This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:19-20 NASB)
Get prepared to be nourished, inspired, surprised and intrigued by some amazing words of God.
You might ask : why this unexpected entry of this strange, mysterious, immortal figure, Melchizedek, in this Letter to the Hebrews?
Now Jews were used to having a high priest. The author of The Letter to the Hebrews is giving these people of Jewish background every reason for them to prefer Jesus’ high-priesthood to that of the Old Covenant system of Moses still being practiced in their day. They must not go back into Judaism.
Melchizedek appears first in Genesis 14:17-20 as part of the story of Abraham. Melchizedek is described as ‘priest of God Most High’. But for a Jew, who could be greater than their illustrious father, Abraham? Yet this Melchizedek is clearly greater. Abraham pays tithes to him. Abraham receives Melchizedek’s blessing.
Melchizedek is described as king of Salem, priest of the Most High God and his name meant king of righteousness and king of Salem (= peace). He is without father or mother or ancestry, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but having been made like the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. (Heb 7:1—3)
Who is this mysterious Melchizedek really? And who else does this description of him bring to your mind?
Of course! In this letter, Jesus is being compared with Melchizedek who appears twice in the Tanakh, the Old Testament scriptures – the bible Jesus read.
That passage in Genesis 14:17-20 seems quite irrelevant in the story of Abraham—a strange intrusion in the narrative. Yet this superlative, towering figure, Melchizedek, and the description there, are now at the end of the day, our day, seen to be of great significance.
In the letter we are given quotes from David’s Psalm 110, in which the LORD God is said to invite David’s ‘lord’ to ‘sit at my right hand’ (110:1) and then swears to this David’s lord that he is ‘a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek’ (110:4). This second mention of Melchizedek also must have seemed puzzling for its readers at that time. Just who is David’s ‘lord’ if it is not the LORD God but One to sit at His right hand?
You may remember Jesus threw that puzzling question from Psalm 110 about ‘David’s lord’ to his religious antagonists 1000 years after David wrote that: “How is it that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? (Mat 22:43-44, Luke 20:41). That question remained unanswered and no wonder. Do you get it? Do you see what Jesus was claiming here?
So then, not long after Jesus put that critical question to the religious authorities, this Melchizedek pops up again in this First Century letter. Jesus is our great high priest after the order of Melchizedek—that is, after the order of an indestructible life! This is obviously superior to the Levitical priestly order (the Old Testament/Covenant). Jesus is THE great high priest, the only mediator. Eternal. The temporary priestly order of the Old Testament is now obsolete! Jesus is our great high priest who meets our needs now by divine appointment and in the power of an endless life.
Truly, we have a sure advocate with the Father, one who knows what it’s like to be human! At the place of ultimate power and authority is a man who is the Son of God our mediator. Praise the Lord.
Here is remarkable evidence of the unity of the scriptures and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Firstly, we have a prophetic view given to Abraham about future times, far beyond anything yet to come in the Law of Moses, or the Old Covenant. Then, right out of the blue, God reveals his eternal mind to David, the Psalm writer. God made that promise to the Son to come by speaking a millennium far into the future. Thirdly, Jesus knew the Psalms and understood this was about himself, the Son of God! Then fourthly, in this Letter to the Hebrews, placed there by the same Holy Spirit, we are reading something that shows up plainly where no one had gone before, to draw attention to the awesome work that Messiah Jesus carries on in the heavenly place. For us!
Do you get it? Are you excited? Aren’t the scriptures amazing?
That’s another reason why I trust God that these ancient writings preserved for us so carefully by the Jewish people are sufficient and trustworthy to speak to my heart and mind the things God wants to say.
He speaks today! Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.
He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:24—25, NASB).
Thank you for this great article which has given me a fuller understanding of Melchizedek
Thank you Jill for your thoughtful comment. I am sure you would agree that the letter and the revelation about Melchizedek gives us all a fuller understanding of the utter uniqueness of the Lord Jesus and his continual work for us as we look to him as a lifestyle.
In reply to an emailed comment, I would not go so far as to say that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Jesus. I believe Melchizedek was a “type” of Jesus as indeed were Moses and David. Thus yes, we see the bread and wine and the likeness of one without father and mother, though Jesus did have an earthly mum! He was 100% human, like us.
Jesus was not a descendant of Aaron, and thus would not qualify for the Jewish priesthood under the Law of Moses. To be our true high priest he must be one of us, but also he must follow a different “order” to that of Aaron’ descendants and it seems that the LORD has decreed that David’s lord would have this distinction.
Our part in this “order”? Well we are certainly “a kingdom of priests” says 1 Peter and there’s Revelation’s “he made us priests to God’ (Rev 1:6). This was what Israel was intended to be and now is in Christ Jesus. We take our priesthood from Jesus (we take everything from him) to obey his commands and make disciples and thus we are to be effective priests. I don’t think we can call ourselves priests after the order of Melchizedek. After the example of Jesus, YES!