Monday, February 16, 2009
Solving the Mystery of Melchizedek
“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. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is tested that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’ On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect) but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” In Hebrews 7 we see the development of the central truth of this letter: the superiority of Jesus Christ. In Him alone is sufficient power to handle life. The writer of this letter labors to convince his readers that Christ is completely different in His priestly role. Unlike Aaron and the Levitical priesthood, Christ follows the pattern of a maverick priest who once ministered to Abraham. His name was Melchizedek. What makes the book of Hebrews so difficult to understand? Perhaps because we are coming from as different place than they were. They were very familiar with name like Moses, Aaron, David, Joshua, Abraham, and Melchizedek. Let’s examine the current problem they were facing. Among the intended recipients of this letter were those who had chosen to no longer bow to the name of Christ. Because of suffering and disillusionment, these people had returned to a life centered on the Mosaic Law and the Levitical priesthood. The writer set out to prove to them that Jesus Christ, not the priests, was the solution to their problem. Our hope is found in the Person of Jesus Christ (7:1-19). The letter says “If you want a rather unusual measure of peace in the rather unusual time in which you live, you’ll find it only in Jesus Christ. The best introduction to Jesus is Melchizedek.” Jesus and Melchizedek: a comparison (vv. 1-8). Who was Melchizedek? (vv. 1-2). He was king in Salem, reigning over what we know today as Jerusalem. He was, at the same time, a priest of the Most High God. Abraham was one of his contemporaries. What was his background? (v. 3). The Bible gives no record of Melchizedek’s birth, mother, father, genealogy, or death. Why was he great? (vv. 4-8). First, he collected a tithe from Abraham (vv. 4-6a). Second he blessed the one who had promises from God (v. 6b). Third, he was declared superior to Abraham (vv. 8-10). Jesus and Moses: A contrast (vv. 11-19). In this portion of the text, the writer turns to the time of Moses and the Levitical priesthood and asks, “what need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?” Because Melchizedek represents something that the priests of Moses could never produce. Both the priesthood and the law were imperfect. Perfect in this passage means completed, fulfilled, only in Christ is there security, and only in Him is there purpose and meaning in life. Only through Him can we draw near to God. Jesus and me, (vv. 18-19). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews has shown us that we don’t need a religion that brags about its genealogy. We don’t need a priest with as pedigree. What we need is the life that’s indestructible, a priest who is permanent. We need Jesus Christ, our high priest. Jesus not only knows where we’re coming from, but more importantly, where we’re going. Jesus not only cares where our head is, but more importantly, where our heart is. Jesus not only tells us that we are weak and empty in ourselves, but more importantly, that we are strong and complete in Him. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.