In Hebrews 6, we learned about God’s promise to Abraham. We studied what “waiting patiently” meant—and in Abraham’s case, it was 25 years. God allowed a story to slowly unfold in the life of Abraham so that you could take hold of the hope set before you about your life.
There’s a story tucked within a story as it relates to Abraham, and we’ll discover that this week in Hebrews 7.
1 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him,2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham.6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
- The Old Testament is the best commentary on the New Testament, so let’s rewind to Genesis 14 and read the story of Melchizedek within context:
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’
- In Genesis 14, Abraham defeated a confederation of kings and rescued his nephew Lot. He was then met by a mysterious priest and king of Salem (an ancient name for the city of Jerusalem), Melchizedek.
- It’s important to understand that being both priest and king was a unique exception. It’s unwise to combine religion and civic authority—and it’s why we don’t see pastors (successfully) become involved in politics. You must choose an office and not straddle the fence.
- It says that Melchizedek was “priest of God Most High” and that was a great title. It implied there was a direct connection between Melchizedek and God Almighty. 1 Peter 2:9 says the same about you: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” You are a royal priesthood, directly connected to God Almighty. Out of all the labels this world can assign you—don’t let those stick. Choose to meditate on the labels God provides you: chosen, royal, holy, special. Those are the words to fix, fasten, and focus on each day. (P.S. If you’ve never read Max Lacado’s You Are Special children’s book, it’s worth it. It’s for kiddos, but it packs an even more powerful message for adults.)
- Abraham also tithed to Melchizedek. When you tithe to someone, you recognize they are greater than you. I love how Abraham tithed, and then when the king of Sodom offered to make him rich he took nothing. He had given all to God through Melchizedek and there was nothing he needed to receive from the world in order to be satisfied. Oh God, help me to give all to You because I want to receive only from Your hand and not the fleeting gifts of this world.
- Commentators debate whether or not Melchizedek was a actually an early appearance of Christ. This could certainly have been true, given the statement about being without mother or father or genealogy. I don’t much like to debate what may or may not be true when it’s not abundantly clear, but I do know this: God’s Word is inspired of Him, written for a purpose, and absolute. Therefore, we can be certain that this story was applicable not just during Abraham’s time or during the first century, but it’s relative today. So what does the story of Melchizedek teach us? Let’s keep reading in Hebrews 7 to discover more.
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.17 For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
- Remember that Abraham met Melchizedek before the law was ever given—before Moses and the Aaronic priesthood was established. When God provided the law to Israelites through Moses, it wasn’t to save them from sin, it was to show them their sin. The sacrificial system was established—in the interim—to temporarily atone for the sins of the Jewish people, and the Levites (descendants of Aaron) were the group set aside to serve as priests. However, the Aaronic priesthood was not a permanent solution, which is why God showed us waaaaaay back in the beginning (Genesis 14, which we just read) that another person—greater than Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation—was required for righteousness and peace. Melchizedek foreshadowed the work of Christ. Christ—who was both a priest and a king—came to not only transform the temporary sacrificial system into a one-time atonement for sin, but to also rule as the King of our hearts and the eternal kingdom.
20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’”
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
- Now that we understand that Christ was necessary to provide a permanent priesthood (verse 23) in order to save us completely (not just through an ongoing sacrificial system), we can begin to understand why His work was so powerful. Let’s breakdown the final few verses of this chapter to help us grasp His greatness; and, let’s give thanks for what He’s done. I’ve personalized the statement so you can practice saying it aloud:
o He truly meets my need.
o He is holiness for me.
o He is blameless for me.
o He is pure for me.
o He is set apart for me.
o He is exalted.
o His sacrifice was once-for-all when He offered Himself for me.
o I am weak, but He has been made perfect forever.