Three verses of the 14th chapter of Genesis give all we know of the biography of Melchizedek who is declared by the writer to be greater than Abraham. This to the Jew meant that he was the greatest man that ever lived.
Some have contended with Jerome that Melchizedek was the Patriarch Shem famous and powerful in his old age. Others believe that he was an angel from heaven and others that he was the Holy Spirit. Some affirm that he was God incarnate, because they think that things are said of him which can apply only to God. A sect known as Melchisedekians arose in the third century teaching that Melchizedek was a heavenly power superior to Christ in that he was mediator for angels as well as men.
To us, however, the great fact about Melchizedek is that he rather than Aaron, the regular high priest, was the type of Christ. As such we will consider him this morning in three aspects.
I. As Priest. II. As King. III. As Priest-King.
I. As Priest.
As Priest he differed from Aaron and all other priests in three particulars.
1. He was without genealogy. The Jews were particular to keep the genealogies of all important personages and specially of kings and priests whose offices descended to others. But in the record of Melchizedek’s history there is no mention of his father and mother, no date of his birth or death. He appears on the scene as if he was without father or mother, without beginning of days or end of years. He seems to come from eternity into time for only a little while and then passes again into eternity. In that respect he is like unto the Son of man, who came from eternity and passed again into eternity. It may be truly said of Him “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.”
2. Melchizedek was not a tribal priest. He was not a Hebrew, and, therefore, could not belong to the tribe of Aaron. He represents all humanity. So Jesus Christ is Son of man. Not son of Jew, Greek or Roman. He is the one universal man and thus in his priesthood represents all the race. “The blood of the whole human race,” says Dr. Robertson, “flowed in His veins.” He is human brother of the millions of mankind, of all nationalities and all centuries. To drink of His spirit is to become not less patriotic, loving our country and people less, but more philanthropic, loving all countries and all peoples. The spirit of Jesus makes every Christian a citizen of the world while it makes him a better citizen of the country in which he lives. It even goes further and makes him a citizen of heaven, so that in sympathy and interest, he belongs to two worlds.
3. Melchizedek appears not to have died, while the Aaronic priests were removed by death. They could continue in office only a few years. As Melchizedek appears to abide forever, so Jesus Christ really abides forever. He has no successor. A change of the high priest often meant a change of policy and it may be a change in spiritual prosperity, for high priests were men with human frailties and they were sometimes tempted to use their high offices for selfish purposes. One in tender sympathy with the people in their weaknesses and struggles might be succeeded by another who was cold and conventional. Our high priest, touched with a feeling of our infirmities, tempted in all points as we are yet without sin, abides forever to sympathize with us and enable us to resist temptation without sin. There is to be no change of administration. Day after day, week after week, month after month, decade after decade, century after century, millennium after millennium, Christ is our sympathetic, loving friend and mediator.
He ever lives above
For me to intercede.
His all-redeeming love
His precious blood to plead.
This makes clear and comforting the words, “After the similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest who is made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” The law of a carnal commandment can provide a priest only for his lifetime, but the priesthood of Jesus has in it the power of endless life. The needs of our endless lives can be met only by a mediator with an endless life. Because He lives we shall live also. “Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost (limit of time) all who come unto God by him seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Our everlasting salvation is secure because we are in the care of an everlasting mediator. “Ever liveth” has in it not only the idea of lasting forever, but lasting all the way, moment by moment. He never leaves nor forsakes. He is never negligent or off His guard. Our interests are looked after all the time.
Jesus does not, like other high priests, have to offer for His own sins. The sinlessness of Christ is taught in this book of Hebrews and hence atonement for our sins is possible. The Jewish high priest offered sacrifice for his own sin first and then for the sins of the people. Christ needed not to offer for his own sin, for He was sinless; and He offered Himself for the people. If He had not been sinless, the sacrifice of Himself could not have atoned for others. The Paschal Lamb without spot of blemish had been proclaiming that fact for centuries. Calvary was the altar in God’s great temple on which the Son of God offered Himself. No one compelled Him. He permitted the Roman soldiers to do the work of crucifixion, while He willingly yielded to them. By one act of His will He could have released Himself, but with steady purpose, He yielded Himself to the cross and the nails while He took upon Himself the load of a world’s guilt. He said (John 10:17-18) “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from me: but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.”
