Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 16 November 2017

We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.  Hebrews 13, verse 10.

My Concordia reference explains this verse by saying this verse refers to the cross (the true altar), “which marked the end of the whole Aaronic priesthood and its replacement by the order of Melchizedek.  The priests could not eat of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement but we can partake of our sacrifice, so to speak – through spiritual reception of Christ through faith.   We have a higher privilege than the priests under the old covenant had.”

In the days of the ancient priesthood, the high priest was the only representative between the people and God.   He and only he was allowed certain privileges in how worship was conducted.   Priests were provided with free food out of the stock brought to the Lord and thus were very well fed.   Yet on the Day of Atonement, the day when the high priest went before the Mercy Seat of God to ask for atonement of the peoples’ sins, the priest was not allowed to consume any part of the sacrificed lamb.   He sprinkled its blood on the altar, and the remainder of the sacrifice was taken outside the Israelite camp and burned until nothing was left.

When Christ volunteered to die for your sins, He removed the need for the Old Testament system of sacrifices.  Ritual animal sacrifice as a substitution for an atonement was replaced by the real sacrifice of the pure blood of God Himself, who made atonement needing no ritual, animal, or substitution.  What’s more, we who believe in Him partake of this sacrifice – and thus of Him – in many ways simply by believing.   Our faith in Jesus is the food that feeds the soul, and feeding on the love of Jesus removes need for anything else.

Pretty tough stuff to comprehend, right?   Then let’s try it another way.  Translation:   you don’t need a go-between to get to God.   You get to consume time and the essence of your Savior in person, one on one.   Your faith in Him removes all obstacles between you and Him.

You and I, as followers of Jesus, don’t need a high priest to sprinkle blood on the Ark of the Covenant.  We don’t need a priest to slaughter an animal in our place.   We don’t need to follow the intricate, ancient rituals of old to make ourselves righteous before God again.   And we don’t need to wait until just one day in a year for someone else to take our case before God.   Even as a believer, some religions still insist a priest is necessary to intermediate between you and your God.  Yet the Bible says this simply isn’t true.

Right here, right now, wherever you are, you GET TO commune with Jesus one on one.   He came to you; you don’t have to go to Him.   He meets you from within, and your saying “I believe” puts your faith in Him.   In doing so, you accept that He did everything possible and necessary to make you right before God again.   You have communion with Him and share in His death and resurrection right now, today, in this very moment, and all the time.   When you periodically observe Holy Communion, you get to remember Him further, in different ways, partaking in elements that point us directly to Him as the true Spiritual food.   Right here, right now you get to go to the altar of the cross and lay down your sins, lay down your successes, lay down your pride, lay down everything you have and are and love, and submit it all to Jesus.   In return, He guides you as friend, Savior, and fellow, and says “I’ve made it right for you.”   You don’t need me or anyone else to tell him on your behalf or to sacrifice for you.   He did it all and you and I get to each meet Him where we are.  Right here, right now.

For further reading:  Hebrews 8:5, 1 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Corinthians 10:18.

Lord, I praise You for doing everything needed in faith.   For loving me enough to die and rise for me.   I praise You for being the food my soul needs to thrive and the true living water to quench my eternal thirst.


Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 2 February 2017

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.  Hebrews 7, verses 18-19.

You can read it as easily as I can:   these verses are talking about law (and, in context, about the divinity of Jesus, our true priest forever in the order of Melchizedek).   Let me draw another parallel for you, though.

I’m struggling to not hate right now.   If you’ve read these words for awhile, you know that my (now) former company laid me off at the end of December.  They didn’t need me anymore, and I hadn’t done anything wrong or illegal or immoral.   They simply didn’t need me anymore and I wasn’t a fit in the company culture; they didn’t want me, so they let me go.   Since then, I’ve been working part time in a call center.   There, I recently switched to a new account because the previous one also scaled back.   Along with two of my co-workers, I’m learning how this company uses a system I’ve known for over fifteen years.   It should be a good fit for me, especially as a part-time gig, yet I feel more discouraged than I have in months.  I’ve interviewed for a number of full-time positions but none has come open yet, at least not for me.   It’s discouraging to be out of work, and my wife and I are scaling back our spending drastically, contacting creditors, and trying our best to keep afloat.  I’m worried, and scared, and I feel ashamed to be out of work when I would so much rather be moving forward in success.

