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Two Portraits of Christ: Abram and Melchizedek

Two Portraits of Christ: Abram and Melchizedek

June 20, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Genesis 14:1-24

Sermon transcript

Introduction:  Pictures of Christ

We are looking this morning at Genesis 14, a fascinating chapter.  And, one that perhaps is not as well-known as some of the other stories and accounts in Genesis, but very rich, nonetheless.  Throughout the history of the church, artists have depicted Christ, they have made portraits or artistic renditions of Christ.  There's something compelling about the scriptures and about the accounts of Jesus, and the artists want to depict it, and so they will drop paintings, make paintings of Christ or sculptures.  One of the most famous was done in 1475 by Leonardo Da Vinci.  He painted a scene entitled The Baptism of Christ, oil, and tempera on wood, kept in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  Priceless.  Absolutely priceless.  And an incredible picture through the eyes of Leonardo Da Vinci.  Twenty-five years later, perhaps the most famous sculpture of Christ, was done by perhaps the greatest sculptor ever, Michelangelo.  In 1499, he did the Pietà, which is a moving picture of the dead Christ across the lap of his grieving mother.  It really is an incredible thing as you say, I've never seen it in person, but the picture, the ripples of the fabric almost seem alive, like a breeze could move them, and yet they are made of marble.  An incredible depiction of Christ.  Greek and Russian Orthodox churches have icons by the thousands, paintings of Christ, that focus their worship in a way that we do not do here.

Some people believe the most accurate portrait of Christ is found in the Shroud of Turin, a mysterious kind of image of a bearded man, which will be very familiar to us.  You look at somebody who looks like that and say, "He looks like Jesus."  We don't really know what Jesus looked like.  There are no physical descriptions of Christ in the scriptures, but I think it's not far to imagine that the Shroud of Turin when it first began making its circuit in Europe, greatly influenced Western art and its depictions of Christ, and they all started to look like that image one after the other, perhaps the most famous picture and portrait of Christ physically.  For me, however, I enjoy seeing the portraits of Christ that come off the pages of scripture.  It's not so important to me the shape of his nose or the set of his eyes, but I want to know about his character, I want to know about his great actions and deeds.  And therefore, for me, the clearest portrait or picture of Christ is going to be descriptions of those, the person of Christ, and the work of Christ found in the scriptures.  I believe the whole Bible gives portraits of Christ, not just the New Testament.

In the Old Testament, we have Christ in prophetic relief.  You are going to see portraits of Christ in the Old Testament, and they're going to come in two different types, one of them would be what we call verbally predictive prophecy, like "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son."  Or the prediction in Micah 5:2, that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”  These are what we call “verbally predictive prophecies.”  Then there is a different category of portrait or a picture of Christ, what we call “types” or typically “predictive prophecy.”  Now, the way this works is that things are acted out in life.  They are just acted out in history, and they capture a vignette, a little snapshot of Christ in his work and in his person.  The animal sacrifices are great types of Christ.  Typically, “predictive prophecy,” we call it.  Every time an animal was sacrificed and its blood shed on the ground and poured out before the Lord in the fire of sacrifice, it was a picture of Christ who is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, that I think the best typical predictive prophecy of Christ.

But also, you see in redemptive history, the unfolding of redemptive history, certain vignettes or stories that depict some aspect of the work of Christ.  For example, later in Genesis Chapter 22, when Abraham and Isaac go up the mountain and God has commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loves.  You hear very much the pre-echo, I think, of the gift of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and that, "What Abraham was asked to do," says Michael Card, "He's done.  He's given his only son."  So, that's an acted-out type or picture of Christ.  And I think we have two of those portraits in our account today.  Two portraits of Christ.  One portrait as a mighty conqueror who rescues the captive and delivers him, that we see in Abram as he mounts up with 318 soldiers and rescues his nephew, Lot, from his abductors.  It is a portrait of Christ.  And then, also in this mysterious Melchizedek, the Priest King, we see a portrait of Christ who is both king and priest, and that's what we're going to unfold today.  Two portraits of Christ.

