Jesus is Greater than Melchizedek

In God’s providence he chose the nation of Israel carry out his purposes and plans. Part of that plan was to give Israel the law and to help them it carry out the law God chose the tribe of Levi to be the priests. The Levite priests taught the people the law and they were responsible to offer sacrifices on behalf of the entire nation. Even though the Levite priests would offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, not one of the priests was without sin himself (v.11).

“If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’”

Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” – Hebrews 7:11-28, ESV

Melchizedek and Jesus show that there was the possibility of another priesthood.  Jesus changes things.  He was from a different priest than the former Levite priest of Israel.

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Jesus is unique and his priesthood is forever.  There is no need for another priest to offer sacrifices.  He stepped into the office of the priesthood though another way. When law was weak and made nothing perfect not even its priests, Jesus offers a better way of drawing near to God. Jesus is the greater hope. Jesus fulfills both the perfect priesthood and perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus saves us forever, intercedes for us always, and offers complete salvation. This makes Jesus the Greater High Priest.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What was the job description of a Levite priest?
  • How was Jesus a priest? How is he a greater priest?
  • What is a covenant? How does Jesus fulfill all previous covenants?
  • How was Jesus a different priest than the Levite priest?
  • Why is it important that Jesus is a priest forever? What does that mean for you today?
  • Why do you need a high priest? How does Jesus minister to you as priest?

Jesus is a Priest in order of Melchizedek

Have you ever met someone you’ve never met before, but you swear you know them from somewhere? There is a mystery to them. There is an example of this in the Bible when Abraham met the king priest named Melchizedek (Gen.14:17ff). They had never met, but they did have in common a fear of God.

Melchizedek has been a mystery man throughout the centuries. Even Bible scholars are stumped because there isn’t a lot said about him. Some scholars say he was either an angel-man, Christophany, or simply a human.

“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people —that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” – Hebrews 7:1-10

While no one is really sure who Melchizedek was we can conclude that he was a type. A type is an Old Testament person (or practice) that had a counterpart in the New Testament in Jesus Christ. Often times a type showed what the their counterpart would be like. Melchizedek is the OT example of what the NT Jesus would look like and he does “resemble the Son of God.” (v.3)

What is clear from Hebrews 7 is that while Jesus comes from the order of the priest-king Melchizedek, he is far superior. Below are a few ways Jesus is superior (vs.1-3):

Jesus and Melchizedek Comparison

It is interesting that the author of Hebrews doesn’t interpret the story of Melchizedek, but simply shows how Jesus is a priest in his order and that he is a far superior priest to any before him or after him. Through Melchizedek and the OT there is a shadow cast that Jesus brings light to. The entire OT points to Jesus.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • Who was Melchizedek?
  • How are Jesus and Melchizedek similar? How are they different?
  • How is Jesus superior to Melchizedek?
  • Why is Melchizedek an important Bible character? Why is he important to understanding Jesus?
  • What do you learn about Jesus’ uniqueness and his unique role from this biblical text?

Jesus is the Greater Promise

When someone makes a promise they will often swear to keep that promised based on something like “my good name” or  “on my mother’s grave” (v.16). If they do not keep the promise then their name is on the line with the threat of their name being tarnished or trust in them diminished.

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 6:13-20

God is a promise keeper. When God makes a promise he swears by his own name because he himself is trustworthy and reliable (v.13, 17). He is the only one qualified to make an oath by himself because there is nothing greater to swear by than himself. He has never failed to keep a promise because he never lies or fails (v.18).

One of his most well known promises in Scripture was to given Abraham. God promised to bless Abraham’s lineage and multiply it (v.14). Abraham trusted God’s promise by doing what God asked even though the information Abraham had on hand was limited (v.15).

The promise given to Abraham finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus who was a high priest in the order of Melchizedek—a priest during Abraham’s day. Jesus is the sure and steadfast anchor for the soul (v.19). We can hope in Jesus because God has promised him to be our high priest. He has gone before us and sits at the right hand of God on high (v.20).

