Meditations in the life of Abraham : 25. Melchizedek
Gen 14:17-20 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). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
These are strange verses and they tell us a great deal. We note first that when Abram returns from rescuing Lot and takes him back to his home, Sodom, the king of Sodom comes out to meet them. Now Sodom had been plundered in these tribal wars, which is how Lot had come to be ta ken, but somehow the king of Sodom had escaped. Now it seems he comes to welcome Lot’s return because Lot had been an occupant of Sodom (14:2) and was clearly a respected wealthy man who sat with the leaders of the city in the gate of judgement (Gen 19:1). This does not show Lot up in a good light.
But then we come to something more strange. The king of Salem (orJerusalem) also came to meet Abram, No doubt word travelled fast and he had obviously heard what had happened. He comes bearing bread and wine. The writer to the Hebrews considers he typifies Jesus. (Heb 7:1-17) and refers back to the messianic Psa 110 which is a clear reference to Jesus. Yet that almost seems a distraction to the strangeness of the account here in Genesis. What does it tell us about Melchizedek?
Well first that he was king of Jerusalem. He was the leader of what was to become one of the most significant cities in the world, the capital of Israel. So, first he is royalty. But then we are told that he is God’s priest. What? We thought Abram was the only one that God was speaking to? If we have conveyed that, I apologise. There are signs in early Chinese culture that they worshipped the One God who was Creator of all things. Yes, Abram is going to have a unique relationship with the Lord, but that doesn’t stop Him communicating with others around the world. Somehow this king has entered into a relationship with the Lord and has been given the role of the Lord’s priest. There, in the midst of this pagan land, is a signpost to the Lord!
Yes, the bread and the wine obviously remind us of Jesus at the Last Supper, but they were just indications of good provision from this godly priest. He has heard what has happened and his heart leaps and he knows that God has blessed this man and that he must go out and signify that by blessing him with provisions. But he does more than just give him possessions, he gives him God’s blessing or God’s decree of goodness.
When we first see the word ‘blessed’ used, it is God blessing the first living creatures, enabling them to increase and multiply (Gen1:20-22) and then mankind to be fruitful (Gen1:28). It was His decree of good, or His decree that enabled them to multiply, it was an impartation of ongoing life. So now we find this priest blessing Abram declaring (in our words) “How God has decreed good for you; know it more and more, and He Himself will be able to rejoice in the goodness of what happens to you.” A genuine blessing is a decree from heaven that guarantees goodness to come from heaven upon that person, and Melchizedek is the channel through whom this blessing comes. Abram’s response is to want to give him a tenth of all he has, but we’ll see more of that in the next meditation.
Is it any wonder Melchizedek is compared to Jesus? Jesus comes as a ruler in the kingdom of God, eventually to be seen as King of Kings (Rev 19:16) and also as God’s High Priest, to bless us with all the goodness of God through the sacrifice of his own life. But there is something else he brings: revelation of God, and we will consider that more fully in the next study.