(Today’s post by Chris Queen)
The Mystery King – Genesis 13:5-14:24
I love a good mystery, don’t you? There’s something about a story full of intrigue and characters who make surprise appearances. One of the coolest mysteries of the Bible – and one of my all-time favorite Biblical accounts – takes place in today’s reading.
Most of what we’re reading today concerns the family drama between Abram and his nephew Lot (which is pretty fascinating stuff in its own right), but the best part of today’s reading takes place over a handful of verses, when Abram has a unique brush with royalty.
17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Then Melchizedek goes away and doesn’t appear again.
So, who is Melchizedek? Obviously he’s a king and a priest of God Most High, but he would remain a shadowy figure, an asterisk in the tale of Abram, a blip in the continuum of God’s chosen people were it not for two other Biblical authors.
First off, King David wrote in Psalm 110:
1 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
2 The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” 3 Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.
4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Many scholars consider this Psalm a clear reference to the coming Messiah – which leads us to the New Testament book of Hebrews, where Melchizedek gets the most real estate. The author of Hebrews spends several verses talking about Jesus’ forever priesthood, which was a position bestowed by God Himself:
5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
6 And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Melchizedek, the mystery king, was both ruler and priest – both royalty and servant – just like Jesus. Messianic Jewish scholar David H. Stern puts it this way:
“Yeshua [Jesus] is to be compared with Malki-Tzedek [Melchizedek] because in Yeshua, Jewish priest and Jewish king are united in one person. So far as is known, the author makes a chiddush (‘innovation’) in presenting the idea of king and priest combined in one person.”
Just like last Friday’s reading from Genesis 3 alludes to Jesus, God places a figure in Abram’s path who also points to the Messiah. So today’s post is rather heady, and there’s not really a whole lot of practical application, but you’ve got to admit: Melchizedek’s story really is a cool mystery.