The willing sacrifice of the sinless Son of God is sufficient atonement for our sins, and, though we cannot understand the mystery of it, we believe the fact and “rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” The sinless, willing sacrifice to put away our sins makes possible the perpetual and availing intercession for saved sinners. “Christ died for our sins!” He lives to see that the saved sinner shall not come into condemnation. “Reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Much more being reconciled we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10). The problem of sin’s guilt is solved on Calvary. The sin question as it relates to a holy God and a righteous government has been settled. We are freed from the curse of the law. “There is, therefore, now no condemnation.” But the salvation problem as it relates to sinful tendencies within and temptations from without is solved by the fact of our having a Christ who died for us ever living to see that the merit of His atoning sacrifice shall never be lost, and that the work of the Spirit in us sooner or later shall be as complete as His work for us. He who said “It is finished” from the cross, as He saw the work of atonement completed, shall say, “It is finished” from the throne, when He shall see the characters of His people transfigured into His own perfect likeness. The refiner of silver as he sits before the furnace shall sooner or later see the reflection of his own face in the metal purified from all dross.
II. As King.
It is the mission of a King to rule. His throne, crown and scepter stand for authority and power. And every king has his realm and subjects. A king without realm and subjects would be a farce. The king of Great Britain rules over Great Britain and the British people are his subjects. The king of Italy rules over Italy and the Italians are his subjects. A king also implies law and loyalty. In an unlimited monarchy the will of the king is law, but in a constitutional government, such as all the world is now demanding, the constitution is law with the king as its representative and executive. Obedience to law is loyalty to the king. Melchizedek was king of righteousness. It means more than that he was a righteous king. His realm was righteousness. Righteousness was the sphere in which he reigned. Righteousness was the law of the realm. The king set the standard of righteousness which the people adopted and lived up to. Unrighteous men or deeds found no favor at his court. There was no graft among his officials.
So Jesus Christ is King of righteousness. The kingdom of heaven is a realm of which there is a mixture of good and evil. It is like a field of wheat and tares, like leaven in the lump, like a net full of fishes good and bad. But the Kingdom of God is the realm in which God reigns supreme. It is without mixture of good and evil. Evil may be under it, but not in it as anarchy may be under restraint of law without being a part of the government. The purpose of God is to make the kingdom of heaven into the kingdom of God. Such will be done when the King shall appear and put down all evils. “Then cometh the consummation when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and all power.” The millennium will mean that the kingdom of heaven upon earth has become the kingdom of God in which the King shall reign in righteousness.
But Christ is King of righteousness even now during the kingdom of heaven period. He would rule in individual hearts and homes and churches. He is gathering out the subjects in preparation for the coming kingdom. His subjects are righteous in that through His atoning and reconciling death they have been brought into right relation with Him. In their lives they are “filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). Christ is King in the realm of righteousness. “A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” If He was not sinless, that sceptre is broken, but by His own spotless holiness He has held the sceptre through the centuries and will continue to hold it through time and eternity. His people reign with Him today through righteousness. A truly righteous man, a man in right relation with God and his fellows, is a king wherever he may be. There is no influence like a righteous life. Even wicked men acknowledge its sway.
Melchizedek was also king of peace. “First, king of righteousness and after that king of peace.” Melchizedek never sought peace by compromise with evil. He was first of all king of righteousness. His peace was, therefore, always the peace of victory. He gained peace as Wellington gained it at Waterloo by victory, not as Napoleon gained it by defeat. The difference between the two is a great gulf. James wrote to the Jews “First pure, then peaceable.” Peace is desirable, but never at the expense of purity. If evil passion craves indulgence, do not gain peace by submission, but by resistance. War is a terrible thing. There is only one thing worse and that is peace at the expense of righteousness. We have peace with God through the victory which Jesus gained by His triumph over death and now we have the peace of God through the victory which the Holy Spirit gains over temptation. “Fight the good fight of faith” against every sin. Accept no terms of peace that are not founded upon righteousness.
Jesus Christ is King of Peace in the realm of righteousness. He can never be at peace with sin, any more than light can be at peace with darkness, disease with health, truth with falsehood, virtue with vice. But on the side of righteousness, He is our peace in the midst of conflict and confusion.
III. As Priest-King.
As our High Priest mediating for us, Christ is King. Back of the Priest with the atoning sacrifice is the king with all authority and power in heaven and earth. As Priest He gives us standing with God and as King He supplies all our needs. The resources of the universe are His. As Priest He links us with heaven and as King He rules and supports us on earth.
