You Intended Harm, God Intended Good

Joseph didn’t have an easy life, at least not until he reached the near-pinnacle of power in Egypt, and maybe not even after that. Think of this… He was hated by his brothers who kidnapped him and sold him into servanthood. They made his father think that he was dead.

Then when he arrived in Egypt, he was sold to be a servant in the house of the captain of the guard. But there, despite striving to be innocent, he was falsely accused of attempting to rape the captain’s wife and was thrown into prison.

In prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the chief baker and makes a deal with the cupbearer that the cupbearer would speak well of Joseph to Pharaoh so that Joseph could get out of prison. Of course, the cupbearer completely forgets Joseph for two more years and Joseph remains in prison, the same prison where he had been placed after being falsely accused. In all, Joseph was enslaved or imprisoned for 13 years before being given the opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and is ultimately raised up to the second place of power over all of Egypt.

Forgiveness to Revelation

Joseph’s brothers, primarily out of fear that Joseph would seek retribution over them after their father died, made up a story that Israel had wanted Joseph to forgive them. They told Joseph that it was one of Israel’s dying wishes that he should forgive his brothers for the wrong that they had done to him.

Of course, Israel had asked no such thing. The brothers are really just seeking to save themselves, imagining that the only reason that Joseph hadn’t sought retribution over them up to now was that Joseph wouldn’t kill them for their father’s sake. But now with Israel gone, they feared for their lives.

So they send the message to Joseph and they tell Joseph that Israel had requested his forgiveness. But Joseph has an amazing reply. He says:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:20

There are at least three different important lessons wrapped up in this one statement. Let’s take a look at what all Joseph is saying:

First, we so actually see forgiveness from Joseph. He doesn’t continue to hold a grudge against his brothers despite having lost 13 years of his life as a result of what they did to him.

Second, Joseph recognizes that God intended to use the evil that the brothers had committed. The brothers have intended to kill Joseph, but God has a much bigger plan that is coming out of it.

And third, that bigger plan is that of salvation of others. God not only saves the lives of the Egyptians, but he preserves, and prospers, the nation of Israel through the Egyptians. We can see that the harm that the brothers intended to commit actually ends up being part of God’s plan. From the sin, the hurt, and the pain, God brings a great blessing to save many people.



In Genesis 49, Jacob (now Israel) is declaring blessings over his sons. In reality, it seems that he is prophecying over them as some of his blessings might actually considered instead to be curses for the sins that his sons had committed, but in any case, he is looking to the future for what would become of each of his sons and their descedants.

In one of the prophecies in particular, at the end of his declaration of Dan, Jacob calls out to God for salvation. He says:

I look for your deliverance, LORD.

Genesis 49:18

This word “deliverance” in the NIV translation was originally, in the Hebrew, the word “yeshuwah”. This is the same word from which the name Jesus is also taken. Jacob is calling out the name of Jesus saying that he is looking forward to Jesus’s coming to offer salvation and deliverance for his people!


Or even be with her

As Joseph was sold into slavery to Potiphar, the captain of the guard in Egypt, he was soon put in charge of all that Potiphar had owned. Joseph was a handsome man, so Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with him, but Joseph wouldn’t allow it. In fact, she continued to chase him, but he told her that his master had held nothing back from him except for her, because he was his wife.

Joseph worked diligently to stay in innocence with regard to Potiphar’s wife. He not only, of course, didn’t sleep with her, but it says that he wasn’t even willing to be with her.

And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

Genesis 39:10

I think Joseph understood the danger of temptation. He knew that if he were to be tempted by her, he could fall into the trap. Even putting himself in the same area as her would be dangerous, so he wanted to stay far from her.

This is right in terms of avoiding sin. Not only should we be ready to run when it presents itself to us, but we should avoid even being in the same vicinity as the temptation. We should try to know ourselves, to work to understand where Satan will try to attack us, and flee from those places. Joseph did this correctly and we should follow his example.