The Tapestry of Redemptive History:  The Wars of Pagan Kings

Redemption Woven into a Tapestry of History

Now, the portraits you could imagine are kind of woven into a tapestry.  God likes to kind of weave in pictures of Christ by his sovereign control of historical events.  Things don't just happen in God's world.  He's too much of a king for that.  And so, the unfolding of human history, the tapestry of history provides the basis for the portraits of Christ that are unfolding in redemptive history.  They are woven into a tapestry of history, and a lot of that comes with the consideration of pagan wars, the wars of the pagans, and of the Gentiles.  Jesus talks about this in Matthew 24:6, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars."  Well, that's kind of a summation of human history, wars, and rumors of wars.  It's not all there is but certainly very important.  Not only is human history the unfolding of the tapestry of God's plan of salvation, redemptive history is unfolding generation by generation.  But also, we are seeing unfold before us in history, the wickedness of the human heart.  We learn more and more about just how wicked we are and how much we need a savior.  So how does it work?  Well, a small king finds himself to be a little bit more powerful than some of his neighbors, he mounts up with some strength and he conquers his neighbors, takes their land, takes their flocks and their possessions.  Then he allies with them, and he gets ever stronger and so it builds and builds.

So, the Pagans, through their lust for power and glory and possessions, build these miniature empires.  They get stronger and stronger.  Eventually, one kingdom rises up and takes over for another kingdom.  The other one falls and the second takes its place.  It enjoys its heyday, its time in the sun until it falls and the next one comes along.  And yet, God is ruling over all of this.  He is controlling it, it seems to make no sense at all, to be chaotic, but it isn't, and God is weaving in that tapestry, redemptive history.  God uses wars to accomplish his redemptive purposes.  For example, because of the conquest of the Greeks under Alexander the Great and the Romans under the Caesars, there was an infrastructure of highways and common language and economic unity that enabled the Gospel to travel very quickly in the first 200 years of its existence.  So very quickly the Gospel spread through the Greco-Roman world because of the wars that the Greeks and Romans had fought.  Later, because of the conquest of the Roman empire by the barbarians, the Gospel made it up into the forest of Germany and across the English Channel into England, because the barbarians had broken apart the Roman Empire.  God used it. 

Then later, because of the conquest of the vicious and cruel Vikings, the Gospel spread wherever they went, because the Vikings had no power to withstand the Gospel itself.  They could come and conquer the lands of the monasteries and kill the Christians but, eventually, they would be conquered in a sweet way by the Gospel and they would take the Gospel where they had traveled.  Because of the worldwide empire-building ambitions of the English, you know the sun never set on the English or the British Empire.  The Gospel eventually made it to places as far as India and China, along the coasts and the depths of Africa.  And so, God uses military conquest for his purposes.  Because of World War II, American soldiers left the security and safety of small-town America and went and fought in places they couldn't even pronounce, in the steamy jungles of the South Pacific, and then went home.  But the world was never the same for them again, and some of the Christians went back to Papua New Guinea and led many of those to Christ because they had been near there and were not afraid to go.  And so, God used that tragedy of World War II to accelerate the gospel. 

Lot’s Faithless Choice

 Even in our time, we have seen how God has used the conquest of the Taliban in Afghanistan to open up missionary opportunities that absolutely would not have come if the Taliban were still in power.  God weaves redemptive history against the backdrop of pagan wars and rumors of wars.  If God controls sparrows, and not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of God, how much more does he control the rise and fall of nations?  Now, also the backdrop of this is Lot's faithless choice.  The last time that we talked about Genesis two weeks ago, we saw how Lot decided to break away from Abram and go down in the fertile land near Sodom.  And so, he “pitched his tents," it says, "toward Sodom."  This brought Lot under the swirl of events surrounding Sodom and Gomorrah, and he would never have been abducted and never have been sucked into this whole maelstrom of events if he had stayed with Abram.  So, the faithless choice of Lot is also a backdrop.  

The Warring Pagan Kings

Now, what's going on here in Palestine in Genesis 14?  Well, I read kind of like a rising up of these miniature city-states, like we had in ancient Greece.  There are these little areas like Sodom or Gomorrah, little towns, and there are kings of those cities and the regions around them.  They were miniature city-states and were all kind of under the power of a regional king named Kedorlaomer.  He was king of Elam.

