Stranger Thing #16 – Melchizedek

The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

[Psalm 110:4 – ESV]

When it comes to the stranger things in the Bible, Melchizedek is certainly at the top of the list.

We are first introduced to this mysterious character in Genesis 14. Abram and a group of his fighting men had just recused his nephew Lot from Chedorlaomer and his coalition of kings. The scene picks up in the King’s Valley, which is right outside the old city of Jerusalem. The king of Sodom is meeting Abram there to receive back his citizens and his possessions that were lost to Chedorlaomer in battle.

And suddenly the king of Salem (Jerusalem), who is named Melchizedek, comes out to meet Abram in the King’s Valley and commences to bless Abram in the name of God Most High.

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.

[Genesis 14:18-20]

You may already be picking up on some symbolic language that makes an obvious connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance …

  1. Melchizedek is the king of Jerusalem
  2. He offered Abram bread and wine [i.e. Lord’s Supper]
  3. Not only was he a king but also a priest of the Most High God
  4. He blessed Abram, demonstrating authority over him
  5. Abram gave a tenth of his possessions to him

After this brief introduction, the Bible doesn’t mention Melchizedek again until the Holy Spirit inspired King David to write Psalm 110, which is one of the most quoted Messianic Psalms in the New Testament. For the sake of context, it is worth reading all of Psalm 110.

A Psalm of David

1The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2The LORD sends forth from Zion
your mighty scepter.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!

3Your people will offer themselves freely
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.c
4The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

5The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath
6He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head.

Clearly David is speaking of the King of Zion (Jerusalem) and Lord of Glory — the coming Messiah — who will crush God’s enemies and establish His throne forever. There are countless cross references and supporting passages that build on this Psalm, and even Jesus Himself used this Psalm to prove His deity and silence the Pharisees [Matthew 22:41-46].

Fortunately, the author of Hebrews ties all of this together and shows how Jesus has proven to be superior to all kings and priests, as both the King of kings and our Great High Priest. He says that Jesus, who is a priest in the order of Melchizedek, is the “guarantor of a better covenant” [Hebrews 7:22].

“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.

[Hebrews 7:1-3]

While the author of Hebrews sheds some light on the nature of Melchizedek, he at the same time raises more questions.

We know that Melchizedek literally means “king of righteousness,” and he also was the “king of peace.” We know that he was the priest of the Most High prior to the Levitical priesthood established by God through Moses and Aaron.

We know that the Messiah, King Jesus, is the true King of righteousness and Prince of Peace, who became our faithful High Priest by giving His own righteous life as a sacrifice for sin. We know that the Lord Jesus will return in glory and power to rule from Jerusalem and establish His throne forever.

I believe King Jesus will sit on David’s throne in the midst of the Temple on that day, as He will have perfectly combined both offices of priest and king.

But there is still one question that remains … who was Melchizedek?

Without the commentary from Hebrews, I would say that Melchizedek was nothing more than a human king and priest — one of the many types and prefigures of Christ in the Old Testament. But Hebrews 7:3 causes me to pause and consider perhaps he was something more.

Consider the additional information we get from Hebrews 7:3.

  1. Melchizedek is without father or mother or genealogy
  2. He had neither beginning of days or end of life
  3. He resembles Jesus, the Son of God
  4. He continues as a priest forever

So we must ask the question. What does this mean?

Was Melchizedek a supernatural being? Was he a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ? [ see Christophany]

Frankly, the language in Hebrews 7 creates more problems than offers solutions.

Based on the description that Melchizedek was “without father or mother or genealogy,” and the he “had neither beginning of days or end of life,” I am tempted to lean toward the possibility that Abram encountered the Lord Jesus in human form, and that Melchizedek was an Old Testament manifestation of Christ.

We know that Abram encountered the LORD in human form on multiple occasions [see Genesis 17-18], so it is likely Melchizedek was another divine encounter.

Not to mention, Melchizedek blessed Abram, of which the author of Hebrews says that “the lesser is blessed the greater” [Hebrews 7:7], and Abram gave a tenth of all he had to the king.

Perhaps this mysterious encounter was what Jesus had in mind when He told the Pharisees, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” [John 8:56].

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