It is an essential question for me to deal with. Who is Jesus?
He is the Messiah, the anointed one of God. Jesus is anointed as both King and High Priest. I need to get those roles of Jesus deep into my heart and soul.
The author of Hebrews can help me understand all of this.
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, met Abraham and blessed him as he returned from defeating the kings, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means king of righteousness, then also, king of Salem, meaning king of peace. Without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
Now consider how great this man was: even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the plunder to him. The sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have a command according to the law to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their brothers and sisters—though they have also descended from Abraham. But one without this lineage collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. Without a doubt, the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case, men who will die receive a tenth, but in the other case, Scripture testifies that he lives. And in a sense Levi himself, who receives a tenth, has paid a tenth through Abraham, for he was still within his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. | Hebrews 7:1-10 (Christian Standard Bible)
The record of the event discussed is in Genesis 14:17–24, so it is worth taking time to read it. The writer of our epistle wanted us to note several facts about this mysterious man, Melchizedek.
He was both king and priest. In the Old Testament economy, the throne and the altar were separated. Those persons who attempted to invade the priests’ office were judged by God. But here is a man, just like the Messiah Jesus, who had both offices — king and priest! Aaron never had that privilege. And it is important to note that Melchizedek was not a “counterfeit” priest: he was the “priest of the Most High God”. His ministry was legitimate.
His name is significant. In the Bible, names and their meanings are often important. We name our children today without much consideration for what their names mean, but this was not the case in Bible days. Sometimes a great spiritual crisis was the occasion for changing a person’s name. The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” in the Hebrew language. The word Salem means “peace” (the Hebrew word shalom), so that Melchizedek is “king of peace” as well as “king of righteousness.”
“Righteousness” and “peace” are often found together in Scripture.
- “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever” (Isa. 32:17),
- “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10).
- “In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth” (Ps. 72:7).
- “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable … And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17–18).
- God’s purpose for His people is that they bear “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:10–11).
True peace can be experienced only on the basis of righteousness. If we want to enjoy “peace with God” we must be “justified [declared righteous] by faith”. Man cannot produce righteousness by keeping the Old Testament Law. It is only through the work of Jesus the Messiah on the cross that righteousness and peace could have “kissed each other.”
He received tithes from Abraham. The word “tithe” means “one tenth.” Under the Jewish Law, the Jews were commanded to give God one tenth of their crops, herds, and flocks. These tithes were brought to the Levites at the tabernacle and later at the temple. If the trip was too long for transporting grain, fruit, or animals, the tithe could be converted into money.
Tithing, however, did not originate with Moses. Abraham practiced tithing long before the Law was given. In fact, archeologists have discovered that other nations also tithed in that day; so the practice is an ancient one.
His family history is different. Melchizedek was a man, so he had to have had a mother and a father. But there is no record of his genealogy (“descent”) in the Old Testament; and this is significant because most great persons in the Old Testament have their ancestry identified. It was especially important that the priests be able to prove their ancestry. Here the writer of Hebrews uses an argument from silence, but it is a valid one.
Melchizedek was not an angel or some superhuman creature; nor was he an Old Testament appearance of Jesus the Messiah. He was a real man, a real king, and a real priest in a real city. But as far as the record is concerned, he was not born, nor did he die. In this way, he is a picture of the Master Jesus, the eternal Son of God. Though Jesus the Messiah did die, Calvary was not the end; for He arose from the dead and today lives in “the power of an endless life”. Since there is no account of Melchizedek’s death, as far as the record is concerned, it seems that Melchizedek is still serving as a priest and king. This is another way in which he is like the eternal Son of God.
The application is clear: neither Aaron nor any of his descendants could claim to be “without genealogy”. They could not claim to have an endless ministry. Nor could they claim to be both kings and priests, like Jesus.
He had authority to receive tithes and to bless Abraham. The greatness of Melchizedek is seen in the fact that Abraham gave him tithes from the loot of a miniwar. Abraham acknowledged the authority of Melchizedek. Furthermore, Melchizedek blessed Abraham in a special way; and “the less is blessed of the better”. In giving Melchizedek tithes and in receiving his blessing, Abraham affirmed the greatness of this king-priest.
But how does this relate to Aaron? In an interesting way: Aaron and the tribe of Levi were “in the loins” of Abraham, yet unborn! So, when their father, Abraham, acknowledged the greatness of Melchizedek, the tribe of Levi was also involved. The Jewish people believe strongly in “racial solidarity,” and this is one example of it. The paying of the tithes involved not just the patriarch Abraham, but also the unborn generations in his loins.
Since Jesus came “of the seed of Abraham”, does this mean that He too was a part of this experience? No, because Jesus is the eternal Son of God. His identification with Abraham was for “the days of His flesh”. Since Jesus existed before Abraham, He could not have been “in Abraham” as were Aaron and his family.
Now we know about Jesus, the Messiah, as anointed King and Priest by knowing about Melchizedek. That is great news. Jesus is in charge of God’s country and intercedes for us as our Priest before God.
- Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Heb 7:1–28). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 299–300). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.