Hebrews 7:1-28 – Melchizedek!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 16, 2012 AM
Secret identities of heroes are nothing new. Years ago when I was very young there was a show called The Lone Ranger. After he had rescued the damsel in distress or saved the town from the bad guys, someone would ask as he rode off into the sunset, “Who was that masked man?” Now being young I did not have a problem that no one could recognize him or other heroes like Batman and Robin, or Zorro, but the one that used to really bug me was Superman. I mean, come on, the only difference was a curl in his hair and his demeanor! You had to be pretty dense not to recognize him!
Did you know that one of the first heroes with a secret identity is found in the Bible? It is the intriguing character we find in Genesis 14 who was the king of Salem and Priest of God Most High, Melchizedek. Four kings joined together and waged war on their neighbors. They defeat Sodom and Gomorrah, taking Lot the nephew of Abram (Abraham). Abram forms an alliance of his own and with 318 of his own trained men, sets out to recover Lot. He resoundingly defeats the kings, recovers his nephew, the spoils and the folks taken in battle. As Abram passes Salem, Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gives him a tenth of everything. Later, the king of Sodom offers him the spoils, Abram declines, not wanting anything that might construe him to be anything but honorable and to bring glory to God. This short tale of Melchizedek has left people wondering who he was. Let’s find out what Hebrews teaches us…
The narrative in Genesis does not have a lot to say concerning this unusual person known as Melchizedek, but it is enough for the author of Hebrews to begin to teach us the deeper truths concerning Jesus. Let’s find out what Hebrews has to say concerning…
I. The person called Melchizedek! (Vv. 1-10)
1. The writer succinctly states, “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High.” Just like Jesus! This unstated fact will become increasingly important as we move through the rest of this chapter. We read that “He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.” He lays out where he is headed right off the bat for his listeners. He begins the longest single expository passage of his sermon, and its theme is the main teaching of his message. We discover that the Jews saw Melchizedek as one “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever,” literally, “continuously.” Again, the tacit message here is he is like Jesus. “Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder” after receiving his blessing! Why was this important? He knew that the Law of Moses “requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people.” Not some unknown guy who shows up out of nowhere! Evidently, Abram saw Melchizedek as a far more important individual than they realized! He was before the Mosaic priesthood. The author goes on to tell us that, “This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.” Wow! In fact “the lesser person is blessed by the greater!” The writer knew that Levi did not literally pay tithes to Melchizedek; however, “One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” Abraham’s act affirmed Melchizedek’s superiority even to the Levitical priests themselves. The inference is that the Levitical priesthood paid tribute to the person called Melchizedek!
EXAMPLE: I would never run for President of the United States of America. You would have to endure an examination that is relentless and often misleading. This is why so many are frustrated by our current President. Rightly or wrongly, we know very little about him. We only have what he has prepackaged for us in his own enhanced memories. Few actual official records are available for anyone to look at. Therefore, I found it rather humorous that much was made of his opponent’s not releasing all of his tax records, while we still do not have any of the President’s college records, papers, writings, grades, or transcripts. Some even question his birth because of his reluctance to be forthcoming. By the way, I am not one of them. What this does is create, sometimes, an unhealthy focus on his history. I suppose it makes him more “mysterious” for some, but it also creates distrust in others. Melchizedek was a mysterious figure also that many have tried to figure out over the centuries. The author of Hebrews gives us a good introduction to the person called Melchizedek.
As unusual as Melchizedek is for the Jewish people, being called “king of Salem” and the “priest of God Most High” left them wanting to find out more concerning him. The writer of Hebrews disturbs his listeners by telling them that…
II. We have a better hope because of our Melchizedek! (Vv. 11-19)
1. The author makes their heads spin when he then tells them, “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” What!? For the Jews there could be no other priesthood but the one God had established! In fact, some realized that in order for the Priest of God to remain pure he could not function as a warrior. This is why some believed there would be two Messiahs reigning together: A High Priest of God (Levitical) and a warrior king (Davidic). But this was not the case. There would be only one Messiah. He tells us that “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” As perfect as the law was seen as, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless!” Out with the old and in with the new! And the good news for them is that both the Levitical Priesthood and the Davidic covenant were found in Jesus, “For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah (David) and in regard to that tribe Moses (and) said nothing about priests.” In fact, “He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.” No one from Judah by the decree of Mosaic Law could serve as a Priest of God, but Jesus satisfied both: It “is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears.” The conclusion is that Jesus “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.” Because Jesus had an “indestructible life” he was, like his ancestor David, declared to be, “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek!” (Psalm 110:4) Just as Melchizedek was before the Law we have a “better hope… by which we draw near to God!” We have a better hope because of our Melchizedek!
EXAMPLE: No matter how well we raggedy old humans build something new, it decays and will become so much rubble in time. There is not a perfect painting, a perfect sculpture, or a perfect photograph either. Everything we touch or make is imperfect the moment we create it because we live in an imperfect world. All of creation is sin-tainted. While the Law of God was to show his people how to live holy lives, it was impossible to do. Even the priests who administered and taught it were imperfect. Then came Jesus, who through is death and resurrection became “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek!” As imperfect as the Law was, Jesus was perfect. As weak as the priests were, Jesus was indestructible. When the Law offered no hope for salvation, we now have a better hope because of our Melchizedek, Jesus!
If Melchizedek was called the “Priest of God Most High” before the priesthood was established by God to Moses, the implications were rather interesting to say the least for the Hebrews. This meant that the Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood came after Melchizedek! If these were true, and they were, then the writer makes the case that…
III. Jesus is our perfect Melchizedek! (Vv. 20-28)
1. We established last week that when God makes a promise, it is kept. The author reminds us that “Others became priests without any oath, but he (Jesus) 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.’” It is “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” God’s promise is sure and secure forever! Just as important is the fact that “there have been many of those (Levitical) priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.” Jesus is not like the mere human beings who served as priests before. He is God in human flesh and serves eternally! The wonderful thing is the eternal truth this contains, namely that “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!” Since he lives eternally we enjoy the blessing and protection of a greater Priest of the Most High God! Jesus, the Most High God, himself intercedes on our behalf! “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Jesus is not like those who continually had to go to the temple. “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.” Wow! Jesus is not some frail sinful meager human who died. Jesus is not like the Law that was imperfect. A “law” that appointed “as high priests men who are weak” but rather, he was established by “the oath (to David), which came after the law,” and was “appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever!” this is why Jesus is our perfect Melchizedek!
EXAMPLE: One of things that we have learned about Melchizedek is that he came out of the city, down the hillside, to the valley below to not just refresh Abram (Abraham) but to also bless Abram! What a beautiful picture! He could have come out to surrender to Abram, because after all Abram had shown his prowess to command and do battle. He could have come out to offer Abram a bribe like the king of Sodom did, but he did not. Instead, like Jesus would later do, he offered a blessing and refreshment to the weary warrior. Here he comes, arms filled with provisions and a smile on his lips. He is a joy to the tired and brokenhearted. He is the nursing agent that binds up the wounded and troubled. He is the priest of God Most High who comes out of his holy city, down into the valley, to walk to Abraham’s descendents and minister! It is wonderful to realize dear weary warrior of the Lord that you have a Melchizedek waiting for you right now wanting to offer you some refreshment and a blessing! Make no mistake you do. It is none other than Jesus our prefect Melchizedek!
We learned about the person called Melchizedek! We learned that we have a better hope because of our Melchizedek! And finally, we discovered that Jesus is the perfect Melchizedek!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.