A lingering look at Melchizedek’s short story

Genesis 14:17-24 is the first of just three biblical passages about Melchizedek: only ten verses mention his name (Genesis 14:18, Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:1,10,11,15,17).  Uniquely, he is both a priest of God Most High and a king, and thus foreshadows the dual ministry of our Lord Jesus as ‘a great High Priest’ (Hebrews 4:14) and ‘King of kings’ (Revelation 19:11-16). Also (as noted in Hebrews 7:3) the narrative tells nothing of his ancestry (thus reflecting the eternal self-existence of the Son of God) or of his death and any successors (foreshadowing the fact that Jesus rose from the dead ‘in the power of an indestructible life’, Hebrews 7:16), so he holds both offices ‘for ever’ (Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 7:3,17,21,24,28).

In his brief encounter with Abram Melchizedek performs three significant actions that have abiding relevance for us.

[] He speaks blessing upon Abram and to God Most High

‘Benediction’ means ‘speaking blessing’. Melchizedek did so to Abram on his return from rescuing his nephew Lot, a prison-of-war resulting from his compromised choice to live in immoral and vulnerable Sodom (Genesis 14:1-16). ‘And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High”’ (Genesis 14:19), adding: ‘and blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemy into your hands’ ( Genesis 14:20) – which is the essence of all true worship. Why don’t we, as royal priests, borrow the Anglican practice of ‘the kiss of peace’ in our corporate worship, using our hands (on a shoulder, in a handshake or hug) and our voice to impart to fellow-worshippers the blessing of the nail-pierced hands?

[] He shares bread and wine with Abram

‘Melchizedek … brought out bread and wine’ (Genesis 14:18). Rightly does the NIV Study Bible designate this: ‘An ordinary meal (see Judges 19:19), in no way related to the N.T. ordinance of communion. Melchizedek offered the food and drink as a show of friendship and hospitality.’ However, since he foreshadows Jesus, his action must also represent Jesus’ many such meals, especially his last supper, which his church has perpetuated at his bidding. So, let’s keep that note of victorious celebration alive when we participate, realising also that it is he who invites us to ‘the Lord’s table’.

[] He sanctifies the Booty/Bounty of Abram’s spoils of battle

Jesus warned that possessions can posses us as an idol (mammon’, Matthew 6:24), becoming what Paul called ‘filthy lucre’ or ‘dirty money’ (1 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:7 King James Version). Notice what Abram here gives, also what he refuses to take. ‘Abram gave him a tenth of everything’ of his spoils of war (Genesis 14:20b). And, although the king of Sodom pleaded with him to keep those spoils, Abram protested: take the goods for yourself’ (Genesis 14:23). He had already given Lot first choice of where to live, and had sworn to the ‘Possessor of heaven and earth’ (Genesis 14:19,22) ‘that I would not take … anything that is yours’ (Genesis 14:23-24), as Elisha later refused Naaman’s gift of gratitude for his healing  (2 Kings 5:16); he would never to be obligated to the king of Sodom, his reliance was on ‘God Most High’ alone to gain ultimate possession of Canaan. It would seem appropriate to give our tithes and offerings when we break bread – even by a thank you note in the offering basket when paid by bank standing order.

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