Greater than Abraham

Hebrews 7:1-14

New Living Translation

Melchizedek Is Greater Than Abraham

This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God.

Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. Now the law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel,[a] who are also descendants of Abraham. But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed.

The priests who collect tithes are men who die, so Melchizedek is greater than they are, because we are told that he lives on. In addition, we might even say that these Levites—the ones who collect the tithe—paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. 10 For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.

11 So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron?[b]

12 And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it. 13 For the priest we are talking about belongs to a different tribe, whose members have never served at the altar as priests. 14 What I mean is, our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never mentioned priests coming from that tribe.

My thoughts and observations:

Melchizedek was a priest and a King. 

Melchizedek blessed Abraham.

Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek.

There is no record of the birth, death, or family of Melchizedek.  He is believed by some to have no beginning, ending, or family.

The one who blesses is greater than the one receiving the blessing.

Teaching Points from

The author uses Melchizedek as a model of Christ’s priesthood, several times in this epistle saying that Christ is a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek.” Well, what was special about Melchizedek? And why was his priesthood superior? In this chapter the author compares Christ’s/Melchizedek’s priesthood with that of the Levites to further demonstrate Jesus’ superiority in all ways.

Abraham gave one tenth of all his spoils. See also verse 4 where it shows he gave of the choicest. This is one basis in the Bible for the so called 10% tithe. What does this show us about Melchizedek? What does this show us about Abraham? Should we also give ten percent? Should we give just if we have some extra or something leftover? Can you afford to give? (Mark 12:41-44) What should be the motivation? What kind of things should we give to? What if we don’t know where to give? Discuss.

He was king of righteousness. The time of Abraham was a dark, evil age. There was rampant idolatry. This idolatry led people into many horrible abominations. King Melchizedek’s righteous reign stood out like a lighthouse in the middle of a storm (just like Jesus who came as a light into a dark world). It is all the more mysterious since we know so little about it. How did he come to believe in the Most High God? How did God communicate with him? Did the people he ruled over also follow God? How long did this righteous kingdom last? Melchizedek is indeed a mysterious figure and we will never have the answer to these questions on earth. I do believe that this can teach us something about God, however. This shows us that God’s work and plans are not limited to what we know or even limited to events in the Bible. God is a big God. At any time in history, and within any culture, God could have used divine means of revelation to communicate His truth and save people. He did this in the case of Melchizedek and he could have (we don’t know) done it other times as well.

He was king of peace. This is another clear correlation with Christ. See John 14:27. Jesus came to break down the barriers between us and God and bring peace to the world. As Melchizedek was appointed to bring peace to the world, so we are God’s ambassadors and charged to bring his message of peace to those around us. War, conflict, hatred, rivalry, selfish ambition and the like are all from the pit.

Verse 3 – This verse is a bit controversial. There are two basic interpretations.

It could mean that Melchizedek really had no parents and no beginning or end. This would mean that He must be God. And those who hold this view hold to the belief that he was the pre-incarnate Christ. However, the author never expressly says this. Instead he often says that Christ is of the order of Melchizedek. If He is Melchizedek, it would seem unlikely he would use this terminology. That would mean He is of the order of Himself.

The other interpretation is that he did have a mother and father, a birth and a death, like everyone else, but that these events are not recorded in his genealogy. This interpretation is supported by one translation in the Pehsitta which says “whose father and mother are not written in genealogies.” It is also supported by the literal translation of “made like the Son of God,” which literally means “made to be like the Son of God.” In other words, his background was specifically written in such a way that he would bear resemblance to Christ. Because we don’t know his background such as where he was from, who his parents were, where he was born, or where he died, He is a person of mystery. In history, he just seemingly appears out of nowhere for a short time and then disappears again. This is very much like Christ who appears on earth for a short time, completes his mission and goes back to heaven. His life being recorded in this way helps us to understand more about Christ’s life as the two are compared.