Now, Elam is east of Babylonia, near Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham had originally come from.  So, it really is a kind of precursor to the Assyrian and the Babylonian empires.  These conquerors were forever curving up around the Fertile Crescent, and then coming down what they called the King's Highway through Palestine and on into the fertile areas of the Nile in Egypt.  And so, Palestine was desirable, it had good arable land, it had good natural resources, but it was also strategic because it was the crossroads of history where people could go down and cross into Egypt.  Now, look at Verse 1.  This man, Kedorlaomer, is allied with Amraphel, King of Shinar.  Shinar is the place where the Tower of Babel had been built.  It eventually became Babylon.  So, he's aligned with the King of Babylon, with Arioch, King of Ellasar, and Tidal, king of Goiim.  They are all coming from the place where Babylon would eventually be.  This is a precursor, the Babylonian empire.  Now in Palestine, there are these vassal kings, these little smaller kings who paid tribute and money to Kedorlaomer.  They would give some of the harvest or some money, etcetera, and, basically, Kedorlaomer would leave them alone or protect them.  This kind of thing.

But in the 13th year, these vassal kings said, enough of Kedorlaomer.  If we can ally ourselves together, the five of us the king has gotten together, we can throw this guy off and we can run the thing ourselves.  And so, they allied and they rebelled.  Well, Kedorlaomer is not going to take this lying down.  He whistles up to his three allies and the four of them march, they come along the Fertile Crescent and down into Palestine to fight.  They were powerful and successful.  Frankly, they were undefeated.  It was a strong military conquest.  Look at Verses 5-7, "In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert."  Now, after the service is over, I want you to find Steve Carrell and thank him from the bottom of your heart for reading this text.  You did a wonderful job, brother.  When I was reading over it this morning, I said, "Woe to the person who has to read these verses this morning."  So, we compromised and thought to begin at Verse 8, and he did a wonderful job, there's no escaping all these Hebrew names, but I thought he did a fine, fine job.

There are these five kings, they're allied, and the four kings come, Kedorlaomer leading them, going from place to place, conquering, conquering and conquering.  Everywhere they go, they are succeeding.  Kedorlaomer seems unbeatable, and now the time has come for him to draw up the battle lines against these four or five kings that have risen up against him.  In Verses 8-9, it talks about the battle of the four kings against the five, nine kings altogether.  Well, Kedorlaomer wins decisively.  His armies destroyed the armies of the five kings and some of the men fell into the terrifying pits of the Valley of Siddim, the rest fled to the hills.  And now Kedorlaomer gets to plunder.  That's the thing the army has always to do.  Napoleon, when he escaped off Elba and was gathering his army again for one final push that ended in the Battle of Waterloo, what was his big promise to them?  "Plunder, the cities of Europe are waiting for you."  Oh yes, they were loyal to Napoleon, but more than anything, because he could fill their pockets.  And so, the armies have a chance to plunder the rich cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and others, and so they did.  So, in Verse 11, "The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away."  But they took one item too many.  Now, they took Lot and that was a big mistake.

Look at Verse 12, "They also carried off Abram's nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom."  Now, notice that additional comment.  He was living where?  Oh, he's living in Sodom now, I guess he's moved.  Last we heard about Lot, he had pitched his tents toward Sodom.  Now he's actually living in Sodom.  Notice the degeneration of Lot as Sodom has its pull on him and draws him away from righteousness, away from the godly life with Abram.  Now he's living in Sodom.  Well, somebody escapes in Verse 13, and Abram is told, "One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew.  Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram."  And so, Abram had made an alliance with some Amorites.  I don't know if he had led them to personal faith in the Most High God, maybe he had, I hope so, but the text doesn't say anything about that.  It does say that they were allied together with Abram.  So that sets the table for the first portrait.  And, the first portrait is a picture of Christ as a military conqueror, as a rescuer, as a powerful king who comes to deliver us from our captivity.

Christ-like Portrait #1:  Abram and the Military Rescue of Lot

Look at Verses 14-16, "When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan.  During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.  He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.”   

Abram’s Courageous Rescue of Lot

Now look at Abram's courageous rescue of Lot and notice some things here.  First of all, note Abram's gracious attitude toward his nephew.  Lot has been selfish.  He's grabbed the best part of the land for himself, but Abram doesn't hold it against him.  He's risking life and limb and his own men to go rescue this nephew, this wayward nephew.  And so, notice his gracious spirit toward this nephew.  Notice also Abram's courage and leadership.  A relatively small force.  Now, it says they were trained men, but a relatively small force going after an undefeated army of four kings.  Incredible courage.  Incredible boldness.  Notice also Abram's skill as a general.

