December 1, 8, 15 Genesis -20
After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the
kings allied with him, the king of
Memories are important to us. We like to have nice and clear pictures of events in our homes that we can remember forever. Most of us make sure to grab our cameras at Christmas time and Thanksgiving to capture the special moments when friends and family get together to have some fun. We pull out those memories years later and laugh at the old videos. Just recently one of our hard drives broke; and it happened to have a few years worth of photos on it. We almost lost all of them, but thankfully by putting the drive in the freezer we were able to access the pictures one last time and get many of them off of the hard drive before it officially crashed.
We live in a picture world; we are inundated with pictures and videos on the internet and television. People become addicted to pictures and start romances through pictures on the internet. Imagine, however, if that is all our world consisted of. What if you were in prison and you never actually got to see or touch your children; if the only thing you had were pictures? What if you met someone on the internet and he or she had a beautiful smile and a personality; but you never actually got to speak to or meet the person. You would start to wonder if the person actually existed or not. You would sooner or later want to see a reality of the picture.
Christmas is about reality. At Christmas we find out that God is not just an idea or a platitude; a pie in the sky dream; He is a reality; a very physical reality; as He takes on and becomes flesh! “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” John says. He also writes in 1 John 1:1, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
In order to prepare for this reality, we look at pictures of the One who is coming during this Advent season. We see people who prefigured the Christ; who He would be and what He would do. These pictures help us to envision in our mind and see who that baby in the manger would grow up to be. Tonight, I have the privilege of showing you the picture of Melchizedek’s priesthood to show you how he prefigured Christ. Tonight we see,
A Picture of the One Who is Coming: He is a Priest Like Melchizedek
I. Who was Melchizedek?
jump right into Melchizedek it would be good for us to look at the background
of the story a bit. The story starts
with a war between five kings from Abraham’s area with four kings from the
east, Kedorlaomer being the strongest of the four. For years and years Kedorlaomer made the
remember the story, Abraham took 318 men with him, divided the group in two,
and attacked at night. With a quick and
decisive strike he took the army unawares and captured back all of the
captives; chasing Kedorlaomer’s army back to where
they came from. It was about a 120 mile
journey back home, but finally all of the captives returned. What a wonderful scene it must have been for
all of these families to be reunited and welcomed back home so quickly! Abraham and the captives met back up with the
kings right outside of
This is the
point in time where we are introduced to Melchizedek. Moses writes, “the
We usually think of a priest as one who makes the sacrifices; for that was the role of the priest. It is interesting to note that there even WAS a priest before the Mosaic Law had been given. As the people watched the animal being put to death by the priest; the blood being poured out; and the body being burned; it was meant to impress on their minds that they were sinful and deserving death; and were it not for an alternate sacrifice they would surely die. Sacrifices were a reflection of sin and the need for a Savior. They pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of the Savior. Noah made a sacrifice of animals that were ordained to be clean after they landed on dry land. This also was BEFORE the Mosaic Law ever laid out what animals were clean and unclean. Abraham also built altars and made sacrifices before the law. So also Melchizedek made sacrifices; not ones that were commanded by the written Law; but ones that reflected the law written on the heart and the promise of salvation given by God. They were done as acts of worship from hearts of faith.
what this priest of
Then what does Melchizedek do? “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.” Melchizedek publicly praises God as the One who delivered Abraham’s enemies into Abraham’s hands. He pronounces a blessing on Abraham from that same Most High God. That reference to the Most High God is also a quite unique term. It is in contrast to the other gods which would have just been known as “god” or “el” in the Hebrew. They were often known to be gods of thunder or lightning or rain or sun. Melchizedek says that this God who blesses Abraham is the Most High God, known in the Hebrew as “El Elyone.” He is in reality a one of a kind God, head and shoulders above the rest; the Creator of heaven and earth. He is the Creator of all things, and He is also still in charge yet. He was the One who powerful delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hands and took an active part in the victory.
Think about the company that Melchizedek was standing in front of; kings from Sodom and Gomorrah; a godless bunch who had no faith whatsoever in the true and living God; El Elyone. But here Melchizedek and Abram have a public confession of their faith in the One Who they believe gave them the victory. How easy it would have been to give a bland and generic “thanks” to “God” so as not to “offend” those of other beliefs! Melchizedek proved himself to be a faithful and outspoken priest who wasn’t afraid to confess his faith and trust in the one true God.
It’s this next little phrase, however, that draws the most attention in the book of Hebrews. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. In response and respect to Melchizedek’s position as the priest and out of faith in the same God as Melchizedek, Abram voluntarily gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he had captured back. This shows that even though Melchizedek seemingly came out of nowhere, he was not just a self proclaimed priest with no real authority behind his position. He was a legitimate priest, and Abraham treated him like one.
II. How does he picture Jesus?
Again, this story only takes up four verses. No other mention of it or Melchizedek is made in history except for one little verse in Psalm 110:4 which says, “You are a priest forever, in order of Melchizedek.” David wrote this Psalm under inspiration, and I would venture to guess that he didn’t even know the magnitude of what he was saying. But within that verse the Holy Spirit was showing that Melchizedek was a type or a picture of a priest to come who also serve as a ruler and a king (as seen within the context of Psalm 110). He would come from the same “order.” So we are pointed back to Melchizedek and told to look at him in a special way; to see what is different about him that paints a picture of the Christ.
