The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ (Psalm 110:4)
Melchizedek is one of the most mysterious, yet crucially important, figures in Scripture! He’s also one of the coolest. He’s only mentioned in 3 places: Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 7, each time revealing more about his importance and relevance.
When we’re first introduced to Melchizedek in Genesis 14, Abram (soon to be Abraham) has just defeated a coalition of kings who kidnapped his nephew Lot, and Melchizedek is introduced as king of Salem (ancient Jerusalem) and priest of God Most High. He blesses Abram and God, then Abram gives him a tenth of the loot he got from the battle. Right off the bat, we have some interesting information about Melchizedek: first, he’s a king; second, he’s a priest of God, meaning he knows God personally and has direct access to God before there was ever the Law or Levite priests; and lastly, he blesses Abram and receives a tithe from him, indicating that Abram recognized him as his superior.
The next time we hear about Melchizedek is in a Psalm prophesying about the Messiah, where God declares that He would be a Priest forever in the same order as Melchizedek, and leaves it at that. So far, we have little to nothing on Melchizedek, yet he’s important enough that the Messiah is to be a priest like him! Weird…
Finally, the author of Hebrews explains Melchizedek’s significance and how he relates to Jesus Christ. Turns out, Melchizedek was a “type”, or foreshadowing, of Jesus as ultimate High Priest. The same way Melchizedek is portrayed as ancient and timeless since he just shows up and vanishes, Jesus is the Eternal Priest who will always remain since He can never die. The same way Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to the Old Testament priesthood since Abraham (the father of Israel and ancestor of Aaron and Levi) recognized him as greater, the Son of God’s priesthood is far superior to that of Aaron’s. And lastly, the same way Melchizedek is characterized by righteousness and peace (his name means “king of righteousness”), Jesus Christ is the Righteous One, the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In short, Jesus is our Great High Priest, not through the imperfect levitical priesthood of the OT, but through the eternal, superior, righteous priesthood of Melchizedek! The Messiah is a Prophet like Moses, a King like David, and a Priest like Melchizedek.
Some think he’s an Old Testament appearance of Jesus, others think he’s Noah’s son Shem years after the Flood. It seems the most likely option is that Melchizedek was truly an ancient king that God revealed Himself to in order to set up the priesthood that would later be fulfilled completely in His Son Jesus Christ!