Genesis 14:17-20

After Abram and Sarai returned from their adventure in Egypt very wealthy, their flocks got so huge that the land couldn’t support them, and animosity started to build between Abram’s people and Lot’s. So they decide to separate. Abram, although he had the right to first choice, deferred to Lot. Abram told Lot to go wherever he thinks is good, and Abram will go the opposite direction. Lot chose to settle near Sodom, and Abram settled in Hebron.

Then a war broke out involving nine kingdoms, and Lot was captured, along with his family and possessions. Upon hearing this news, Abram takes a private army of 318 men and rescues Lot, his family and possessions.

This is when Melchizedek makes his appearance. He is a mysterious figure. He only appears in two other books of the Bible. He appears in Psalm 110, which prophesies about the coming Messiah, and then in Hebrews 5-7, where the writer describes the eternal aspect of Jesus’ priesthood. Jesus is not a descendant of Melchizedek, but He is a priest like Melchizedek.

So let us look at what we know of this person.

This is what we learn from this Genesis passage. The fact that Abram is blessed by Melchizedek and that Abram tithes Melchizedek, this would imply that Melchizedek is greater than Abram. Melchizedek serves the God Most High (El Elyon). Melchizedek is the king of Salem, and he brings out bread and wine.

From Psalm 110:4, we learn that the priestly order of Melchizedek is forever, unlike the priestly order of Aaron.

In Hebrews 5-7, the writer explains the nature of Christ and uses Melchizedek to do so. Christ’s priesthood is forever, just like it was for Melchizedek. Also, human priests have sins so that they must offer sacrifice for their own sins as well as for those of the people. This is not so for Christ, who had no sin. Christ offering Himself as the sacrifice for the atonement of humanity’s sins was only possible because Jesus had no sins.

The writer continues in Hebrews 7 that King Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and king of Salem means “king of peace”. The line of priests for Israel was supposed to come from the line of Levi, specifically from the descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother. And yet, Melchizedek is a priest of God, who collects tithe from Abram, even though he has no relationship to the tribe of Levi. Likewise, even though Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi – He belonged to the tribe of Judah – He is our eternal priest. This means that Jesus did not become a priest through blood, but by direct appointment from God the Father. The human priests were many, since they were mortal and died, but Christ is eternal as is His priesthood.

The human priests worked under the law and had to keep offering sacrifices to their contemporaries. However, Christ was able to offer Himself as sacrifice for all time and for all humankind.

The writer of Hebrews summarizes this section by writing:

26For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.   27Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.   28For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

The reason the writer of Hebrews explains these things about the priesthood of Christ is because he desires his readers to go beyond the basic knowledge of Christ. He wants his readers to be able to go beyond the basic truths – Salvation based on faith rather than works, baptism, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment – He wants his readers to go beyond “milk” and into “solid food”. He wants his readers to become mature in faith. He wants his readers to be able to teach.

Of course, the basics of salvation – that accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior will give us forgiveness of our sins, salvation and eternal life – are sufficient. However, if we are to teach, we ought to have a firmer foundation than just the basics.

We might think that we are not teachers – but there are always those around us that need to hear about Jesus Christ. So, although we may not play the role of a teacher on a regular basis, there are times that we are called to play that role.

Occasionally, someone will ask me how to study the Bible in a way that goes beyond just scratching the surface. I can only answer from my experience, and the times I am able to really dig into a passage for deeper understanding is when I am asked to either teach or preach. Those are the times when I know that I cannot just read it once and have a vague notion of what the Bible says. One suggestion I can give is to approach a Bible passage as if you had to teach from it. If the passage is not clear to you, study it, look up references, discuss it with someone knowledgeable.

In the Old Testament, King Melchizedek is only mentioned in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 – a total of four verses. Yet, the writer of Hebrews uses him in three chapters to teach us the deeper knowledge of Christ’s priesthood. Let us use this as an encouragement to grow deeper in our knowledge and faith.

(the above is a summary of the message shared with us by Shun Takano during our worship together on May 14, 2023.)