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Abraham, Melchizedek, and Messiah (Hebrews 7:1-10)

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17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet Abram in the Valley of Shaveh (known as the King’s Valley). 18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (Now he was the priest of the Most High God.) 19 He blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 Worthy of praise is the Most High God, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. 21 Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself.” 22 But Abram replied to the king of Sodom, “I raise my hand to the Lord, the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth, and vow 23 that I will take nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal. That way you can never say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except compensation for what the young men have eaten. As for the share of the men who went with me – Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre – let them take their share” (Genesis 14:17-24).1

1 A psalm of David.

Here is the Lord’s proclamation to my lord:

“Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!”

2 The Lord extends your dominion from Zion.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

3 Your people willingly follow you when you go into battle.

On the holy hills at sunrise the dew of your youth belongs to you.

4 The Lord makes this promise on oath and will not revoke it:

“You are an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek.”

5 O sovereign Lord, at your right hand he strikes down kings in the day he unleashes his anger.

6 He executes judgment against the nations;

he fills the valleys with corpses;

he shatters their heads over the vast battlefield.

7 From the stream along the road he drinks; then he lifts up his head (Psalm 110:1-7).

1 Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him. 2 To him also Abraham apportioned a tithe of everything. His name first means king of righteousness, then king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. 4 But see how great he must be, if Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of his plunder. 5 And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen, although they too are descendants of Abraham. 6 But Melchizedek who does not share their ancestry collected a tithe from Abraham and blessed the one who possessed the promise. 7 Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, 8 and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. 9 And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. 10 For he was still in his ancestor Abraham’s loins when Melchizedek met him (Hebrews 7:1-10).

Introduction

I have to admit that I was impressed with the new Airbus 300 we were flying in over India. It was certainly the newest airplane I had ever experienced in that part of the world. Suddenly, while we were in midair,an alarm sounded nearby. I watched the crew scurry about, looking for the source of the problem. At the time, I believed I understood exactly what was happening (and I may well have been right): the crew was not familiar with this craft and did not know how to shut off the alarm. It was kind of a “Keystone Cops” moment for me, and I enjoyed it. I chuckled more and more the longer this comedy played itself out. And soon it was over.

Years later, I was talking with a friend who sat beside me on that trip to India. He was talking to someone about a near-death experience he had while traveling. I could not imagine what he was talking about, and so I asked him. To my surprise, he indicated that he interpreted the same incident on that airliner as a near tragedy, narrowly escaped. I couldn’t believe it. It never once occurred to me that there was ever anything wrong with that aircraft or that we were in any danger at all. But while I was being amused by the flustered crew, my friend was preparing to meet his God.

My point in retelling this story is that we sometimes do not grasp the significance of an event until years later. That is certainly the case with Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek, recorded in Genesis 14. Having read this account, who would have ever imagined that the author of Hebrews a couple of thousand years later would have built an argument on this event? Well, the author of Hebrews did precisely that, and this encounter and its meaning is the topic for this study.

Our author has spoken several times of the priestly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ in the chapters leading up to our text. He has already cited Psalm 110:4 in chapter 5:

5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming high priest, but the one who glorified him was God, who said to him, “You are my Son! Today I have fathered you,” 6 as also in another place God says, “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” 7 During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion (Hebrews 5:5-7, underscoring mine).

It is not until our text in chapter 7 that the author explains just how the Messiah (the Lord Jesus Christ) is a priest “in the order of Melchizedek. He does so by interpreting and applying the events of Genesis 14 through the lens of David’s words in Psalm 110:4.

This is not the first time our author has employed this methodology. In chapters 3 and 4, he interprets and applies lessons to be learned from the failures of the first generation of Israelites to leave Egypt. This he does through the interpretive filter of Psalm 95:7-11. He shows why that generation failed to enter into God’s rest and then applies it to those living in his day. Just as that first generation needed Moses to intercede for them, so we need our Great High Priest to intercede on our behalf.

