Summary: Although the Aaronic priesthood was God-ordained, it was temporary, and must give way to the new and better priesthood by which we may all make our approaches to God.
THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDEC
The New Testament is replete with surprising interpretations of Old Testament passages. We need go no further than the first Gospel to see this illustrated (Matthew 1:22-23; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17-18; Matthew 2:23 etc). The Book of Hebrews, towards the end of the Bible, is another interesting example, and especially because of its unique exposition of an otherwise rather remote Old Testament character, Melchisedec.
Who is this mysterious priest-king who appears so suddenly on the pages of Scripture, and disappears just as suddenly? Some theorise that he is perhaps Noah’s son Shem, an ancestor of Abraham, who at 600 years old died some thirty-five years after Abraham (Genesis 11:10-26; Genesis 25:7-8). Others speculate that he might be an angel, or even a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ Himself.
The writer to the Hebrews wished to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood over that of Aaron, and he used the eloquent silence of Scripture concerning Melchisedec’s genealogy, birth and death to typologically demonstrate the perpetuity of Jesus’ priesthood. The writer does not merely view Jesus as like Melchisedec, but rather sees Melchisedec as “assimilated to the Son of God” (Hebrews 7:3). When the Eternity dimension comes into view, the things above are reflected in the things beneath (Hebrews 9:24), not vice versa.
Melchisedec emerged without announcement from the city of Salem, which means city of Peace (Hebrews 7:1), and met with Abraham and his small army who were returning victorious from the Battle of the Kings (Genesis 14:18-20). The identification between Salem and Jerusalem is upheld by Josephus and Jerome, and seems evident in Psalm 76:1-2. The name Melchisedec means “King of righteousness” (Hebrews 7:2), and a form of the same name persisted in that city right down to the days of the conquest (Joshua 10:1).
We find the same concepts embodied in the first Israelite king in Jerusalem. David was “the man after the LORD’s own heart” whom He had sought (1 Samuel 13:14) - reflecting beforehand the characteristic of “the righteous Branch” of David, named “the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). David was also the father of Solomon, whose name means “Peace” - and Solomon’s reign was typified by peace.
Melchisedec is also introduced as “the priest of the Most High God” (Genesis 14:18). In the only other Biblical reference to Melchisedec, King David speaks prophetically to King Jesus about an oath (Psalm 110:4). That oath concerns priesthood (Hebrews 7:20-21) - of which David had no part (Hebrews 7:14).
Righteousness and peace meet together in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 85:10). Melchisedec the priest blessed Abraham when he came back rejoicing after the Battle of the Kings (Hebrews 7:1), and similarly Jesus is the righteous (just) king who, as priest, justifies His people by His own blood (Romans 3:26). As priest Jesus also makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25) at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34), and stands as our righteous advocate (1 John 2:1).
Melchisedec as the superior had blessed Abraham (Hebrews 7:1; Hebrews 7:7), and Abraham gave a tenth of all his spoils to Melchisedec (Hebrews 7:2; Hebrews 7:4); and in him his unborn descendants, Levi and the Aaronic priesthood, also paid tithes (Hebrews 7:9). Abraham gave his tithe voluntarily, out of gratitude to God, long before the giving of the Mosaic Law. We who partake of the blessing of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:6-7; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:18), who delight to tell others that we are “not under law” (Romans 6:14), might consider gratitude as a correct response to God’s grace.
Jesus’ priesthood is proclaimed to be of a better order than that of Aaron (Hebrews 7:11) because of His similitude to Melchisedec (Hebrews 7:14-15). It is not genealogy which qualifies our Great High Priest, but the power of an indissoluble life (Hebrews 7:16). It is by His resurrection that Jesus takes up His priestly office, and takes His place at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:5).
Although the Aaronic priesthood was God-ordained, it was temporary, and must give way to the new and better priesthood by which we may all make our approaches to God (Hebrews 7:18-19). “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Amen.