WHEN THE PRIESTHOOD BEGAN
By Henry Jaegers
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. Genesis 14: 18-20
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110: 1)
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:4)
When I first shared with my friends about my desire to do a devotional study in the book of Hebrews, I was warned by them about the controversy concerning the priesthood of Melchizedek. So, we have finally arrived at that point in our study, so in order to fully understand the so-called controversy, I have decided to use the “law of first- mention to avoid any controversy.
Over the years, I have discovered most difficulties over the word of God happen when we spend too much time listening to theories and presuppositions manufactured in the mind of some. Fortunately, the Bible is the “Word of God” and God never gave it to us in order to confuse us or keep us from understanding his word. Of course, there is an exception at times, especially when we enter into the subject of why Jesus spoke in parables. But we need not be side-tracked with these kind of things.
Before us I have placed five verses from the Old Testament that tell us everything that we need to know about Melchizedek. We will confine ourselves to the Scriptures that contain all the information that we need to know. As we continue our study in chapter 5, we notice Paul mentions that there are things about Melchizedek they cannot talk about because there are certain elements missing from their understanding that need to be clarified first. Namely, he is talking about their lack of spiritual maturity. That is what chapter five and six are all about. The study of Melchizedek will continue in chapter 7 after Paul (or whoever you think the writer of Hebrews is) deals with the hindrances to their understanding.
But now, let's look at these verses in the Old Testament to find out what they tell us about Melchizedek.
1. The first thing we are told about Melchizedek is that he was the king of Salem (later called Jerusalem), and the priest of the most high God.
That is important because Abraham recognize him as being so. Melchizedek received his priesthood from the most high God of whom he was the representative. Some like to say that he was the pre-incarnate Christ. That is not stated and it is an interpretation that we must recognize as such.
2. We notice that he was the one who approached Abraham after his battle with the Kings. Abraham was recognized by God and Melchizedek was God's representative on earth in approaching him. He was not sought out by Abraham but was sent by God to give a blessing to Abraham.
3. Beside receiving the blessing of Melchizedek, Abraham offered tithes to Melchizedek. We are told later in the book of Hebrews that this proves that that the lesser (Abraham) was blessed by the greater (Melchizedek).
The statement "when the priesthood began", began not with Melchizedek, but it began in eternity with God. Unlike the priesthood of Aaron whose priesthood began with man, the priesthood of Melchizedek was greater because it had its origins in eternity.
4. We shall find as we continue our study concerning the priesthood of Aaron, that we are told that Aaron's priesthood is inferior because he also offered gifts to Melchizedek while he was yet in the loins of his father Abraham. That means, long before Aaron was even thought about, his priesthood was inferior just like Abraham was inferior to Melchizedek. But Aaron's offering was counted as having taken place when Abraham offered his. Perhaps, that is where the difficulty arises when the writer in Hebrews is addressing the Hebrew Christians. They lacked the ability to comprehend this simple fact.
Now I have included, along with this message concerning Melchizedek, a statement made by David in Psalm 110. Any begins by stating "the Lord said unto my Lord". In verse four he finishes the statement by saying that the Lord Jesus Christ would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. He would not come from the tribe of Levi like Aaron would. But his priesthood would be of a higher origin and as the king, he would descend from the tribe of Judah.
Our thoughts will continue on this. But for now, we must recognize Psalm 110, quoted by the writer of Hebrews in establishing the fact that the priesthood of Jesus is the priesthood that began in eternity and was ordained by God.
May God help us to stay true to the facts of Scripture, enabling us not to be caught up with the ideas of men who often manufactured truth out of their imaginations