Hebrews 7:1-10 “Order of Melchizedek”
Have you ever played “Where’s Waldo?”? I am sure you all know what I am talking about. One looks at a giant picture with hundred of little cartoon faces and bodies, and then one must find that exact figure of Waldo. I want to play that game with you this morning here in church. Instead of Waldo, we are going to look for Jesus. That should be easy and fun. Where is Jesus?!
A book was written about this very idea ten years ago. And, many articles and seminary papers have been published along these same lines. They will list such times as the angel that speaks with Hagar, the voice in the burning bush on Mt. Sinai, and the man who is seen in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the time of Daniel.
Those times could be manifestations of Jesus. Actually the only problem is that the Bible actually does not say that these people are in fact Jesus. We must be careful not to read too much into the Bible that actually is not there. That is called iesegesis. It is known as a heresy. We should not read things into holy text that is not there.
We really should not pick out people who look like Waldo and just say that it could be him. We need to see that it really is Waldo—I mean Jesus. In this case, we need a biblical reference that points truly to the fact that Jesus appears in the Old Testament. Fortunately, we do have such references. I will just point three such texts, the last being the one we read this morning.
First, Jesus appears on page one of the Bible. That is of course chapter one of Genesis and is the time when God created the world. We know that Jesus was there because we read in John 1 of the New Testament the text, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . .(14) and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. . . .” So, we have a very clear and explicit mention of Jesus being at the Creation.
If any of you have ever seen the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican that was painted by Michelangelo, you will see God’s hand reaching down to give the spark of life to Adam. In the cloud right behind God, we see the person of Jesus himself as an infant at the right hand of God. Truly, the notion that Jesus has been with God all along is not a new concept at all. It has long since been accepted theology based on the Gospel of John.
Also from the Gospel of John, we can read in Chapter 12:41 that the prophet Isaiah knew and saw Jesus: “Isaiah said this because he saw His glory and spoke about him.” This is actually Jesus himself saying that Isaiah saw him! That was a reference to Isaiah 6:1-10, “then I heard the voice of the Lord. . . .” Isaiah 6:1 “. . . .I saw the Lord sitting on the throne; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.” This reference is also found in Revelation 20:11 “Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it. . . .”
So, now we have at least two biblically affirmed sightings of Jesus in the Old Testament: once at the time of Creation and once at the time of the call of Isaiah as a prophet. The third example is what we read as our Scripture for today. In Hebrews 7:1-10 we read about this fellow whose name is Melchizedek. Why does the writer keep mentioning this old prophet from the time of Abraham? That is because, this prophet who lived at the time of Abraham, was Jesus!
We need to go back to Genesis 14:18-20. It says that the King of Salem blessed and received an offering from Abraham. This “King of Peace (Salem) was named Melchizedek, which literally means the “King of Justice.”
An interesting thing to note here is how the term melech for “king” in Hebrew is in speaking is indistinguishable from melach, which means “one who is sent by God.” So, a king who is sent by God and has been in the presence of the Almighty would be referred to also as a priest in the Greek writings of the New Testament. That is to say, one can be a priest and a king. They are not mutually exclusive. They are in fact mostly indistinguishable excepting that a priest has literally been in the temple, in the presence of God. In verse three of today’s scripture, we read then that this Melchizedek of old is in fact the Son of God.
At the end of this verse, by the way, is an interesting note. In our translations it says that Jesus remains a priest “forever.” This is not the typical term for “forever” at all in the Greek. This term means more “continually.” That is to say, then that Jesus was in the past, is still today, and will be into the future forever. The meaning is slightly different than we might otherwise understand.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel comes to mind again. One can see Jesus at the time of Creation, at the Birth by Mary, at the Cross, and at the Throne in heaven. Jesus was, is, and will be continually! Michelangelo got it right. We are going to talk about this more next week when we discuss the idea of a new covenant to replace that one of Abraham.
From verse 4 on, in our text for today, we read talk about Levites and tithes. We should remember that this letter to the Hebrews was written to the Jews in Rome in the first century. They knew who the Levites were. The Levites were the priestly class, and one of the tribes of Israel. The problem for the Jews in Rome was that the Romans have already destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and all of the Levitical priests had been slaughtered. The Levites had been priests by bloodline. Now that bloodline was no longer. The Levitcal line was never re-established. There are no priests today in the Jewish faith.
In Jesus’ time, you will recall that all people were required to pay what was known back then as the “temple tax.” That was 10%. We call this the tithe. However, the important thing about this idea of tithing is not the 10%. Yes, as we can read in Genesis 14 when Abraham met Melchizedek, Abraham did indeed give his first ten percent of the spoils of conquering the Promised Land back to God via Melchizedek. The remaining 90% he distributed to the rest of his army commanders. But again, the first gift was to God.
Jesus makes this clear in many places in the New Testament that he does not demand a Temple Tax be paid. You see, it used to be that one would never dare to approach the temple without the tithe in hand. The Levites had it set up that you would have to pay your way in to the Presence of God. Jesus, however, allowed people simply to come to Him.
Jesus did not want just 10% of people’s earnings. Jesus wanted their heart and soul. Check out Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law. . . .like justice. . . .” All of Matthew 23 is known as the “Woe, woe, woes.” If you are giving 10% but are not truly following Christ, then “woe, woe, woe.” To follow Christ means to give your all over to Him.
I hope you will recall the story in the Bible of the rich man who approaches Jesus and asks what he must do to follow Jesus. Jesus makes its perfectly clear that all he has to do is sell everything he has and give it away to the poor (Matthew 19:16 and on). You see, Jesus does not want just 10% of you. He wants it all.
So many stories in the Bible are about this very idea. When Ruth was with her Mother-in-Law Naomi about to head back to Israel, Ruth did not just give 10% of what she had in her purse and leave the mother-in-law to complete the journey alone. That would not have been enough. Ruth gave Naomi all of herself.
The story in Acts 5:1-11 comes to mind. A rich couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold their property and laid the proceeds at the feet of the Apostle Peter. They had decided to keep back a portion of the proceeds for themselves. God knows that they are not giving all of themselves to the ministry after all. They both actually dropped dead because of this. God wants all of us! We do not get to say that we believe, but then hold back. That means we actually do not believe as we said we did.
In the priestly order of Melchizedek, which is a way of saying “those who follow Christ,” are not expected to follow the old Levitical practices. You do not need to offer gold and silver to enter into His presence. When Jesus was crucified, the Bible tells us that the curtain to the Holiest of Holies was ripped from top to bottom. No longer was it only the Levites who could approach the throne. We all can now. We can all come into His Presence.
In fact, it was always this way as Jesus “was, is, and will be continually” the great priest that leads us into the Presence of God.
I want to close with that one line from verse 4: “See how great He is!”