The incredible boldness and initiative, the nighttime attack, the division, the tactics, the division of the men in the middle of the night into groups, the surprise factor.  You could probably study this at West Point and see some of the techniques that Abram the general used.  And notice also then how beautifully as you put all this together, Abram stands as a type or portrait of Jesus Christ.  You know, Jesus Christ rescued us, it says in Colossians 1:13, from the dominion of darkness and brought us over into his own kingdom.  He in effect came over or went through the walls of the devil's kingdom, and he rescued, he plundered us.  Now, Jesus talked about this contest in Luke 11:21-22.  He said, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.  But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.”  Jesus is the second one.  He comes and takes away from the devil what the devil thought was his, namely you and me.  Colossians 1:13 says, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves."  It also says in Galatians 1:4, Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age."  And so, he rescues us.  Jesus, a portrait of Jesus here in Abram.

Charles Spurgeon’s Comments

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon said, I think this is so beautiful.  "What a splendid type is Abram, in the narrative before us, of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us read this story of Abram in connection with our Savior, and see how full of meaning it is.  Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the abundance of his love, had taken us to be his brothers, but we, through our sin, had moved into the land of Sodom, and Jesus Christ dwelt alone in his safety and his happiness, enjoying the presence of God.  The hosts of our enemies, with terrible force and cruel fury, carried us away as captives.  We were violently borne away with all the goods which we possessed, into a land of forgetfulness and captivity forever.  Christ, who had lost nothing by this, nevertheless being a brother born for adversity, pursued our haughty foes.  He overtook them, he smote them with his mighty hand, he took their spoil, and returned with crimsoned clothing, leading captivity captive.  He restored that which he took not away.  Abram was that righteous man raised in the East, to whom God gave his enemies as driven stubble to his bow, and so the Lord Jesus has driven our enemies like chaff over to the wind, for they fled at the presence of Jehovah Jesus, and by the valor of the atoning Lamb they have been utterly broken in pieces forever."  Amen and amen.

God’s Commitment to Rescue His Own:  Both Lot and Abram

Jesus is a conqueror.  He is a mighty King, and he came after us to rescue us.  So, also, Abram did for Lot.  Notice also God's commitment to rescue his own.  He's going to, in the account in Genesis, rescue Lot twice.  First through Abram, this military rescue, and then second through the two angels that he sends to rescue Lot from the real danger, namely the wrath of God about to be poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah.  And so, we see that God has a total commitment to rescue his own and to get them out from danger.  The great grief to me in this story and you really have to read between the lines to get it, is what in the world did Lot do, moving back to Sodom after the first rescue?  See how stubborn our hearts are, how much we love to live in Sodom, and how he should have taken some good advice and gotten back with his Uncle Abram at that point, but instead, he goes back to Sodom for more and God has to send the two angels and rescue him later.  Oh, how wicked and wayward are our hearts, and we don't take the escape that God gives to us.

And so, Abram goes out, he goes out boldly, he goes out courageously.  It says in Proverbs 28:1, "The wicked man flees though no one pursues, the righteous are as bold as a lion."  Why was Abraham so bold?  Well, he had a promise from God, "I will make you into a great nation."  That kind of makes you immortal until it happens, right?  And so, he's like, nothing is going to happen to me.  And it also said in Genesis 12, "I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse."  And so, let's get 318 guys, which may even be too many for this job, 318 guys and go take on four kings with an undefeated army, and we are going to win.    Note the boldness and the courage of Abram as he trusts in God's word and goes out and rescues.

Now, what did it cost Abram?  Well, in the end, it didn't cost him anything.  It could have gained him a lot of wealth.  But what did it cost Jesus to rescue you from your captor?  It cost him his very life.  He had to pour out his lifeblood on the cross to rescue you from sin and death, and from the accusing law which stood over against you to condemn you.  He had to give his own life to rescue you.  It says in Matthew 20:28, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  That was the price for him, that's what he paid.  Far more expensive than what Abram paid in his type, or his picture of Christ, to rescue Lot.

