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Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 7, 2020


For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 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 Hebrews 7:1-3

Intro: If I were to write a paper on current societal pressures

I would title it, “Inadvertent Torture”
– no one intended to torture US citizens, it just happened
• first, we spend most of our days stuck in these boxes (our homes)
• then, two television and social media are dominated by two issues:
◦ a controversial pandemic and the eruption of racial tension
◦ our nation is sharply divided on both of these issues
(one step to the left, and your blasted and insulted by the far right, one step to the right and you are blasted and insulted by extreme left)
– as a result, there’s a surplus of anger surging through human interactions
• now, this isn’t torture for everyone
◦ some people enjoy stirring up conflict and chaos
• however, most of us dislike hostile confrontations
◦ (especially when that aggressive agitator wears a smile)

Strange things happen in troubled times
– a significant number of odd occurrences are reported in the wake of wars
• for instance, a lot of ghost stories circulated around the Civil War
• and not all the tales were macabre; some were miraculous
– I mention this, because it relates to our study this morning
• obviously, we need background information to understand the passage
• we’re told, an encounter took place when Abraham was
returning from the slaughter of the kings
◦ those were troubled times of conflict for Abraham
◦ and in that context, a strange thing happened

Melchizedek made a “surprise guest” appearance in scripture

The backstory: Abraham’s nephew, Lot, had taken up residence in the city of Sodom (yes, that Sodom). An army marched against Sodom and the other kingdoms in the Valley of Siddim, and defeated them. Lot and his family were taken captive and dragged away, destined to become slaves. When news reached Abraham of Lot’s fate, he marshaled his rather impressive household and chased after the invaders. When he came to their camp, he launched a nighttime attack, in which he rescued Lot and liberated all the others who had also been taken captive. As he journeyed home, a stranger suddenly showed up with provisions for Abraham. (Ge. 14:1-21)

• as Abraham journeyed home, this obscure figure just–shows up
◦ there’s no mention of Melchizedek prior to this event or after
• he was a priest, but of what religion? We have no idea
◦ the Genesis storyteller gives only the slightest bit of information about him
– what the writer of Hebrews finds important is:
• Melchizedek was a priest (the first priest to appear in scripture)
• Melchizedek blessed Abraham
• Abraham gave Melchizedek ten percent of everything (the spoils)
• the meaning of the name, Melchizedek
• the meaning of the place where he was king (Salem)
• the fact that Melchizedek is not in a genealogy

Before we look closer at these points, let’s look at what writer leaves out
first, Melchizedek brought out bread and wine for Abraham
• given what the writer sees in Melchizedek this seems like an oversight
◦ given the centrality of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper,
◦ and the body and blood of Jesus (especially here in Hebrews),
◦ and the way the writer makes use of typology, we would expect him to make something of this
◦ however, the writer is very selective in what he chooses to address here
second, the actual words of Mel’s blessing
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!
(Ge. 14:19-20)
• this has always struck me as super important
◦ Abraham did not know God well yet
(God later revealed himself to Abraham as El Shaddai, God Almighty (Ge. 17:1) and then as Provider (Ge. 22:14)
◦ Most High God was a new revelation for Abraham
◦ the God that called him on his journey was the highest of all gods
• this is where “Most High God” enters the biblical repertory of titles
◦ Abraham immediately embraced this new truth
◦ in the next moment he swore an oath, using this title
I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth!

Later in scripture, Melchizedek made another guest appearance

The only other time he is mentioned in the Old Testament
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”
(Ps. 110:4 and quoted in Heb. 5:6)
– this mention of Melchizedek is just as bizarre as the Genesis story
• it comes at an end of a short psalm
◦ the New Testament recognized that this psalm spoke of the Messiah
◦ Jesus himself quoted it in reference to the Messiah
• the psalm records God’s sworn oath to the Messiah
◦ he would be a priest who belonged to the order of Melchizedek

What does our writer see in these scant details?