I’m struck by the lack of fidelity that we can already see in the nation of Israel. Starting with Joseph and his brothers, we see that Joseph was sold to Ishmaelites and eventually as a slave all of the way into Egypt.

Then in the story of Judah and his sons in Genesis 38, we see a lack of fidelity amongst his sons who are unwilling to be faithful to their family. Er is wicked in the Lord’s sight and dies and then Onan refuses to give Tamar children to allow her family’s line to continue.

From there, Judah himself doesn’t keep his promise to give his son Shelah to be Tamar’s husband, so she goes to deceive Judah. She sits at the city gate with her face covered, as a prostitute would in those days, and sleeps with Judah.

Meanwhile, Judah believes that Tamar is a shrine prostitute, so he is unfaithful to God as he is performing a worship ritual for the local gods by sleeping with a shrine prostitute.

And finally, when it is found out that Tamar has prostituted herself, Judah says that she should be burned alive! But of course the irony of the situation is that Judah is the one with whom she has prostituted herself. So, while he doesn’t know that he has slept with Tamar, he is an incredible hypocrite because he says that she should be killed for her prostitution despite having just slept with a prostitute himself.

So, let’s notice how much *infidelity* we actually see throughout this story. Is there any question why God renames Jacob to be Israel? Israel means “struggles with God”, and although we don’t see God directly within this story, we can definitely see the struggle that God is going to have with the nation of Israel. We can see the condition of their hearts in the way that they are living. We can see the lack of fidelity, both to God and to each other. Each lives for their own selves, not for anyone else, and certainly not in fidelity to God.

May we take these as examples to not replicate. I pray that we would be faithful, both to God and to others. That we would love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that we would love our neighbors as ourselves. God, help us to be these people. To be a light to the world for the type of people that you have called us to be. Lord, lead us to be these people.


Three Strikes

Joseph didn’t do a good job of endearing himself to his brothers, actually to anyone in his family aside from his father Jacob. In fact, as we read in Genesis 37, he has three (actually, four, but we’ll count the last two together) separate incidents where he has difficulty with his brothers.

I think it is important to remember that Joseph is a 17 year-old boy. He is probably brash and seeking approval from his father. Beyond that, he is the youngest son in the family and possibly spoiled by his parents. He would probably, just based on his age and behavior, be difficult to like or enjoy being around.

The first incident that we see is when he goes out to tend the flocks with some of his brothers. They are the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, the servants of Rachel and Leah, specifically Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. After they return back to the house, Joseph goes to his father and gives a bad report on his brothers, essentially telling on them for whatever they had done:

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Genesis 37:2

So, not a great start. In fact, interestingly, this is the very first sentence after the line that says: This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Ha! So, the account of Jacob’s family line starts with Joseph telling on his brothers. The whole story of Israel starts with one of the brothers bringing a bad report about the other brothers. Anyone think that this family is going to have its challenges? It seems there is no doubt that this will be the case based on how this recounting begins.

Second, we see that his father Jacob, also now known as Israel as God has changed his name, gives Joseph a fancy robe.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Genesis 37:3-4

This is a multi-colored robe, the type that would be worn by royalty. I’m sure that Joseph took it as a sign of his privileged position, his favored status, and we see that he even wears it while he goes out to check on his brothers in the fields later, so he most certainly is flaunting his status through the robe that his father has given him.

Now, third, Joseph has two dreams. Joseph dreams that his brothers would bow down to him:

He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

Genesis 37:6-7

“Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

Genesis 37:9

His brothers understand immediately what Joseph is saying, and it seems clear that Joseph isn’t telling them these dreams in an innocent way. I think he knows that he is antagonizing his brothers. He knows that he is making them angry and flaunting his favored position, but he doesn’t care. He is favored by, and protected by, his father. And even his father comes to him to chastize him about telling his dreams to all of them.

