Thursday, June 9, 2011

Whatever Happened to Melchizedek?

What Ever Happened to Melchizedek?

Genesis 14:17-24
Key verse 14:18 Shp Kevin Jesmer NIU UBF

“Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought bread and wine. He was Priest of God Most High.”

Do you like mystery novels? If you do then you will like this one. One of the most mysterious people in the Bible is the king of peace, Melchizedek. Melchizedek is the first priest/king in the Bible. He was a city-state leader whose heart was tuned into God. He was good at encouraging others to acknowledge God and serve God wholeheartedly. He was a man whose character reflected his love for God. He appeared one day in the life of Abram and then was gone. What happened on that day was to be remembered throughout history and eventually became a subject of a New Testament letter, Hebrews. There are many lessons we can learn from him. In today’s lesson we will learn about God who sends his servants at the crucial moments in our walk with Jesus to encourage us and point us in the right way. We will also learn what made Melchizedek great and how we can emulate his life, becoming a blessing to others. May God bless you to grow as a servant of God like Melchizedek.

Part 1: Abram Was At A “Cross Roads” Moment (Gen 14:1-16)

In Chapter 14 we find Abram, despaired of life because Lot had left him in order to pursue his own dream. (As you know, Lot went to live in the city of Sodom, where people were sinning greatly against the Lord.) Sodom, the city where his nephew Lot went to, had just been conquered by King Kedorlaomer. Thousands were no doubt killed. All the goods of Sodom and all of the survivors had just been taken captive. His nephew Lot, and some family members were among them. They were to become slaves in the some far off land.

