Athlete, Who Is Melchizedek?

*This devotional series was written by the AIA staff team at the University of Virginia

Read Genesis 14 & Psalm 110

This is a confusing chapter.  Lots of kings from strange lands are mentioned.  To simplify, five kings in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against a king named Kederlaomer, who had been forcing them to pay a tax to him for twelve years.  Kederlaomer recruited three other kings and attacked the five kings in area of Sodom, carrying off Lot's family and their possessions in the process.  Abram hears about Lot's situation and rescues him.  

Then a mysterious figure named Melchizedek ("king of righteousness"), a priest of God who is also the king of Salem (aka Jerusalem), comes out to meet Abram and the king of Sodom as they are discussing what to do with the rescued people and possessions.  This priest and king spreads out a table of bread and wine for Abram and blesses Abram in the name of God.  Abram gives him a tithe, a tenth of all of the possessions from the battle, but he refuses to keep any of the possessions for himself because he does not want to be tied down by any kind of obligation to a pagan king.  

The only other mentions of Melchizedek in Scripture are in Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5 & 7.  He appears on the scene without explanation and vanishes.  He seemingly has no beginning or end (Hebrews 7:3).  Many hundreds of years later, Psalm 110 speaks of a messianic figure "in the order of Melchizedek" who will judge the nations, and Hebrews 7 picks up on this prophetic Psalm, confirming that Jesus is this priest "in the order of Melchizedek."  Like Melchizedek, Jesus is a priest (a mediator) and a king of righteousness who graciously feeds his people bread and wine.  Like Melchizedek, Jesus has no beginning or end.  The author of Hebrews demonstrates that Melchizedek and Jesus are greater than all of the Old Testament priests, whose priesthood was based on physical lineage, and greater than Abram, given that Abram gave his tithe to Melchizedek and was blessed by him.  

When reading the book of Hebrews, it almost feels as if the author of Hebrews went back and added chapter 14 to the book of Genesis in order to help make the case for the supremacy of Jesus.  Except he didn't.  Throughout the Old Testament, God is pleased to give us living pictures (often called "types") of what the coming Messiah would be like.  Melchizedek is one of those types of Christ, by far the most mysterious of them all, yet even his mysterious appearance points to the mystery of God becoming man.  

 Questions for Reflection and Prayer

1. Melchizedek, specifically his likeness to Christ, helps us to see the unchanging nature of God's plans to save his people.  Even in the days of Abram, God knew exactly what kind of priest and king He would send to save his people.  How does the unity of the story that God is telling in Scripture impact your understanding of God and your faith?  Take some time to reflect on how Melchizedek points to the nature and character of Jesus.

2. Abram's faith is very evident in this chapter.  He pursues a powerful king.  He gives the first tenth of his possessions to God through Melchizedek.  He refuses to be yoked to a pagan king by accepting his payment.  What do you have that does not belong to God?  Are you trusting God with your possessions?  Are you indebted or tied to any person or institution that could compromise your ability to serve and honor God?

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