Wednesday, May 11, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 26

To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

Melchizedek

In the last lesson, I showed how Jesus, Paul, and Peter connected Jesus with Psalm 110. In all these cases the connection was made to Jesus as the King sitting at the right hand of God--and thus He is a greater King than David. But the Writer of Hebrews has a mission to demonstrate that the person and mission of Jesus the Messiah surpasses all previous aspects of Judaism. With Psalm 110, he takes on the priesthood. It is important to understand that the Writer is not disparaging the forms of the past. They are rather the shadows of the reality that came with Jesus.

Here is the relevant section of Psalm 110:

The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ?You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.? (Psalm 110:4, NASB 95)

And here is what the Writer of Hebrews does with it:

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. (Hebrews 7:1-3)

This is some of the most remarkable hermeneutical analyses in the Scriptures. The Writer uses a past historical event, uses the "accidental" occurrences of names, combines it with missing off-the-record information and makes claims about the eternal priesthood of Jesus. It seems strange: however, Jewish scholars recognize the legitimacy of such analysis and all the New Testament authors employed rabbinic hermeneutical techniques--see Hints, Allegories, and Mysteries: The New Testament Quotes the Old.

So here is how Melchizedek connects with the Son of God:

  • The translation of his name means king of righteousness. Melchi=Melech=King and Zedek=Tsade=Righteousness. Jesus is certainly the King of Righteousness both as an example and as a provider. Jeremiah prophesied that this would Messiah's future title: "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The Lord our righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:6)
  • The translation of his title means king of peace. Melchizedek was the King of Salem=Shalom=Peace. Isaiah prophesied that Messiah would have this title: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Without father, mother, or genealogy. Of course, the historical Melchizedek had a genealogy. But the writer of Hebrews connects the "priest forever" in Psalm 110 and combines it with the sudden appearance and disappearance of Melchizedek in Genesis and combines them to make the point that Jesus, Himself, and in reality has no earthly father, or mother, or genealogy. He is, therefore, a priest for eternity.

The Genesis history combined with Psalm 110 hint at a marvelous truth. The accidental historical details were created by the Holy Spirit in order to communicate these truths. Jesus is our eternal priest and king. He is the foundation for our righteousness and peace.

The astute Jew might now ask, "How does this relate to the priests that have descended from Aaron?" The Writer picks up that topic next.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

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