not fit this description. There are many things very significant about "the word" being "made flesh" and dwelling among us (Jn 1:14). For when this occurred the Scripture could be fulfilled that His name would be called "Immanuel" meaning "God with us". Can this be said of Melchizedek?

Melchizedek was a type, or foreshadow, of Jesus. And a great one at that. This is the declaration of Hebrews 5 and 7. For Jesus, like Melchizedek, was a king and a priest. But Jesus was of a much higher order just as the substance is always better than the type. For in Jesus the Scripture is fulfilled that says,

Behold the Man whose name is THE BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; even He shall build the temple of the Lord, and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zechariah 6:12-13)

Behold, Jesus the Christ. He is a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.

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