My Approach in this Lesson

We will begin our study in Genesis 14, where Abraham encounters Melchizedek. We will then proceed to Psalm 110, where David interprets Genesis 14 in prophetic terms. Then we will seek to explain our text in Hebrews 7:1-10 and to look for ways in which it furthers the author’s argument and how this applies to Christians today.

Genesis 14:1-24

Abraham was introduced to us in Genesis 11, where we are told that Abram left Ur of the Chaldeans along with several members of his family. They got only as far as Haran and then settled there (11:27-32). Chapter 12 then begins with the first recorded declaration of the Abrahamic Covenant:

1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. 2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will bless one another by your name” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran for Canaan, along with his wife, Sarai, and Lot, his nephew, and some others he had acquired in Haran (Genesis 12:4-5). When a famine came upon the land of Canaan, Abram went down to Egypt where he passed off his wife as his sister. God not only protected her purity, He also arranged for Abram’s return to the land of promise.

In chapter 13, we read that the flocks of Abram and Lot had increased to the point where the two men had to part paths. Abram gave Lot his choice of where to settle, and it seems as though he chose the better place. (A little time – and a few chapters in Genesis – will indicate that he made the wrong choice.) And so Lot headed east for the valley of the Jordan, eventually pitching his tents in close proximity to Sodom, even though it was not the ideal place to bring up a family (13:12-13).

Abram was left with what seemed to be the inferior choice. I wonder if Abram experienced any grief for letting his nephew take advantage of him. God’s words of confirmation and assurance must have been an encouragement to Abram because He promised to give all that he could see to him. He also confirmed His promise of many descendants:

14 After Lot had departed, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west. 15 I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants also can be counted. 17 Get up and walk throughout the land, for I will give it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live by the oaks of Mamre in Hebron, and he built an altar to the Lord there (Genesis 13:14-18).

And so Abram lived by the oaks of Mamre, in Hebron, while Lot settled near Sodom. Abram’s alliance with Mamre and his two brothers, Eschol and Aner, would prove to be most advantageous, while Lot’s alliance with the people of Sodom would prove disastrous (both sooner and later).

That brings us to chapter 14, where Lot “meets” Chedorlaomer, and Abram meets Melchizedek. The land of Canaan was a crucial land link between Egypt and those nations or peoples to Israel’s north or east. Israel was on the trade route known as the “way of the kings.” Whoever controlled Canaan controlled the lucrative trade between the lands it linked. And so we see why Chedorlaomer and his three eastern allies were intent upon maintaining their control over those small city-states in Canaan. After serving Chedorlaomer for twelve years, the five southern city-states, including Sodom and Gomorrah, rebelled against him, along with a number of other kingdoms. Chedorlaomer and his allies were determined to regain their dominance in this area, and so they set out to suppress the rebellion of all the kingdoms in their path. They attacked each rebel kingdom on their approach saving the five Canaanite kings for their last battle. They seem to be taking no chances regarding any future trouble that these surrounding kingdoms might present. Chedorlaomer and his allies were completely successful, and all that was left now was this coalition of the five kings, whom they would confront in the valley of Siddim, somewhere near the Dead Sea.

It seems to me that the description of Moses is too detailed not to be of significance to the reader. On the one hand, it would seem that these kingdoms were some of those that Moses and the Israelites defeated on their way toward Canaan, or that Joshua and the Israelites would defeat when they entered the Promised Land. On the other hand, it would appear that we are being informed of the size and the power of this coalition of four eastern kings, led as it were by Chedorlaomer. If all of these kingdoms had fallen before these four kings, it would seem most unlikely that Abram, with his 318 household servants, and whatever men Mamre, Eschol, and Aner contributed, would be able to defeat such a daunting enemy. Isn’t this the point, that humanly speaking, Abram’s mission could have been called “Mission Impossible”?