He remains a priest perpetually. Melchizedek was not a priest because of his lineage. He was a priest because God appointed him to this position. This is something like Samuel. Samuel was also not a Levite. But God chose him as his priest. God is not restrained by genealogies. He can of his own authority make a priest of anyone He chooses. Melchizedek gives a valid precedent for Christ being a priest. The Jews may very well have thought that only Levites could be priests. They would argue that Christ wasn’t a Levite and therefore He couldn’t be a priest. Melchizedek’s priesthood sinks this argument. What lesson can we learn from this?

God can do whatever He wants. He is only bound to His own character. He created the laws of nature, but sometimes he works outside of them. He established the Levitical priesthood, but He can override this at anytime. Certainly He cannot break His own character of holiness, justice, love, etc.

We learn that Christ is a priest perpetually. There is no record of Melchizedek’s death signifying the end of his priesthood as there is with Aaron. Also, Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension did not end his priesthood. He is still at the right hand of God interceding for and mediating for us.

Abraham = Levites < Melchizedek – The main point of these verses is that Melchizedek is greater than the Levites. The purpose of proving this point is to show that the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to that of the Levites and therefore that Christ’s priesthood is better than that of the Levites. Remember that the author’s audience are Hebrews. They place great importance on their traditions and on the Old Testament laws. In their minds, only Levites could be priest and therefore Christ could not be a priest since He wasn’t a Levite. The author has shown conclusively that God can make anyone a priest whom He wants as He did with Melchizedek. So he has a step by step logical argument which he uses to prove that Melchizedek is greater than the Levitical priesthood. It goes like this:

Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek.

The Levites could also receive a one tenth tithe from the other Israelites.

Abraham was a representative of all the Israelites including the Levites because he was their ancestor.

Therefore through Abraham as their proxy the Levites tithed to Melchizedek.

The lesser tithes to the greater.

Therefore Melchizedek is greater than the Levites.

Choicest spoils – Notice how Abraham gave of the best of his spoils to Melchizedek. This is one of the earliest precedents in the Bible for giving of our best to God. Abraham often exhibited this unselfish nature such as in the case of giving the best of the land to Lot. How can we apply this principle in modern times?

Give of the best of our time to God (for example the beginning of the day set aside time for quiet time.)

Give of the first of our money. Don’t save the leftovers of your paycheck for God. Rather give to Him as soon as you receive your salary. Otherwise there may be little or nothing left.

Give of the best of your life. Don’t wait until you are old and much of your life is over to start serving God. This attitude is often seen in people who put off serving God because they need to finish something first (exam, school, promotion, marriage, paying off house, etc.) Our very bodies should be presented to God as a living sacrifice.

Verse 5 – This is the Old Testament parallel for the teaching that a worker is worthy of his wages. Luke 10:7. This means that those who are working for God should be supported by other believers.

Whose genealogy is not traced – This supports the interpretation that says verse 3 means that Melchizedek’s genealogy is not recorded (as opposed to he is a divine being who was never created).

Application: What specific thing do you need to obey in order to put what we have learned into practice?

If perfection was through the Levitical priesthood – The author clearly teaches his audience about the inadequacy of the Levitical priesthood to wash away sin. Read Leviticus and you will see many of the rules related to this priesthood. Many of them concern sacrifices. Day after day, week after week, year after year for centuries the priests were offering sacrifices in the temple. Millions and millions of animals slaughtered. And yet, this did not take away people’s sin. It could only serve to cover it and offer a graphic illustration of the seriousness for sin and the need for a perfect sacrifice. Look at some of the most faithful people in the Old Testament like David. None of them could live up to the high standard of the law. Something different was needed. Something had to be changed.

This is where Jesus comes in – He was another priest who arose from a different order, not the order of Aaron. His coming was a clear sign that the law was lacking. If the Old Testament law and the Levitical priesthood “worked” then there would be no need for Jesus to come. Like the old saying gos “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” and “don’t reinvent the wheel.” If the Mosaic Law was able to permanently and finally restore the relationship between people and God, Jesus need not come.

Yet Jesus did come. He came from a tribe which never had any priests. Priests did not come from the tribe of Judah. They came from the tribe of Levi. This is something that Moses did not speak about. Jesus came, as was prophesied, from the tribe of Judah. This was the tribe which supplied kings for the throne.

