By this point, Hebrews has thrown out one obscure name a couple of times without any explanation. The name is Melchizedek, and as a side note, it is still on the table if you are expecting a son and in the market for something unique. This person is one of the most mysterious figures in the Bible; besides the book of Hebrews, he is only mentioned twice, and only for three total verses. The way that Hebrews unlocks this shadowy figure is marvelous, and it establishes again that Christ is above all, and proves that every last thing God has done in the history of Israel culminates in Jesus.
To understand, think about any news you’ve heard regarding the courts in our land, or maybe even back to civics class. There is always talk of “legal precedent,” meaning every judge looks to previous decisions from other judges to establish and give greater authority to his or her decision. Any deviation from the pattern of precedent must come with really good reasons and this guards society from a rogue judge running away with the law.
When Jesus came, he not only broke the precedent, he incinerated it. He contradicted every expectation of the Messiah, but in doing so, he fulfilled all hope that any person could have. The law and the tradition for the priesthood, as well as the image every Hebrew person had in mind when the word “priest” was used was a son of the tribe of Levi, and specifically descended from the lineage of Aaron, Moses’ brother. The pedigree that these names had was very important to them, and it seemed like Jesus didn’t fit the bill. How could someone from the tribe of Judah be a legitimate priest? Jesus was a descendant of King David, not Levi, so an argument could be made for his kingship, but not his priesthood… unless there was precedent for a high king who was also a high priest.
This is why Melchizedek is such a big deal. Here is a God-honoring priest who is also a king. Not only is he a servant of God, but Abraham honors him. In the Hebrew mind, Abraham was the patriarch of all patriarchs, and here he is giving 10% of what he owns to Melchizedek showing that Abraham was submitting himself to him. But it gets even better. His name literally means king of righteousness (or justice) and he is the king of Salem, which means peace. Not only that, but when the king of righteousness and prince of peace comes to bless the father of all the Jews, he does so bringing bread and wine. Does this remind you of anyone?
King of Righteousness, and Prince of Peace, we praise you. All of Scripture and history bends toward the miracle of all miracles, your death and resurrection. Thank you for revealing these majesties, and for sending ancient people like Melchizedek whose lives are a shadow to the substance of your greatness. Show us that our lives can be that too. Amen.
Questions for reflection:
- Read Genesis 14:18-20, and Psalm 110, A psalm of David. Do you think that these ancient people had any hint about all that God was doing through them? What is God doing through you?
- Read Hebrews 7:12. How does the priesthood of Jesus change the law?
- What does a king do? What does a priest do? How does Jesus do both for you?