June 24, 2018
As most of you know, I try to write introductions to my sermons that capture attention. Whether from current events or history – sports, humor or personal story – the idea is to make you think that I have something worth hearing. Yes, of course, it is the Word of God we study – making our time always worthwhile. But let’s be honest, we’ve all heard, and I’ve preached sermons that were less that scintillating.
So, as I was struggling in my office on Friday morning – I walked out to get yet another cup of coffee thinking it might help. I noticed Hunter was in his office. I stopped to see how things were going. We eventually began talking about the text for today, and you can imagine my shock and disappointment when he said, I’m sorry, but I have no Melchizedek songs for this Sunday. We joked about writing onewith a Hebrew cadence. By the way, I went back to my office and Googled Melchizedek songs – and found there is such a song on Youtube creatively titledThe Melchizedek Song. It has 146 views. I listened to it, making it 147 views. Trust me, that about 145 too many. So, I thought I’d write one as Hunter works on the music.
Fair warning, it may sound a bit like Dr. Seuss:
So Hebrews 6 you thought difficult to be,
But came today, of the warning, finally free. (5:11-6:12)
To chapter 7, then, we gladly will turn, Weary of hearing in hell we may burn. (6:8)
Thankful to know in Christ we’re held fast,
The soul’s sure anchor, to heaven we fly at last. (6:19)
But, what is this when to chapter 7 we peer,
A man, a name, who in Old Testament rarely appears.
A man, a name we can hardly pronounce,
A man, we are told, who most certainly counts.
A man, a name, called forever Melchizedek, (7:1) Who made Scott’s intro most clearly a wreck.
King Melchizedek, a priest, a man without peer, (7:1)
Until Christ should come, and finally appear.
Hunter will quickly learn anything he says during the week can and will be used against him on Sundays. What do we do with this man called Melchizedek? The author first introduced him to us in chapter 5, verse 6, speaking of Christ’s high priesthood, “just as He says also in another passage, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” He says it again in verse 10, ‘being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Well then, in the very next verse, the author took a rather lengthy aside to give his third, severe warning in the book. He started in 5:11, saying, “Concerning him [or this Melchizedekian priesthood] we have much to say and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” He launched into that warning, challenging his readers not to be sluggish or dull of hearing, but rather be diligent so as to realize the full assurance of our hope found in Christ.
So now, having gently shamed, severely warned and greatly encouraged his readers, and us, he turns his attention back to Melchizedek. The last verse of chapter 6 said, Jesus entered heaven as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. So we’re going to tackle this great man of whom innumerable songs have been written.
Before I read the text, let me remind you of the purpose of this letter. The author writes to Jewish believers who were facing ever-increasing persecution. As a result, they were considering quitting and returning to Judaism. So he writes to both warn and encourage them. We’ve looked at three of the five warnings – thankfully, the next doesn’t come till chapter 10. But his encouragements go like this: Jesus is better. He’s better than anything this world, indeed this universe, has to offer.
Why, He’s better than the angels, chapters 1-2, having inherited a better name than they. They are mere messengers, servants of God. Jesus is the very Son of God. He’s better than Moses and Joshua, chapters 3-4. After all, Moses was a servant in the house, Jesus is the Son over the house. The OT Joshua led them into the promised land, but the NT Joshua named Jesus will lead us to our eternal home and rest.
Not only that, Jesus is better than Abraham and the Levitical priesthood, chapters 5-7 – with, of course, that long warning tucked in. But you need to know the author is getting to the heart, the meat of his argument. You’re thinking of returning to the OT Levitical system with its priests and sacrifices? Know this – Jesus is better than Aaron, Levi, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system – every animal that has ever been offered. Because, Jesus is the fulfillment of all to which the OT pointed. And he starts with showing that yes, Jesus is a priest – but of a priesthood vastly, forever superior to the Levitical priesthood. So here’s his point. Why would you return to the shadow, the types – when you now enjoy the real thing and the fulfillment of all those types? He’ll say it more strongly – there remains no more sacrifice for sin outside of Christ.
So, he started back at the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5 saying that Jesus is our great High Priest. But, now he’ll say, and His priesthood is an eternal, superior priesthood to the one under Aaron, that of the Levitical priests, that of the OT tabernacle. Which brings us to our text: Hebrews 7:1-10.
