You may be thinking, why is it important to know about a man named Melchizedek? Well, it’s not a matter of why it’s important, but rather how important it is to know about a High Priest who…
- (v. 1) Blessed people without being blessed himself
- (v. 3) No record of having a father or mother
- (v. 4) Received a tithe (tenth) of all that Abraham had taken in battle (long before tithing was mandated)
- (v. 6) Wasn’t a descendant of Levi (where we get the tribe of priests)
- (v. 8) Never died but instead “lives on”
My hope in this reflection is to slightly (as there’s more that can be considered) lift the veil on a biblical character that is only mentioned three times in the bible, but yet is important as a foreshadow to Jesus.
Why the Author Points out Melchizedek
Remember that the authors intention in this book is to convince Jewish Christians that there’s no need to go back to their ritualistic past and old laws. By raising the importance of Melchizedek, the author is building a case for Christ and showing that Jesus fulfilled the purposes of Judaism. Because the author has to engage the old covenant and Jewish history, the writer of Hebrews has to prove that Jesus is superior in every way to the Jewish traditions and laws; hence his now attempt to show that Jesus is more superior even over Melchizedek.
The name Melchizedek first appears in Genesis 14:18 where Melchizedek appears as the King of Salem. As you’ve read through Hebrews these past couple of days, you’ve run into a familiar phrase, “…in the order of Melchizedek.” This phrase is repeated not only in Hebrews but also in Psalm 110:
- Psalm 110:4
- Hebrews 5:6
- Hebrews 5:10
- Hebrews 6:20
- Hebrews 7:17
One of the most important reasons for this phrase, “…in the order of Melchizedek,” is to show that Jesus wasn’t limited by the standards of the Levites, and didn’t come from the Tribe of Levi, but instead, as we know, Jesus came from the Tribe of Judah. Jesus is considered a priest in the order of Melchizedek because, like Melchizedek, Jesus was not a descendant of Aaron, and so would not qualify for the Jewish priesthood under the Law of Moses.
Melchizedek, a Sign of Christ
When we’re learning about Melchizedek, it’s important to remember that he is type, a sign, and a foreshadow of Jesus. Pastor and writer Steven Cole wrote, “Herveus (a 12th century writer, cited by Philip Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [Eerdmans], p. 251) applies the truth here to Christ by saying,
If Melchizedek, who was a sign and shadow, is preferred to Abraham and to all the levitical priests, how much more Christ, who is the truth and the substance! … If a type of Christ is greater than he who has the promises, how much more so is Christ himself!
If Melchizedek could bless Abraham, how much more is the Son of God ready and able to bless those who draw near to God through Him! If we want God’s blessings, we should seek them in Christ, because “as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes” (2 Cor. 1:20). What do you need from God? Eternal life? Yes! Forgiveness of sins? Yes! Inner peace? Yes! Hope? Yes! Joy in the midst of trials? Yes! Grace to endure? Yes! Victory over sin? Yes! Healing from past wounds? Yes! Jesus is the perfect high priest who dispenses God’s blessings to those who have His promises. Draw near to Him!”
The writer of Hebrews drives a large stake in the ground and says to his listeners, Melchizedek is great, but Jesus is greater! Moses was great, but Jesus is greater! What the High Priest was limited to do, Jesus is not bound! This is why we remember the words of Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT):
14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.