This is one of those parts of Scripture that would make little sense without the perspective of the ‘Scarlet Thread’ stitching it all together. Who is this guy Melchizedek, and why is this account even included in the history of Israel? Genesis 14 tells us three important things about him: (1) “He was priest of God Most High” (vs. 18). (2) He conferred a blessing upon Abram, and his blessing is clearly the blessing of Yahweh, Abram’s God (see verse 19: “Blessed by Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.”). (3) Abram honors him by paying a tithe to him (verse 20: “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”).
It’s no wonder that Jewish rabbis and scholars puzzled over the identify and significance of Melchizedek for centuries. But here’s another instance of where the perspective of the ‘Scarlet Thread of Redemption’ becomes so helpful. The Old Testament prepares us for the Gospel of Jesus Christ fully revealed in the New Testament, and this Old Testament preparation takes many forms – including ‘types’. We see ‘types’ in the Old Testament where a person, event or place in Old Testament history becomes the pattern by which later persons, events or places are interpreted. Here in Genesis 14 Melchizedek appears as a real historical person AND as a ‘type’ – a person who becomes the pattern by which a later person is to be interpreted. And the person he points to is CHRIST.
We see this ‘type’ explained in Hebrews 7. The writer of Hebrews summarizes what happened in Genesis 14 and then explains that how Melchizedek sets the pattern for that Christ would perfectly fulfill. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness” as well as “king of peace” (verse 2), which we know Christ to be the ultimate fulfillment of. Melchizedek “remains a priest forever,” which the writer of Hebrews notes is just “like the Son of God” (verse 3). Melchizedek’s priesthood does not come out of his Levitical lineage, which is also the pattern Christ fulfills since Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, not Levi (verses 6-16). God makes Christ (like Melchizedek) the perfect high priest for us based upon “the power of an indestructible life” (His perfect righteousness) rather than on “his ancestry” (vs. 16).
There’s much more in this Hebrews 7 passage, but where is it all pointing us? Melchizedek sets the pattern for the kind of ‘great high priest’ that Christ becomes for us. Jesus fulfills that pattern. Unlike the Levitical priests whose priesthood ended when they died, Christ’s priesthood is “permanent” (verse 24). This means that Christ “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (verse 25)! This means that Christ’s death on the Cross was the ultimate and totally complete sacrifice for all our sins (past, present and future) because “He sacrificed for their sins ONCE FOR ALL when he offered himself” (verse 27). Melchizedek reveals a pattern of the great high priest that we all need who is ultimately revealed to us in Christ!