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The Explanation Of Melchizedek’s Superior Priesthood

Melchizedek king of Salem . . . was a priest of God Most High.
–Genesis 14:18

In Hebrews 7, the writer introduces us to Melchizedek, the first priest mentioned in the Bible. He explained Melchizedek’s superior priesthood in verses 1-3: “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.”

The story of Melchizedek is found in Genesis 14. One day Abraham got word that his nephew Lot, who was living in Sodom, had been taken captive by the king of Elam and his allies. Lot had no business living in the sinful city of Sodom, but because he was where he should not have been, he got caught in the crossfire and was taken captive. When Abraham heard the news, he got 318 of his men, and they defeated the king of Elam and the other kings and took Lot back. Because Abraham was victorious in that battle, he had a right to the spoils of victory, the possessions of the kings he had defeated. On his way back from battle, Abraham met this priest named Melchizedek. Out of gratitude to God, he gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything he had, and Melchizedek blessed him.

That is the simple story of Melchizedek. And yet, people have tried to complicate the story through the years. People have said, “I wonder who Melchizedek really is.” Some people think he was an angel. But there is nothing in Scripture about angels having priestly ministry. Other people say, “This is a theophany, an Old Testament appearance of the preincarnate Christ. This was really Jesus because the passage says he had no father or mother, no genealogy.” No, while verse 3 says Melchizedek was like the Son of God, that is not the same as being the Son of God. Here is a great rule of thumb for biblical interpretation: when the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense. Unless you have a reason not to take it literally, take what you read literally. Genesis 14, which is paraphrased in Hebrews 7, is an example of a passage that I think we can take literally.

Melchizedek was both a priest and a king, the writer said, over Salem. Salem probably referred to ancient Jerusalem. Why did the writer of Hebrews make such a big deal about this obscure character named Melchizedek? Remember Psalm 110:4 says that the Messiah would be a priest not like the Levitical priest Aaron, but like Melchizedek. “You are a priest forever,” the psalmist said, “according to the order of Melchizedek.” So if we want to understand how Jesus is superior to the Old Testament priests, then we have to understand who Melchizedek was and why he was superior to the Old Testament priests.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “And Now For The Main Course!” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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