May you anchor your soul into the Rock called Jesus. Even in the stormy seas that batter you with doubts and despair, his promises are sure to the end. Remember, how he has been with you and has been faithful. As G. Campbell Morgan said, “I believe the promises of God enough to venture an eternity on them.”

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What makes a promise valuable?
  • What promises did God make to Abraham? (see Genesis 12)
  • What are some promises from God that we have that Abraham didn’t?
  • What makes God and his promises so “sure and steadfast”?
  • How does the author of Hebrews describe the certainty of God’s promise— the anchor?
  • What are some of the anchors other than Jesus that people chain themselves to?
  • How can you encourage one another “to hold fast to the hope set before us”?

Melchizedek

Commercial breaks. They are moments in our TV watching when we go get a snack, run to the restroom, change the channel or tune out. Today, we are going to re-watch a commercial break that we skipped over that appears near the beginning of the Abraham narrative. This commercial break is too important to skip over for it concerns the man, the mystery, and important biblical character—Melchizedek.

The Bible’s First Throw-down [Genesis 14:1-16][1]

Genesis 14, interrupts with a great war breaking out—the first war of many recorded in the Bible—between four powerful regional rulers and five others fighting for control of trade routes, loot, influence, slaves and women in the land-between. Lot’s city is taken captive, and he becomes a POW. Word gets to Abram about Lot through an escapee. So Abram pulls together 318 of his own trained warriors. Once a homeless guy living in a tent, now he’s doing pretty well with his own personal posse. The rescue mission proves to be successful. Abram liberates Lot, the loot, the women, and even spares the wicked people of Sodom.

The Battle Belongs to the LORD [Genesis 14:17-24]

Do you see Abram’s faith in God put on display through the great battle? First, in faith, he graciously rescues his knucklehead nephew Lot living in the wicked and defeated Sodom by taking on the control-freak kings [v.14]. He gave them a good whipping dealing with them quickly and thoroughly. Not too mention he is nearly 75 years old.

Second, in faith, he honors God’s sovereignty [vs.21-24]. He could have taken the credit, but he recognized he was not alone in this battle. He ultimately won this battle by the blessing of God [cf. 12:1-3]. God blesses Abraham AS HE SAID. God blesses those who bless Abraham AS HE SAID. God curses those who cursed Abraham AS HE SAID. God made Abraham a great name AS HE SAID. God is beginning to let Abraham have an international influence AS HE SAID.

Third, he was a testimony of faith to those around him. Abram, the warrior-ruler, was gracious to the self-centered king of Sodom, and was praised by the priest-king Melchizedek. Melchizedek also recognized it was God who won the day [14:20]. Abram had a contagious faith. Now Abram’s faith was not perfect, but the object of His faith was.

Introducing Priest-King Melchizedek [Genesis 14:17-20][2]

Who is this man named Melchizedek? Melchizedek is a man of mystery to many. He has a curious resume and no recorded genealogy, which is odd for a major character in Genesis. The lack of details on Melchizedek has caused some Bible commentators to believe that he was a Christophony [cameo appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ], but he has no connections to YHWH. Instead his connections seem to lie with El [God Most High], the highest of the pagan gods in the Canaanite pantheon. Others believe Melchizedek was an angel, a type of Christ, or just a powerful man.

It appears from Genesis that Melchizedek is just a powerful man. First, he was the king of Salem [“peace”], which is likely Jerusalem. Second, he brought bread and wine to fellowship with Abram, not to be mistaken with communion, but simply to help out hungry and thirsty men that just finish trekking and fighting in a great battle. Third, he was a priest. At this time the priesthood from Aaron had not yet been established. Fourth, he blessed Abram like God had, and he blessed Abram’s God. Fifth, Abram recognized him by giving him a tenth of his possessions [note: this is where the church has often imposed the 10% tithing thing; cf. Numbers 18; Leviticus 27:30–33; 2 Corinthians 8-9].