As a result, I find myself struggling to stay away from the selfish spiraling of blaming my former employer, of succumbing to hatred.   If you hate the people who hate you, they win, and that would simply make another wrong.   I thought I was doing the right thing in the way I led the projects they had me working on,  but the culture there had become mistake-free.   I made mistakes, didn’t do what they wanted me to do even as some of what they wanted me to do was wrong.  I find myself fighting off the urge to truly hate the men who put me on the street, to wish on them pain and hurt like they’ve inflicted on me.   It’s a real struggle; it’s a real fight, like two parties are warring for my soul.   I’m so angry and feel so hurt, and I’m really trying to not feel sorry for myself.   There are so many other people struggling worse than we are.   Yet I find myself wanting to scream at those men, to meet them in an airport someplace and punch one of them in the eye, or worse.   It was unfair, it was cruel, it was just plain wrong what they did to me, and I feel an empty burning anger inside of me because of it.

Now is the time to re-read the verses and address what God is saying in them.   In all I’m going through, God isn’t indifferent.   What was behind me is behind me.   God bless the folks still working for those wretched men and I honestly hope they do well.   As for me, God has me out of there for a reason.   In that, God is teaching me things, first and foremost reminding me to rely on Him.   My God is bigger than some job.   It isn’t Pollyana-ish to say again and again that something good is coming.   I don’t know how soon it’ll happen, but it will happen.   Until then, in good and in bad, God is still with us and is providing what He knows we need.   He has me doing what I can to move forward along a new path.  What is now in the past is rightfully in the past, relegated there because God is growing me beyond it.   It’s no longer needed for the path He has me on.

This whole job-searching process then becomes an exercise in trust, in trusting God.   He prepared me in the past for things I need to know now.   All that He’s going to use to put me in some new place has already been set in motion, even if I can’t yet see how it all fits together.  It’s frustrating, it’s anger-inducing, it has my emotions on edge and under stress.   It did the same to Job, and to King David, and to Elijah, and to Jesus in Gethsemene.  God is active in where He has my wife and I, and He’s building us up for work He’s readying for us in the days to come.   God is drawing my wife and I nearer to Him.   Imperfect as we are, we’re close as one and closer to God than we have been in a long time.   That will bear only good fruit.  What it bears will be washed in Jesus’ hope.

I still want to sock my old manager in the eye, though.   But instead of that, I’ll pray the “Fiddler on the Roof prayer,” the one the villagers asked of their rabbi concerning the tsar.   “May the good Lord bless and keep him…far away from us.”  God’s active in their lives even when they were (I feel) unjust to me.   In a way, I hope He’s active for their best as well.

For further reading:   Romans 8:3, Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:20, Hebrews 3:6, James 4:8.

Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me when I so don’t deserve it.   Bless those who persecute us, and lead me to the new place You have in store.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 26 January 2017

And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:  “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  Hebrews 7, verses 15-17.

It’s another verse affirming the supremacy of Jesus.   We’ve already established that a pedigree matters to people.   It doesn’t matter to God, but we need to know that our leaders are ‘legit.’  Here’s more proof of that.  Those words “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” are directly quoted from Psalm 110 and from the earlier Hebrews verses.  This means that, in first century Judea, when Hebrews was written, the psalm was already hundreds of years old, dating back centuries to the time of King David.   The original readers of Hebrews would have recognized this already ancient verse and ascribed power and meaning to it.   How much more so should we.

We’ve already spoken about how Jesus wasn’t a Levite, so for Him to be the ‘priest forever’ meant that He would have to have been declared so by God.   Jesus fulfilled all the priestly requirements, including the ones in line with the example of Melchizedek.  Going back to our first century timeline, up to that point, who else had appeared who was like Jesus?   Did John the Baptist do the things Jesus did?   No.   Did the Maccabeans?   Nope.   The Jewish Sanhedrin?   Nope again.   In fact, in all of antiquity, who else could lay claim to even being able to preach the words, perform the miracles, die the cruel death after living a sinless life, and demonstrate the Father’s true character the way Jesus did?   You know the answer.  In the twenty centuries since the life of Christ, has anyone else done these things?   Again, you know the answer.

So who else but Jesus would appear?   Are you looking for someone else?   Do you seriously expect someone else to appear who would do what Jesus did?   Even discounting Christ’s divinity, do you seriously, truly expect another person will appear in all of history who will be able to satisfy the requirements of a go-between with God and man the way Jesus did?   Over three hundred Biblical prophecies were completed in Jesus Christ.   The odds of anyone else being able to do that are astronomical, physically impossible.   Could anyone else do what Jesus did?

Buddha didn’t.  Mohammed didn’t and never could.  Martin Luther King and Billy Graham (or Billy Sunday) didn’t.  Neither did any of the old Communist dictators (including the still above room temperature Raul Castro and the boy-tyrant Kim Jong Un), Martin Luther, Pope John Paul II, the Apostle Peter, Torquemada, any US president including George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, Timothy Leary, Elon Musk, or Buddy Holly even before the day the music died.

