************ Sermon on Genesis 14:18-20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 4, 2012
"A Priest in the Order of Melchizedek"
"Bigger and Better." This is one of the games our youth group plays. They are broken into teams. They are given a pencil. They are told to go into the neighborhoods surrounding our church building, to knock on doors at random, and to ask if they can trade the pencil for something bigger and better. Then, they are to knock on another door and trade that item for something bigger and better. A couple of years ago, one group came back with a big screen TV. Another group came back with a sofa/sleeper.
Remember who is the human author of Genesis? It is Moses. Moses was the prophet and leader. Most of you are also familiar with the name of Moses' brother: Aaron. Aaron was the high-priest. He and his family, together with members of the tribe of Levi, were chosen to present the offerings and prayers of the people to God.
Did you know that the Bible also presents another priest and another priestly line? This priestly line, as we will find out, is bigger and better than the one of Aaron. I am talking about the Melchizedek priesthood. This priestly line is rather mysterious and often misunderstood.
Let me remind you of the setting of our Bible reading. Lot and Abraham parted company and went their separate ways because the land could not support them while they stayed together with all their flocks and herds. Lot chose the Jordan plain and eventually settled in Sodom. Abraham turned and went in the other direction.
One day a messenger came to the tent of Abraham with bad news, terrible news. A coalition of four kings from the East had invaded, captured Sodom, and enslaved all its population – including Lot and his family. Abraham organized a rescue party. He caught up with the invaders, attacked them at night, and rescued Lot and all the wealth and people of Sodom.
When Abraham returned from the battle, he was met by Melchizedek, King of Salem. Melchizedek offered Abraham bread and wine. Abraham accepted the bread and wine from Melchizedek and gave him a tenth of all the spoils.
Who is Melchizedek? Why is he important? And, how does Melchizedek tie in with our observance of Lent this year?
I A Needed Priestly Line
A You need to realize that God promised a new priesthood, a bigger and better priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek. God's purpose in creating this new priesthood was to replace the old priesthood of Aaron and the Levites. We find the promise in Psalm 110:
(Ps 110:4) The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."The Bible makes clear these are the words of God the Father to God the Son (Heb 5:6).
B We need to ask why? Why did God promise a new line of priests? What is wrong with the priestly line of Aaron and the Levites?
The priesthood of Aaron and the Levites was always meant to be temporary.
The priesthood of Aaron and the Levites did not bring perfection or completeness (Heb 7:11).
The men who served as priests needed to meet no moral or spiritual qualifications in order to become priests. They simply inherited their offices as it was passed from father to son throughout the generations.
Furthermore, the men who served as priests were sinners – exactly like the people they represented before God. That is why the men who served as priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins, as well as for the sins of the people (Heb 5:3). Consider, for instance, the two sons of Aaron God struck dead for using improper methods of worship. And, consider the immoral acts of the sons of Eli who used the Tabernacle to commit adultery.
The point is, a new kind of priest was needed – something bigger and better. A line of priest that brought perfection and completeness. A line of priest that was perfect. A line of priest that lived forever (Heb 7:16-17).
This new line of priest is the order of Melchizedek.
II Who Melchizedek Is
A Now, we don't know a lot about Melchizedek. Let's look at what Genesis tells us, but in reverse order.
First, we are told Melchizedek was priest "of God Most High" (Gen 14:18). Let me emphasize the last phrase: "of God Most High." Meaning what? Meaning that back then Abraham was not the only one who knew and worshiped the one only true God. Meaning that back then Abraham was not the only one who called on the name of the Lord (cf Gen 12:8). Meaning that in a world full of pagans and heathens and atheists, God had preserved more than one family and one man to serve and worship Him. Meaning that Abraham and Melchizedek were spiritual brothers because they both served the Lord God Almighty.
We must not make the mistake of thinking Abraham and his family were the only believers of their day. And, we must not make the mistake of thinking we are the only believers of our age.
There is an old joke of Peter showing newcomers around heaven and telling them to be quiet as they approach a certain section because the group in this section thinks they are the only ones up there. Sometimes this group is Baptist, sometimes it is Reformed, sometimes it is Presbyterian – it depends on the person telling the joke.
Elijah made the same mistake. Remember Elijah? He thought that he alone served the Lord. Two times he cried out to the Lord, "I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too" (1 Kings 19:10,14). The Lord quickly set Elijah straight on this matter:
(1Ki 19:18) Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.
Don't forget what we confess about the church: that she is catholic or universal. This church is preserved by God against the rage of the whole world, even though for a time it may appear very small in the eyes of men – as though it were snuffed out. So, true Christian believers are not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or certain persons. But, they are spread and dispersed throughout the entire world. By the grace of God, such was the case at the time of Abraham and Melchizedek.