When Abram heard of this terrible situation, his heart stirred into action. Even though Lot had abandoned Abram and had chosen to compromise with the world, Abram still loved him and hoped that he would repent and change his ways. Adrenaline rushed through his aged veins. He rallied his strength and called together 318 of his militarily trained men who were in his tent village. These men, along with the men of two other tribal leaders, pursued Kedorlaomer’s army for a couple of hundred miles. It was his shepherd’s heart and love for Lot that gave him strength to press forward and never give up. God gave him wisdom to divide his forces and defeat Kedorlaomer. And God blessed him. Abram recovered all the goods of Sodom and all the people, including Lot and his family. God was with Abram and gave him this great victory when he cared about the flock of God and was willing to sacrifice his own life in order to rescue them from slavery. May God stir in us the same courage and compassion for lost souls in our day.
Abram’s victory placed him in a spiritually vulnerable position. Look at Verse 17b, “…the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).” Kings came to him to seek an audience. They offered him, not only recognition, but great wealth. Suddenly Abram was a political and military force to be reckoned with. Look at verse 21, “The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.’" Abram was tempted with great wealth. He was also tempted to think that, through military victory, political intrigue and worldly wealth, God was going to give him the Promised Land,. Why not seized the land now by these human means?
Abram was also despaired. He once had placed his hope in Lot, that through Lot, he would become a great nation. He poured out all of his energies to raise his nephew through the teenage years. But Lot abandoned his uncle and took half the flocks and herds and left the Promised Land without a second thought. Lot took the best without even a care about his uncles’ feelings, nor God’s hope for him. Abram sacrificed so much to rescue Lot, even risking his own life. And do you know what Lot did after he was rescued? You would think that he would repent and come to his senses and return to the life of faith alongside his uncle Abram. But no! He went back to Sodom. As a dog returns to it’s vomit. (2 Peter 2:20-22) Lot did not learn his lesson. He was so selfish. Abram despaired that all of his efforts were in vain.
Abram’s heart could have went several ways. He could have become a worldly tribal chief and ruled over the area with military might. He could have despaired and spent most of his time, curled up in a ball, sleeping in his tent and giving up on living a life of faith. He could have packed his bags and returned to the Ur of the Chaldeans where he had a lot of relatives to visit and grow old with. I would feel like giving up if I were him. He could have been paralyzed by fear wondering if Kedorlaomer would come back to exact revenge on him the next spring. He could have remained bitter to God forever asking God, “Why is this happening to me?” Can you see why this was a very tempting time for Abram? This was indeed a “crossroads” monent in the Abram’s life.
Part ll: Melchizedek, The Great Encourager! (Gen 14:17-24)
There is one thing, that all people who know God personally, come to realize…God never abandons his people at these crucial moments in their lives. He always sends someone to their them in order to give them wise words of counsel in order to help them on their spiritual journey. That is exactly what God did for Abram. Look at Verse 18a, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.” God sent his servant, Melchizedek.
We must always give credit to God for intervening at the crucial moments in our spiritual lives when we could have gone one way or the other. We must also thank God for his servants who have obeyed God and entered into our lives to shepherd us. It was clearly the hand of God in sending his servant to Abram. But what if Abram did not recognize Melchizedek as a priest of God sent by God himself? He could have told his servants, “Send that old man away. I am too tired and I don’t feel like talking to anyone.” He would have been the looser. But thank God that Abram had spiritual eyes to recognize the true identity of this great servant of God. Let us reflect on how God has been faithful to send someone into our lives to help us, by giving us the life giving words of God and showing us the way, when the way was not clear. In other words, who has been a Melchizedek to you? If you can not recognize the times when people were brought into your life to give you counsel, then ask God to open your eyes. There have been many! You must thank God for sending them. Maybe send them an e-mail. It will be much appreciated.
Who was this Melchizedek? Look at Hebrews 7:1-3, “ This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means ‘king of righteousness’; then also, ‘king of Salem’ means ‘king of peace.’ 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” The Bible says that he was the king of Salem. The city of Salem means the “city of Peace.” It is the name of ancient Jerusalem. The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world. A city called the “Foundation of Shalem” appears in ancient Egyptian records as the first two references to Jerusalem. In c. 2000 BC and c. 1330 BC a city was founded by a Northwest Semitic people, descendents of Shem, with organized settlements from around 2600 BC. (Wikipedia) They were a people who worshipped the God of Noah and had their own unique religious practices.
Melchizedek ruled over a theocracy. He was the king and also a priest. Apparently in those days there was no separation of church and state. Cities could be ruled by a person that was a political leader and also a spiritual leader. We can see glimpses of this in today’s world. For example who is the symbolic head of the Anglican Church? Not the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is the Queen of England. In the eighties, who was the leader of Iran? It was the Ayatollah Khomeini, a dual spiritual and political leader. One day we may have a Pastor/president.
He is a priest of God Most high. Some of us tend to think that Abram was the first person to believe in one God. But there were other people groups who worshipped God Most High, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Think of Noah and his descendants. They were believers in God Most High. Archeologists believe that the people who pioneered Jerusalem were Semites, decedents of Shem. Melchizedek simply did not worship God as Abram did. Abram is a pioneer of sorts for he pioneered a certain expression of faith. Abram’s faith tells us to believe in God’s promises and decide to live by faith; following God’s leading in our lives, ways that are tough and filled with faith building events. Melchizedek was a spiritual leader of a religion that worshiped the God of Noah and Abraham. But it did not involve living by faith as Abram was doing. Yet, he was a sincere servant of God and God was working though him.
There are times when we don’t respect other followers of Christ, if they do not worship like our own congregation or denomination. But Abram recognized Melchizedek as a servant of God and learned from him and submitted to him. We need to realize that God is not just working through evangelical, non-denominational Protestants. He is working through many denominations and expressions of faith. I am not saying that God is working through all world religions or purveyors of false gospels, but if there are Christians out there that are not like us and who worship differently in their churches we need to respect them as servants of Jesus Christ and acknowledge that God is working through them.
Melchizedek was a great man and yet very humble. He was a king. He was also a priest. He had great power and authority. And yet he came to meet old Abram, out in the desert. He came and brought the bread and wine. He came to encourage and bless and share spiriitual fellowship. This is very humble. He reminds me of Jesus. The attitude of Christ Jesus, was, in a word, humbleness. Philippians 2:6-7 reads, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Jesus is the Creator God, through whom all things were made (Jn 1:1-3). But he did not clutch the power and glory of his equality with God. It was his. Yet, he divested himself of it and became flesh to dwell among us (Jn 1:14), even being born in a stable.
In our sinful nature, we want to be recognized, and honored. We want people to come to us. But Jesus’ attitude was humility, not self-glory seeking. He made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant. In the world, no one ever gives up his or her position of authority and power, whether it is deserved or not. We would rather be served by others, and lord it over them. Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth, but he used his power to serve the weak. Instead of demanding people to come up to his standard, Jesus reached down to us, serving our needs. He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45) Melchizedek reflected the heart of Jesus.
The fact that he came to have spiritual fellowship is also very significant. We like to socialize and hang out with our friends. But do we intend to have spiritual fellowship with them? When we have spiritual fellowship with people, we pray with them, we discuss spiritual things, we examine the scriptures, we are mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Having spiritual fellowship is very intentional. It does not come easy. It is a sign of spiritual maturity when we seek this type of fellowship out.
Part lll: Melchizedek, The Blesser (Gen 14:18-20)
Melchizedek came to bless Abram. Look at verse 14:19a, “and he blessed Abram, saying, ….” What does it mean to bless someone? Does it mean to give endless charity? No, in fact, Abram is the one who gave money away to Melchizedek, not the other way around. Then what does it mean to “bless” someone? Look at how Melchizedek did it in verses 19b-20, ““…’Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Let’s think a little more about blessing others.
First, he turned Abram’s eyes to the God Most High. He knew that Abram was struggling spiritually and he knew that the only solution was to take his eyes off of himself and his present situation and place them squarely on God instead. God is Most High. He is more powerful than the armies of worldly kings. He can give the whole Promised Land to Abram with one swipe of his hand. Nothing is impossible with God Most High. One day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and he said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29) Moses told the people to take their eyes off the poisonous snakes, repenting of their fears and vainly trying to save themselves, and look to the bronze snake on pole. (Nu 21:4-9) Those who look to the Son of Man, Jesus, high and exalted on the cross, will be saved. There is one hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Verse 1 reads, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full into his wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” To bless someone is to remind them of who God is and encourage them to fix their eyes on Jesus, the Creator God.
Second, he encouraged Abram to give God the credit for gaining a great victory over his enemies. Look at verse 20a, “And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Abram had indeed accomplished a great task. He defeated an army many more times the size of his own. He was an old man, but he did something that even young men could not accomplish. It was easy for him to think that in his wisdom, his strength, his leadership, and his stick-to-itiveness, he got himself the victory. To think this way is pride itself. There is a danger of thinking that we can do it all because of our own power. But the Bible says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. (Ja 4:6) What have we got that we have not been given? Paul knew that his great spiritual successes were not from him but from God. He says in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” If we become proud we are in a real danger of loosing the blessings that God has brought into our lives. I thank God for Bethany Erickson. She is the girl who got her arm bitten off by a shark and became a surf champion with one arm. She stated again and again that her strength comes from Jesus Christ.

