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Gen. 14:17-24 - All Glory to God - (Melchizedek) - Part 2
Melchizedek and Jesus.
[Read part one here]
Before I speak on this Melchizedek character, let me say that the typical significance of Melchizedek was secondary, not primary to Moses. And the only reason I am going into detail about Melchizedek is because these are stand alone messages, and these are great opportunities to get further into detail about characters, events, apologetics, science, and other topics while covering the expository aspects of each verse. And, if you're anything like me, when I first read about the very brief encounter between Abram and Melchizedek, your wondering: Is this the same Melchizedek discussed in Hebrews? It is!
So, here’s this mysterious figure of Melchizedek. In the New Testament, the book of Hebrews points out how Melchizedek prefigures Christ, especially in his priesthood. So, who is he?
First, let’s take a look at the Scriptures other than here in Genesis that cover Melchizedek:
Psalm 110:4 - “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: you are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 5:5-11- “In the same way, Christ did not take on Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to Him: “You are my Son; today I have become Your Father.” And he says in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 6:20-7:28, (Pg. 1208) - (Read)
I am going to share some of the differing thoughts on the debate of who Melchizedek might be, not as arguments or making a final conclusion, but to make you aware of them.
In his book, ‘Through the Pentateuch, chapter by chapter, W. H. Griffith Thomas says about Melchizedek, “He was one of the line of Shem that still worshiped the true God.”
‘Halley’s Handbook’ says: Priest- King of Salem (Jerusalem). Hebrew tradition says that he was Shem, survivor of the flood, who was still alive, earth’s oldest living man, priest, in the patriarchal age, of the whole race. If so, it is a hint that, thus early, right after the flood, God chose Jerusalem to be the scene of Human Redemption. Whoever he was, he was a picture and type of Christ. (Ps. 110; Heb. 5:6-7).”
Some people think that he was Christ in pre-incarnate form. But I personally don’t think so since he was called a man.
Jesus is to be “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:17). So, evidently he was supposed to be a likeness of Christ, not Christ Himself.
Shem himself was still alive in Abram’s time. He lived 502 years after the flood (Gen. 11:10-11). So it could be Shem himself was Melchizedek who is now king of a little town and a priest of God? But that is just a conjecture.
Some think that Melchizedek was actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, or a ‘Christophany.’ This is a possible theory, given that Abraham had received such a visit before. When we get into Genesis 17 we will see where Abraham saw and spoke with the LORD in the form of a man.
Hebrews 6:20 says: “Jesus has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” This term ‘order’ would normally indicate a succession of priests holding office.
None are ever mentioned, however, in the lone time period from Melchizedek to Christ, this can be solved by assuming that Melchizedek and Christ are really the same person. Thus, the ‘order’ is eternally vested in Him and Him alone.
Hebrews 7:3 says that Melchizedek was “without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.” The question is whether the author of Hebrews means this actually or figuratively. If the description in Hebrews is literal, then it is indeed difficult to see how it could be properly applied to anyone but Jesus Christ. No mere earthly king “remains a priest forever,” and no mere human is “without father or mother.”
If Genesis 14 describes the visible manifestation of Jesus, then the Son of God came to give Abraham his blessing, appearing as the king of Righteousness, the King of Peace, and the Mediator between God and man.
If the description of Melchizedek is figurative, then the details of having no genealogy, no beginning or ending, and a ceaseless ministry are simply statements highlighting the mysterious nature of the person who met Abram. In this case, the silence in the Genesis account concerning those details is purposeful and better serves to link Melchizedek with Christ.
Are Melchizedek and Jesus the same person? A case could be made either way. At the very least, Melchizedek is a type of Christ, prefiguring the Lord’s ministry. But it's also possible that Abram, after his weary battle, met and gave honor to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
We do know that Melchizedek’s priesthood was superior over Abrams. Abram submitted himself to Melchizedek and gave him a tithe. This was noteworthy since elsewhere Abram acted as the priest for his own family. Normally he built his own altars and offered his own sacrifices. But here he is, recognizing the priesthood of another.
In a sense then, Levi, though not born yet, submitted to Melchizedek in the person of his ancestor and so recognized the superiority of his priesthood. Thus, Jesus, the priest after the order of Melchizedek, holds a priesthood that is superior to the Levitical priesthood.
But why do we need a superior priesthood? The reason is that the OT priesthood could never really deal with sin. The blood of animals was never enough and could never have been enough to pay for our rebellion against an infinitely holy and majestic God.
The prophet Micah sensed this when he wrote: “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams. With ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Mic. 6:6-7).
None of this could ever be enough. But the blood of Jesus can deal with sin and save us completely. On the cross, God offered His own firstborn for our transgressions. Jesus died, once and for all, the righteous in the place of the unrighteous, the perfect Son of God in the place of sinful creatures. And now, having been raised from the dead, He lives forever to intercede on our behalf. In Jesus we find the effective priest that we need.
Thus, Abram recognizes, even in his ‘one moment in time,’ that there is another, greater than he, through whom we must approach God Most High! In Melchizedek he recognizes a forerunner of the great High Priest to come, Jesus Christ, who would offer the perfect sacrifice once and for all for him. Abram recognized that greatness in God’s kingdom is not simply a matter of doing mighty deeds for God and rescuing the undeserving. It also involves coming to God through the priest that God has established.
Like Abram, we need Jesus, not only in our hour of failure, but also in our hour of greatest triumph. We need to run to the cross, not only when we have sinned against God and man, but also when we have faced our greatest temptation victoriously! For Jesus is our great High Priest, whose sacrifice paid not only for our sins, but also for our righteousness, which even at its best is still pathetically inadequate.
There, on the cross, in God’s ‘one moment in time,’ He replaced both with His perfect righteousness, the only garment in which we may stand in the presence of the all-holy God, our Creator and Redeemer. Even at our best, doing our best can never be sufficient to earn a place in heaven. Only as we stand in Jesus may we feel the pleasure of God Most High upon us, His unworthy servants.
God bless you all.