Hebrews 7:1-10 The priest immerses himself in the culture of the fallen and remains untainted by it
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is 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, he remains a priest perpetually.
4 Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. 6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Melchizedek is like a Son of God who comes in the flesh to meet men in their particular time and culture with the aim to reconcile them with God. The bible records the king of Salem during the time of Abraham and Christ during the time of the gospels as priests belonging to the order of Melchizedek. The author writes to convince Hebrew readers the necessity of recognizing Christ as the Melchizedek high priest in superseding the role of the Levitical priesthood. Today’s passage teaches us about God’s ability to meet men at his level of understanding, language and culture in order to bring them to God.
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God…
No historical background is given concerning Melchizedek, the king of Salem, priest of the Most High God except that he came to meet Abraham with bread and wine and blessed Abraham after he returned from a successful rescue mission where his nephew was captured in a raid by the enemy (see Genesis 14). It appears that the Melchizedek, king of Salem is a great and well-respected man that Abraham himself is subordinated to him. Abraham not only received his hand of blessing, but also gave a tenth of the choicest spoils to Melchizedek. Thus, the author in using Abraham’s gestures proves that the Melchizedek order of priests is more superior to the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical priesthood began with Aaron, Moses’ older brother. Abraham’s descendants served as priests in Israel administering the temple sacrifices mediating between God and men.
Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life…
Melchizedek, king of Salem has no earthly genealogy: Without father, without mother, without genealogy. The author meant to convey the point that Melchizedek is an order of priests called by God that is not part of the priesthood that descends from human lineage. This order of priesthood has been in existence even in the days of Abraham and is considered more superior than the Levitical priesthood. The work of the Melchizedek priesthood does not expire, it serves to reconcile men to God forever: he remains a priest perpetually.
Abraham’s posture of receiving Melchizedek’s blessing proves Melchizedek’s greatness and his priestly role. It follows that Abraham gave a tenth of the choicest spoils to Melchizedek. It is a tradition in those days that priests and kings be honored with tithes by their subjects. The fact that Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek further substantiates Melchizedek’s superiority to Abraham as king and priest. The sons of Levi who paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham effectively subordinated the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Melchizedek.
Who is Melchizedek? Melchizedek is an incarnation of God (God coming in the flesh) to meet men in their time and culture in order to reconcile them to God. The text says that he is made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. In other words, he is of heavenly origin and he function indefinitely as a priest unhindered by natural death. Melchizedek, king of Salem serves as a priestly support to help Abram obtain his promise through faith and patience. However, Christ serves as a priestly sacrifice to bring salvation to humanity. The king of Salem’s priestly ministry is prophetic in giving men divine direction, while Christ’s priestly ministry is salvific in taking away the sins of the world. The author writes with the Hebrew readers in mind to convince them of the necessity of Christ as the Melchizedek Priest to supersede the role of Levitical priests in order to fulfill God’s salvation plan.
What is the role of the Levitical priesthood?
The Levitical priesthood is introduced as an interim to administrate the Law of Moses and the earthly sacrifices. The role of the Levitical priests is to point men to the Melchizedek high priest who is able to reconcile men to God by forgiving their sins. The Melchizedek priesthood must supersede the Levitical priesthood because Melchizedek is divine and eternal while Levitical priesthood is earthly and temporal.
God is able to touch people regardless of their language, culture, personality and background. There are people whose culture, personality and background are so unique that it is almost impossible to get through to them. But what men cannot do because of differences in understanding and culture, God is able; He is able to touch them in the way that they can understand and transform them. I know of children who were repeatedly abused by church priests, who swore never to have anything to do with God, came to know God in their later days and forgave their tormentors. What seems impossible with men is possible with God. Therefore, we who serve in a priestly function must humble ourselves, and learn to come to the individual’s level of understanding. Only then, can we communicate the truth in true empathy. Unless, we forsake our own paradigms and enter into theirs, there is no meeting of the minds. We must not be too quick to disagree with people of different beliefs, moral convictions and even the LGBT’s, but to first enter into their world and understand them at their level. The apostle Paul says,
To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; … to those who are without law, as without law, … To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22
God has since been reaching out to men in their own culture and time. The king of Salem was appointed during that time to serve as priest to Abraham. Through the priesthood of Melchizedek, God meets Abraham at his level of understanding and culture. Abraham’s culture of worship looks outwardly similar to pagan worship culture. They worship under fertility trees, make altars to commemorate sacred events, and mix pagan mythologies with names for God. God incarnates himself as king of Salem in the language and culture of Abraham’s time and comes down to men’s level of understanding. Similarly, Jesus Christ appears as an ordinary man and speaks the languages of his culture. The religious forms are ever changing with time and culture, but God is always reaching out to men by blending himself into our language, culture and idiosyncrasies. Today, God is using Spirit-filled people to reach out to every individual by speaking their language and touching hearts where it matters most.
Are you too rigid in your religious, philosophical or political convictions that people cannot connect with you? Hence, you find your influence narrowing even though you are perceived to be righteous and uncompromising. Perhaps, you could spend more time in next few months listening to others. As believers, we stand firm on the truths of God while empathizing with the convictions and failings of others. The role of the priest is to immerse himself in the culture of the fallen world and yet remain untainted by it.
Dear Lord, reveal to me the hurts and the wounds of the people around me so that I may touch them with genuine concern while looking for the right time to speak the truth of reconciliation with God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.