He notices that Melchizedek was both a king and a priest
– in Israel, those were two separate offices; two different tribes
• Uzzah was a good king until tried to offer incense in the temple
◦ he was confronted by priests who told him he had no authority to do that
◦ instantly his body became leprous, and he ran from the temple (2 Chr. 26:16-21)
• but much later, a prophecy of Zechariah has this to say about the Messiah:
. . . the man whose name is the Branch . . . shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zec. 6:12-13)
◦ Melchizedek seems to prefigure a dual role that the Messiah will fill

Next, the writer notes that Melchizedek means king of righteousness
– and also that he is king of Salem, or king of peace (shalom )
• it was not enough that he was king of either righteousness or peace, but of both
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other
(Ps. 85:10)
• righteous refers to right relationships
– what is the relationship between righteousness and peace?
• righteousness produces peace
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever (Isa. 32:17)
Therefore, since we have been [made righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Ro. 5:1)
◦ and later on in Hebrews,
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11)

Next the writer notes that Melchizedek appears without a father, mother, or genealogy
– this is unusual for Genesis – every important person has a genealogy
• in fact, the whole book is divided into sections by its genealogies
• Melchizedek also had no birth or death, no beginning of days nor end of life
◦ he continues a priest forever
◦ this inference is made from the quote from Ps 110
– some Bible teachers assume Melchizedek was not a historic figure, but a “christophany”
(an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament)
• however, as Kenneth Shenk observes,
“The author, however, nowhere makes such and equation or hints at such a belief. The closest he comes is when he says that Melchizedek is ‘likened’ to the Son of God.”
◦ the writer is only saying that as far as story in Genesis is concerned, there’s no birth record for Melchizedek, his genealogy is not given and nothing is said regarding his parents
◦ in the story, he appears out of nowhere, then returns to oblivion
Jerome Neyrey, “This quality [of immortality], which properly belongs only to the Immortal One, extends also to Jesus. When Melchizedek was declared to be ‘without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,’ he only ‘resembles the Son of God’ (7:3); the converse is not true.”
Luke Johnson, “But the one who truly ‘lives forever’ is Jesus, and he is the one whom Hebrews really has in mind when it says that ‘he is attested as being alive.’”

The writer sees Mel as a very important figure
See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him Hebrews 7:4-10

How great was Melchizedek? His interaction with Abraham shows us
– we’ll take the blessing first
• this was one of the services priest performs for people (Nu. 6:22-27)
◦ that Melchizedek gave this blessing reveals his superiority
• v. 7 looks like an overstatement (the inferior is blessed by the superior)
◦ but in the context of worship in Israel’s religion, it was true
◦ the greater person blessed the lesser
(greater is one of Hebrews’ key words, usually translated better)
– Abraham paid “tithes” to Melchizedek
(tithe is ten-percent of a family’s increase in income, whether crops, livestock, etc.)
• the writer sees tithing through the lens of the Mosaic law
the descendants of Levi . . . have a commandment in the law to take tithe
◦ to support all the services they performed in the sanctuary
• Melchizedek was not a descendant of Levi
◦ technically, could not receive the tithe that went to the Levites
◦ however, Abraham gave tithe to Melchizedek
• for the writer, this indicates the greatness of Melchizedek’s priestly order
◦ he was recognized as greater than Abraham
◦ and by extension, greater than Abraham’s descendants

A brief observation: the basis for paying tithe to priests and Levites:
– it came as a commandment in the law
• but Abraham wasn’t bound by the law (which came 400 years later)
• his tithe was spontaneous – it was gift, it was gratitude
– I believe this is what God wants from us
• not a mechanical monthly financial commitment
◦ certainly not a mercenary act, in which we give expecting to receive more back from God
• but the free offering of ourselves to God
◦ a giving inspired by love and expressed in joy
◦ a genuine act of devotion, in spirit and in truth
as Paul said, do not give reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)

Conclusion: As I said, strange things happen in troubled times

Some wonderful things happen too
– Abraham had not yet arrived back at home
• he and not even the opportunity to rest
• but suddenly Melchizedek was standing there with bread and wine
– I don’t think that by ranting on social media
• we are going to resolve any of today’s volatile issues
◦ we’re not likely to argue anyone over to our political views
◦ we certainly are not going to find rest for our souls

What we need most is not to release tension by venting
but to find relief from conflict
And I think we can do that
by looking for the strange and wonderful thing
that emerge in these troubled times
We can look for Jesus, our great high priest
to come to us in the unprecedented madness,
bringing with him bread and wine,
a blessing,
and a revelation
It is in his love that we will discover righteousness
and in his smile that we find peace

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