So Joseph is “digging his own grave”, as we might say. He is making his brothers hate him, so I think that it is no wonder that they begin to plot against him when they see him coming out in the fields of Dothan when Israel sends him out to check on his brothers. In all likelihood, they might assume that he is going to return again with a bad report against them, continuing to lord himself over them with the protection of the favored-status robe that he is wearing and the knowledge of the dreams that he has been having.

This is the story of Jacob’s line. It is the story of struggle with God, with one another, and with other nations. They are supposed to be God’s people. They are supposed to represent God, taking his image all across the face of the earth. They are supposed to show God’s way of life to the rest of the nations, to the rest of the world, but instead their story is that of internal squabbling, back-biting, and in-fighting.

So I think that it is worth asking ourselves how the story will be written for us one day. Will we have a story that is written like the line of Jacob, as I’ve described it above? Or will we have a story that is written of Christ-likeness? A story that shows a people who are not only submitted to Christ but who are also living his plan for the world, living out who he has called us to be? We have a choice to make: to follow the way and story of Israel, or to follow Christ. God will complete his plan regardless. His story is already complete, but our story remains to be written.


Nations and Kingdoms are Born Today

I have continued reading through the book of Genesis, the story of the beginnings of humanity and the establishment of God’s people and His plan. Today, I read chapters 25 and 26 and was struck by the family lines that we see come from Abraham, then subsequently from Ishmael, from Isaac, and from some of the other sons that Abraham had through a third wife that he had taken named Keturah.

Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

Genesis 25:1-4

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps.

Genesis 25:13-16

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.

The LORD said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger. ”

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

Genesis 25:21-26

These are the same people that are later mentioned throughout both the Old and New Testaments, and of course have descendants even to our modern times today. These peoples, tribes, and nations harken their names, their traditions, and their people back to these people that we can read about in these chapters of Genesis.

So, in applying this, I’m thinking about the nations and kingdoms that are being born even today. What good or evil will be born from the people that we are in this moment? Who will be born even today, this month, or this year that will go on to form nations and kingdoms of people that will be noted throughout history as we look back hundreds, if not thousands of years from now?

One over all

But there is one Kingdom that will rule them all. There is one King of kings. There is One to whom all nations will bow down and his name is Jesus. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He is the one who will one day return and claim his rightful place as King in the Kingdom of God.

So we should ask ourselves which kingdom we are building. There are nations and kingdoms that will rise up from our time, from our day. Am I working to establish one of those kingdoms? Or am I working, instead, to grow the Kingdom of God? That is an important question that we should all answer.

My desire is to see the Kingdom of God take root among a people who do not know Christ and grow within them. My name can be erased one day from the earthly annals of history, but my desire is that it would be found within the Lamb’s book of life and that my master would see me working for the establishment and expansion of His Kingdom. May this be our story of our people in our time.


Slave and Free

Very often, when I speak with Muslims and identify myself as a Christian, they will tell me that we are the same. I’m not sure where they have gotten this idea, whether they have been told to say this, or there is some YouTube video of an Islamic teacher that says that they should say it, but it happens so frequently that I think that there must be some sort of teaching that happens within Islam that says that they should say this. I need to find out about this…

In any case, I usually don’t reply to this statement, but instead ask if I can share something with them. Normally I will share the Gospel with them, although if there has been some other line of conversation, I may use a story about Jesus from the Bible.

In any case, the irony is that my Muslim friend will typically be the first one to tell me how we are not the same, that Jesus is not the Holy One of God but instead a prophet. Typically, they argue that he was a messenger, not the sacrifice that God provided on our behalf. And many times, they will explain to me all of the religious things that we must do to please God.

Back to Isaac and Ishmael

I was reminded of this as I read in Genesis 21 of the conflict between Sarah and Hagar and between Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac had been born in the time that God had promised, even though Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. It is an incredible story of fulfillment of God’s promise of the child that God would give to Abraham. Ishmael had been a fulfillment of the promise in man’s way, but Isaac was the fulfillment of the promise in God’s way.

