‘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 blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hands”. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.’ (Genesis 14:18-20).
The setting for this incident is during the triumphant return of Abram from achieving an impossible victory over an alliance of five kings who had just convincingly defeated the huge army led by the king of Sodom. In response to the news that Lot, his nephew had been carried away captive, Abram takes 318 trained men who belonged to his household and pursues and routs the dumbfounded alliance. As he returns, he is encountered by Melchizedek, who blesses Abram.
Melchizedek is one of the most intriguing figures in Old Testament history. Was he a real person? Was he more than just a king of Jerusalem? Was he a manifestation of Jesus in the Old Testament?
In the New Testament, the story of Melchizedek is picked up in Hebrews 7. Not only was he the king of Jerusalem, he is also mentioned as the king of righteousness and peace, terms that are used in reference to Jesus. He is mentioned as one who did not have a genealogy or known ancestors. This argument is made to highlight the fact that Jesus, like Melchizedek, was independent of the Jewish lineage, though he was born into it. Melchizedek, though not part of the Abrahamic lineage, was a person who had come to know God so intimately, that he had become a perfect picture of righteousness, bearing the very image of God.
The author of Hebrews makes no secret of the fact that Melchizedek was great in God’s sight.
‘’Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!’ (Heb 7:4). And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater (Heb 7:7)’.
Abraham’s superlative position in the Old Testament and as patriarch of the chosen race is undisputed. Yet, here was a man whom the discerning, including Abraham himself, acknowledged as greater. Spiritual hierarchy is real and becoming great in God’s sight is only by growing closer to him and becoming transformed into His image, thereby becoming kings of righteousness and peace as Melchizedek was.
Some have articulated that Melchizedek was in fact a manifestation of Jesus in the Old Testament times. It is an attractive theory but difficult to sustain because the Bible makes it clear that Jesus, the Son of God appeared as man on earth only once as the Christ and no other human being no matter how great, can attain to the life He lived out while on earth.
But, fact remains that Melchizedek was one who inhabited the human flesh, yet achieved spiritual greatness of the order few could achieve. The call of Melchizedek is very real- spiritual greatness is achievable but only for those who earnestly desire it above other things and who would be willing to allow God’s transforming touch to produce in them a righteousness that mirrors the very nature of God.