Again, let me tell you at the outset the point of the text. Jesus is superior to even the OT Levitical, religious system given by God – because He is ultimately the fulfillment of that system, and to which all of it pointed. If that is true, why consider returning there? Further, for our purposes, I would say two things. First, it’s popular to abandon Christianity today and embrace another religion or atheism. Some of you may be considering doing that – it seems cool. Bandwagonish. Everybody’s doing it and if I want to be part of the in crowd. Listen very carefully – Jesus is superior, certainly to atheism – but He is superior to any world religion – those that don’t come from God – why, He’s even superior to the OT religion, which was given by God. So don’t quit the faith. Don’t quit Christianity – there is nothing else. Here’s the outline for the morning:
- Who is Melchizedek?(1-3)
- How is Melchizedek Greater than Abraham? (Levi) (4-10)
- How is Melchizedek like Jesus? Or, how is Melchizedek a type of Christ?
Now again, the author’s point is Jesus is better than the OT Levitical system, so he starts by proving that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood. That’s the point. But, we’ll need to learn who Melchizedek is, then learn how he is superior to Abraham and therefore Levi and the Levitical system that came from Abraham – and then we’ll close with how Melchizedek as a priest is like our great High Priest Jesus.
I’ve told you we only hear of this guy in Genesis 14, then he disappears for a thousand years till Psalm 110 where God makes a messianic promise, then he disappears for another thousand years until Hebrews 5, 6, and 7 – where we see God fulfilled that promise in Jesus. Because, when God makes promises, He cannot lie, and He keeps them.
So let’s look at Genesis 14 to see the story. I’ll summarize the first part. You’ll remember last week I said Abraham’s story goes from Genesis 12 to Genesis 25. He’s an important figure, the father or patriarch of the Israelites – and ultimately becomes the father of faith. In chapter 12, per God’s command, Abraham traveled to Canaan from Ur of the Chaldeans. He took his nephew Lot with him. After some time in Egypt, in chapter 13, Abraham and Lot separated, because they had both grown so wealthy, the land couldn’t support their combined livestock. So, Lot chose to go to Sodom.
Well, Sodom and the surrounding cities were under the rule of a coalition of foreign kings led by Chedorlaomer. But they rebelled, and so Chedorlaomer led his group of kings against Sodom and their group of kings.
Chedorlaomer won, and captured Lot as well many other inhabitants of Sodom – and carried them off to captivity. When Abraham heard about it, he pursued Chedorlaomer and defeated him right outside of Damascus. He brought the captives and the plunder back from the battle, and we pick up the story in Genesis 14:17:
17 Then after 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).
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.
19He blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He [that is Abraham] gave him a tenth of all.
21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.”
22Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, [that’s interesting – that’s the same title for God that Melchizedek used – meaning, they worshiped the same God.]
23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”
So there you have it – that’s the only place we learn of Melchizedek – until that short verse in Psalm 110, where we find the messiah will be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, and then until Hebrews. What does the author of Hebrews say about this guy? Several thoughts:
First, he reminds us of the story in Genesis 14 – that he met Abraham upon returning from his victory over the kings and his rescue of Lot. Second, we are reminded of this man’s unique titles. We’ve talked about this before – but you typically didn’t mix religion and politics – that is, kings weren’t normally priests, and vice versa. That was certainly true in Judaism.
Kings – Judah; Priests – Levi.
Now, we learn that there was significance to his kingship by his titles. First, his name Melchizedek means king of righteousness, and second, Salem, which was probably Jerusalem, means peace – so he was also king of peace. That’s interesting – he was king of righteousness and king of peace. I would suggest you can’t have peace – not true peace – without true righteousness. So notice, he was first king of righteousness, then king of peace. Isaiah 32 tells us that peace is the fruit of righteousness. We’ll come back to that.
Further, in addition to being a king, we find he was also a priest. But notice, not a priest of one of the many pagan, awful gods of Canaan. No, he was priest of the Most High God – Genesis tells us, Possessor of heaven and earth. In fact, the reason I read the text through the conversation with the king of Sodom is so you could see Abraham referred to his God – the true God – with the same title. We are supposed to notice Melchizedek worshiped the true God. Of course, Jesus wouldn’t be a priest of the Milchizedekian order if the order worshiped false gods.
