Mysterious High Priest
Abraham's nephew, Lot, and his family were captured and taken off after a battle between rival city kings in the area. Abraham called out his servants, and they chased down the raiders, soundly defeated them, recovered all the goods that were taken, and rescued Lot and his family.
When Abraham returned to his home, the king of Lot's home town, Sodom, came out to meet him and thank him. Then this happened:
"Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything." (Genesis 14:18-20 NIV)
That's pretty much all we know about Melchizedek. The Bible does not give his ancestry or tell of his exploits as king of Salem. He was priest of the Most High God, he brought out bread and wine, he blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder he had recovered from the raiders.
The only other reference to Melchizedek in the Old Testament is in one of David's psalms about how God had established his kingdom and would send One who would rule forever on his throne:
"The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'" (Psalm 110:4 NIV) The coming Messiah would be this Great High Priest.
The New Testament picks up on this great truth in Hebrews:
"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 6:19-20 NIV)
Jesus is our High Priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was both a priest of God Most High and king of Salem. Jesus is both our Great High Priest and King of kings! Melchizedek is considered to be an eternal priest by the Jews because his birth and death are not recorded. Jesus is our eternal priest because He is eternal God in flesh-and-blood.
The purpose of a priest is to be an intermediary between God and people. A priest makes sacrifices on behalf of the people. A priest also speaks to the people on behalf of God. Bringing God to people and bringing people to God - that's the job description of a priest.
Jesus does just that. He made the ultimate sacrifice so sin and its power could be done away with. And so He brings people into relationship with God, not on the basis of what they have done to deserve it, but on the basis of what He did for them. And Jesus brings God to the people. He lives in our lives and makes the Presence of the Living God real in everyday life for everyday people. He is our Great High Priest, our go-between.
The New Testament makes yet another startling claim about this eternal priesthood:
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)
We have the Great High Priest living in our hearts, so we are priests to others! We live lives of witness that make Jesus real to people when we love them and serve them and tell what Jesus has done for us. We bring people to God and God to people. Every follower of Jesus Christ is a royal priest in the order of Melchizedek, because the Great High Priest lives in us and ministers to others through us.
What a privilege. What a joy. What a responsibility. How do we respond to this?
Love God. Live a life of holy love. Love people. Tell them about Jesus. And you, my friend, become a priest to others. Priestliness is not conferred on us by a Bishop or by the Church. Priestliness is Jesus, the Great High Priest using our lives to serve as an intermediary between God and others. Yes, even your life. Even mine.
So stay tuned in to the Holy Spirit and watch for opportunities to love and serve others. Each time you do, you serve as a Melchizedek to them. You bless them. You bring them to God, and bring Jesus to them. This is the holy purpose of a life lived in Christ.