Melchizedek…What’s in a Name? – A look at the Book of Hebrews – Part 3

Ok, ok.  It is finally time to talk about this really cool dude named Melchizedek.  This post will be a bit long because there is a lot to say about this, but please read it through because I’m telling you…this is the kind of stuff that makes you sound really smart when you’re having coffee with your friends and want to impress them:)  That’s just a joke…I hope you’re all not like that.  Seriously…this is about gaining better and deeper knowledge of God so that you’re faith grows stronger and stronger each and every day.  Through my own personal study on this fascinating book called “Hebrews”, God has really increased my faith in seeing just how all sufficient Jesus really is.  I hope that the Lord leads you to your own personal study of Hebrews so that you also can uncover the all-sufficiency of Christ that is displayed in this book.  So…let’s talk about Melchizedek…this is really cool.

The scene is set…it’s the Old Testament times…Abraham has just come back from defeating these kings that had taken his nephew lot captive.  On his way back from routing these armies, Abraham is encountered by the King of Sodom.  Then, all of a sudden and out of absolutely nowhere, this “guy” named Melchizedek shows up who is said to be the king of Salem.  Genesis 14:17-20 tells the account where Melchizedek greets Abraham (still called Abram at that point) and brings out bread and wine.  The account tells us that this king of Salem was also priest of God most high. That’s strange…He’s a king and a priest…there’s no other king and priest mentioned in the whole bible except Jesus…Hmmm.   So he brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram…and then Abram offers him a tenth of everything that he has.  And that’s it!  No more mention of this guy Melchizedek.  This guy, who must have been so great to be a king and a priest, shows up on the scene without any mention of his birth or genealogy or life or death…just this one encounter, and then he’s gone.

We don’t hear the name Melchizedek mentioned again until the psalms when God is speaking of Christ to come says in Psalm 110:4 “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind.  You (referring to Jesus) are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  And again,Melchizedek is completely off the scene until we come to the Book of Hebrews.  Just about every single important person in the Old Testament has some sort of reference to that person’s genealogy, yet here is this Melchizedek guy who comes from nowhere and disappears just as fast, yet God says that Jesus is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek…WHAT?????

That is why Hebrews is such an awesome book.  Without Hebrews, we would be left scratching our head about this whole Melchizedek thing, but thanks to Hebrews we have a great commentary and explanation as to what this Melchizedek thing is all about.  This is found in Hebrews Chapters two through seven.

Ok…bear with me here…let’s first remember what I mentioned on my last post about the role of the high priest (offering gifts and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people of God so that their sins can be forgiven and their consciences cleansed…a mediator between God and people) and the qualifications of a high priest (had to be from the tribe of Levi just as God appointed…Joe the Israelite plumber could not be a priest…unless, of course, he was from the tribe of levi.)  Also, the levite priests were the ones who collected the tithe (tenth) from all the other tribes.  The tenth was given to them (tribe of levi) because that is how they survived since they were the only tribe that did not receive any land inheritance (the Lord said that He would be their inheritance)  Ok, so God had this whole deal set up where the priests were from the Levite tribe, they were the ones who would serve as mediators between God and the people so that sacrifices could be made on their behalf so that the people could be forgiven of their sin.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me…but the Bible tells us in Hebrews that it wasn’t that good of a deal.  First of all, the priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the sins of the people…so this mediator who is supposed to represent me so that my sins can be forgiven is himself a sinner???  Strike one.  This mediator was only able to enter the most holy place (the place where God’s presence dwelled) one time a year to make sacrifices on behalf of my sin???  That’s not good…I know I sin a whole lot more than once a year…I need somebody who has more access to God than once a year.  Strike two. This mediator was offering sacrifices that really could not cleanse my heart and provide true forgiveness???(Hebrews tells us in 9:9-10 “the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.  They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations…”)  But I need to be cleansed on the inside…that is where I am really dirty. Strike three. You’re Out! Hebrews 10:4 also says “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  So, all these blood sacrifices day after day, week after week, and year after year…and yet I still cannot get cleansed on the inside where I need it most???  I’m beginning to see that this whole Levitical priesthood isn’t really as good as I thought it would be.  I need a change.  What about you?

Enter Jesus.  Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that in Jesus we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, was tempted in every way, yet was without sin. This is unlike the levite priest who had sin. Redemption one Already he is a better high priest.  Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus entered the most holy place on our behalf, and Hebrews 9:12 tells us that He entered the most holy place once and for all.  This is unlike the levite priest who only entered once a year.  Redemption two. Hebrews 9:12 also tells us that when Christ entered the most holy place, He entered with the sacrifice of His own blood, which obtained eternal redemtion.  This is unlike the levite priest who offered bulls and goats which could not even take away sins.  Hebrews 9:14 also says that the blood of Christ will “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death”, unlike the levite priest whose sacrifices were only a matter of external regulations.  Redemption three. You’re In!!!!

This is amazing isn’t it?  But, you may be asking, what in the world does this have to do with this Melchizedek dude and how does this help me impress my friends around the coffee table?  Well, check this out…  Melchizedek was said to be a priest, right?  But I thought the priest had to be from the tribe of Levi.  Melchizedek is not said to be from the tribe of Levi.  In fact, Melchizedek shows up on the scene long before any levite is even born.  Yet Abram gives him a tenth and then is blessed by him. Melchizedek is said to mean “King of Salem” and “King of Righteousness”.  Jesus, of course, is called our “King of Righteousness” and wasn’t He the true “King of Jeru-Salem?”  Melchizedek had no genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, just like Jesus…an eternal priest forever.  Melchizedek was a priest before the levite priests were around…he came before their order, just like Jesus.  Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi, therefore by human standards of the levitical law, He could not be a levitical priest.  And thanks be to God that He wasn’t a levitical priest, for we just saw how incomplete the levitical priesthood was all about.  Therefore Melchizedek showing up for a split second in Old Testament history is paramount because it introduces us to a better priesthood…one that Jesus could enter into…one that is complete and eternal.

Hebrews 7:11 says, “If perfection could have been attained through the levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given), why was there still a need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron (a levite)?  That is why Hebrews tells us that God spoke in Psalm 110:4 saying, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind…You (Jesus) are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  In saying this, God is laying aside the levitical priesthood (from which the law was given) and is orchestrating a better covenant through Jesus.  Hebrews 7:18 states that “the former regulation (law, levitical priesthood) is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect) and a better hope (Jesus, priest in the order of Melchizedek) is introduced by which we draw near to God.”

Thank God for Melchizedek (perhaps Melchizedek was God incarnate when he met with Abram)  Anyway, I am so thankful that Jesus is my high priest forever in an order that supercedes the law and offers me grace, that He was completely sinless yet understands and sympathizes we me a sinner, that He entered the most holy place once and for all by shedding His own blood  and then sat down at the right hand, signifying that the work is complete and that there is nothing that I have to do to earn salvation because He did it all for me, that He is a priest forever and always makes intercession on my behalf, and that He will one day come again , not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him…I am waiting!!

Can anybody share with me in my excitement???  I just think that the Book of Hebrews tells us so much about the all sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and reading and meditating about that just gives me such great joy, comfort, and hope, that I am compelled to share it with others.  What about you?