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.

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