Summary: Jesus is pointed to throughout all of Scripture, even in the most obscure places.
READ GENESIS 14:17-20. Melchizedek appears and then disappears, never to be heard of again until Psalm 110:4, when the writer says that the Messiah would be a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. So there is some connection between the Messiah and Melchizedek. That the Messiah will be a priest like Melchizedek.
And that’s it. That’s all our Old Testament says about the guy. Of all the obscure references and things that would be missed, Melchizedek takes the cake. We kind of wonder, just who is this guy and what is so important about him? Why would the Messiah be like him? What makes him so special?
When we begin to read our New Testament and we make it to the book of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews (whoever that is), shows us why he is so important. READ Hebrews 5:8-10.
The writer says that Jesus was designated by God to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. And everyone says, “Oh… I don’t get it…” If that’s where you are or what you are thinking, don’t feel bad - it’s where the readers of Hebrews were as well - they didn’t get it.
Maybe some background will help. Hebrews is written at a time when the church is under intense persecution. People are being martyred left and right because of their faith and it seems that these Jewish believers were being offered a way out of the persecution if they would simply return back to their Jewish roots and practices. The author is writing to them to warn them NOT to do this. He explains to them that through Jesus, God has now established a new covenant by which people can belong to Him. It is this new covenant that actually explains and fulfills the purpose of the covenant that God had instituted through Moses (we’ll talk more about covenants next week). The writer argues - very well, I might add - that to leave the new way for the old would be to leave a greater way for a lesser way for the sake of maybe alleviating suffering temporarily and it would be a tragedy to do so. This letter, then, is him pleading with these people to not give up and turn away, because the way of Jesus was better, more perfect, and the fulfillment of what they were looking for.
It is in this context that he tells them that Jesus is like Melchizedek - a high priest unlike the high priests of Old. Listen to what is written in chapter 7 READ 7:1-10. That’s a lot to pull from 2 mentions in the Old Testament, no? Let’s look closely at what he is saying. About Melchizedek, he is saying that what makes him special is that:
He was both a King and a Priest - no one else ever held both offices, but he did.
He had a significant Name - Melek = King and Zedek = Righteousness “King of Righteousness” and he was the king of “Salem” which means “peace,” shalom, so he was also the “King of Peace”
He Received Tithes from Abraham which means that Abraham - the father of those the author is writing to - acknowledged the authority of Melchizedek. Not only did Abraham recognize the authrority of Melchizedek, but he was blessed by him in a special way. Then, the author argues, that if you want to get down to it, the tithes were in a way from Levi - the son of Israel that the priests of the Old Way were from - because Levi and his descendants were in the “loins of Abraham.” This is the idea of racial solidarity - which the Jews believed in. So the paying of tithes involved not only Abraham, but also the unborn generations in his loins.
When it came to his Family, he was significant. Now, obviously he had mother and father, but according to the record there is no genealogy recorded of him. This makes him different from most other OT great persons recorded. It’s almost like that from a written perspective, he had no beginning and no end either, as his death is not recorded.
You add all these things together, says the author, and Melchizedek is far greater than the first high priest, Aaron and as they pointed out earlier, Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek.
In 11-25, he argues that not only is he greater than Aaron, but he has replaced Aaron. Why would God do this?
Because the Priesthood and the Law were imperfect. The priests were imperfect men, performing imperfect sacrifices, until they died and then someone else stepped in. No one could handle it forever. With the Law, if you break it (commission or omission) - you’re condemned. If you follow all the rules, you’ll end up thinking highly of yourself (see Pharisees, the) and end up condemned because of self-righteousness and pride. Either way, you’re condemned. It’s a perfect system for revealing our need for God.