It looks as though the battle of the five against the four did not last long and was really a rout. I doubt that Abram would have felt any obligation to engage Chedorlaomer and company, except for the fact that they captured Lot and all of his possessions. Lot was family, and Abram felt patriarchal enough to go after him in hot pursuit. Abram called upon his allies, Mamre, Eschol, and Aner, and they set off in pursuit all the way to Dan. Here, Abram divided his forces and engaged in a night attack, chasing his enemies all the way to Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered all the people taken captive, along with what must have been a substantial amount of spoils of war.2

What a triumphant return that must have been. Think of the joy of all those captives, who were on their way back to their own cities. Think of the relief that Lot must have experienced. Think of the wonder of Mamre, Eschol and Aner, as they reflected on a battle they surely should not have won, but did! The king of Sodom was ready to welcome Abram back with open arms. In our day, he would probably have orchestrated a ticker-tape parade. His motives don’t appear to be particularly pure, but then what would we expect from the king of Sodom?

This is the point at which Abraham encounters Melchizedek.

18 Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (Now he was the priest of the Most High God.) 19 He blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 Worthy of praise is the Most High God, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything (Genesis 14:18-20).

It appears as though Melchizedek ministers to Abram and leaves before the king of Sodom arrives. These two men – Melchizedek and Bera, king of Sodom – are just about as different as any two men could be. Granted, they are both kings, but Melchizedek is (as we shall see in Hebrews) “king of righteousness,” while Bera is the sovereign of a city that will soon be destroyed for its wickedness. Bera will appeal to Abram’s ego, no doubt praising him for his military genius and hoping for the return of the captives from his city. Melchizedek will point Abram to God as the true source of the victory, and he will leave with a tenth of the spoils.

We are told that Melchizedek was the king of Salem (which means peace) and a priest of God Most High. He came with bread and wine, something which has been the source of considerable speculation.3 What is significant is that he blessed Abram and then blessed God Most High as “Possessor of heaven and earth” (verse 19) and as the “One who delivered Abram’s enemies into his hand” (verse 20). This is all that is recorded of what Melchizedek said to Abram, and it is that which Moses, the author of Genesis, thought to be most important to the reader. When you think about it, there is really nothing more that needs to be said. It all boils down to this:

God owns it all – everything in heaven and earth.

Abram is blessed by God.

God gave Abram the victory over his enemies.

When you think about it even more, Melchizedek’s words and actions are a confirmation of the covenant God had made with Abram. The God who promised to bless Abram has done so. He promised that Abram would be a blessing to others, and he surely was to those whom he set free, including Lot. He also promised to curse those who cursed Abram. And now God has just given Abram’s enemies into his hand.

But Melchizedek’s words were not merely a divine reflection of what had just happened; they were also instructive to Abram in light of what was going to happen, almost immediately (it would seem) after Melchizedek and he parted ways. The king of Sodom no doubt sought to flatter Abram for his great military victory: “What a military genius you are, Abram!”4 Let Abram take the credit for what God has done. How the king of Sodom would have turned Abram from God, just as Melchizedek turned him to God.

We know from our text that Abram has done at least two things in response to the ministry of Melchizedek. First, he swore an oath to the Lord God Most High that he would not take anything from the king of Sodom (verse 22). And second, Abram gave Melchizedek a tithe of all the spoils he had acquired (verse 20). Abram got the message Melchizedek came to deliver: this was all about God and His faithfulness to His covenant. It was not about Abram’s military genius. To God be the glory!

And so as Melchizedek fades from the scene, the king of Sodom appears. He requests from Abram only the people of his kingdom that had been taken captive by Chedorlaomer. Abram could keep all the spoils for himself. I find this both interesting and amusing. Of course the spoils belonged to Abram. That is why Abram had already given a tithe of these spoils of war to Melchizedek. They were no longer the property of Bera (king of Sodom) to give to Abram. But Bera wanted to give the appearance that he was blessing Abram with this “gift,” and that is exactly why Abram refused it. God had given Abram the victory over his enemies. God had promised to bless Abram in many other ways, with many descendants, with much land, and (presumably) with much wealth. Abram would not allow this heathen king to think he had enriched Abram. He would not allow Bera to take the place of God. And so he refused these riches, choosing to wait for God’s blessings in God’s time. No doubt Bera went his way scratching his head.

