After Abram’s great success in defeating Chedolaomer and his allies, he is greeted by two important figures: the king of Sodom, and one of the most interesting characters in Scripture, Melchizedek.
Please read Genesis 14:17-20.
The name Melchizedek literally means “Righteous king.” We are told that this righteous king was the priest of God Most High as well as the king of Salem (or King of Peace). We know that he is a priest of the One True God because he uses the same title for God that Abram does later in verse 22. This is not a priest of polytheism, but a priest who solely worships the one true God of the Universe.
Both Abram and the King of Sodom defer to Melchizedek. The King of Sodom, who was first to come meet Abram, stops his request in deference to Melchizedek and only continues to speak after Melchizedek is done. We will read more about what the King of Sodom says tomorrow. Abram of course willingly accepts a blessing from Melchizedek and then tithes one tenth of everything he has to this high priest. This tithe was nowhere commanded (it is the first tithe mentioned in Scripture), but Abram willingly gives to this High Priest.
By the way, this is the basis on which we all should practice our tithing: willingly, without compulsion, but merely out of deference to God and gratitude for all that He has provided.
Abram gives this tithe to Melchizedek, yet, we have no clue where Melchizedek comes from, what his lineage is, or what happens to his priestly line. What we do know is that Scripture later refers back to Melchizedek when talking about the Messiah.
Psalms 110 is a prophesy about the Messiah in which “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’” (v.4). The author of Hebrews twice repeats this prophecy and applies it Jesus (7:17 & 21).
How is Jesus ‘after the order of Melchizedek’? Jesus was a son of Mary, of the line of David, who himself descended all the way from Abraham. What does Melchizedek have to do with anything?
The author of Hebrews clarifies that Melchizedek “is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever” (7:3). This man was not a descendant of Levi like all the priests of the New Testament. Indeed, Levi himself was not even born yet! But he was still a priest. The Jews of Jesus’ day had a difficult time comprehending a priest who was not a Levite, so they struggled with the idea that Jesus could be a High Priest.
This is why we look to Melchizedek. He was a priest, not a Levite, and he was given tithes by Father Abraham himself. He has no lineage of any significance. He simply serves God Almighty. In this way, he is a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus too comes along, and is now our High Priest, though he is not a Levite. We give our tithes to Jesus’ church. Jesus is from the lineage of David in one sense, but He also has no biological human father, for He is the Son of God.
When we look to Melchizedek, we should think of Jesus, our Great High Priest.