The Importance of Melchizedek

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Who was Melchizedek?

Mentioned only 3 times in the entire Bible (Genesis 14:18-20, Hebrews, and Psalm 110), Melchizedek is a shadowy fellow we don’t know much about. He was a priest whom Abraham honored. That’s about all we know. So why does Melchizedek matter?

Hierarchy of Israel’s Government

Israel had three important leaders in ancient times: prophets, priests, and kings.

  1. Prophets told the truth, revealing God’s righteousness
  2. Kings were to instill righteousness in practical ways as leaders of the government
  3. Priests met the people’s spiritual need and served as the gateway to God

In Israeli tradition, kings and priests had to come from different tribes: priests from the tribe of Levi and kings from the tribe of Judah. Ordinarily, a king could not be a priest.

Enter our friend, Melchizedek. He proves that:

  1. A priest does not have to come from the right family (Melchizedek wasn’t even Hebrew!)
  2. He was both a priest and a king

Messiah as perfect priest, king, and prophet

The Messiah would have to be a complete leader: priest, king, and prophet. But would that violate God’s law?

NO! The perfect king would govern justly. The perfect prophet would reveal God’s truth. The perfect priest would bring God and the people together.

Enter our Lord, Jesus Christ. He was the perfect Messiah. And Melchizedek establishes credibility for Jesus as both priest, king, and prophet.

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BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 13, Day 5: Psalm 110; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-5:10; & 6:18-7:28

BSF Study of Genesis and Hebrews

Summary of passages:  Psalm 110:  The Lord told my Lord (David’s Lord who is Jesus) to sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool.  God will extend Jesus’s scepter and rule in the midst of enemies.  On the day of battle your troops will be arrayed in holy majesty.

The Lord calls Jesus a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  He will crush kings on the day of his wrath, judge the nations, and heap up the dead.

Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-5:10; 6:18-7:28:  Jesus had to be made like his brothers (flesh and blood) so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and to be able to make atonement for man’s sins.

4:14-5:10:  Jesus is our great high priest who has gone through the heavens who can sympathize with our weaknesses for he has been tempted in every way just as we are–and remain without sin.  Let us hold firmly to our faith, approach God with confidence so we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

Every high priest is selected among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for our sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray and offer sacrifices for our sins.

Priests must be called by God.  Jesus was called to be a High Priest by God in the order of Melchizedek.  Jesus prayed to God and he was heard because of his submission.  He was obedient and made perfect for our eternal salvation for all who obey him.

6:18-7:28:  God swore promises to us by Himself so that we may have hope and encouragement.  This hope anchors our soul and enters the inner sanctuary where Jesus has entered on our behalf.  Jesus is a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews Chapter 7:  This Melchizedek was king of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of the God Most High.  He met and blessed Abraham and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.  His name means “king of righteousness” and king of Salem means “king of peace”.  He remains a priest forever without the proper lineage.

Just think how great he must have been for Abraham to give him a tenth of the plunder!  The law requires the descendants of Levi to collect a tenth from the people.  Melchizedek was not a Levite.  One could deduce that Levi collects the tenth through Abraham because Levi (who is Abraham’s descendant) hadn’t been born yet when Melchizedek collected.  Hence we have Levites paying tithes to Melchizedek, making Melchizedek greater than the Levites (or Abraham in this instance since the Levites are through Abraham).  Since the lesser is blessed by the greater, Melchizedek is greater than Abraham.

Perfection could not be attained through the Levites so there was need for a priest in the order of Melchizedek (the mere fact that a priest in the order of Melchizedek shows up should be a clue that there is a need for something better than the Levites).  If the priests change, then so must the law.  The old law was weak and useless for it made nothing perfect and a better hope was introduced by God (Jesus!).

Through an oath Jesus became a priest and the author of a better covenant.  Jesus lives forever so his priesthood is forever; therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him.

Jesus meets our needs as holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens with one sacrifice of himself who has been made perfect forever.

Questions:

11a)  Himself

b)  The Messiah will be both a king and a priest

c)  Melchizedek was a king and a priest of God.  He remains a priest forever.

