The Gospel According to Melchizedek

The Gospel According to Melchizedek

The Gospel According to Melchizedek. 

“In the King’s Valley, Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, El-Elyon, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14:18-20).

One of the most fascinating mysteries in the Hebrew Bible is the person of Melchizedek in Genesis 14. He seems to have appeared out of nowhere. He briefly stepped through history’s curtains without advance notice onto the Bible’s stage. And then he just as quickly walked off the stage without any fanfare, never to appear personally in the Bible again. We don’t know much about him, but here’s what we do know:

(1.)  He met with Abram in what looks like a religious ceremony after Abram had confronted some local kings and rescued his nephew Lot;

(2.)  He unexpectedly appeared from his kingship in Salem, a Canaanite region that was the future site of Jerusalem;

(3.)  His name means “king of righteousness,” and he can also be called the “king of peace,” since that’s the meaning of Salem (Hebrews 7:2);

(4.)  He was the first priest-king to appear in Scripture… king of Salem and priest of God Most High;

(5.)  There is no record of his genealogy, of any history to his life;

(6.)  No one preceded him in the priesthood, and no one succeeded him. There is no apparent explanation for either his kingship or his priesthood. His priesthood was based on himself, someone evidently supernaturally appointed by God. His credibility was assumed;

(7.)  Nothing is said of his birth, and nothing is said of his death;

(8.)  He was not Jewish, since he came from Canaan and was not in Abram’s line;

(9.)  Abram considered him a superior, since Abram tithed a tenth of what he had to Melchizedek during their brief encounter. The lesser always tithed to the greater, because he owed him homage;

(10.) Melchizedek was the subject of a messianic prophecy in Ps. 110:4, in which the Davidic messiah was promised to be a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek“;

(11.) In Hebrews 5-7, he is seen as a picture of Christ, an eternal priest with no apparent beginning or end, with no human lineage, no earthly history, a priestly line superior to that of Aaron and the Levites.

Melchizedek points to the gospel story at the very beginning of his encounter with Abram, offering bread and wine. His liturgy with Abram anticipates the Eucharist, the Communion elements of the body and the blood. No explanation is given for the bread and wine. Was it merely for Abram’s nourishment? Was it what priests traditionally offered in a ceremony such as this? Was it intended to point towards the suffering and death of a future Redeemer, suggesting the future memorial of the new Passover? We don’t know. But it sure seems to point to something profound, beyond this scene with Abram.

Melchizedek offered a two-fold priestly blessing in Abram’s presence, a blessing of Abram, and a blessing of God. He pronounced God’s favor and joy over Abram, and an exclamation of praise and adoration to the Most High God. Abram recognized Melchizedek as a representative of God, and he treated Melchizedek with respect and honor. Through his blessing and his very presence, Melchizedek preached the gospel of El-Elyon that points directly to Abram’s blessed covenant with God.

Some Biblical scholars even suggest that Melchizedek wasn’t simply a type of Christ, or an ancient picture of Christ as priest and king, but instead that he was actually Christ himself in preincarnate form. We do know Melchizedek anticipated Jesus and His gospel story and eternal priesthood. But his brief appearance with Abram in many ways remains a mystery that underlines the holy, timeless, permanent presence of a special Mediator for God’s people. As David says, the Messiah was ordained a priest after the manner of Melchizedek, and so was tied to Christ in Biblical history (Ps. 110:4; Hebrews 5:10, 7:11-21). Melchizedek is certainly in a unique fellowship with Christ, and clearly points us to Jesus the Messiah, the priest-king, “a high priest fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.” (Heb. 7:26).