Note finally that while Abram refused any of the spoils of war, he did not impose his beliefs or convictions on his allies. Aner, Eschol, and Mamre were to take their fair share of the spoils. It was Abram (and not Bera) who blessed these men, and that was what God had promised. God would bless Abraham, and he in turn would be a blessing to others. And so his allies went away enriched for their friendship with Abram, but his enemies were dead. (The king of Sodom would live for a time, but soon he would be dead as well.)5

A Priest after the Order of Melchizedek
Psalm 110

1 A psalm of David.

Here is the Lord’s proclamation to my lord:

“Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!”

2 The Lord extends your dominion from Zion.

Rule in the midst of your enemies!

3 Your people willingly follow you when you go into battle.

On the holy hills at sunrise the dew of your youth belongs to you.

4 The Lord makes this promise on oath and will not revoke it:

“You are an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek.”

5 O sovereign Lord, at your right hand he strikes down kings in the day he unleashes his anger.

6 He executes judgment against the nations;

he fills the valleys with corpses;

he shatters their heads over the vast battlefield.

7 From the stream along the road he drinks; then he lifts up his head (Psalm 110:1-7).

About a thousand years have passed since Abram returned victorious from battle and he was met by Melchizedek. The name of this mysterious fellow has not occurred again in Scripture, until Psalm 110. The author of Hebrews has already cited verse 1 of this psalm in Hebrews 1:13 and verse 4 in Hebrews 5:6. Verses 1-3 of this psalm speak of Messiah as the King of Israel, while verses 4-7 speak of Him as the Great High Priest, after the pattern of Melchizedek. Verses 1-3 are an oracle spoken to the Son by the Father,6 declaring Him to be King Messiah. Verses 4-6 are God’s declaration with an oath that the Son is also a new order of High Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. These verses assume that Melchizedek is a prototype of Messiah.

There is much that could be said of this psalm, but let us recognize that we are essentially dealing with one verse, as we were dealing with only three verses in Genesis 14. Several points of correspondence between Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 are evident. First, both Melchizedek and Messiah are kings and priests. This could not have happened under the Law, for we recall all too clearly the consequences for king Saul usurping the function of Samuel in 1 Samuel 13. It can and will happen with Messiah, for He inaugurates a new order of priest:

12 “Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying:

“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!

From His place He shall branch out,

And He shall build the temple of the LORD;

13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.

He shall bear the glory,

And shall sit and rule on His throne;

So He shall be a priest on His throne,

And the counsel of peace shall be between them both”’ (Zechariah 6:12-13, NKJV, emphasis mine).

Second, we can see from both Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 that the enemies (of Abram or Messiah) will be destroyed, while the friends and followers of Abram and Messiah are blessed. Third, in both Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, there is a period of waiting that is required. We know, of course, that Abram had to wait for God’s blessings (rather than to grasp what the king of Sodom offered immediately). Likewise, in Psalm 110:1, we find the Father instructing the Son to be seated at His side and to wait until the time when He subjected His enemies. Fourth, there may be a “Jerusalem connection” here as well.Melchizedek is called the“king of Salem.” We know that “salem” means peace, but in Psalm 76 we read:

1 For the music director; to be accompanied by stringed instruments; a psalm of Asaph, a song.

God has revealed himself in Judah;

in Israel his reputation is great.

2 He lives in Salem;

he dwells in Zion (Psalm 76:1-2).

In Psalm 110:2, we read that the Messiah’s scepter will extend from Zion (Jerusalem). Fifth, in Genesis 14:22, Abram swears an oath, while in Psalm 110:4, God swears an oath that Messiah will be a priest after the order of Melchizedek.Finally, it is hardly necessary to point out that the main connection between Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 is Melchizedek.

Is Melchizedek a Theophany?