Now, this image or picture of Christ as a conquering king who comes to rescue his own will only be fulfilled in the future in Revelation 19, when the heavens will be open, and Jesus leads the armies, the legions of heaven on a white horse, it says in Revelation 19, "He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords,” and he will return to earth as a mighty conqueror, not riding humbly on a donkey as he did the first time, but coming in a military fashion to conquer and to destroy and to rescue his own.  And so, this image, this type, awaits its final and complete fulfillment when Jesus returns to the earth a second time.

Abram’s Faith-filled Pledge to the King of Sodom

One final note concerning this aspect here, and that's Abram's faith-filled pledge to the king of Sodom.  Verses 17, 21-24, look at it with me.  "After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).”  Verse 21 and following, "The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.’"  Tempting offer, a tempting offer.  "But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich.”  I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me −to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre.  Let them have their share.’" 

But for himself, he takes nothing.  He does not want their stuff.  It doesn't hold any attraction to him.  And why?  Because the love of the world is adultery against God.  For everything in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, the stuff of Sodom, he has no interest in that.  "The world and its desires pass away," 1 John 2:17 tells us, ". . . but the man who does the will of God lives forever."  I don't think it's an accident that the very next verse after that is Genesis 15:1, look at it.  "After this," right after this, it says, "the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.’"  You don't need the stuff of Sodom, you are going to get something better, you are going to get me.  I will be your very great reward.  It's an incredible promise from God, and that is exactly what Abram wants, God and God alone, that's all he wants.  And so, we see a beautiful portrait or a picture of Christ in Abram, the conqueror.

Christ-like Portrait #2:  Melchizedek the Priest-King

We also have a mysterious portrait of Christ in this man Melchizedek, and we get just a brief mention of him here.  But look at Verses 18-20, "Then Melchizedek King of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.  And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything." 

Who Was He?

Now, who was this man?  Well, his name “Melchizedek” literally means king of righteousness.  His city was Salem, or Jerusalem.  So, he's the king of Salem, or the king of Jerusalem.  Now, the word Salem is the Hebrew word for peace.  So, he's the king of righteousness, and he's the king of peace.  He's the king of Jerusalem.  Now, it's a little bit of an ironic name, Salem.  Peace.  Is Jerusalem a city of peace today?  How long has Jerusalem not been a city of peace?  David conquered it from the Jebusites, and then Nebuchadnezzar conquered it from the Jews.  And then Cyrus the Great conquered it from the Greeks for the Persians, and then Alexander conquered it, and then the Romans conquered it, and then the Muslims conquered it from the Byzantine Empire.  And then the Crusaders came and tried to conquer it and got it for a little while, but the Muslims took it back until World War I when the British conquered the Ottoman Turks.  And then in 1948, during the partition of Israel, Jerusalem was set up to be a Muslim/Christian/Jewish city, and it's been nothing but trouble ever since.  Hardly the city of peace.

Jesus himself spoke about this in Luke 19:42, "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace −but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.’"  Jesus alone is the peace of Jerusalem, and it will have no peace until they recognize Jesus as their Savior.

But here is Melchizedek, he's the king of Salem, the king of righteousness.  And it's interesting because he is both a priest and a king.  It says he was a priest of God Most High.  He is a king, king of the city-state of Salem, and he is also the priest of God Most High.  

What Did He Do?

Well, what did he do?  Well, first he brought out bread and wine.  Why did he do that?  Our Catholic friends would say this is a precursor of the Lord's supper.  I don't really find the Lord's Supper here, even though the name Melchizedek is mentioned every Sunday at mass.  When I was growing up as an altar boy, I wondered who Melchizedek was.  It wasn't until after I came to Christ and read the Book of Hebrews that I learned who Melchizedek was.  But he brings out bread and wine to refresh Abraham and his troops.  That's all.  It's not a precursor of the Lord's Supper.

But also, it says he blessed Abram.  "Blessed be Abram by God Most High” and he blessed him with authority."  There's a sense of his authority even over Abraham or Abram, and he received a tithe, or a tenth, of Abram's plunder.  Now, we wouldn't know much about Melchizedek if it weren't for two other scriptures:  Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7.  Look with me at Psalm 110 for a moment.  Psalm 110.  Psalm 110 is a messianic Psalm, a prediction written by David.  Jesus quoted it in Matthew 22 and said that David was speaking by the spirit in Psalm 110, and he was writing about Christ.  Now, look just with me, if you would, at Psalm 110: 1-4.  It was read earlier, Eric read it, but look with me if you would.  Psalm 110:1-4.  It says, "The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’  The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.  Your troops will be willing on the day of your battle.  Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth."