Jesus is priest not on the basis of the Mosaic law which had physical requirements for being a priest (most importantly being of the tribe of Levi.) So on what basis did Jesus became a priest? Did He break the very law He gave?

The second question first. Because Jesus is the eternal Creator of the universe He is not bound to laws which God gave to people. Certainly He is not able to go against His own character, which is the basis for many of these laws, but He is not bound to the law. For example He will not lie not because He gave this law to people but because it goes against His character to lie. He will not sin in any way because He is holy. Jesus said that He is the Lord of the Sabbath and thus implied that He is not under the rules which govern how created people live on the Sabbath. To understand in simpler terms a parent need not obey all the rules he gives to his children. For example he may give a bedtime to his children for their good, but it is not necessary for him to keep this bedtime. He tells his children to hold someone else’s hand while crossing the road, but he himself does not do it.

He is priest according to the “power of an indestructible life.” He is the Son of God. He has no beginning and no end. He is the Creator of the universe. He can do whatever He wants.

Verse 17 – You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. This statement verifies that the Messiah is a priest forever.

Verse 18 – The law has weaknesses and is useless to truly restore people to God finally and permanently. So what’s the positives and negatives of the law? See cross-references.

The law does serve a purpose or God would not have given it. The main purpose can be seen in Romans chapter 7. That is, it shows people clearly their sin. Basically the law serves as a mirror or a measuring stick. By looking at it, we can see how far we fall short. It helps us to evaluate ourselves accurately by God’s standard. Any honest person examining himself by the law will see that he falls woefully short. This should have several benefits for us.

It humbles us – By evaluating ourselves with the law we can see how far short of God’s standard we are. There is no room for pride or boasting. We see God for who He is and ourselves for who we are.

It shows us the cost of sin – In the OT law sacrifices were made for sin. It showed people that sin must be punished. This punishment was severe, ugly, and gruesome. Only because of God’s mercy was a person not punished himself. This was a daily reminder about the seriousness of sin.

It shows us that we need help. I believe that this is one of, if not the, primary reasons for the OT law. It leads people to a proper state of hopelessness in their own ability to solve the problem of sin. It leads people to God as the only source of any salvation from this inescapable pit of sin we have dug for ourselves.

The one key negative of the law is that it makes nothing perfect. It cannot bring anyone back to God. It cannot permanently solve the problem of sin. It seemed to make the gap between people and God even larger. God is infinitely holy and sinful people had no hope to bridge the gap to Him.

God’s revelation is progressive – If you study the whole Bible you will see that God did not reveal everything about Himself or His plan all at once. He did it little by little. Why? Obviously it was the best way because God is omniscient. Just imagine for example if God sent Jesus to die for humanity right after Adam and Eve sinned. While Adam and Eve may have accepted this, it is very likely that future generations would pridefully think they didn’t need it (after all they didn’t eat the forbidden fruit). By waiting for thousands of years, God proved conclusively that people could not do it on their own. People had millennia of hard data and experiences highlighting over and over again our own inability to solve this problem. A famous preacher (I believe Moody) said you have to “preach a person into a hell before you can preach them into heaven.” His point was that you have to show a person he is lost and needs help before he is willing to accept help. When you look at all of human history that is what God has already done on a grand scale!

Better hope – Thank God we have a better hope. Jesus came as the ultimate, perfect, once-for-all sacrifice for sinners. He did this so that we can draw near to God. Remember that when Jesus died the veil to the holy of holies was ripped from top to bottom. This signified that people now had access to God. The gap had been bridged. Through Christ, we can be children of God. He also gives the Holy Spirit to indwell us. We have many spiritual blessings in Christ (see Ephesians 1) and for that we should be thankful. We also have the benefit of history to humble us and remind us there was no other way and we cannot save ourselves.

Verse 21 shows the finality of this covenant. MacArthur puts it like this. “The Melchizedekian priesthood of Christ is confirmed with God’s oath in Ps 110:4. God’s mind will not change on the matter.”

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