So that’s interesting to note. Even in a culture of pagan idolatry – gross immorality and violence and atrocious false religions – there was one – a king and priest – who worshiped the true God. As can we in an increasingly immoral, violent, ungodly culture. So you’re thinking about quitting, worshiping in another religion, becoming an atheist because it’s the popular thing to do?
Finally, we see the author of Hebrews suggests the silence of Genesis 14 is as important as the statements. What do I mean? Notice in verse 3, we read he was without father, without mother, without genealogy, having no birth recorded – nor any death – but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually – that is, forever. Genesis didn’t say that, which is what the author notes.
This was highly unusual. You see, to be a king or priest, your paternitymust be verified. You’ll remember the Levitical priests must come from the tribe of Levi – of the house of Aaron. In fact, in Nehemiah, when they returned from the Babylonian Captivity – some Levites were not able to serve as priests because they couldn’t prove their genealogy. Remember, not all Levites were priests, but all priests were Levites.
And yet this priest had no genealogy – we don’t know his parents. We don’t know when he was born, nor when he died – such that, from a literary perspective, he remained forever a priest. That’s important – his priesthood remained in perpetuity because we have no record of his death. And as such, he was made like the Son of God. That is, from a literary perspective.
Notice, he was made like the Son of God, not the other way around. Meaning – when we get to my third point – Melchizedek is like Jesus – not the other way around.
So who was this guy? Because of the silence, much speculation has abounded. Some have suggested he was an angel. Others have said he was Shem – like, the son of Noah. You see, if you run the genealogies, it is speculated he was still alive at this time. The challenge is the incompleteness ofthe genealogical records. It could have been many years after his death. Besides, the text doesn’t say he was Shem.
One of the most popular guesses is that He was the pre-incarnate Christ Himself – that is, he was Jesus before Jesus came to earth some two thousand years later. The problem with that is he was one made like the Son of God – the text doesn’t say he was the Son of God.
All we really know is what is said from Genesis and Hebrews. He was a king-priest of the true God. He was king of righteousness, and peace. He was king of Salem, likely Jerusalem. He met Abraham on Abraham’s return
from rescuing Lot, and a couple of important things happened, which lead to our next point – How was Melchizedek Greater than Abraham? – verses 4-
Notice how the author says, “Now observe how great this man was…” How do we determine his greatness by these short passages?
First, Abraham – and just to make sure we understand – this was not just any Abraham, but Abraham the patriarch – with the possible exception of Moses, the most important man in Israel’s history. He was their progenitor their patriarch – the start of their nation. And yet, Abraham paid a titheor a tenth to this man of all the choicest spoils. Now typically, upon returning from battle, the victors would give a tenth of the spoils to their gods – as a recognition their god had provided the victory. Well here, Abraham pays a tenth to this priest – and not just any tenth, but of the choicest spoils – the best spoils – right off the top. And Melchizedek says, blessed be God who has given you
The author then reminds us of the system of tithing within the nation of Israel for their priests. The sons of Levi would collect a tithe from the other tribes. Then, the Levites would pay a tithe or tenth to the priests. So the Levites and the priests lived off the tithe – notice, of their own brothers – who were also descendents of Abraham. That’s good – we’re all brothers here, so we’ll support the priesthood. So tithing was based on genealogy. But this man who was not a descendent of Abraham, in fact without a genealogy, yet received a tithe from Abraham.
Not only that, when Abraham was returning and met up with Melchizedek, Melchizedek blessed Abraham – the one who had received the promises – again, highlighting how important Abraham was. But, without any dispute, verse 7, the lesser is blessed by the greater. So the greater, Melchizedek, blessed the lesser, Abraham.
Not only that, verse 8 – in the case of the Levitical priesthood – these mortal priests received tithes until they died (served from 20-50). But this one who received tithes from Abraham – well, thestory does not record his death, and so there is a sense in which he lives on.
Now let me stop right there a moment – take an aside. Some want to use this passage to say as Abraham paid tithes before the Law was given, as the people of God paid tithes in the OT, and as the priestly order of which Jesus is a part received tithes – so also should the NT people of God pay tithes through the church. Listen, that may be true, but that is not the purpose of this text. The purpose of mentioning the tithe is to prove the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham, and therefore, the superiority of Christ to the Levitical priests. Should we pay a tithe – that is ten percent of what God gives us? Perhaps – but I don’t think we can use this text to prove it.
