Melchizedek: Prophet, Priest, and King

Genesis, the story of beginnings, revolves around several key events leading up to the founding of Israel as a people with a national identity. 

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Flood
  4. Babel
  5. Calling of Abraham (Abram)
  6. Births of Isaac and Jacob
  7. Inception of the Twelve Israelite Tribes
  8. Flight to Egypt

Even though I have so far taken 19 parts to walk through Genesis form 1:1 so far, the story is simple. God chooses and establishes a people for Himself, though whom He will bless the whole world. We are currently talking about the calling of Abram. He was called while his family was in Haran, where they settled on their way to Canaan. God has promised Abram that He will be a blessing to the whole world. He hasn’t revealed much more than that, so far as we can tell from the text. 

As Abraham travels, there is a famine, and He needs to go to Egypt—where he lies about his wife to Pharaoh. Even though Abram lies, God causes him to leave Egypt with great riches because Pharaoh fears God. I believe this is a foreshadowing of Israel in Exodus and Christ’s flight to Egypt in the New Testament. As a result of the great riches, Abram’s settlement in Canaan becomes too large to organize and sustain with his current resources. As a result, His nephew, Lot, forms a settlement near Sodom—a wicked place (Genesis 13:14). God has Abram look over Canaan and furthers His promise. Abram and his descendants will receive all the land that he can see and will retain it forever. God will give Abram so many descendants that, if the grains of dirt upon the earth can be counted, so can they. 

War breaks out in the land, and Lot’s settlement is plundered. Lot, himself, is taken captive. Abram leads a campaign to rescue his nephew. Not only does he succeed in rescuing his nephew, but plunders his nephew’s captors—returning with goods and people.

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). 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 be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.”

Genesis 14:17-21

The king of Sodom comes to Abraham to retrieve his people and take them home. He brings the king of Salem, Melchizedek, with him. Melchizedek blesses Abram and brings a peace offering to begin negotiating the release of the Sodomites.

Look with me at the details about this Melchizedek (Possibly Shem, the son of Noah and great8 grandfather of Abraham). He is a king. He is a priest of God. He speaks on behalf of God to and about Abram. Not only is it extremely rare to discover anyone who knows and worships God at this point in history, but also to find a king, priest, or prophet—or a combination of the three in one person. Melchizedek is an extraordinarily important historical figure. He is not a Hebrew. He predates the Mosaic Law. He is a mediator. He receives worship (in the form of an offering) on God’s behalf. Melchizedek is a type of Christ. He is the king of Salem (a name meaning peace), a city that would later carry the prefix “Jaru” (cornerstone)—Jerusalem, the cornerstone of peace. Melchizedek lives up to the name of the city.

Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King—an office not bound by Mosaic Law. In Psalm 110, David writes a blessing that the Lord bestows upon his Lord. The subjects of the psalm are two divine figures—God and God, the persons we refer to as the Father and the Son. In this psalm, The Father declares that the Son is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author establishes Jesus as the fulfillment (Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21). This makes Jesus king in Jerusalem, where David’s throne (a rule that would never end) would be established. Jesus’s office on the earth is not bound by the Mosaic Law. He is Prophet, Priest, and King like Melchizedek on the earth.

Our hearts for worship—an attitude not bound by Mosaic Law. For us, that means when our faith is in Jesus Christ, our faith is in God (cf. Psalm 110). Further, since Jesus’s office is not bound by Mosaic Law like the priesthood of Aaron would be, we are not bound by the Law in our Christian faith. Our faith is not one full of rules by which one must become righteous, as if there were ever possible anyway. Instead, our faith is one of sincerity, heart, and mind. Look at how Abram presents one-tenth of everything to Melchizedek. This offering is not commanded by Law since the Law has not yet been written. It is voluntary—a matter of heart for Abram who has been called to follow Melchizedek’s God. So is our worship of God through our high priest, Jesus (who is God and is with God). We are free from the Law (cf. Romans 8:2). True religion is not a checklist of righteousness or goodness. We can’t command anyone to just be good enough. Instead, we invite you to taste the goodness of God. Those who respond to God with repentance and belief will praise His holy name—not because it is required but because they love God. This is how peace will overtake the whole world from Christ’s throne in Jerusalem—the city of Melchizedek and David, the cornerstone of peace.

Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 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.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”

Genesis 14:22-24

Melchizedek tries to negotiate the peaceful return of the Sodomites to their home city and offers to let Abram keep the goods. Abram, though, only keeps right payment and provisions for his soldiers and gives the rest back to Sodom. It can be seen as a sort of recovery fee, a fair business transaction since Abram recovered what had been plundered from Sodom. We see that it is Abram’s faith in the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that causes him to be a fair-minded businessman. He does not want to be known as a man who takes advantage of others, being made rich at the unfair expense of others. Abraham does not want to be known as a scavenger. So, he keeps what is fair.

It is important for us not to try to emulate everything we see every person who tries to honor God in Scripture do. People are imperfect and do some horrible things. Abraham’s attitude here seems like a good example to me of how we want to treat others because of our faith in God most high, possessor of heaven and earth. Treat people, even wicked people like the Sodomites, fairly. Provide quality services. Charge a fair price. That is how Christians conduct business.

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