Jesus in the Old Testament: Melchizedek

While studying to write this post, I was mostly focusing on the question whether Melchizedek was a type of Jesus or Jesus in the flesh (a christophany).

In the middle of reading one of my commentaries on the book of Hebrews, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me.  I was missing the point.

Whether or not Melchizedek was Jesus in the flesh is a question that many have answered or tried to answer.  But we have failed to come to a unanimous answer.  As much confidence as I might have in my own mind and my abilities, I am also confident that if I came to a conclusion, I would not be able to convince all, if any, of those who disagreed.

So, if you do want to study and come to your own conclusion regarding exactly who Melchizedek was, I encourage you to study it for yourself.  But I'm not going to focus on that today.

Melchizedek has more to show us than that.

First of all, I want you to see what the Bible has to say about Melchizedek. 

The first instance that Melchizedek is mentioned in Genesis 14, where Melchizedek and Abraham meet.  The meeting is very abrupt and described by only a few short sentences.  He is never mentioned before or after in the life of Abraham. 

"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of the God Most High.  He blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.'  He gave him a tenth of all."
Genesis 14:18-20 (NASB).

David mentions Melchizedek in Psalm 110.

"The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'"  Psalm 110:4 (NASB).

The third place is the book of Hebrews.  He is mentioned in more than one place in Hebrews, but we're going to focus on chapter 7.  The chapter is 28 verses long, so I'm going to send you to Bible Gateway to read this one.  Click here to go to the chapter, but don't forget to come back when you're done reading.

I assume everyone has read chapter 7 and then came right back here.  Now we can start talking about why Melchizedek is important.

Abram had just rescued his nephew Lot and many others who had been taken, essentially as prisoners of war.  They were now celebrating the victory.  In the midst of this celebration, Melchizedek just shows up.  There aren't any questions as to who he is or where he came from, so we might be able to assume that Abram and the others were already familiar with him, but we don't know that for certain.  Melchizedek brings bread and wine and then blesses Abram.  After Abram receives this blessing, he gives Melchizedek a tenth, or a tithe, of all he had.

After this, Melchizedek seems to just fade into the background, and nothing more is said of him until the verse in Psalms.  The verse says, as we already read, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."  What does this mean? 

The writer of the book of Hebrews explains that to us, so we'll jump on over there. 

Hebrews says that Melchizedek was "without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually" Hebrews 7:3 (NASB).

This verse is one that makes people think that Melchizedek is Jesus.  Others say that the point being made is that Melchizedek did not come from a priestly line, having no significant ancestors or descendants.  It is not necessary to know which is right in order to understand what is being said here.

Under Jewish law, a man can only become a priest if he is a descendant of Levi, but Melchizedek was not part of this line.  He lived many years before Levi was born, and it was much longer before the priesthood would be established under Moses.  Jesus is a priest in a similar manner.  He was not born as a Levite but rather as a descendant of Judah, the line of kings.

Another point that shows Melchizedek's priesthood as being greater than the Levites is that Abram tithed to Melchizedek, even though he is the father of the line of priests.  "And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him" Hebrews 7:9-10 (NASB).

The priesthood of the Levites was imperfect and temporary, waiting for a great fulfillment.  "The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing" Hebrews 7:23 (NASB).  Jesus came as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, fulfilling the picture painted by his life.  With Jesus, there is no succession.  Instead, He is " a priest forever."   Jesus' priesthood is validated by the shadow of a greater priesthood represented by Melchizedek. 

"Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.  Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.  For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.  For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever" Hebrews 7:24-28 (NASB).

I know it's not one of the easiest concepts to understand.  I would love to hear what you think of Melchizedek or if you have any questions about this mysterious man from the Old Testament.  I can't promise to be able to answer them, but I'll do my best.

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