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Kings and Priests

Words by Sina Steele | Illustrations by Marie Warner Preston

Melchizedek. His appearance to Abraham is cloaked in mystery, and yet, his significance is carried through into the New Testament. Who is he? And why is Jesus considered a priest in the order of Melchizedek? Join us on the blog as we consider the answers to these questions and the One whose appearance in our own lives truly changes everything: Jesus.

Genesis 14

I well remember my university days, eager to make new friends and enjoy my young adult years. I was headed on a downward trajectory of partying and living for myself—until Jesus appeared on the scene. Sometimes, when we least expect it, when we’re going about our everyday lives…suddenly, we encounter the Lord’s presence, and everything changes.

Kind of like the figure of Melchizedek. Seeming to appear out of nowhere, with no genealogy or lineage to place him in context, Melchizedek is an intriguing and mysterious character. The mention of him is brief, yet significant—almost like a cameo appearance in a film.

Abram is returning from war when he encounters Melchizedek in Genesis 14. All we’re told is that “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.’” (vv.18-20). How few these words are, yet what significance they carry.

Melchizedek is an enigmatic figure who has stumped many scholars. He is a king, yet also a priest, who somehow knows and serves Yahweh. Pre-dating the establishment of the Levitical priesthood, he blesses Abram right there and then in the city of Salem (which means ‘peace’) and even brings out bread and wine for him (foreshadowing communion). Salem would later become known as Jerusalem, the centre of the land promised to Abraham, as well as the central city of the Biblical narrative.

Aside from this encounter, there are only two other references to Melchizedek in Scripture: once in Psalm 110 and again in Hebrews. While these passages don’t provide any additional background information for us, they do make it clear that Melchizedek is a type of Christ, a foreshadowing of our Royal Priest, and that, unlike the Levitical priesthood, who continually needed to offer sacrifices for their sins and the sins of others, Jesus' priesthood is perfect. He is declared “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:17), who, with one single sacrifice, has made atonement for all (v.27).

When Abram meets Melchizedek, his response is to give him a tenth of all he has acquired out on the battlefield—before tithing is ever instituted in the Bible (Genesis 14:20). How could Abram know to tithe when a law has never been given? Abram seems to instinctively recognise the office of the person standing before him and seeks to appropriately honour Melchizedek. So should our response be when Jesus appears on the scene, our great High Priest and mediator of the New Covenant, the One who gave it all for us, the One to whom we owe everything.

I encountered Jesus during my university years, at a time when I was not searching for Him. In fact, I was actively moving in an opposite direction, focused on living for myself. But when He appeared, life suddenly changed. I didn’t understand it all, have perfect theology, or know the ‘right’ Christian lingo—I just knew I had encountered someone whose presence changed my heart. And just like Abram tithed to Melchizedek, without any law telling him to, so did I want to offer my all to Jesus—because it’s to Him it rightly belongs.

Melchizedek’s name means ‘king of righteousness,’ and what a perfect way to describe Jesus; He is the true King of Righteousness, our Prince of Peace. When He appears in our story, it may seem like a mystery or an enigma, yet His presence changes everything. He pronounces a blessing over us and a feast of ‘bread and wine’—His own body and blood sacrificed for us (Luke 22:17-20)—and our heart response can be nothing less than giving back to Him what is already rightfully His: our time, our relationships, our talents, our conversations, our strengths, our finances—our everything.

Is there anything you have been withholding from God? What might it look like for you to offer Him this part of your life as an act of worship?

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