I’ve been studying through Hebrews 7 for a while, and I figured it could be beneficial to type up a devotional on the chapter so that just maybe it could benefit someone else as well. So, I will include the text of Hebrews 7 in a dynamic translation, a concise commentary, an apropos application, and conclude with a pretensionless prayer.
Text: Hebrews 7:1-3
(1) For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughtering of the kings and blessed him, (2) and to whom Abraham appointed a tenth of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. (3) Having no father, no mother, no genealogy, no beginning of days, no end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
It’s important to note any context of the book read, especially the author and date and the like. Which makes Hebrews especially puzzling. The author and date are unknown. Some people argue Paul, or Luke, or maybe Mark wrote it. I’m a fan of the Apollos theory myself, though then again, that’s not a hill I’d die on. The date is also in question: was this written before or after the fall of Jerusalem (and the temple!) which was A.D. 70. The significance is the fact about the temple. Some argue that if the temple was actually fallen and the time of the penning of this letter, that would have been extremely important for his arguments, and therefore he would mention it. Others argue a pre-A.D. 70 date is far too early for this type of developed Christology and typology. (I’m a fan of the pre-fall of Jerusalem date, by the way).
The text at hand brings us back to the elusive Melchizedek. He is only mentioned in three books of the Bible: Genesis, Psalms, and Hebrews… crazy, right? The very beginning, right in the middle, and then right at the end. What a testament to the fact that though the Bible had multiple human authors, it only had one divine author. We clearly see the wondrous purposes of God who can compact such rich typology within four verses of a narrative in Genesis. God uses the seemingly minuscule to confound the wise of this world. Though he is so small a part of the Bible as a whole, he is indeed great in those few verses he is mentioned: a king, a priest of the Most High God.
Verse two again continues to build off the author’s point that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. Why? Because Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek, not vice versa. Righteousness and peace are often terms associated with the Messiah: the Messiah (Jesus) will judge in righteousness and bring peace.
Parents are extremely important in the ancient world in regard to origin and status (and even in the modern world in certain contexts). In modern western culture, extreme individualism has obliterated the child’s relationship to the parents and made it into a mere casual friendship (case in point: Gilmore Girls). Genealogy was especially practiced and study and cataloged among Jewish people so they could maintain their temple privileges. The Levite may only be able to enter the certain portion of the temple and serve if he is found to have proper lineage.
The great contrast is not necessarily to prove that Melchizedek did not have parents, but that there is really no genealogy recorded for us to identify who this person was. He obviously did not descend from Abraham. Much like Melchizedek, Jesus does not earn his priesthood by pedigree.
The author continues to describe the eternity of Melchizedek. And of course if one’s position is to say that this man merely resembles the Son of God, then Melchizedek’s eternality cannot be taken in such a way to lead us to deify him. In fact, that one word ἀφωμοιωμενος (afōmoiōmenos) leads me to believe that this is not a Christophany in any way, but merely a type.
I remember to this day the first time I ever studied Melchizedek in detail. It was about, well, five years ago now, come to think of it. The moment the reality, the entire gravity of the whole picture really sat in for me, I just wept for a good thirty minutes. Why? Because I realized how faithful God really is and then contrasted it with my own faithlessness, to my own horror. You see, God knew exactly what he was going to do from the beginning. He knew he was sending Jesus. We see that promise given in the very first proclamation of the Gospel (Gen. 3:15). God made that promise, and He was and is faithful to His word. He sent Melchizedek as a type of the Savior to come in Genesis 14:17-20. No where do we hear of this character again until Psalm 110:4. His name is mentioned seemingly out of no where! “A priest in the order of who?” But God is faithful. Now we come to Hebrews and see it all play out. God made Melchizedek, put him in all of five verses of the Old Testament, and then used him to explain the very priesthood of Christ! This blows my mind! All those thousands of years that passed between Genesis and Matthew, and still God kept his word. What a faithful God we serve!
Do you want to turn away from your sin? Have you struggled so hard and seem like you always fail? Take some time to meditate on how faithful God has been over multiple millennia. May that stoke your own faithfulness in return.
Lord of all generations,
You were there in eternity past with a plan for my soul.
You created me with a mother
with a father
and with an end.
Even if my father forsook and abandoned me
if my mother neglected and moved on from me
You would always be there by my side
supply my every need
comfort my every woe.
Make me to resemble your Son, like Melchizedek.
May my zeal for righteousness cause me to forsake my pride
to destroy my sin
to be faithful when I feel so faithless.
Help me to seek peace with all who have offended me so that I do not put myself first as I often do.
Above all, make me faithful like You.
Every waking moment brings one decision: will I be faithful to God?
So often with my thoughts, deeds, and omissions I answer “No!”
I am so weak, help me repent of my faithlessness!
“May my feeble prayers show me the emptiness and vanity of my sins.
May my best services bring me nearer to the cross and prompt me to cry
‘None but Jesus!'”
(Bottom portion of prayer in quotes from Valley of Vision, 197).