Nobody ever seemed to mention Melchizedek for over a thousand years. The picture was there, but it was lost in a sense. It’s like the old pictures you might have inherited and you look at them and say, “Who’s that?” You have to check with older members of the family or cross reference other pictures to try and figure it out. Another illustration might be with the music of J.S. Bach. His works had only been admired by a few specialists for over the course of 75 years after his death. Not too many people had really heard of him. Fortunately another gifted musician by the name of Felix Mendelssohn married into the family some time later. They gave him access to Bach’s music. After much work and preparation he performed St. Matthew’s Passion, (which was written by Bach), in 1829. It wasn’t until then that there was a revitalization of Bach. So it also happens here that the picture of Melchizedek is hidden and lies dormant until the writer to the Hebrews brings it up again. He explains the picture of Melchizedek. He regains interest in Melchizedek.
The importance of this isn’t just for trivia’s sake. Years ago a guy found a unique reference to a Prayer of Jabez back in the Old Testament and made a book talking about the importance of prayer and how it can unlock hidden powers from God. The applications that he made from that one vague man were out of context with the whole of the Bible. It ended up being trivial at best. This is not so with Melchizedek, because Melchizedek points us forward to Christ. The more we see of Melchizedek, the more we understand the role of Christ.
Do you see the similarities? The first one that I see is not spelled out in Scriptures, so I need to tread lightly. We need to be careful not to see hidden pictures in every verse of the Bible. So this does not have the warrant of the book of Hebrews. Yet I find it interesting how Melchizedek first of all feeds Abraham and his weary soldiers with bread and wine. He is providing them with nourishment. This seemed to be unique to me when I looked at Melchizedek; and I couldn’t help but think how Christ feeds us with His body and blood under the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. Abraham and his soldiers were starving and famished from the battlefield of war; we are starving for forgiveness as we battle against the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. Melchizedek fed with physical elements only, but under these same physical elements Christ feeds us with His eternal elements; the same body and blood that were crucified for us and rose from the dead. In the Lord's Supper we don’t just have a picture of what Christ did for us; we have the actually body and blood which accomplished our salvation. We have the reality! These nourish our souls for eternity through the heart of faith. Christ feeds us with His own story; His own promises of salvation; these give life to us and brighten our eyes of faith. Again, no mention is made of this in the Scriptures, yet I find it interesting how they coincide with one another.
You might notice also the testimony of Melchizedek, blessing Abraham by the Most High God. This is what Gabriel said Jesus would be, “the Son of the Most High” who would be born from “the power of the Most High” which would overshadow her. Jesus then grew up to openly testify as to who He was in the presence of the priests and say to them, “I am the Son of God.” It was this open testimony while under oath that ultimately led to Jesus’ death sentence and made Him not only the Priest but also the sacrifice of the Priest. This, again, is a similarity that is not mentioned in other Scriptures.
Hebrews talks much more about the picture of Melchizedek and opens up in a divinely inspired way how important the heritage of Melchizedek is. The story in Genesis 14 never mentions where Melchizedek came from or where he went after that. So it says that Melchizedek in a sense had no beginning and no end. It would appear that the Holy Spirit deliberately left out the history of Melchizedek, so that the picture of Christ would be clear. He also has no beginning and no end. This is in sharp contrast to the Levitical priests who had to know exactly where their lineage came from. They had to be able to prove their blood line if they wanted to be priests under the Mosaic covenant. There was a whole succession of them. Melchizedek is the only one in his line mentioned. So Christ is the only one mentioned; in the same order as Melchizedek. Therefore, when we come to hear that Jesus is the ONLY BEGOTTEN of the Father, we realize again that this is a one of a kind priest. He isn’t just a son of God, like we are adopted children of God. He is THE Son of God, the One of a kind who is begotten of the Father from eternity. He is without beginning or end. Melchizedek points to the uniqueness of Jesus as priest in regards to His heritage. When we celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas we say, “This is a unique thing; not only a once in a lifetime thing, but a once in eternity Person.”
The second thing that the writer to the Hebrews makes mention of is the fact that Abraham paid Melchizedek the tithe. At first the picture seems uneventful. It is what we would expect. But then you remember the importance of Abraham in the whole scheme of things. Abraham was regarded as the Father of the Jews. But here, if Abraham is paying a tithe to Melchizedek, he is recognizing Melchizedek as a spiritual superior. So the book of Hebrews mentions that the whole Levitical priesthood came through Abraham who was the forefather of Levi. In a sense then you could say that Levi was subservient to Melchizedek as he came after Melchizedek and paid the tithe to Melchizedek. So the writer basically says, “This is a picture of how unique and powerful Jesus’ priesthood would be. He would come from a different line; not the line of Levites. His priesthood would come before and last longer than that of Levi, which was a part of the law.” The picture of Melchizedek shows us that Jesus’ priesthood is definitely superior to the priesthood of Levi.
the pictures that God wants us to see and understand as we look at Jesus being
born in the crib on Christmas. This baby
is going to be a unique and powerful priest in the order of Melchizedek. He’s not going to be born in
Sometimes when you go to someone’s house they may want to show you pictures of their trip or their family. When that happens, you know that you may be stuck there for a long time. So you might try to make excuses as to why you can’t stick around too long, because they are pictures of people you might not really care about too much.
When you came to church tonight and heard that you were going to take a close look at the picture of Melchizedek, some of you may have thought, “Oh, joy. I can hardly wait.” Yet the Holy Spirit wants you to realize this isn’t just a picture of some old guy that lived a long time ago; someone that has nothing to do with you. As you see the picture of Melchizedek, the Holy Spirit wants you to also see who Jesus actually is; your living and real High Priest. So in looking at the picture of Melchizedek you are also seeing the real Christ, who is your actual priest, your Lord, your brother, God’s Son, and your Savior. The picture of Melchizedek helps you to see who Christ really is as He lays there in the crib; it helps you to prepare for the coming of the Christ, Who would come to make the sacrifice for you as your Priest; and that is what Advent is all about. Do you get the picture? I hope and pray so. Amen.