Now is the time to think about all the victories that God has brought forth. What about school? sports? relationships? jobs? career? and family? These are outward things, but what about spiritual things? Is it not a victory that you are standing as a believer in God when the whole western world seems to be falling away from Christ? What about the fact that you are growing stronger as a servant of God and his word? What about taking away fear, judgment, criticism, and despair from your heart? Did you take them away on your own? No. It is all because of Jesus and his Gospel. Today, it is time to be blessed and give all glory and honor and credit to Jesus. Part of blessing others is helping them to give all the credit and glory to God for every victory in their lives.

Melchizedek blessed Abram by helping Abram to obey God. Melchizedek’s spiritual influence was great. Look at Verse 20b, “…Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” and also Hebrews 7:4, “Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder” It was not easy for Abram to give a tenth to Melchizedek. He had the equivalent of millions of dollars. A tenth of this was tens of thousands of dollars. Most people don’t want to offer anything to God. They hold onto their last dollar as if they were on a white knuckle roller coaster ride. As if that last dollar is going to make any difference anyways! It is not just money. People do this when they need to tithe their time, effort, and passion to Jesus. But Melchizedek had spiritual influence and power to help Abram obey God and offer. This is a great work of God. I don’t even have the authority and influence to help people to obey God in this way. I pray that all of us can offer God our tithe, but also grow in spiritual power and influence to bless people by helping them to obey what is right before God.
Melchizedek blessed Abram by helping him to accept the word of God with conviction of heart. Look at Verses 22-24, “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share." Abram was not this vague old man who was just lingering, fearful and tired. No way! He had conviction of heart to do the right thing and walk the right path, the path that is pleasing to God. The devil was using the king of Sodom to come and tempt Abram to act like an ordinary king and keep the plunder for himself. This would have been devastating to the work of God. All of the surrounding peoples and the recorders of Biblical history, could say that Abram was blessed because of the generosity of the king of a wicked city. They could say that Abram’s heart was swayed by money. It would have ruined his witness. It would be like receiving money from an abortion clinic to open up a church. But through the shepherding and mentoring of Melchizedek, Abram could be very strong spiritually. He told the king of Sodom clearly the truth that he learned from Melchizedek. He stood firmly and boldly on the side of truth with a loud voice. Blessing others means to help them have a clear conviction of heart based on God’s word and declare their faith to an unbelieving world.
Melchizedek served the Lord with integrity of heart. After Abram gave him a tenth of everything, Melchizedek just leaves. He took the offering back to Salem and used it for propogating the knowledge of God Most High, the Creator. Abram did not demand an audit of how the offering was used. He gave it and never tried to micromange it from afar. He trusted God and he trusted Melchizedek because he was a trustworthy servant of God.