Melchizedek as priest of the Most High God interceded for Abraham and the great victory was doubtless due to his intercession. Then after the victory as Abraham and his soldiers were returning from the battle, Melchizedek meets them with bread and wine. Our Priest-King gives us victory over our enemies and then gives us the refreshments of His grace. He takes us into His banqueting hall and His banner over us is love. Of His fullness have we received and grace for grace.
Then Melchizedek spoke to Abraham words of blessing. “Blessed be Abraham of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed by the most high God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” In these words are a prayer for Abraham, an acknowledgement of God as possessor of all things and praise to God for victory. These words doubtless refreshed the soul of Abraham even more than the bread and wine refreshed his body. The words of our Priest-King are bread and wine to the soul. “They are spirit, and they are life.” There is an intimation here that God will take care of our bodies and our souls. When we are in the line of duty we shall lack no good thing. Even when He finds us under the juniper tree full of despondency, He will send the food our bodies need and the word of good cheer for our souls. All of us can say at all times “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” Our Melchizedek will supply all our need.
Then Abraham gave to Melchizedek, priest and king, tithes of all he had. Like the Sabbath, the principle of tithing is older than the Decalogue. As the Sabbath, one day in seven devoted to God, is in the very nature of things, so is the principle of giving one-tenth of our income to God. As if to say there can be no true prosperity for the man who withholds from God one-tenth of his income. According to Malachi he robs God and cannot prosper. Isaiah insisted that the desecration of the Sabbath brought adversity. Moses emphasized this universal law when he said “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” And when he said “The tenth is the Lord’s” he was simply formulating the law which existed from the beginning. When Jesus said (in reference to tithing) “This ye ought to have done,” He incorporated tithing into the moral law—among the things that always and everywhere ought to be done. To refuse to tithe is, therefore, to violate a moral law in that we refuse to do what ought to be done.
Let me close with the first and second verses of the 8th chapter. “Now of the things which we have, this is the sum. We have such a high priest who is at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” The ancient Tabernacle and Temple with their altars, priests and sacrifices were temporary and symbolic. The blood of bulls and goats could not atone for sin. They were all only finger pointers to the real tabernacle which God pitched as it stands today. Christ our Priest and King is within the veil presenting Himself as the perpetual atoning sacrifice for our sins, while we are in the outer court at worship. The Holy Spirit is with us representing Him while He represents us in the glory. And both are engaged in the great work of human salvation. “At the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high” shows that the Lord occupies an exalted position in heaven. He is in the place of honor. And when we give him such a place of honor in our hearts and lives, we will have heaven upon earth. Heaven is the place where Christ is priest and king, whether it be the city paved with gold or the cottage in the woods or the garret room in a great city.
The 110th Psalm, which is the Melchizedek Psalm of the Bible, echoes the same thought. “The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Our Christ in the place of honor shall subdue all enemies as easily as you can sit down and draw up your footstool for your feet to rest upon. He can conquer them in an attitude of repose. “The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength and of Zion.” The exalted Christ will exert his quiet power through agencies which come out of Zion, His people on earth. Every such agency will be like the rod of Moses dividing seas, overwhelming armies and bringing water from dry rocks. The supernatural will work through the natural. The rod can be explained only on the ground that God works through it.
“Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.” These rods of power will give God’s people supremacy in the midst of their enemies. Opposition will only show their strength.
“Thy people shall be willing in the day of their power.” The first result will be a people willing to do what God commands, go where He sends and be what He wishes. Such a people will exhibit the beauties of holiness like the dew drops in the morning air, sparkling in the early sunlight. And it will be the dew of youth. Such a people cannot become old and decrepit. The grey hairs will be only the sparkle of dew on a youthful soul. The result of all this is given in the middle verse “The Lord hath sworn and will not repent. Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Such power and beauty will come through the priesthood and kingship of Christ. The Priest-King will make the rod powerful and make the dew sparkle with beauty. With Him exalted it is always morning. “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.” The kings of the earth must give way to the King of heaven, when He shall appear in the glory. Then the nations shall be judged and all who oppose shall be destroyed. The victory shall extend over many countries. The conquering Priest-King shall drink of the brook in the way. He will not take time to step aside for refreshments, but, like Gideon’s men, will drink of the brook as He presses on to victory. “Therefore shall he lift up the head.” The time is coming when Christ shall not be among the despised and humiliated of earth. He will lift up the head in royal dignity. All the kings of the earth shall be His servants. And then shall those who have been saved by His grace and kept by His power reign with Him forever and ever. We are of His body of which He is the head and the body will share the glory when the head is exalted.