Who is Melchizedek?
You know what? I'm not going to go to the stake on this. I believe Christ was active in the Old Testament. He was known as God-from-God, the Divine Mediator of the Most High. Many people met Him. All faithful Israelites trusted in Him and in His future incarnate work. But none of that commits me to saying Melchizedek was one of His titles. But, having said that, I think it's a pretty good bet!
He is a beginningless, parentless, everlasting, royal priest of God Most High. He's the King of Righteousness, King of Peace, King of Jerusalem. Ring any bells?
"Ah but what about Hebrews 7:3?" someone will say. Indeed, what about about Hebrews 7:3?
without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, and being made like to the Son of God, doth remain a priest continually. (YLT)
Is that true? Is he really without beginning of days and end of life? And does he remain a priest continually? I'm aware of more sophisticated arguments on this point but I try to be a simple sort. In which case he's either the pre-incarnate Jesus or there's four members of the trinity.
Ok, but what about "being made like to the Son of God"? Well:
a) "Son of God" is a title - and a crucial one in Hebrews. So much of the book is a comparison of "Son" to other titles: "angels", "Son of man", "servant", "high priest" etc. "King of Righteousness" is like "Son of God" especially when you consider Heb 1:8 - 'the Son' has the 'sceptre of righteousness.'
b) The perfect passive ("being made") is common in Hebrews for what happens to Jesus. So in Heb 1:4 He becomes superior to the angels because of the more excellent name He has inherited (i.e. "Son"). In Heb 2:9 He is crowned with glory and honour (high priest's clothing - Ex 28:2,40). In Heb 2:17 He is made like His brothers. In Heb 3:3 He is found worthy. In Heb 5:5 He is appointed high priest, in v9 He is made perfect, and in v10 He is desgnated high priest in the order of Melchizedek. In fact it's this verse that prompts the discussion of Melchizedek. And in Heb 6:20 it is repeated that Jesus has become high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
So Melchizedek in Genesis 14 is a type - but a type of Himself, i.e. His future incarnate work. He is indeed the King of Righteousness, the King of Peace and the eternal Priest of God Most High. And He is that as He meets Abraham.
God was not trying to deceive Abraham by having a mere man appear in such an exalted Role. So it truly was the Son of God who appeared as Melchizedek. But His appearance as Melchizedek was a foretaste of His future priestly work. This is just the same as His appearances as "The Angel (i.e. Sent One) of the LORD." They were foretastes of His future incarnate work as Sent from the Father.
So for Melchizedek to effect His true priesthood, He would need to lay hold of the Seed of Abraham (Heb 2:16), to take flesh and perform His true priestly work. In other words, He would need to be made like "the Son of God." You see He always has been Son of God, but the title while eternal is also inherited through His incarnate work! Get your head around that one if you can - but Heb 1:4 and 5:5 state it plainly. So Melchizedek (who is pre-incarnate Son of God) must be made like "the Son of God" in order to be a true Priest.
The argument of chapters 5-7 therefore is something like this: He's superior to Aaron because He is also King. And He's superior to Melchizedek because He's also man.
You might ask why He's in the order of Melchizedek. Well I think the real problem would be if He was in someone else's order. Jesus is in a class of His own! He started the club (as Priest-King) and then slotted into the fullness of the Role: incarnate-Priest-King.
That's my understanding at the moment anyway.
Of which I'm sure about 3% will make it into my Sunday sermon.
Any thoughts of your own? Tips on how to preach Hebrews 7?