Delivered as a pre-communion message at Woodland Christian Church on January 6, 2018.
At the beginning of each year, many Christians resolve to read through the entire Bible. If that includes you, then you recently finished Genesis 14. Here Abram rescues his nephew Lot from captivity in the hands of a nearby king and then is met by an enigmatic individual identified as Melchizedek, called the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High. Only two verses are dedicated to this brief interaction, during which Melchizedek brings bread and wine to Abram, blesses Abram for his victory, and receives a tenth of Abram’s spoils of war.
The nonchalance of this passage always intrigued me. Moses mentions the event almost in passing. There is no buildup at all and then he immediately resumes other topics. If you believe that Genesis is merely collection of moral stories or random historical facts, you might not think anything of this passage at all. But that is not how the writer of Hebrews viewed this passage and it is not how we should view it either. For we know that the Old Testament is about Jesus and everything within it foreshadows his death and resurrection. Therefore, here are four ways in which this mysterious Melchizedek himself actually foreshadows Christ:
- Melchizedek had more spiritual stature than even Abram, a man contacted directly by God and whose progeny would include the Messiah himself. It was Melchizedek who blessed Abram. It was Abram to tithed to Melchizedek.
- The name “Melchizedek” means “king of righteousness” and his title, King of Salem, means “king of peace.” The New Testament says that those who believe the gospel have seen the righteousness of God and have made peace with him. One day Christ will destroy the last strongholds of sin and his righteousness and peace shall reign.
- According to Hebrews, Melchizedek has no father, no mother, no genealogy, no beginning, no end, and therefore remains a priest continually. Whether this is a literal or figurative description of Melchizedek is beyond the scope of this discussion, but nonetheless it should remind us of Christ, who, as the second person of the trinity, is eternal and uncreated, or, as John calls him, the Alpha and the Omega.
- Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abram and his men. Certainly there is no coincidence in that choice of refreshment. Even now, we partake of the Lord’s Supper, in which bread and “wine” are given to memorialize Christ’s sacrifice for us: a sacrifice that was not built on the imperfect, frail, temporal human priesthood offered by the descendants of Aaron, but an perfect, completely satisfactory, immutable sacrifice offered by the Son of God himself. That is why David, writing about Christ says, “You are a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
- Special thanks to Chad Richard Bresson, Elder at River Church, Brownsville, TX
- Just as Melchizedek refreshed Abram and his men with wine, so Christ refreshes us spiritually with his flesh and blood, which the elements represent.
- David called Christ a priest according to the order of Melchizedek well before the lengthy explanation of Hebrews in which we establishes exactly why this is so. David seemed to have a special understanding of the scriptures to have known this.
- The nonchalance of the passage reminds me of Christ telling the disciples that truth is contained in parables and Paul telling the Corinthians that wisdom is found in God’s “foolishness”. In other words, God seems to delight in storing such rich truths in seemingly mundane passages.