Melchizedek was selfless. After he interacted with Abram you don’t hear anything else about him. He went home and carried on with his mission to be a king and a priest. He did not want bring glory to himself, but bring all the glory to God. He was not competing with Abram. He was like John the Baptist who was a small light leading others to the true light Jesus Christ. John became less so that Jesus can become greater. And when his Jesus’ ministry grew he was more than willing to fade into the shadows and let Jesus take over. How often we want to stick around to gain more glory for ourselves. We want to compete with other ministries that are up and rising, feeling threatened by them. But we need to learn Melchizedek’s humility and support what God is doing and if it is God’s will, then simply disappear.

Part lV: Jesus Is Identified With Melchizedek (Heb 7:1-28)
Melchizedek was a Christ figure. The author of the book of Hebrews compares Jesus to Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:11, “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” Jesus is so many things. But he also Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. What does that mean, “in the order of Melchizedek”? Hebrews 7:7-17 explains this a little bit. I would like to include it but it is all very theological and the subject of another message. Let’s think of some highlights. Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham, was greater than he, and thereby, greater than Levi, Abraham's descendant, for Levi was still in Abraham’s DNA. (To be born some 400 years later.) Under the Law, priests must be descendants of Levi. Through the priesthood, established by the descendants of Levi, God made a way for salvation through the blood of animals. In this way sinners could come to God. But this sacrificial system was inadequate. Melchizedek was a priest, but he was not a descendant of Levi. Jesus is not one also. Jesus came from the house and line of Judah. Concerning Melchizedek’s lineage, Hebrews 7:3 reads, “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” The priesthood of Levi could not bring lasting and complete forgiveness of sins. This inadequate system looked forward to a better priest and a perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God. Jesus is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is the Son of God, without beginning of days or end of life. Psalm 110 speaks of a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is that priest--not because of his human ancestry, but by the power of his sinless and indestructible life. Through him we may draw near to God. That is the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus.
In this passage we learned about God who sees our need and knows our situation and always sends someone to help us along on our spiritual journey. We also learned how to be a blessing to others through Melchizedek’s blessing of Abram. We learn how to have spiritual fellowship with people encourage them. May God help you to be a person of abundant blessings and may you turn many hearts to the the Most High God, Jesus Christ.
Part 1: Abram Was At A “Cross Roads” Moment (Gen 14:1-16)

1. What event had Abram just been through? What was the outcome of the battle? (17a) What did the king Sodom offer Abram? (17b, 21) What was the temptation for Abram at this time?

Part ll: Melchizedek, The Great Encourager! (Gen 14:17-18)

2. Who came to Abram at this crucial moment in his life? (18) What was his dual occupation? Which city was he the king of? What did he bring? What does this mean? What is it important for us to bless others? What does this teach us about God?
Part lll: Melchizedek, The Blesser (Gen 14:19-20)
3. What did he do to Abram? (19a) What did he say to Abram? (19b-20) What God did Melchizedek worship and serve? What can we learn about our attitude towards others believers who worship the God of the Bible?

4. Who is the giver of every victory in life? How is our God able to give us victory upon victory? What enemies are delivered into our hands nowadays? How can we bring glory to God through our victories in life? What affect did Melchizedek’s counsel have on Abram’s spirit? (22-24)

5. What did Abram give to Melchizedek? Why? How does this reveal the greatness of Melchizedek? (Heb 7:4) What do you think Melchizedek did with the offering?

Part lV: Jesus Is Identified With Melchizedek (Heb 7:1-28)

6. What observation did the author of Hebrews make concerning Melchizedek? (Heb 7:3) How is this like Jesus?

7. What are the limitations of the Levitical priesthood? (Heb 7:11) How is Jesus’
priesthood like that of Melchizedek and not like that of Levi? On what basis was
Melchizedek and Jesus made priests? (Heb 7:7-17) What is Jesus identified with
Melchizedek and not with Levi? (Heb 7:18-28; Psalm 110)

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