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Meeting the Mysterious Melchizedek

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:16
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Who is this mysterious figure Melchizedek? In Hebrews 7:1-10, the author introduces us to him and explains his significance.

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After a long delay, we are now ready to meet this mysterious man named Melchizedek. As important as he is for understanding Christ and His ministry, it is somewhat surprising that Melchizedek is only mentioned in only three passages in the Bible: Hebrews 5-7 (which we have been studying), Genesis 14, and Psalm 110:4 (which as been quoted numerous times by the author of Hebrews). Before I read our Scripture lesson from Hebrews 7, it would be helpful to read the only historical account of Melchizedek as recorded by Moses in Genesis 14:17-20.
Genesis 14:17–20 ESV
After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
And now for our Scripture lesson from Hebrews 7:1-10. As I read this passage, notice that the author of Hebrews is giving a theological commentary on the passage I just read.
Hebrews 7:1–10 ESV
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
The most important thing we learn from this theological commentary provided by the author of Hebrews is found in Heb 7:3, where we are told Melchizedek “resembles the Son of God.” Perhaps older translations such as the KJV or the NASV come closer to the original meaning by translating this phrase as “made like the Son of God.” What the author of Hebrews is saying is that God providentially made Melchizedek and the record of his life as recorded in Genesis 14 as a “type” pointing to Christ.

Melchizedek was a “Type” Pointing to Christ

Now the most important thing you need to understand about a “type” is that it is a lesser reality pointing to a greater reality. Many are very confused by some of the things that the author says about Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:3.
Hebrews 7:3 ESV
He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
Based on this verse some have concluded that Melchizedek was an angel or more commonly the pre-incarnate Christ. However, as long as you remember that Melchizedek is a type pointing to the greater reality, it is not necessary to go that far. The author is simply saying that Genesis 14 is silent concerning Melchizedek’s genealogy and length of days. He just pops in and out of Scripture in just three verses! Normally an agreement from silence is very weak, but an argument from silence is very strong if you’re expecting noise. For example, in the Sherlock Holmes’ novel Silver Blaze, there is a dog that always barks when there’s a stranger around. On the night of the crime the dog didn’t bark! Therefore, “it is elementary my dear Watson, the culprit was someone the dog knew!”
The barking dog in the Old Testament are all the genealogies we modern readers find pointless. It is this lack of genealogy that points to Christ, because Christ’s priesthood was based on an oath, not on His genealogy.
Now that you understand that Melchizedek is a type pointing to Christ, we are ready to learn more about Melchizedek from this passage. This next detail is this:

Melchizedek was a Superior King

In verse 2 the author provides us with this helpful summery regarding the meaning of Melchizedek’s name.
Hebrews 7:2 ESV
and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.
In all the talk about priesthood, it is important that we not forget that both Melchizedek and Jesus are first and foremost kings! I said earlier that God had providentially arranged the details of Melchizedek’s life so they pointed to Christ. This includes his name. Names were very important in the ancient world because they were thought to reflect things about that person—Melchizedek was a man of righteousness and peace. The significance of this can be seen in three things. First, within the context of Genesis 14, Melchizedek is contrasted with the king of Sodom. Sodom and its king were the direct opposites of righteousness and peace! A few years later, Sodom and its sister city Gomorrah would be destroyed by fire and brimstone because of their wickedness. So within the context of Genesis 14, Melchizedek is portrayed as superior to the king of Sodom.
The second way we see the superiority of Melchizedek is in how closely his kingdom and reign parallel that of Christ’s. The city of Salem would later be known as Jerusalem and Jerusalem itself is a “type” pointing to the Heavenly Jerusalem where Christ now reigns. In addition, Christ Kingdom is characterized by righteousness and peace. Isaiah prophesied of this in a famous passage we read from every Advent.
Isaiah 9:6–7 ESV
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
The third, Melchizedek was a king who was also a priest! This brings us to Psalm 110 which the author has been so heavily quoting. This is a Psalm of David, in this Psalm David is prophesying that the Messiah would be his Lord and King!
Psalm 110:1 ESV
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
This is a surprising thing for the greatest king of Israel to say, but Psalm 110 gets even more surprising. In verse 4 we read:
Psalm 110:4 ESV
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
David knew very well from the Law that no king of Israel could be both a king and priest. This is what caused Saul (the king before David) to lose his kingdom and eventually his life. Yet David knew that the people needed a king who was also a priest. Saul committed his great sin in a time of crises. His army was scattering because there was no priest to make a sacrifice. How encouraging it must have been to David to learn that when the Messiah came He would be a Priest/King just as Melchizedek once was.
This lead us to the third point.

Melchizedek was a Superior Priest

The main emphases of this chapter is that Melchizedek and Christ are superior to the Levitical priesthood. From the story found in Genesis 14 the author point to three things that make both Melchizedek and Christ superior.
The first is that Melchizedek’s priesthood was not based on genealogy and it had no term limits. This is found in verse 3:
Hebrews 7:3 ESV
He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
As I explained earlier this is an argument from silence, but it is a deafening silence! Melchizedek was a “priest of God Most High,” but he did not receive his priesthood by physical descent, but directly from God. Moreover, the Levitical high priests had limited terms, we have no record of any limits to Melchizedek’s high priesthood. As I said before the most important significance of this is that it points to Christ, but it is also significant because it demonstrates how Melchizedek’s priesthood was superior to that of the Levitical priests. This superiority is demonstrated by two other things in this story.
The first is the fact that Melchizedek received a tithe from Abraham. We are not going to look at all the details of the author’s argument, but the important point we need to take away is that the lesser gives a tithe to the greater. Abraham (and thus Levi) gave a tithe to Melchizedek. This demonstrates that the order of Melchizedek is superior to the order of Aaron.
The second way Melchizedek’s superior priesthood is demonstrated is by the fact that it is Melchizedek that blesses Abraham, not the other way around. This is significant because...
Hebrews 7:7 ESV
It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.
So Melchizedek is not only a superior king, he is a superior priest.

Conclusion:

This morning you have had an opportunity to meet Melchizedek. The true significance of Melchizedek will become clear next week when the focus shifts to Christ. But that does not mean that application must what until next week. My hope is that you have begun to appreciate how carefully God has arranged biblical history and revelation. Moses I am sure had much more information about Melchizedek that we find in Genesis 14:18-21, but God moved in Moses’ spirit so that the author of Hebrews could make his argument not only from what the text says, but from what it does not say! Jesus famously said:
Matthew 5:18 KJV 1900
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
So as you read your Bibles this we, never forget, even the smallest detail is designed by God to make us wise for salvation! Next week as we turn our attention to the superiority of Christ so we can see this even more clearly.
Let us pray.
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