[2. Pictures of Christ in Genesis] cont.
[A. Typical persons] cont.
Who was Melchizedek? Varied opinions have been expressed about this apparently mystical character about whom we know very little, who appeared suddenly and briefly on the stage of history and disappeared just as suddenly. Three verses in Genesis (14:18-20) record all we know of his life, yet the New Testament lessons from these verses extend over three chapters —Hebrews 5, 6, 7. His name occurs but once in Genesis (14:18), but nine times in Hebrews (and once in Psalm 110:4).
As careful and capable an expositor as Dr. G. Campbell Morgan expressed his conviction that “this is the story of a Christophany; that here, as upon other occasions, there was granted to a man the appearing and ministry of none other than the Son of God.” But the writer to the Hebrews states that he was made like unto the Son of God, 7:3 — not that He was the Son of God. It would seem, then, that Melchizedek was a real man, a king and a priest whom the Holy Spirit, by His description of him in the inspired record, has made to resemble the Son of God. He is certainly one of the most remarkable types of the Lord Jesus to be found in the Old Testament. Moreover, he is presented as one of the greatest characters, if not the greatest, in all the Old Testament, for the writer to the Hebrews conclusively proves that he was greater than Abraham, the friend of God and father of the faithful, 7:4-7).
By his strategy and skill, Abraham had won a resounding victory over the forces of four kings under Chedorlaomer, Gen. 14:13-16, who had previously defeated five kings including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and had taken captive Lot, Abraham’s nephew, and his possessions, vv. 11-12. On his return after the battle, another conflict was to face Abraham. He was to be visited by the king of Sodom, who would make him an alluring offer: Give me the persons and take the goods to thyself, v. 21. How would respond? Sodom was a very wicked city, Gen. 18:20. It is described in Genesis 13:10 as “like the land of Egypt,” and in Revelation 11:8 we read of “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” These descriptions make it a very appropriate illustration of the world — and its king, of “the god of this world,” 2 Cor. 4:4. By his victory, Abraham has a right to keep the goods he had obtained in battle. But he refused to compromise, and would not accept for himself from the king of Sodom even a thread or a shoelachet. How was he able to win this battle? Not by strategy — by which he overcame Cherdorlaomer; nor by his own inherent power. He had another resource. Between the physical battle with Cherdorlaomer and the spiritual battle with the king of Sodom, a very important event took place — he was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem … priest of the most high God, vv. 18-20, who fortified him in view of his impending meeting with the king of Sodom. Communion with God’s priest gave him the spiritual resource to resist compromising with the king of Sodom. How fitting an illustration of the gracious ministry of our High Priest, who is after the order of Melchizedek, who fortifies us in our conflict with the devil, the world and the flesh!
In the story of Melchizedek in Genesis 14 and the New Testament commentary on it in Hebrews 7, we may discern seven dual points of similarity between Melchizedek, the type, and Christ, the Antitype:
1. OFFICES. Melchizedek combined in his person the offices of king of Salem and priest of the most high God, Heb. 7:1; Gen. 14:18. Among God’s earthly people, these officeswere always kept separate. When Uzziah, the king, endeavoured to be a priest also and “went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense,” 2 Chron. 26:16, the privilege of priests alone, v. 18, he was smitten with leprosy and “was a leper unto the day of his death,” vv. 19-21. But our Lord shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne, Zech. 6:13.
2. CHARACTER. The writer to the Hebrews points out the significance of the names of Melchizedek — King of righteousness, and King of peace, 7:2. These twin characteristics —righteousness and peace — blend in the person of our Lord and particularly in the work of Calvary, where “righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” Ps. 85:10. Peace is the result of righteousness: the work of righteousness shall be peace, Isa. 31:17. His coming kingdom, when the Lord Jesus Christ will exercise the Melchizedek priesthood and be the King-Priest (Ps. 110:4 anticipates that day of His power), will be established in righteousness and bring “abundance of peace,” Ps. 72:2, 3, 7.
3. PERSON. Hebrews 7:3 poses difficulties to many — “without father, without mother, etc.” There is no doubt that Melchizedek was born of human parents, lived and died — but there is no record in Scripture of these details. It was important for priests “after the order of Aaron” to be able to trace their descent: they were “sons of Levi,” v. 5. But Melchizedek was without recorded parentage — “without father, without mother” — and lineage or pedigree — “without descent.” In this respect, he is “made like unto the Son of God” — not “Son of man.” As a man, our Lord was born of a woman, and had a human mother. As Son of God he had no parentage nor lineage.
4. ETERNITY. Likewise, the absence of any record of Melchizedek’s “beginning of days” and “end of life” — another of the significant silences of Scripture —makes him, in this respect, like our great High Priest, the Son of God. He is “Alpha and Omega,” Rev. 1:11, the first and the last. He had no beginning — He is “from everlasting.” Ps. 90:2; Mic. 5:2, “the Father of eternity,” Isa. 9:6. He could say: “Before Abraham was” —and so, before Melchizedek — “I am,” John 8:58. Moreover, He has no end. He is “to everlasting,” Ps. 90:2. He “abideth a priest continually,” Heb. 7:3. He is “a priest for ever,” Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21. “He continueth ever,” Heb. 7:24. “He ever liveth,” v. 25. He hath an unchangeable priesthood, v. 24, which cannot and need not be transferred to another. He “is made … after the power of an endless life,” v. 16.
5. GREATNESS. Consider how great this man was, Heb. 7:4. Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham was evidenced by a. Abraham giving him the tenth of the spoils, v. 4: Gen. 14:20, and b. Abraham being blessed by him. And without contradiction the less is blessed of the better, vv. 6-7; Gen. 14:19. This superiority must extend to all Abraham’s descendants, including Levi and his sons, the priests, for Levi was yet in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him, vv. 9, 10. Since Melchizedek was only a type of Christ, how much greater must He be, who receives supreme honours from men, and dispenses incomparable blessing to men!
6. PROVISION. “Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine,” Gen. 14:18. These essentials — food and drink — to sustain life and to support Abraham in his time of trial, are suggestive symbols of the gracious provision of our Lord for His own, who appropriate Him by faith, John 6:51, 53, 55.
7. BLESSINGS. In the wake of the incident recorded in Genesis 14, Abraham had a very precious message from the Lord, introduced by the first “Fear not” of the Bible, Gen. 15:1. In view of the danger of counter-attack by the defeated but possibly regrouped kings, he was assured of
· Divine Protection — “I am thy shield.” Lest he should feel any kind or regret, having refused to accept the goods from the king of Sodom.
· Divine Provision was made available for him — “thy exceeding great reward.”
What have we to fear, since we know Him who is Priest of the most high God, Himself the Possessor of heaven and earth, Gen. 14:18, 19, 22?