The mystery man of the Bible
Genesis 14: Melchizedek, king of Salem…blessed him.
I’ve always thought of Abraham’s rescue of Lot as a fairly localized situation and that their enemy was a neighboring warlord. However, I’ve just realized that Kedorlaomer and his allies were a big deal: a conquering army from Babylon; a world power. The Canaanite rulers didn’t have a chance against them. When Abram hears what’s happened, he mounts a rescue effort with just 318 people. Years before Gideon’s 300 will win a battle against an insurmountable force Abraham mounts an amazing rescue by the authority of God. As he returns from that battle the Canaanite kings salute him and tell him to keep the spoils of his unprecedented victory, but Abraham turns them down, commenting that he doesn’t want people to think it was the Canaanites who made him rich. Then, out of nowhere, the mysterious Melchizedek, King of the town named Peace (or Salem) makes an appearance. He comes to bless Abraham and to praise God for what he’s done. In turn, Abraham recognizes this hitherto unknown man as a spiritual authority and gives him a tithe of all the plunder. I’m sure we’re talking about wagon loads of stuff here. In centuries to come both the Psalmist and the writer of Hebrews revisit this incident. They remind us that, even for the Jewish people, not all spiritual authority is based on lineage. In fact, the highest authority is when the Lord grants it in a direct way. I’m not ready to get bound up in whether or not Melchizedek is Jesus making an Old Testament appearance, but he does become the poster boy for God’s granting direct authority to the person of his choosing, credentials or not. That’s real important in our understanding how Jesus is the High Priest of Christians through the ages.
Take away: As we read our Old Testaments it isn’t unusual to find God preparing the way for his Son, Jesus, to come to the world.
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