Now, verses 2 and 3 speak of a mighty scepter, of a conquering king coming forth from Zion.  This is the kingship of the Messiah, and he will be a king.  He's the son of David, he's the lion of the tribe of Judah.  And it says in Genesis 49:10, "The scepter will not depart from Judah . . .  . . .until he comes to whom it belongs. . .”  And so, Jesus will be from the tribe of Judah and He will hold the scepter, for He is the son of David.  But He is greater than David because David calls him Lord.  "The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’"

Psalm 110:  King David’s Inspired Meditation on the Christ

So, here's the king of Judah, he is the king of Zion, a picture of a king.  But then out of nowhere in Psalms 110, Verse 4 it says, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’"  So here you have a king from the tribe of Judah, a descendant from David, the son of David, and He is a ruler, He's got the scepter in his hand, and yet He is sworn, God swears to him a promise and an oath, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."  Well, for us, that's not a problem because we're not Old Covenant people, but back then there was a strong division between the priesthood and the kingship.  The kingships were from the line of David, from Judah.  It was from Judah that the scepter would never depart.  Judah.  But meanwhile, the priesthood is a Levitical priesthood.  From the priests, they were all of the Levites, and there could be no mixture of the two.  Indeed, any kings from the line of Judah who tried to be priests received the curse of God like leprosy in one case.  There could be no mixture of the two under the Old Covenant.

But he says, "You're not a priest in the order of Levi or Aaron.  You're a priest in the order of Melchizedek."  And Melchizedek from Genesis 14 was both king and priest, and the two were together and there's no division between the two.  And so, this is the picture of Jesus.  The kingly power of the Messiah, and also, the priestly ministry of Melchizedek.  

Hebrews 5 and 7:  The Inspired Commentary on Genesis 14 and Psalm 110

Now, look over at Hebrews 7, and we'll see the full understanding of this.  Take a minute and look at Hebrews 7.  In Hebrews 7, the author of Hebrews unfolds the mysteries of this issue of Melchizedek.  

Aspects of Comparison

Look at Hebrews 7:1-4.  "This Melchizedek" it says, "was King of Salem and priest of God Most High.  He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.  First, his name means ‘king of righteousness;’ then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of Peace.’"  Verse 3, "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.  Just think how great he was:  Even the patriarch, Abraham, gave him a tenth of the plunder!” 

So, Melchizedek is a picture of Christ, a type of Christ.  He is a priest and a king, and so was Christ.  The name “King of Righteousness” will only be fulfilled perfectly in Jesus Christ.  The name “King of Peace” is only fulfilled perfectly in Jesus Christ.  The symbolic eternal origins.  It says, "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days" that's only fulfilled in the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ.  His symbolic eternal priesthood, in that he never dies, Melchizedek never dies in the Scripture, is only symbolic but fulfilled ultimately in Jesus Christ.  "Whoever lives," it says, "To make intercession for you and me."  He is higher in rank than Abram, therefore Abram gives him a tenth of everything.  He rules over him, and that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  As Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing Jesus' day, he saw it and was glad.  And so, we have a glorious composite portrait of Christ.   

Glorious Composite Portrait of Christ

Jesus Christ, the perfect king and also the perfect priest.

Was Melchizedek Actually the Pre-incarnate Christ?

Now, the question comes, was Jesus actually or was Melchizedek pre-incarnate Christ?  Was this really Jesus showing up here?  Some scholars think so, but I don't.  Notice that it says in Hebrews 7, "like the son of God, he remains a priest forever."  Well, what would you be comparing?  It would be Jesus like Jesus and it doesn't make any sense.  Therefore, I think Melchizedek was really a man, really a king, he really lived, he was flesh and blood, he had a life, he was a king of Salem, he was also priest of God Most High, and he came out physically and blessed Abram.  But there is in his life a portrait of Jesus, the priest-king.  

