In Hebrews 7, Paul discusses a fellow from ancient Hebrew history: Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later to be called Jerusalem) and the first priest of the Most High God. Paul opens the discussion with:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
The “slaughter of the kings” was the time Abram (later called Abraham) and 318 of his trained servants went out to rescue Abram’s nephew, Lot, from the combined armies of 5 kings who had invaded their neighbors and carried off the people and possessions of many cities including Sodom, Lot’s home (Genesis 14).
God was with Abram and his band of men, so they prevailed and returned with not only Lot but all the citizens and their goods. As they passed by Jerusalem, King Melchizedek came out with bread and wine and blessed Abram. Abram offered Melchizedek a tithe, paying honor to the Priest/King.
Why is Melchizedek Important?
The books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers maintain that Aaron (brother of Moses) received from God a monopoly over the priesthood for himself and his male descendants (Exodus 28:1). The family of Aaron had the exclusive right and responsibility to make offerings on the altar to the God of Israel. The rest of his tribe, the Levites, were given subordinate responsibilities within the sanctuary (Numbers 3).
Paul is making an argument against the objections of the Jewish leadership who stated that Jesus could not be a High Priest over them because He did not come from the family line of Aaron or Levi. This lineage was the source of all their priests. Besides, no one was allowed to be both Priest and King.
Yet, there was this Melchizedek. He was not of the tribe of Levi (Levi had not yet been born) and he had no genealogy yet Levi and Aaron (descendants of Abram) paid honor to Melchizedek through Abram because Melchizedek was more worthy of honor than was Abraham, whom the Israelites afford the highest of (earthly) honor as the father of their nation.
Hebrews 7:12-19 reads:
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.[a] 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies:[b]
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”[c]
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
Paul quotes the prophesy of Psalm 110:4 which says that the Messiah will be of the order of Melchizedek, not the Order of Aaron. Because He is of this higher order of priests, Jesus is able to serve as Priest and King, and has replaced the Law of Moses by fulfilling it and offering all believers a personal relationship with God.
In Hebrews 8:1-2 Paul makes his point:
Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.
Unlike Levitical priests who are born, serve in earthy temples built by man, and die; Jesus serves as High Priest in the sanctuary God built. He sits at the right hand of God Almighty Himself, and lives forever.
Jesus is worthy of our honor and devotion. Jesus is Lord.