But the conflict between Sarah and Hagar, and now between Ishmael and Isaac had grown to a breaking point, such that Sarah could no longer stand to have Hagar and Ishmael in their house with them, so she tells Abraham that they should be sent away.

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

Genesis 21:8-10

Abraham’s sin in Egypt continues to haunt him. Even greater conflict is arising than what had happened previously, and now has come the time of the unthinkable for Abraham. Sarah wants him to send Hagar and Ishmael away as a result of Ishmael’s mocking of Sarah’s son Isaac.

Slave versus Free

At this point, we see a clear distinction between Sarah and Hagar. Despite the fact that Hagar became Abraham’s wife, she is still a slave. She is still a servant to Sarah, and Sarah is the one wife of Abraham that is recognized before God. So as I was thinking about these things, I looked back to Galatians to what Paul said to those churches about this distinction. Here is what Paul said:

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”

Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Galatians 4:21-31

The Galatians have a problem and Paul is calling them out on it. They have accepted Paul’s Gospel of freedom from sin through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God made Jesus to be a sacrifice for their sins to allow the Galatians, and all of the rest of us who believe, to be set free from the punishment for our sins.

The Galatians, though, after Paul had left, had listened to the Judaizers who were telling them that they needed Jesus, and in addition, they also needed to follow the law of Moses, which would include being circumcised in order to be considered to be God’s people.

Paul gives the Galatians a choice. Do you want to be like the children of the slave woman, like the children of Hagar? In that case, they would be children of the one who takes orders, who follows the rules that have been laid out for them, who doesn’t do what they want to do.

Or will they be like the children of the free woman, like children of Sarah? They are born free and are able to live freely.

You see, Paul is providing this distinction so that through this example, we can understand our relationship with God. He has made us to be his children, his free children. We shouldn’t be a people who submit to the slavery of a lie as my Islamic friends do. We shouldn’t be a people who submit to the slavery of a lot of religious actions in order that God might be pleased and thus owe us paradise because we have been good people.

Those are all lies of Satan, our enemy, who wants anything except that we would be free. He wants to ensnare and enslave us, but Christ came that we would be set free. Like Isaac, the child of the promise, we are made to be free. Not living under the slavery of religion and rules, but living under the freedom that Christ gave us through his death, and even more through his resurrected life!


The God of Isaac, not Ishmael

In Genesis 17, God changes Abram’s name to be Abraham, saying that he will be the father of many nations. Furthermore, and more importantly, God calls Abraham to walk before him faithfully and blamelessly because he wants to establish his covenant with Abraham.

And what is the covenant? God will be Abraham’s God as well as the God of Abraham’s descendents as well as their descendents. So God is establishing a defined relationship between he and Abraham.

But then God throws in a kicker. He says that Sarah will have a son, even though she will soon be 90 years old. That son will be named Isaac which means “he laughs”. Why is he named that? Because when Abraham had first heard God’s plan for a son to come through Sarah, he laughed! And then later, when Sarah hears God’s plan, what does she do? She laughs!

The most interesting part of God’s plan, though, is that God says that he is going to establish his covenant with Isaac, who isn’t even conceived yet, and certainly not born, but not with Isaac.

And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

Genesis 17:18-21

So despite saying that he would bless Ishmael, God chooses Isaac before he is ever born. God will be Isaac’s God. He will not establish his covenant with Ishmael, so he will not be Ishmael’s God.

Of course, from Isaac will come Jacob whose name will be changed to Israel, and from Israel will come the 12 tribes…and God’s people, the nation of Israel, has its official start!

So what do we learn? We learn that God chooses. He chooses whom he wants to use. In this case, he decided to choose Isaac…Even before he was born, he chose Isaac over Ishmael and established the nation of Israel and the Jewish people as his people.