Theological Significance of Melchizedek: Christ Our Eternal High Priest

Central Message of Hebrews: Superiority of Christ and the New Covenant

Now, what is the theological significance of this?  Well, first of all, the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant to the Old.  We live in the New Covenant, and therefore we don't have to bring animal sacrifices, we don't have to pour out blood on altars, we have a New Covenant, and Jesus is the priest and the mediator of a superior New Covenant.  And as a result of that, as Eric did earlier, we have an invitation to come right to the throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  The Old Covenant told you to stay away.  Barriers.  You couldn't get into the Holy of Holies.  You couldn't draw near.  But the New Covenant says it's wide open. 

Specific Message of Hebrews 7:  Christ is Our Eternal High Priest

In the body of Jesus, we have a new and living way open for us right into the very presence of God.  And what do we find when we get there?  We find a merciful and faithful high priest who became a man and was tempted in every way, just as we are.  Yet, He never sinned.  And therefore, when you're tempted, when you are weak, when you are struggling in your Christian life, you go to the throne of grace and say, “Oh, merciful, faithful high priest, help me.  I'm struggling.”  And if you've already sinned and you wonder, “Can God ever forgive me?”  You come to the throne of grace and you receive full cleansing through the blood of Christ, far superior to anything the Old Covenant could ever do.  We have opened up for us a priestly ministry through Jesus Christ, and he invites us, and he offers the perfect sacrifice once for all, his own blood shed on the cross, and he stands at the right hand of God and is constantly speaking into his Father's ear on your behalf.  And oh, does the Father love the Son.  And on the basis of that, you are forgiven and protected, and you'll be brought ultimately into the very presence of God. 

Application

Now, what kind of application can we take from Genesis 14?  Well, first of all, worship Christ, honor him.  It says in Philippians 3:3, We are those “who worship by the Spirit of God” who boast or “glory in Christ."  Boast in Christ.  Jesus rescued you from your captors.  Far more powerful than Kedorlaomer was Satan over you.  Far more powerful than Kedorlaomer was sin and death.  Could you ever have wriggled yourself free from them?  No.  Death stands like an undefeatable enemy, and it mocks everything you do if it's not for Jesus.  But Jesus comes and rescues you from death, He rescues you from sins, so honor him, worship him, give Him thanks today for your salvation.

But don't forget that He's a king.  Melchizedek is a priest king; He is a king.  Jesus is Melchizedek's king.  He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.  And before him, every knee will bow.  And so, bow your knee to Jesus the King.  Could it be that, speaking in the language of Genesis 14, you are like Lot and little by little getting sucked towards Sodom?  What's going on in your life?  What are you watching?  What entertains you?  How do you spend your time?  Are you enamored with this world?  Would it be hard for you to give it up?  Are you kind of acting more like Lot or like Abram, a man of faith who saw through it all and raised his hand and said, I took an oath.  I'm not taking anything from you.  I don't want anything from you.  And if you find the Lot principle inside you getting sucked toward the world more and more, then come near to the throne of grace and say, "Lord, rescue me."  That's what he came for, to deliver you from sin and bring you close.  And trust in your eternal high priest.

His priestly ministry is perfect, he pleads his own blood.  The Father is open-hearted toward hearing the intercession, it will not fail, and he will not stop pleading for you that your faith will not fail until the day he sees you face-to-face and until the day you receive your resurrection body perfected in him.  So, trust in him, your High Priest.  If you're feeling right now because of your sinfulness or things that you've done, that you're separated from God, you are far from Him, then come close, confess the sin.  He's inviting you to come close.  He's saying, “Just as I am, without one plea, I come to you, Lord.”  We come close to him.  Then come.  Don't try to rid yourself of one dark blot, but let him do it and cleanse you.

And then finally, look at the courage of Abram.  It may be that you don't have a sin problem, you're not feeling distant from God, you're walking with Him, but are you being courageous in your life?  When was the last time you got scared for Jesus?  When was the last time you went out on a night attack for the Kingdom of God?  Are you doing anything that calls for valor and courage and boldness?  Let me speak especially to you fathers on Fathers' Day.  How are you modeling courage to your sons and daughters?  How are you a man, standing firm like Abraham did when he said, “Let's go get him.”  Are you displaying courage?  Are you bold in evangelism?  Are you bold in putting sin to death in your own life?  Are you bold at the workplace to stand up for Christ?  Are you bold like Abraham was?  Remember, the wicked flee though no one pursue, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

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