When a person reads the Book of Hebrews they don’t get far before mention begins to be made of Melchizedek. Jesus has become the high priest for his people after the order of Melchizedek. There is evidently some things about the whole teaching on the subject that has some difficulty to it since the writer tells them he has a lot to say to them on the subject but they aren’t ready for it yet because they hadn’t grown up in their faith yet. Much of what the writer of Hebrews says on the topic goes back to one Scripture found in the Book of Psalms. In the 110th Psalm David is the writer and he is foretelling the time of the Messiah on earth. In verse 4 he said, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
This mention of Melchizedek is the first time we have heard anything mentioned about him since being introduced to him in Genesis 14:18-21. Abraham was returning from his battle with the kings who had captured Sodom and taken Lot and family captive. He had rescued Lot and his family. He had the spoils of his victory over the kings. “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, Blessed by Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your head. He gave him a tenth of all.”
This event with Melchizedek blessing Abraham and receiving a tithe of all the spoils took place some 500 years before the giving of the law and the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood. It was 500 years after the giving of the law and establishment of Aaron’s descendants as priest that David prophesied “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus couldn’t have been a priest under the Old Testament order of things since he was not a Levite but was of the family of Judah.
Notice some of the things the writer of Hebrews said about the advantages of having a high priest after the Melchizedek order. Unlike the descendants of Aaron, there is no need to offer a sacrifice, first for your own sins and then for the sins of the people, since Jesus had so sin to begin with. Unlike the priest of the old order, you don’t become attached to a priest only to return one year and learn that he has died. Jesus’ priesthood continues forever because he always lives. Unlike the old priesthood in which the high priest often became more of a political figure involved in the affairs of state than the spiritual figure to help people draw closer to God, Jesus is the priest who forever seeks to save the people and help them grow closer to him all the time. Unlike the old order, in which the priest demanded the circumcision of any who would benefit from his work, Jesus is concerned about the change of heart in the individual and his offer is for all people of all backgrounds and nationalities. In the words of Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
But who is Melchizedek? He was king of Salem, likely Jerusalem and is referred to as the king of peace and king of righteousness. He was a priest of the Most High God. This was during that period of time when the fathers or heads of families served as priest for their families. The introduction of him as a priest of the Most High God seems odd in that he is the only one referred to in such a way during that era of time. There is no record of where he came from or what happened to him after this meeting with Abraham. It is because we have nothing said about his background or who his parents were that the writer of Hebrews says “He was without father or mother or descent.” Usually in the Old Testament when someone is mentioned there is an immediate explanation that this is the son of some person and that man was the son of this other person. Instead of that normal way of introducing a person, Melchizedek just arrives on the scene as an established king and priest of God. By serving as both priest and king he prefigured the way Jesus would serve as both priest and king in our time.
We know that he was a great man because he both received tithes from Abraham, God’s chosen one and he pronounced blessings on Abraham. The writer of Hebrews said both of these demonstrated his superiority over Aaron and his line of priest. Because Levi is a descendant of Abraham and Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek it demonstrates that Levi who receives tithes paid tithes to Melchizedek as a descendant. The other point made on this matter is that it is the lesser one who is blessed by the greater one. Melchizedek is the one who pronounced the blessing on Abraham so he has to be the greater one.
In Hebrews 7:26-28 the writer of Hebrews draws this conclusion to his discussion about Jesus being high priest after the order of Melchizedek. “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted about the heavens; who does not need daily like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priest who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a son, made perfect forever.”
This whole thing becomes all the more amazing to us when you realize that not only is Jesus our high priest, but we as his children serve as priest under him on this earth. “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people.” (I Peter 2:9) The greater the high priest the greater the priest who serve under him to do his work. Our goal is to have the heart, the actions and the love of the high priest for people around us every day.