Rather, the principle in the NT is sacrificial, cheerful giving. And for most of us, that should begin at ten percent. But that’s for another time, another sermon.
Notice verses 9-10. The author makes a bit of leap – but acknowledges it’s a leap. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who would later receive tithes, paid tithes to Melchizedek, because he was as yet unborn – still in Abraham’s loins – a twinkle in his forefather’s eye – and so when Abraham paid tithes, there is a sense in which Levi did.
So get those three points – how was Melchizedek greater than Abraham and thereby Levi? He received tithes from Abraham, who thereby acknowledges his superiority and priesthood. He blessed Abraham, and the greater blesses the lesser. And by genealogical record – by literary silence – there is a sense in which while Levitical priests die, Melchizedek did not. He is a priest inperpetuity.
So all that brings us to our third point, which also serves as our conclusion. So how is Melchizedek like Jesus? That is, how is Melchizedek a type, with Jesus being the fulfillment? Several thoughts:
First, Jesus is King of Righteousness and King of Peace. We remember the prophecy in Isaiah 9 that He would be the Prince of Peace. We remember that when He returns, He will be titled King of kings and Lord of Lords. And we remember that by His righteous, perfect, life – through faith, we receive His righteousness. And Romans 5 says, “Therefore, having been justified [made righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And we remember, righteousness must come before peace. Isaiah 32 says that peace is the fruit of righteousness. Charles Spurgeon said it like this:
“He knew that He could not be King of peace to us till, first of all, he had woven a perfect righteousness in the loom of his life, and dyed it in his own heart’s blood in his death.”
Second, Jesus is both King and Priest. We understand His kingship. But Hebrews makes clear His priesthood, as our Great High Priest, offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.
Third, Jesus is eternal. He also is without beginning of days, and by His resurrection, without end of days. And so, His high priesthood is truly eternal.
Fourth, Jesus is therefore without father or mother – without genealogy. Now of course, we read His human genealogy in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. In fact, the author will make a point of saying He is of the human tribe of Judah. And of course, His Father is the Father – the God of heaven. But because He is eternal, there is a sense in which He is without genealogy.
And He certainly didn’t have the priestly genealogy required of the Levitical priesthood.
Fifth, and the author’s main point – Jesus is superior to Levi, Aaron and the Levitical priesthood and system. That will be his point for chapters to come. He is superior because He is the fulfillment of all the OT types, and all the OT promises concerning the Messiah.
Sixth, He, the greater, by His life, death, and resurrection, blesses us, the lesser. He is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, that through a descendent of Abraham, all the nations of the world will be blessed.
Seventh, and finally, I’m going to take a little liberty. While the author of Hebrews does not mention it, when Melchizedek met Abraham in Genesis 14, he brought him bread and wine. I don’t want to make too much of this, but consider, Jesus, our great High Priest, came to bring His body and His blood, and through communion – the Lord’s Supper – we partake of bread and wine to remember the New Covenant. We’ll do that next week.
Let me finish with this thought. Melchizedek inaugurated a priesthood. An order of which Jesus is a part. As Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, as his priesthood is greater than Levi’s, so also Jesus. In fact, in John 8, Jesus told some Pharisees one day that Abraham rejoiced at thought of seeing His – Jesus’ day – he, Abraham, saw it, and was glad. When did Abraham see Jesus’ day? Was it when the promises were made, to include the one which said through his descendent, all the nations would be blessed? Abraham believed God and this promise of the gospel, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Is that when He saw Jesus’ day? Perhaps.
Was it later, when he offered the promised son on an altar – but God Himself provided a ram in his place. Did Abraham see the gospel of substitutionary atonement then?
Or, was it here? When a priest of the Most High God appeared to him, with bread and wine, symbols of the New Covenant – and blessed him – did he see Jesus’ day and His priesthood, then? I don’t know. It seems to me Abraham had many opportunities to see Jesus and His gospel. He saw it, and was glad. Because Jesus is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and 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. 3 He 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.
4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 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.