Whoever Melchizedek was, Abram’s response to him is one of great faith. The powerful and wealthy Melchizedek offered Abram more great wealth, but Abram rejected the offering. He understood God had promised to bless him, protect him, and make him prosper. If Abram accepted wealth from Melchizedek it could conflict his loyalties to God. By faith Abram leaves his fate and future in God’s hands.

The Ballad of Melchizedek [Psalm 110][3]

This song of King David was written 1000 years after Abraham and 1000 years before Jesus. It gives more details about Melchizedek. How did David know about Melchizedek? He did his devotions [cf. Deuteronomy 17:14-20]. His song describes two oracles about the infamous priest-king [vs.1&4]. The first oracle declares the position of the Messiah as conqueror, “seated at the God’s right hand.” David acknowledges and anticipates his Messiah—the king who is to come after him. David points to Jesus who is greater king [Mark 12:35ff; Acts 2:34-36]. The Torah points to Jesus who fulfilled the Law, is greater than the priestly system, and is greater than the sacrificial system [Hebrews 1-13]. Heaven points to Jesus who is greater than angels and whom God exalts with a seat at His right side [the side of conquest, Acts 5:30-31; Hebrews 10]. It all points to Jesus.

The second oracle declares the position of the Messiah as priest, “you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Law of Moses stated a king could not be a priest, and a priest could not be king. King Saul tried to be both, but God would not permit it. David did not want to make the same mistake. Only Jesus will be the ruler and priest over all [Revelation 19:11]. God used David to prepare the way. When he became king in Jerusalem he moved the tabernacle and priestly system there, and for the first time the king and priest are in the same town [2 Samuel 6-8].

Jesus Christ Compared to Melchizedek [Hebrews 5 & 7]

The author of Hebrews is teaching new Jewish Christians who are wrestling with the fact that Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi, so how could He be a priest? Therefore the author shares details that compare Jesus with Melchizedek. The purpose of the character Melchizedek is now clear; He points you to Jesus:

  1. His name means king of righteousness [7:2].
  2. There is value to his missing records of mommy, daddy, or genealogy [7:3a]. His Father and ancestry is God.
  3. He is like the Son of God, an eternal son [7:3b].
  4. He is a priest of his own order [7:4-12]. Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is not a priest according to Levi [like the priests under the Law] He is of the tribe of Judah [7:13-14].
  5. He took an oath unlike a Levite [7:20-21].
  6. He is the guarantor of a better and eternal covenant [7:22].
  7. He is a permanent priest who continues forever [7:23-24].
  8. He intercedes and saves completely [7:25].
  9. He is the perfect mediator between God and man [7:26].
  10. He sacrifices once and for all [7:27-28].

Hebrews 8:1-2 goes on to say, “Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, One who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.” [cf.4:14-5:10]. His name is Jesus Christ. Do you know Him?

In conclusion, Melchizedek is probably the most important commercial breaks in Scripture. Abraham and Melchizedek are pointers to Jesus Christ [Genesis 14; Romans 4]. Abraham’s faith in God’s promises is a golden brick road that leads to Savior. Jesus, the priest-king, in the order of Melchizedek rules and intercedes for those who have faith in Him alone. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, He is your High Priest today.

I need a priest to sacrifice for me. Jesus sacrificed for my sins once and for all. He is my High Priest of priests.

I need a king to subdue me. Jesus is my sovereign ruler. He is my King of kings.

I need a prophet to speak truth to me. Jesus is the Word in flesh showing me God’s redemptive plan. He is prophet of prophets.

Jesus has done all for He is all.


[1] Here we are introduced to the continual battles that this piece of real estate would face [modern day, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey].  The piece of land that God would give to Abraham was the cross roads of the world at that time. Throughout the history of this piece of land there has been turf battles. Whoever, controlled this narrow strip of land and its trade routes, controlled the world at that time.

[2] Only 3 passages teach about the biblical character Melchizedek: Genesis 14; Psalm 110; Hebrews 5-7.

[3] Psalm 110 is quoted more times in the NT than any other psalm. For more on Psalm 110, check out D.A. Carson’s sermon, Getting Excited about Melchizedek.