When God chooses, he chooses his people. In the case of Isaac and Ishmael, God chooses a people for himself through whom he would establish his people on the earth. Of course, we know that God could do this through any individual, any person, but God chose his people, and for a purpose.

God’s purpose is that one day, all people would be saved through the people that he had chosen. The people that he established would be the people through whom the Messiah would come who would bring salvation to all people everywhere. This is the story that God has been telling throughout history and through the story of the Bible. It is the story of God’s glory that through the establishment of his Kingdom on the earth and the establishment of a King, God would choose Jesus as the One who would both save and rule over all people of all time.


The Sins from Egypt

God had promised Abram that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, or as plentiful as the dust of the ground. Even if you wanted to count them, you couldn’t. However, God was going to do this in the way that God wanted to do it, not the way man wanted to do it. This is God’s plan, not man’s plan, so God would carry this out in the right way.

God had made this promise to Abraham already, but Abraham began to wonder how it would come true. He didn’t have any children, so how could it be possible that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the dust of the earth? God clearly responds to Abram’s question and says that he will have a child who is his own flesh and blood.

Fulfilling God’s plan in man’s way

Given, though, that Sarai wasn’t able, up to this point, to have children, and now she had come to the point where she was well past her time to have children, both she and Abram were wondering how it could be possible that God’s plan would be fulfilled. They don’t really see a way forward. They don’t think it is possible.

Sarai, though, comes up with a plan. She is sure that she is the problem, and she is almost 65 years old at this point, but she had a slave named Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian who had probably come with Abram’s family as they left Egypt.

The Lie out of Egypt

I want to take a moment and make what I think is an important point about Egypt and the time that Abram and Sarai spent there. If we remember, Abram had given away his wife Sarai in Egypt saying that she was his sister instead of saying that she was his wife. Essentially, he prostituted his wife to save his own skin, as a result of his fear that the Egyptians would kill him and that God wouldn’t protect him. As it turned out, God had protected him, and it appeared that Abram got away with this lie and wasn’t punished for it. Instead, it appeared that Pharaoh took the brunt of the punishment at the time, but I think that we might be able to reevaluate that idea as we look at how Egypt continued to follow Abram and Sarai.

First, we see that God tells Abram that his people, though they will be great in number, will be enslaved for 400 years.

Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.

Genesis 15:13-14

What a way for God to fulfill his promise to Abram! Where does that happen? In Egypt! Jacob later takes his sons and they all go to Egypt to follow Joseph who was second in command and in charge of the food, but eventually they are enslaved in Egypt.

Second, where is Hagar from? Egypt. The slave girl that Sarai will give to Abram to have a child in an attempt to fulfill God’s promise in man’s way will come through a woman who is from Egypt.

Just as a side note, I’m wondering if there are lingering effects of what happened in Egypt within Sarai. Is she thinking that she is not only too old, but possibly also not worthy to be part of fulfilling God’s promise? Could it be that because Abram had given her away that she would think that she was just a pawn in Abram’s story, to be traded and given as Abram sees fit? Could it be that what happened in Egypt would follow Sarai for the rest of her life?

Sarai comes up with a plan, to allow this slave girl to take her place, to fulfill God’s promise, but then after Hagar becomes pregnant, she realizes that she has made a grave mistake.

He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

Genesis 16:4-5

So the sins committed in Egypt continue to follow Abram. Pharaoh had given Abram many servants, animals, and other “riches”, and it looked like Abram had even profited from his lie. Now though, he has a servant girl that he has slept with, who also becomes his second wife, yet who despises his first wife Sarai, and his first wife Sarai is blaming him for the situation. Even more to the point, this first-born son, whom it appears has fulfilled God’s promise, is going to go on to be both a challenge for he and his family, but will also be the cause of division, strife, and war for centuries to come.