I know there are some who feel strongly that Melchizedek is a theophany, an Old Testament appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity – Christ in the Old Testament. The first thing we should note is that there is no clear indication of a theophany, as there appears to be in Judges 13, where the Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his wife, foretelling of the birth of a son. David does write that the Messiah, like Melchizedek will be a priest “forever,” but the way the author of Hebrews validates this from Genesis 14 would give us pause for thought as to whether Melchizedek was divine. I would have to conclude that thinking of Melchizedek as a theophany is probably speculative.

Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:1-10

1 Now this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, met Abraham as he was returning from defeating the kings and blessed him. 2 To him also Abraham apportioned a tithe of everything. His name first means king of righteousness, then king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time. 4 But see how great he must be, if Abraham the patriarch gave him a tithe of his plunder. 5 And those of the sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have authorization according to the law to collect a tithe from the people, that is, from their fellow countrymen, although they too are descendants of Abraham. 6 But Melchizedek who does not share their ancestry collected a tithe from Abraham and blessed the one who possessed the promise. 7 Now without dispute the inferior is blessed by the superior, 8 and in one case tithes are received by mortal men, while in the other by him who is affirmed to be alive. 9 And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. 10 For he was still in his ancestor Abraham’s loins when Melchizedek met him (Hebrews 7:1-10).

The first ten verses of Hebrews 7 divide into two main parts: verses 1-3, and verses 4-10. In verses 1-3, the author dwells on those things that we know about Melchizedek from Genesis 14. Verses 4-10 focus on Abraham’s response to Melchizedek and its implications. In particular, the author focuses on the fact that Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek. Let’s look at how the argument develops, leading the reader to the conclusion that Melchizedek is a prototype of Messiah, and that his priesthood was vastly superior to that of Aaron and his descendants.

Verses 1-3

Verse 1 links the author’s remarks to the events recorded in Genesis 14, and specifically to Melchizedek, whom we meet there. The first point of emphasis is the titles of Melchizedek. He was “the king of Salem” and “a priest of God Most High” (verse 1). But these names were more significant than they first appeared. Their meaning pointed to the Messiah. Melchizedek is a compound word that comes from two Hebrew words, the first means “king” while the second means “righteousness.” And thus the author rightly indicates that Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” By this we are reminded of the author’s description of “the Son” in chapter 1:

8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing” (Hebrews 1:8-9, underscoring mine).

Next, we are told that Melchizedek was “the king of Salem” meaning “the king of Peace.” Just as Abram’s victory over Chedorlaomer brought peace to the land, so the Messiah’s victory over His enemies will bring peace, as implied in Psalm 110. But in addition to this, we should recognize that Messiah is identified as the “Prince of Peace”:

For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called: Extraordinary Strategist, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, emphasis mine).

Things get a bit more esoteric in verse 3:

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time (Hebrews 7:3).

I don’t believe the author is suggesting that Melchizedek was God, in that he had neither beginning nor end. I believe he is indicating that by the way he was described (or not) in Genesis 14, one can see a kind of similarity to Messiah. In Genesis 14, we are not told who Melchizedek’s parents were. We are told nothing of his birth and nothing of his death. In a sense, therefore, the description of Melchizedek in Genesis has a certain correspondence with Messiah. From what we are not told (for this is an argument from silence – not unusual for Jewish writers), therefore, Melchizedek seems similar to Messiah.

When we come to our Lord Jesus, our Great High Priest, we know that He is God (and man). He is eternal, and thus His priesthood is eternal as well. This is something our author will take up soon in his developing argument.

Verses 4-10

So, our author wishes us to view Melchizedek as a kind of literary prototype of Messiah. Both were king and priest. Both appeared to have an eternal priesthood. Both were characterized by peace and righteousness. Both will carry out their ministry from Jerusalem. Now, in verses 4-10, the author wishes to draw some conclusions from Abram’s response to Melchizedek, as recorded in Genesis 14.

