Melchizidek. What a great name! His name means “king of righteousness”.
We briefly meet this mysterious character in Genesis 14. Abram has just rescued his nephew Lot, who had been taken away during a battle in which Sodom and Gomorrah were defeated. On Abram’s successful return with Lot, he is greeted by Melchizidek, king of Salem (later to be Jeru-salem). Salem means “peace”, so he was also the “king of peace” (Heb 7:2).
We are told he is “priest of God Most High”. How he came to be a worshipper of God in the polytheistic society in which he lived we are not told. Obviously we are intersecting with another story here. Exactly what work God has done in this man’s life is left as a mystery to us.
In this brief moment in Genesis, we see an extraordinary interaction with Abram:
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
In response, Abram gives Melchizidek a tenth of the spoils (a tithe). Abram shows great respect to Melchizidek, recognising him as a mediator between him and God.
And so our reading in Hebrews recognises this brief interaction with Abram as a significant one:
He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.
Just like Jesus, Melchizidek appears as one appointed by God. Not one of the priests of the tribe of Levi.
The Levitical priests were part of the Old Testament system. They were bound up in the Law. But the Law could not save us:
Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.
We needed a new priest. One like Melchizidek who was appointed by God. Unlike the priests of Levi, our new priest does not offer sacrifices endlessly, but once and for all:
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Jesus has at once become for us the new Adam (Rom 5:12-18), our new high priest and first of a new priesthood. But who are the priests of the new priesthood? Why we are of course!
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5
Rejoice then that we need no robed intermediaries or endless sacrifices, for our high priest is Jesus Christ himself!
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Amen to that!