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Shadows of the Cross

Shadows of the Cross – The mystery of Melchizedek (Genesis 18:13-14)

Today’s Reading: Genesis 13-15

Today’s Reflection:  Genesis 14:18-20

18) And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.  19) And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20) And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

When reading scripture it is sometimes easy to overlook the simplest of things.  Between all of the stories, genealogies, laws, ceremonies, rituals, prophesies, psalms and proverbs, it’s easy to miss the fact that the Bible is a story with one central figure at its heart: Jesus Christ.  Even though Jesus Himself doesn’t actually appear in His human incarnation until more than two thirds of the way through the Bible, everything that happens before His arrival points to His coming as the only hope for mankind.  The mystery of Melchizedek is one of the more direct shadows foretelling the Messiah.

It is after Abram (soon to become Abraham) rescues his nephew Lot and Lot’s family who had been taken captive from Chedorlaomer that King Melchizedek makes his one and only appearance in scripture.  Melchizedek is described as both King of Salem and Priest of the Lord, God Most High.  He blesses Abram and his God, and Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth of his belongings.  This brief and seemingly inconsequential exchange is packed with symbolic and messianic meaning.

Melchizedek is both a king and a priest.  In Israel, the people who would one day be descended from Abraham, no man could be both king and priest.  In fact it was for the disobedient act of carrying out a priestly duty that Saul was ultimately stripped of his office as king of Israel (1 Samuel 13:8-15).  The only other person in the Bible who is rightfully both a king and a priest is Jesus. In addition the name Salem means ‘peace’, making Melchizedek the ‘ruler of peace’.

Hebrews 3:1 – Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.

Acts 17:7b) – And these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6 – For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

After receiving Melchizedek’s blessing, Abram gives him a tenth of all of his belongings.  If you’re thinking this sounds like a tithe, you would be right—other translations of the Bible actually use the word.  But to whom are tithes returned?  Only to God, again affirming Melchizedek’s connection to the Lord, God Most High.

Nehemiah 10:38 – And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.

Finally, the Apostle Paul describes Jesus as being connected to Melchizedek in Hebrews chapters 5 and 6.

Hebrews 6:20 – Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Because of all of these connections, and the fact that Melchizedek has no known ancestors or descendants, some theologians believe this mysterious figure may actually have been Jesus appearing in human form as a foreshadowing to His eventual incarnation as a human being.  Either way, Melchizedek presents a powerful reflection of the coming Messiah—a figure of authority, peace, wisdom, blessing and devotion to the Lord, God Most High.

As you continue to read the Bible, look for other shadows of the cross—echoes of Jesus salvation, grace, mercy, justice and love—in other characters and stories.

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