B Second, not only was Melchizedek a true believer, he was also "priest" of God Most High (Gen 14:18). Meaning what? Meaning he was God's duly-appointed servant. Meaning his was the duty and the calling to present offerings before the Lord – sin offerings, fellowship offerings, thank offerings. And, his was also the duty and calling to present prayers and petitions and needs to God.
Melchizedek was "priest of God Most High" (Gen 14:18). This means that the altars Abraham built in Canaan were not the only altars dedicated to the service of God (cf Gen 12:7,8). And, this means Abraham was not the only one offering acceptable offerings and sacrifices to God.
C Third, we are told Melchizedek was a king. Scripture tells us that Melchizedek was "King of Salem" (Gen 12:18).
Salem is one of the old, ancient names for Jerusalem. But, remember, Biblical names often have meaning. Salem is the Hebrew word for "peace." Telling us what? Telling us that Melchizedek is King of Salem and, therefore, King of Peace.
D Fourth, we know his name. His name is "Mel-chizedek." In the Bible and among the Jews, as you know, a name often has great meaning. We pick names for our children because they sound nice. Or, we name our kids after a grandparent. In the Bible, however, names often tell you something about the person. This is why some people in Scripture are given a change in names. This was the case with Abraham and Sarah. God gave them new names, names of meaning and significance.
"Melchizedek" is a name filled with meaning and significance. It actually is a compound name or a hyphenated name. It is made up of two Hebrews words that have been joined together: "Melek" meaning king and "Zadok" meaning righteousness. Put them together and we have "King of Righteousness."
Melchizedek was "King of Righteousness." Telling us what? Telling us he was one of the Lord's righteous. A holy man. A man of faith and purity. A paragon of virtue. A spiritual giant. Someone who walked the talk. Not a hypocritical sinner whose faith was only a pretense and whose Christian life was one big lie.
E The fifth thing we know about Melchizedek is his genealogy. Here the Bible becomes downright mysterious. Listen to what Hebrews 7 tells us about Melchizedek:
(Heb 7:3) Without father or mother, without genealogy ...
The kings of Israel traced their roots back to King David. The priests of Israel traced their roots back to Aaron and the tribe of Levi. But Melchizedek had no roots. He appeared out of obscurity.
F The sixth thing we are told has to do with his life and death. Listen to how Hebrews put this:
(Heb 7:3) Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life ...This means the man Abraham met was not born and did not die.
III What Melchizedek Does
A Now, let's take a look at all that Melchizedek does.
First, when Abraham came back from battle, Melchizedek "brought out bread and wine" (Gen 14:18). And, he did so as "priest of God Most High" (Gen 14:18). Here, we see an anticipation of the Lord's Supper. Here we see a symbol of Christ's body and blood offered for us on the cross.
B Second, Melchizedek received a tithe from Abraham. Abraham, the father of all believers, gave a tenth of the plunder to Melchizedek. Just think how great Melchizedek must be that he received a tithe from a man such as Abraham (cf Heb 7:4-7).
C Third, Melchizedek blessed Abraham. He blessed Abraham who is the father of all believers and the recipient of God's promises. "And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater" (Heb 7:7).
IV A Priest After the Order of Melchizedek
God made a promise of a priest in the order of Melchizedek. God made a promise of a priest who is bigger and better than Aaron. So, review with me what we have learned about Melchizedek:
-He served God Most High.
-He was priest of God.
-He was King of Salem, that is King of Peace.
-He was King of Righteousness.
-He had no genealogy.
-He had no beginning of days or end of life.
-He gave Abraham bread and wine.
-He was worthy to receive Abraham's offering.
-He was great enough to bless Abraham.
Bigger and Better. The order of Melchizedek is bigger and better than the order of Aaron.
According to Hebrews 7, God the Father said to God the Son, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" (Heb 7:17).
So, what do we see when we look at Jesus? Isn't Jesus the only One Who can fulfill the job description of a priest according to the order of Melchizedek? For instance, isn't Jesus the only One Who can claim to have no genealogy? After all, He existed before mankind was created. And, He has no end in that He overcame death and conquered the grave. Only Jesus is without beginning of days or end of life. Like Melchizedek, Jesus is the King of Peace and the King of Righteousness. Like Melchizedek, Jesus offers us bread and wine. Like Melchizedek, Jesus presents a sacrifice to the Lord. Like Melchizedek, Jesus is worthy to receive our tithe.
As we observe Lent we meet a man and we hear a promise: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 110:4; Heb 7:17).
Now, here is the conclusion of the matter. Listen to how Hebrews puts this:
(Heb 7:26-27) Such a high priest meets our need--one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (27) Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Did you hear that last part? Jesus, a priest, offers Himself. He is the offerer and the offering.
Jesus, and only Jesus, meets our need. Not Aaron, not the Levites, not the priests of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church but only Jesus. He is our only high priest. He is the only high priest we need. He is the only high priest Who is qualified. Because He is not after the order of Aaron; rather, He is a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Unlike Aaron or any other priest, Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through Him (Heb 7:25). Why? Because He is bigger and better!
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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