1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2and 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. 3He 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.
4See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!
11 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? 12For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well..........
22This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.............
25Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them..................
27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
17After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;20and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!"
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,"You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 5:6; 7:17 and 7:21)
In the first installment of this study, an often overlooked fact was brought out; Abraham was called a Hebrew ,i.e. "one from the other side, who has come from over there" etc. He was called a Hebrew before the sign of circumcision was commanded by God. (more on this in a bit)
We now go to one of the greatest books in Scripture, The Book of (to) the Hebrews.
The title, "Hebrews", would suggest that this book is not only addressing Moses and the Covenant at Sinai, which Jesus fulfilled through His death on the cross, as the Lamb of Passover; it is addressing the covenant given to Abram, without which we are in serious trouble, and is sealed by the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
In part one we looked at Genesis 12, which is the command and promised reward, given to Abram by God.
1 Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.
2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
The Lord reveals more of what this covenant contains in Genesis 13:14-18; 15:1-21 and in 17:1-27 (where his name was changed to Abraham and the covenant of faith was sealed through circumcision.)
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?
We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
Paul can then correctly state;
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.
4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Abraham was given the sign of circumcision as a testimony that he was called out of Babylon by the Lord, had heard the Word of God, believed it, and was now found to be righteous
through that faith. Circumcision came after his being declared righteous. In this Abraham became the Father of ALL the redeemed i.e. Israel, which is both jew and gentile.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
Salvation has always been by grace through faith. Eph 2:8-10
It is vital to understand the emphasis Paul places on the fact that circumcision, the Law, came after Abraham was justified by faith, and indeed even before he was given his new name.
The reason being that another extraordinary event had taken place during the time after the original call and promise and the sealing of the covenant through circumcision;
Abraham had an encounter with Melchizedek, the King of Salem and high priest of God.
After having rescued his cousin Lot by defeating Chedorlaomer and his allies, who had taken Lot and his family captive, Abraham was met in the Valley of the Kings by the king of Sodom, and most importantly by Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abram the victor, and blessed God who had given him the victory. What is generally overlooked is that Melchizedek brought out bread and wine to Abram, and after they had partaken in this, Abram gave a tithe to Melchizedek.
Another important fact given to us is, Melchizedek was king of Salem, later known as Jerusalem.
It is also revealed that Melchizedek was "priest of God most high", according to Genesis 14: 18. It is interesting to note that this information is presented in the context of Melchizedek bringing out the bread and wine, which suggests that the "title" and the act belong together.
While Genesis 14 provides scant knowledge concerning this High priestly King of Salem.
The rest of scripture has much to say.
In Psalm 110, which Jesus quotes re: the messiah being the son of David, this passage is written seemingly "out of the blue";
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
While this reference to Melchizedek may seem out of place, as this Psalm is a prophecy of the Messiah to come, the book of Hebrews brings the revelation to completeness.
1For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2and 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. 3He 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.4See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!
To review the vital facts concerning Melchizedek:
1. His name means king of righteousness
2. He is also king of Salem (Jerusalem) king of peace
3. He is a priest of God most high.
4. His genealogy is not revealed, i.e. neither father, mother, nor descendants.
5. In this he "appears" to have no beginning nor end.
6. In all of this he resembles the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who is a priest forever.
7. He was superior to Abram in that he blessed Abram, and received tithes from Abram.
This indicates a position of superior authority.
Without the reference found in Psalm 110, this episode in Genesis 14 would have no consequence outside of its historical and narrative context.
Let's look at the passage.
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
"You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
This comes from God. He has sworn this.
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,
20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath,
21 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.'"
Therefore, this psalm which prophesies of the Messiah, also prophesies TO the Messiah.This promise is a sworn oath, of which no other oath is higher as there is no one higher than God; "a priest forever". This is an eternal promise, which means it has no beginning or end. This promise has always existed. There will be no changing of mind, on God's part, regarding this.
So we have Abram to whom another sworn promise/covenant was given, submitting to Melchizedek whose "order of priesthood" the eternal high priest/messiah comes from.
Abram, in being the Father of a great nation,and later Abraham, the father of many nations, carried in himself the seed of all his descendants. So they also were blessed by Melchizedek, and paid tithe to him, though they were not yet born.
7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.
8 In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.
9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham,
10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
Not only does the priestly tribe of Levi submit to the superior authority of this priesthood, so do all the tribes, and so so all the nations.
We can say without qualm, that everything and everyone, from the point of Abram's meeting with the king of Salem on, are in submission to the one who is the priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. This would include the covenant given at Sinai. So the Law is inferior to the covenant given to Abram.
11 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?
Abram believed by faith, was accounted as righteous,tithed to, and receive blessing from Melchizedek all before he received the seal of circumcision.
Hebrews 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
Because He is a priest forever, and because He is also King of both peace and righteousness:
"He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."
He has accomplished this through the better covenant of the better priesthood.
6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
The Israel of God, is both jew and gentile as both submit (in Abraham) to the same great high priest who saves through eternal intercession, and by His own shed blood, through a superior covenant.
In the next installment I would like to look at Hebrews 8 and 9 in greater depth.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Update: One more thought re: Abram and his meeting with Melchizedek. I believe that this meeting, especially with the priest introducing the bread and cup, lends a special clarity to Jesus' words in this exchange from John 8:
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."
57 So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."