The author now focuses on Abraham’s response to Melchizedek. Specifically, he wishes to dwell on the fact that Abraham offered a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek. He does not do this as a fund-raising device; he does this because of what his tithe revealed about the relationship of these two men. He does this to prove that Melchizedek and His antitype, Jesus, are vastly superior to Abraham and his future offspring, Aaron.

Abraham was said to have offered a tithe to Melchizedek. This implies that Abraham looked on Melchizedek as his superior. It is true that Aaron’s descendants also receive tithes from other descendants of Abraham (verse 5). But the one who collected a tithe in Genesis 14 (Melchizedek) was not one of Abraham’s descendants. One could say that Melchizedek was not even Jewish. This Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, the one to whom God had made such great and amazing promises (verse 6). How easy it would be for a Jew to think of Abraham as being superior to Melchizedek, but neither David nor our author sees it this way. Genesis 14 and Psalm 110:4 make the point that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, and to his descendant, Aaron.

But how is it that Aaron can be said to be subordinate (inferior?) to Melchizedek? Our author reasons that, in a sense, Aaron was in Abraham’s loins when he gave a tithe to Melchizedek. Thus, not only Abraham but Aaron as well gave a tithe to Melchizedek, thus acknowledging his superiority to them. The greater (Melchizedek) blesses the lesser (Abraham). The lesser (Abraham) pays a tithe to the greater (Melchizedek). The priesthood of Jesus – of the order of Melchizedek – is greater than that of Aaron. That is the point our author is seeking to prove, and in his mind, he has accomplished his task.

Conclusion

So what is it that the author wishes his readers to learn from this text? He has shown us, his readers, that the priesthood of Jesus is greater than the Aaronic priesthood because His prototype (Melchizedek) blessed Abraham (Aaron’s forefather) and because Abraham offered a tithe to Melchizedek. The implications of this will be spelled out as the next chapters unfold. For now, let’s focus on some of the lessons we can learn from the texts we have studied in this message.

First, God’s covenant promises are sure and certain.But just how can they be fulfilled? We have seen that Abraham’s “seed,” the promised Messiah, will be both king and priest. He is the “King of righteousness.” But how can a “righteous king” bless an unrighteous people? He can do so because He is also a “high priest of the order of Melchizedek.” As our Great High Priest, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. And as our High Priest, He also continues to make intercession for us, helping us in our time of need. In this way, He fulfills His covenant promise to Abraham and his “descendants” (which includes everyone who trusts in Jesus).

Second, our text helps us to understand the concept of federal headship. In Romans 5, Paul wrote:

12 So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned – 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. 15 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. 17 For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous (Romans 5:12-19).

Time will not permit a full explanation of this great text, but we should be able to see what Paul is saying here. Adam’s sin somehow brought condemnation upon all men. We are all sinners because Adam sinned. The good news is that Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection makes all those who are “in Him” righteous. Christ is able to reverse the effects of Adam’s sin. But how is it that we become participants in Adam’s sin or in Christ’s saving work? We become participants by federal headship. Just as Aaron was in Abraham when he offered a tithe to Melchizedek, we were “in Adam” when he sinned. All those who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins were likewise “in Christ” when He died and rose again. Thus, we are freed from sin and are new creations in Christ. The federal headship we see in Romans 5 has been illustrated for us in Hebrews 7.

Third, we can see the author’s use of Psalm 110 in interpreting and applying Genesis 14. We have already seen how our author used Psalm 95 to interpret the events surrounding Israel’s failure to enter rest in Canaan in Hebrews 3 and 4. While we dare not attempt to interpret the Scriptures exactly as our author has (he was divinely inspired), we can see that we should employ Scripture to interpret other Scripture. The Scriptures are our best tool for interpreting any text of Scripture. I believe that we can also be stimulated to study our Bibles more thoroughly because we see again and again that the Scriptures contain much more than meets the eye at a casual reading.

