To understand Melchizedek is to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ. He does not reveal Himself to those who are spiritually apathetic. Have you ever considered why Jesus was not transfigured in front of the masses? In fact, He didn’t even do it in front of the Twelve. He only took with Him Peter, James, and John to witness this astounding scene! But to the masses, Jesus concealed His glory and spoke in parables, because they were spiritually dull (see Matt. 13:12-15). He only reveals His glory to those with whom He is intimate, and He is only intimate with those whose hearts are humbled before Him. So as we approach these truths about Melchizedek as a type of Christ, we must make sure that our hearts are right before God. We must make some effort in searching to know Him. The only command in our text is, “observe how great this man was” (7:4). The Greek word means to gaze at or discern through careful observation. We get the word “theater” from it. We observe Melchizedek because he is a type of Christ, and we desire to see the beauty and glory of Jesus, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). To see Him as He is, is a transforming experience (1 John 3:2). The author shows that Melchizedek was also greater than the Levitical priests (and the system they represented), in two ways: First, the Levitical priests were mortal, but Melchizedek “lives on” (7:8). Second, Levi, who received tithes, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham, his forefather, when he paid tithes to Melchizedek (7:9-10). We can sum up these points in three ways that show how Melchizedek was a type of Jesus Christ:
1. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dignity of his person. Everything we know about Melchizedek comes from Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 7. The first text is historical, the second is prophetic, and the third is theological. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (probably Jerusalem, Psa. 76:2) and priest of the Most High God. “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). He not only imputes and imparts righteousness to others; He is righteous in His very being. He never sinned, nor could any guilt be found in Him. He is the Lamb of God, unblemished and spotless (1 Pet. 1:19). He is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). He did “no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (Isa. 53:9). Jesus is also the king of peace (Eph. 2:14-18). He brings peace between sinners and God, and peace among all that live under His lordship (Rom. 5:1). God did not lay aside His righteousness to make peace with sinners. Rather, He laid our penalty on His righteous substitute, “so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). If you know Jesus Christ as your King of righteousness and peace, you will be growing in righteous behavior and you will be pursuing peace with others (Rom. 14:17, 19).
2. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the derivation and duration of his priesthood. Being a priest in Israel was totally dependent on your family lineage. All priests came from the tribe of Levi. No one else need apply. If you could not establish your family heritage, you were excluded from the priesthood (Neh. 7:61-64). But Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (Heb. 7:3). Yet he was “priest of the Most High God” (7:1).
3. Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dispensing of his priesthood. Even though Abraham was God’s chosen man and God promised to bless the nations through him, Melchizedek “blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (7:6-7). Scripture uses the term “blessing” in different ways. In one sense, we bless God (Ps. 103:1), which does not imply that we are greater! We bless others by praying for them or rendering kind words or service (Luke 6:28; 1 Pet. 3:9), which is mutual. But here the sense is that of the priestly (Num. 6:22-27) or fatherly (Gen. 27:27; 48:15) blessing, which was not mutual, but superior. Abraham spontaneously recognized that this man represented God Most High, and so he gave him a tenth of his best profit from war as an act of worship and gratitude toward God for granting him victory over the four kings. Levi, who was Abraham’s great-grandson, gave tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham’s tithes, in that he was still in Abraham’s loins when this took place. In Hebrew thought, an ancestor contained in him all of his descendants. Thus Paul argues that when Adam sinned, the entire human race sinned (Rom. 5:12). So here, the author says, “so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes.” So Melchizedek is a type of Christ in the dignity of his person; in the derivation and duration of his priesthood; and, in the dispensing of his priesthood.