Melchizedek and Christ’s similiarities:  1)  Both were kings  2)  Both were priests 3)  Both received a tenth of everything  4)  Both names mean king of peace  5)  Both are priests forever  6)  Both live forever (without beginning of days or end of life)

One difference: Only Jesus was the Son of God

12a)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Christ is our hope. He died for us so we can live forever with him.  We won’t be lonely in Heaven.  The Holy Spirit lives inside of us as a reminder He is with us always, never forsaking us so we will never be alone.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus was tempted as well.  He was fully man and fully God so he knows what we are going through.  Yet he resisted and we can use his power to resist the devil as well.  Open His Word and soak Him in.  You will become burning bright for Him.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus gives us hope and encouragement when we are down.  Cling to him.  Remember He speaks all the time if only I listen.

Conclusions:  Any one else irked with Hebrews yet?  We studied this exact same passage last year in Acts and we answered very similar questions.  HERE we studied Hebrews 7 WITH Genesis 14:18-20.

So why is this Melchizedek important?  Why is BSF spending so much time on him (this year and in other years)?

Here’s the crux:  For the Israelites, they had divisions within society and roles.  The leaders were priests, prophets, and kings.  Prophets told the truth, revealing God’s righteousness.  Kings implementing this righteousness as heads of the government.  Priests represented God to the people and brought God to them.  According to the God-given laws of Israel, kings and priests always came from different tribes.  Thus, a king could NOT be a priest.

So how could Christ the Messiah be a king, a prophet, and a priest?  Wouldn’t that violate God’s laws?  We must remember at this time when Jesus is living he hasn’t yet died for our sins and ushered in the New Covenant.  So the Jews are trying to piece together who the Messiah is based on the Old Testament laws, which still govern how God’s people live.  Christ doesn’t “fit” these laws. [Cool, cause I don’t really “fit” either!]

Enter Melchizedek:  a priest AND a king.  He wasn’t even an Israelite let alone a Levite (the priests line) yet he was a priest.

Psalm says the Messiah will be greater than David and he will be “in the order of Melchizedek”, which means he will be both a priest and a king.  Melchizedek establishes the precedent and the credibility to be a priest and a king.

[Explanation summarized and credited to Zondervan NIV Student Study Bible].

Fun Fact:  Melchizedek was a Gentile.  So from the beginning God had intended Gentiles to inherit the kingdom of God.  I wonder why it was such a huge deal for the first century Christians to accept Gentiles when Melchizedek was one.

End Note:  Note the order of Melchizedek’s names.  He is king of righteousness and THEN king of peace.  As always you must have righteousness before you can have peace. Without righteousness there is no peace.  Jesus makes us right; thus we have peace with God.

Also, some commentators believe because Melchizedek remains a priest forever (verse 3) he was either a heavenly being or Jesus himself incarnate!  Jesus in the Old Testament! Now that’s cool!  Something to ponder at least.

Final Note:  Sorry!  This is a long one!  I didn’t really focus on the questions this time as you might have noticed.  I took the subject of Melchizedek and the passages given and investigated.  I had to get this straight in my mind.  I will concede we did study this last year.  But we hadn’t studied Genesis yet (at least I hadn’t).  In the context of Genesis and knowing Abram’s life and world, Hebrews 7 makes much more sense to me.

I often forget the HUGE differences between Old Testament way of life and New Testament living since I’m under the New Covenant.  I now understand the confusion more when Jesus showed up, proclaiming he’s the Messiah.  What? the people wondered.  He doesn’t “fit” the Messiah.

I believe following Jesus in first century AD was a HUGE leap of faith.  It was a total shift in paradigm.  Myself, having grown up with Jesus, saying “Yes” to him seems easier than it did 2000 years ago.  Don’t get me wrong:  following him is a BIG deal and is insanely difficult.  But I can see how it would be even tougher not necessarily for pagan worshippers but for God’s people.

Yes, I am sick of studying Hebrews.  But what I’ve learned is this:  you can’t get enough. You can’t read a passage enough times in order to have His word soak into your core. There are so many questions about God and who He is and our job is to answer as many of those as possible to draw near to Him.

Every time I read His word, I learn something about God:  how compassionate He is, who He is, who Jesus is, how the Holy Spirit works inside of us, how the early Christians suffered, or even how there were 7 clean animals on the ark and not just two.  But even the little details reveals God overarching omnipotence and control over this world.  How everything is planned, down to God foreseeing the need for Noah to sacrifice to Him. How God’s promises are Truth.

All of this makes me a better person especially in the realm of spreading the Good News. For if we ourselves don’t know God’s word, promises, and truths, how can we explain God’s greatness and goodness to others?

Ok, I’ll stop now.  You get my point.

Don’t stop reading His word.  Don’t stop craving Him.  For He never stops craving us.