The Bible describes Melchizedek as a great man. Of particular interest to us is the fact that the Holy Spirit guided Bible writers to state that the Christ was to serve/serves as a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” Somehow this fellow with an out-of-the-ordinary name is connected to Jesus.
Imagine that you are sitting in a theatre or auditorium watching a dramatic or musical performance. As you are watching, a person comes running across the stage, yells out a couple of words, promptly exits the stage on the opposite side, and is never heard from again throughout the entire performance. That is somewhat how it feels when we read the Bible’s message about Melchizedek. He comes running in out of nowhere, so to speak, in Genesis 14. He is out of the picture until he is mentioned briefly in Psalm 110. Finally, we read of him in three consecutive chapters – Hebrews 5,6,7. Then, he is off again, seen no more in the Scriptures.
The Psalmist foretold of the coming Christ in these words: “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool . . . The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:1,4). The statement about Jesus being a priest according to the order of Melchizedek is repeated in Hebrews 5:10, Hebrews 6:20, and Hebrews 7:11,15,17,21.
We first are introduced to Melchizedek when Abraham returned from rescuing his nephew Lot. At that time, Melchizedek was king of Salem (Genesis 14:18), which quite possibly was another name for Jerusalem (Psalm 76:1,2). Melchizedek blessed Abraham and his God, and Abraham gave the king a tithe of all (Hebrews 7:2).
It is worthy of noting that Melchizedek is the first one in the Bible who is called a “priest” of God (Genesis 14:18). If Melchizedek performed similar roles to what the priests of Israel later did under the law of Moses, then what would he have done among the Canaanite people? (1) The duties of priests under the law of Moses included (a) leading people in worshipping God and (b) teaching the law to God’s people; (2) Since Melchizedek was a priest of God in Canaan, then he would have taught the people about God, meaning they had a chance to learn of His ways; (3) Remember also that Abram gave Melchizedek tithes, showing that he (Melchizedek) truly was functioning as a priest of God. It is interesting that the first biblical mention of a human functioning as God’s priest is connected with the first biblical reference to tithing.
But why does the writer of the book of Hebrews refer to Melchizedek? In order to show that Jesus is a priest, in fact, a high priest, after the rank/arrangement of Melchizedek. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and therefore while the law of Moses was still in force, He could not function as a priest (Hebrews 7:14; 8:4). However, the repeated message of Hebrews is that the Christ is, indeed, our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14; 8:1). But if He is not a priest after the Levitical priesthood (7:11), then how can He be a lawful priest? Per God’s plan, He is priest according to the order/rank of Melchizedek.
This all makes us wonder about the similarities in the priesthoods of Melchizedek and Jesus. Here are some things that they had in common:
- King – No priest among the Levites was a king under the old system. Melchizedek was king of Salem (Hebrews 7:1); Jesus is King, too (Hebrews 1:8), ruling over His church (Colossians 1:13,18).
- “King of Righteousness” – That is the literal meaning of the name “Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:2); Jesus’ reign is a reign of righteousness over a kingdom of righteousness (1:8; Romans 14:17).
- “King of Peace” – Melchizedek was “king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace’” (Hebrews 7:2); Jesus’ kingdom is one of peace (Romans 14:17), over which He rules with His word of peace (Ephesians 6:15).
- Priest and King – Again, that never was true of one of Aaron’s descendants who served as priest under the old law. Melchizedek was both: priest of God and king of Salem (Hebrews 7:1); the Christ is both also: sitting on His throne as King and High Priest over God’s temple (Zechariah 6:12,13).
- Priest, but not from Levi – Melchizedek came before Levi, so could not have been his descendant; Jesus was from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
- Unique – There is no record that Melchizedek replaced anyone as priest, nor is there any biblical indication that someone replaced him (Hebrews 7:3); the same is true of the Christ, as He replaced no one and no one will ever take His place. He is the first and last High Priest of Christianity.
Let us not miss the important application of these truths that is made in Hebrews 7. The point is set forth that Jesus’ priesthood is different from the old Levitical arrangement (7:1-11). In other words, the priesthood has changed. Conclusion? “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law” (Hebrews 7:12). New priesthood, new law, new covenant. Let us be committed to King Jesus and His authority.
— Roger D. Campbell