Fourth, we see from our texts that both Melchizedek and Messiah are both kings and priests. While this was prohibited by the Law of Moses, it can and does occur under the New Covenant, with Christ as our Great High Priest. So we see from Psalm 110. But we should also keep in mind that we, the church, are a “kingdom of priests,” and we will “reign with Him.”7 We need to consider how we should exercise our role as a “kingdom of priests”8 now, and in eternity.

Fifth, as descendants of Abraham, we should be a blessing to others.Abraham was a blessing to many. He freed the captives, including Lot. He brought prosperity to his allies in battle. And, of course, he would be that father of Isaac, whose “seed” (Jesus Christ) would be a blessing through His kingly and priestly work on our behalf. We need to actively seek ways in which we may be a blessing to others. First and foremost, we will bless men by pointing them to Jesus as the source of forgiveness from sin and of eternal life.

Sixth, we learn from Abraham that nothing can happen that will prevent the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to His people. Neither Abraham’s sin (in lying about his wife Sarah, calling her his sister – Genesis 12, 20), nor his weakness (too old to bear a child), nor his enemies (like Chedorlaomer) could prevent God from fulfilling His promises.

Seventh, we need to give God the glory for the victories He gives to us. We do this in giving the glory to God in worship, and in public praise before men, and in giving to God. As Abraham did, so should we.

Eighth, we should also practice separation from those wicked people who would appear to be a source of blessing to us. If our blessings come from God, then we need to look to God for those blessings. We don’t need to cut corners, legally or ethically, and we don’t need to enter into alliances with those whose trust and whose values are contrary to God and His purposes.

Ninth (and finally), we need to apply what we have learned in one experience with God to the other areas of our life.I am thinking here of what we read immediately after Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek:

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance.” 2 But Abram said, “O sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Abram added, “Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!” 4 But look, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.” 5 The Lord took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars – if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty (Genesis 15:1-6).

It seems as though Abram may have had some second thoughts when he had time to reflect on his situation. He refused the spoils of war the king of Sodom offered. He saved his nephew Lot, but he was still childless. How could he possibly be the exalted father that his name suggested? What if Chedorlaomer and his colleagues decided to return to fight again? Our Lord’s words to Abram were gentle and gracious (in them he found mercy and grace in his time of need – see Hebrews 4:16). God simply assured Abram that He was faithful. As he had blessed Abram in battle, so He would bless him with a son. God who had proven Himself faithful would fulfill all of His promises.

And so Abram believed in God, and on the basis of his faith (and the future work of Jesus, his descendant), God declared him to be righteous. It is the same today, my friend. God declares men to be righteous on the basis of their faith in the High Priestly work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We are not saved by striving, but by believing in God’s promises, and specifically in the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Have you trusted in Him? That is the most important thing you can ever do.


1 Copyright © 2008 by Robert L. Deffinbaugh. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 16 in the series, Near to the Heart of God – A Study of the Book of Hebrews, prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on October 26, 2008. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.

2 If I understand the text correctly, it would be much more than the spoils taken from the five kings of the valley near the Dead Sea. It would rather have been the spoils from all of the earlier victories which we read about in verses 5-7.

3 While bread and wine were and are the symbols employed for the Lord’s Supper (communion), they were common fare at the dinner table. They are mentioned together in a number of texts without any apparent spiritual significance. See Judges 19:19; 1 Samuel 10:3; 16:20; 25:18; 2 Samuel 16:1-2; Nehemiah 5:15; Luke 7:33-34.

4 I know I’m reading between the lines, but this does not seem too fanciful, given who this man was and what he wanted from Abram. If Abram and his allies had just defeated the army that had defeated him, the king of Sodom is not likely to be making any demands of Abram. But he can appeal to his ego.

5 So we find in Genesis 19.

6 It is unfortunate that most translations do not give any indication that the word rendered “says” (NASB) or “declared” (CSB) is not the normal word for speech. The translator’s note in the NET Bible informs us that, “The word נְאֻם (neum) is used frequently in the OT of a formal divine announcement through a prophet.”

7 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6.

8 See 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 1:6.

Related Topics: Christology