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Theology > Jesus > Anticipation of Christ > Priest Like Melchizedek


PRIEST LIKE MELCHIZEDEK

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all (Gen. 14:18-20).

This is all we know of Melchizedek from the writings of Moses; we must wait until the time of David before this unknown and engaging personality is mentioned again, and David’s reference is the last in the Old Testament:

The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4).

Genesis provides paltry details regarding Melchizedek, whose name means “king of righteousness”; and Psalms relates him to the coming Messiah, projecting this person into the Christological discussion.

With regard to the historical information, the following is what we know: Melchizedek was the king of Salem, an ancient name for Jerusalem; he was a priest, a priest of God Most High, the One who is also the Possessor of heaven and earth; he stated that God Most High was to be blessed; he attributed Abraham’s military victory over Chedorlaomer and his allies to the doing of God Most High (see: God is Sovereign); he blessed Abraham; and he was given a tithe of the spoils of battle by Abraham.

These facts attest to the reality that there were others besides Abraham who served the one true God. Melchizedek would be unknown except for this brief and revealing passage. Surely he is not the only other individual on the earth serving the Creator; there must have been others. But they are unknown.

When we come to the Psalm of David we find a statement of Yahweh concerning Adonai, or a statement of God the Father concerning God the Son, in which the Father declares to the Son that He will makes the Son’s enemies into the Son’s footstool; and the Son is told to “Rule.” According to Christ the OT Psalm is speaking of the coming Messiah, who is the Lord God; so the Son of David (the Messiah is descended from David; see: Son of David) is indeed the Lord of David. The point of Jesus is that David understood that his coming Son—the Messiah—was also his God. This understanding cannot be question for David spoke by the Holy Spirit (Mk. 12:35-37), and such is the affirmation of Jesus Himself. Thus, Psalm 110 is classified as Messianic and, therefore, Christological.

In this Old Testament passage the Son of David is spoken of in terms of his coming kingship, and there is the revelation that this King is also Priest: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4), a declaration of which God will not change His mind. The priesthood of Israel was from Aaron and the tribe of Levi, and their duties related to the Tabernacle and Temple. But in Melchizedek there is the union of king and priest, as is true of the Messiah, and Melchizedek’s priesthood is in terms of God Most High. Little else is known—there is a certain mystery surrounding the person and the position. But Christ is identified with this inexplicable person, especially his priesthood.

The only references in the New Testament to Melchizedek are in the book of Hebrews, and a number of the references associates Melchizedek with Christ:

You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (5:6; quote from Ps. 110:4);

Jesus . . . being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:7, 10;

Jesus . . . having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (6:20);

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood . . . what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron (7:11; see: 7:1-3, 10);

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 (7:15-16);

You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (7:17; quote from Ps. 110:4);

For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this One was made a priest with an oath by the One who said to Him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever” (7:20-21; NKJV adds: “according to the order of Melchizedek).

Melchizedek is associated with a priesthood that was distinct from the Aaronic priesthood, meaning that his position was not dependent on physical descent but on Divine appointment; and his greatness is seen in the fact that Abraham was blessed by him, a blessing from the superior to the inferior, and in the fact that Abraham gave a tithe to him. Additionally, the priesthood of Melchizedek was intricately related to his position as king, so that in one person there was the right to rule over men and to represent men before God.

These factors provide understanding for the association of Christ with Melchizedek. In Christ there is the combination of King and Priest, and His priesthood is not through natural lineage but through the oath spoken to Him by the One who will not change His mind. Worded differently, Christ was appointed Priest (Heb. 5:5). Thus the priesthood of Christ is superior to the Levitical priesthood of the nation of Israel, and in this sense Melchizedek is a type or a harbinger of the coming Messiah.

The priesthood of Melchizedek reminds man that he cannot appear before God on his own, without some provision being made for his sinful state and actions. Man must have a go-between, a priest, a High Priest, a goel, a redeemer. In the presence of Holiness, sinfulness cannot endure; there must be a representative, one who has been appointed by God and thus is acceptable to God, to represent man before the Incomprehensible Majesty.

All men set aside for this task and who serve as priests are themselves sinful and unfit to represent man fully and eternally; each one of them needs a Priest, a perfect Priest who is totally sufficient for the task and who will represent them as well as the ones they typically and symbolically represent. This one is the Priest after the order of Melchizedek, the Priest whose work was anticipated by the priesthood of Melchizedek, but the One who accomplishes what Melchizedek could never bring to pass.


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