Consequences of sin

So often, we think that it is just a little sin. It is a little thing. Even today as we read about the story of Abram, we might be tempted to think that everything turned out OK. Sure, Abram told a lie. OK, yeah, he gave Sarai to the Pharaoh to be Pharaoh’s wife…but in the end everything worked out, so is it that bad?

Yes, it is. I think we can see from the consequences that came to Abram later that it was that bad. In fact, his sin followed him for the rest of his life, and it even shows up yet today. We should never say that we think it is OK. It isn’t. It is wrong and we must repent from our sins, leaving them behind. Otherwise, while we can’t know the future of where our sin will go, we can say that it will likely live on, affecting not only us and those around us, but also generations to come.


In the order of Melchizedek

In the book of Hebrews, there is a strange statement that compares Jesus to another guy with a strange name, Melchizedek. Here is what it says:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19-20

Here, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus gives us a hope for our soul. This hope doesn’t waver, but instead is like an anchor, holding us firmly and securely.

It says that our hope allows us behind the curtain where Jesus had gone before us. Meaning what? As Solomon dedicated the temple that he had built to the Lord, God’s presence entered and dwelt in that temple. In fact, behind a curtain was a place called the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, and this is where God’s presence dwelt, in the temple, with his people. So here in Hebrews, it says that we can now enter into God’s presence, just as Jesus did!

But then there is still this strange discussion of Melchizedek. Why would the writer of Hebrews refer back to this person?

Refering back to the story

The writer says that Jesus is a priest in the line of Melchizedek. Where do we find Melchizedek? Let’s look back at the original story.

There had been several kings of various cities that had gone to war with one another. Lot, who was Abram’s nephew, had been caught up in the war because he had lived near the Jordan River near Sodom, in the area that the fighting had been happening. As a result, Lot and all of his family and possessions were taken by the kings that had won the war and were being carried off to the east where the kingdoms of the kings that had won the battle were located.

But Abram hears about it and chases down king Kedorlaomer with his 318 men and routes his armies along with those that were allied with him and brings back everything that they had taken.

The king of Sodom, grateful as he was, comes out to meet Abram in the Valley of Shaveh. Along with him comes the king of Salem, named Melchizedek.

But Melchizedek isn’t just a king. We learn that he actually is also a priest of God Most High, of Yahweh, the same God that Abram worships and serves. Melchizedek blesses Abram and gives praise to God for delivering the battle to Abram.

And what does Abram do? He gives a tenth of everything that he had gained back to Melchizedek.

So, what do we have so far in this situation?

First, we have Melchizedek as a king. He is the king of the Salem, the king of “Peace”, if you will.

Then, we have Melchizedek as a priest. He serves the one and only God.

And then we have Abram giving Melchizedek a tenth of everything that he had won in the battle. He recognizes God’s providence, protection, power, and guidance and offers a tenth to this king and priest.

Pointing to the Messiah

We can begin to see why the writer of Hebrews looks back to Melchizedek as one who represented Christ in the time of Abraham. First, kings shouldn’t be priests, and priests shouldn’t be kings. Generally speaking, kings look for justification and absolution for the actions from the priests. And beyond that, priests frequently look for legitimization for their work from the state, from the king. But one in the same? That’s pretty rare.

However, that is exactly who Jesus is. He is the King. In fact, he is the King of kings. He is the King in the Kingdom of God. The King over all kings of the earth. And he is also a priest. He has labored for us, offering a sacrifice – in fact, his own body and blood – on the “altar” of the cross for our sins.

And finally, just as Abram recognized this amazing combination as a king and a priest of the Most High God and gave a tenth of all of that he had won, we also give Christ not only a tenth of what he has given to us but in fact the entirety of our very lives. We owe him everything and he is worthy of all of us and all of the glory that he could possibly receive.

This is how Jesus is a high priest in the line of Melchizedek. Throughout the Old Testament, we see pointers toward the coming Messiah, including this unique figure of Melchizedek.