In this devotional on Hebrews 7, we will again visit the obscure mysterious Melchizedek and discover why exactly he is so important to understand. In doing this, we will also see some major themes to the Abrahamic covenant and just why it is so significant that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. Finally, this will lead us to see that Jesus is even greater than all, and may our lives be a testimony to that truth.
Text: Hebrews 7:4-10
(4) And see how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth from the spoils! (5) So, in one case, the descendants of Levi receiving the priestly office have a command in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers who also descended from Abraham. (6) But this man who is quite independent of Levitic ancestry has received tithe from Abraham and has bless him who has the promises. (7) And it is beyond any dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. (8) Further, in the one case, perishable men receive tithes, but in the other case [they are received by] one whom scripture testifies is alive. (9) So to speak, one might say even Levi paid tithes through Abraham, (10) for Levi was still in his father’s loins when Melchizedek met him.
The author of Hebrews turns to make three major arguments for Melchizedek’s superiority over Abraham: 1. Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, 2. Melchizedek blessed Abraham, 3. Melchizedek is still alive. The first argument about his recieving of tithes is also qualified in two ways. 1. Melchizedek is independent of Levitic ancestry. Why is that important? There is no commandment given to give tithes to Melchizedek whereas there is for the Levites. 2. Melchizedek did not receive the promises. This makes the giving such a grand gesture which calls for the exclamation of verse four.
Abraham, originally Abram son of Terah in the land of Ur of the Chaldeans, was called out by God to start a remarkable journey of redemption. He received promises from God, namely, the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15. God promised three things: land, seed, and blessing. Each of these things point us to greater realities in Christ that even the author of Hebrews brings out. The promised land (and rest concept) points to our eternal promised land and rest with God forever (cf. esp. Heb. 4:8-11). The seed is the one promised in the first giving of the Gospel, Genesis 3:15. This seed will benefit the entire world by crushing the head of the evil one (Heb. 2:14). Finally, blessing has the connotation of material wealth and prosperity on this earth, for sure. The covenantal blessings and curses can be seen in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. I would contend, however, material wealth and success are not the main thrust of the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant. Instead, the true blessing is precisely what it leads to, “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Leviticus 16:12). When the God says, “all people will be blessed through you” to Abraham in Genesis 12, he does not mean wealthy or satisfied in this world. This blessing may include those things, but it leads to the eternal wealth found in glory, an unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:28).
Look at all this promised to Abraham! How great he was! “And see how great [Melchizedek] was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth from the spoils!” Now the full force of verse four comes to view. Abraham truly was a great man, but by his actions, he showed Melchizedek to be even greater! Melchizedek, turns a blesses Abraham. As Hebrews argues, the inferior (Abraham) is blessed by the superior (Melchizedek). Why is this so significant? Because this makes Melchizedek’s priestly order far superior to the Levitical priesthood. Which is precisely why this is Christ’s priestly order.
Then the author of Hebrews then looks to the “perishable men” of the Levitical order in contrast with Melchizedek who is still alive. I do not believe the author is attempting to deify Melchizedek in any way (the view here could be something similar to Enoch or Elijah, but not necessarily that either). Instead, this is the crux of the argument: death is the great equalizer of all power gained by men and all intercession made by priests. The intercession by the Levitical priesthood is one that can only five death, for that enemy has never been conquered by its high priest. This priesthood was merely men bound by death putting animals to death in a failed attempt to free others from death. It was a system begging for something greater. The curse for our sin and rebellion takes is marked by destruction taking its ultimate form in death, namely eternal separation from God. No amount of Levitical atonement could reverse or stop this curse. This truth was a recurring reality for those making the daily sacrifices: death still comes as it does every single day. We need a high priest who can conquer death, namely Jesus, who died, was buried, and rose again. I implore, even beg every one of you who still happen to be reading these words: turn to Jesus and live! Flee from the wrath to come and find life, true life, in Jesus. All the curses we earned, all the destruction we earned, all the destruction we earned, and even the death and separation we earned was all placed upon Jesus when he died on that cross! Jesus died for you! Turn, and run to Him!
Notice also that Melchizedek, as great as he is, will eventually drop out of the author’s argumentation (cf. esp. v. 21, Melchizedek’s name is not even mentioned). Why is this? Because Melchizedek’s greatness was given to him for no other purpose than to point to the greatness of Jesus. Where does our life point? Where do our thoughts point? Where do our ministry activities point? Do we orient ourselves to the greatness of ourselves or do we make every effort to point to the greatness of Jesus? This is one of the greatest struggles in my ministry to others. I sometimes so often want everyone think that I’m the greatest or smartest or most empathetic that I make mini-me disciples rather than disciples of Jesus. We’re not here to build our kingdoms, we’re here to build God’s kingdom.
God of life,
In ancient wisdom you decreed a plan to destroy the curse we inaugurated and secured with sin.
We brought death to your universe of life
You sent Your Son to bring life back
We killed Him in our despicable ways
But He rose back from the grave in eternal victory.
Help me to be like Abraham and pay tithes to Melchizedek, even Jesus.
Every hour of the day I contrive in my vain ways to pay tithes to Death by my sin.
Break me from my vanity
May I instead make every ounce of my effort be of a fruit of Your Spirit
be a testament to the greatness of Jesus.
May my name fade forever and be crushed and ground to powder
So that Your name will be praised above all others.
Christ above all else,