The fact is there is no other man who has or might appear who has become a priest like Melchizedek.   There is no other priest whose lineage is eternal, and to whom a great stranger would tithe a tenth of his possessions.   There is nobody else throughout all of time who could have said, done, and lived the way the man from Nazareth did.  There is only Jesus.   In all of human history, only Jesus of Nazareth satisfies all the things that the author of Hebrews says about a true intermediary between God and man.   Science, logic, history, and faith prove there simply is no other way.

For further reading:   Psalm 110:4, Hebrews 5:6.

Lord, only You.   Only You could be the Savior of mankind.   I believe in only You.


Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 25 January 2017

He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.  Hebrews 7, verses 13-14.

Background matters here on the Third Rock.   It’s not the Harvard diploma that gets you the job, but the Harvard name can get you in the door.   It’s not the brand name Velveeta that you buy:   it’s that big block of cheesy love that makes great queso.  It isn’t the car brand that matters as much as it is the smooth ride.  Yet background still can matter to us:   you get a better ride from a Mercedes than you do a used Kia.   And you get a better queso from Velveeta than you do from store brands.   And you get more resume inquiries if you have an Ivy League pedigree than you do if you only graduated from high school.   But background isn’t everything, and background will only carry you so far.   If you want quality, you have to dig deeper.   You need to get past the superficial things that live in front of the background.

The verses since verse 11 have talked about how Jesus is like Melchizedek, the faceless, background-less king of Salem and high priest of God who met Abram in the Canaan wilderness.   The author illustrates how, if human qualifications were enough, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.   Melchizedek had a pedigree; he may have even been Jesus Himself.  But we needed more reminders, so God gave us strict rules through Moses about who should be priests.   Moses and his brother, Aaron, were descendants of Levi; they were Levites.  The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy contain all kinds of codes for Israelite priests.  What to do, how to act, what to wear, when to offer sacrifices and how; it was detailed for a reason:   God’s reason.  Priests weren’t allowed to change the rules; only God could do that.

Becoming a priest in ancient days wasn’t for just anyone…literally.   To be a Jewish priest, you had to be a Levite, descended from Jacob’s son, Levi (one of Abraham’s great grandsons).   It was to the Levites and only the Levites that God had given the priestly calling.   Exclusionary and discriminatory?   Only if you’re shallow.   Look beyond those twenty-first century words and you see the reason from antiquity was two-fold.   One, God wanted His people to understand that His calling was set apart and unique.   And, two, that His calling would matter, that it would teach people about His glory if they adhered to certain processes.   God gave us these rules for our benefit, not His, so He used groups and symbols that we could understand.

Yet Jesus wasn’t a Levite.   He was descended, both on His father’s and mother’s sides, from Judah (another of Abraham’s great grandsons).   The referenced verses from Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and Revelation talk about Jesus’ lineage from the tribe of Judah.   And when He wanted to institute a priesthood that would supersede anything earthly, God reminded us that He is the ultimate rule maker, that He is over those rules and not subject to them.   He sent His Son to live by every earthly rule, even those of the priesthood to which He wasn’t subject, yet was not bound by the restriction of being a Levite.   Indeed, Jesus’ human restriction was that He was descended from Levi’s father, Jacob, and grandfather, Abraham, and ultimate Father Himself, God Almighty.  In fact, word, and deed, Jesus ministered as a man in ways to both fulfill God’s priestly requirements and to demonstrate that, as God, He would supersede them for all people.

And Jesus’ background was meager.   He didn’t have a rabbinical background.   He wasn’t a trained Levite or priest.   He didn’t go to all the right schools, and He didn’t have any upbringing to set Him apart from anyone in particular.   Jesus was a simple carpenter’s son, from royal but undisclosed heritage, who hailed from a poor, simple town in Judea.  No Harvard degree; no Velveeta branding; no sweet ride for the streets of Nazareth.   When all will be said and done, Jesus matters more than the background.

For further reading:   Hebrews 7:11, Isaiah 11:1, Matthew 1:2-6, Luke 3:33, Revelation 5:5.

Lord Jesus, thank You for signs and things that matter here in this world.   Let them all be to Your glory and be ways that help me to point to You.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 January 2017

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7, verse 11.

Ah, a question for the ages.   If God gave us what He said we needed, why did He have to give us something else?   If God said the original priests could atone for sins, why Jesus?   You know the answer.   I’m betting you simply don’t want to admit it.

It’s not you:  it’s me.   It’s not me:  it’s you.   It’s us.   It’s in us.   It’s something that controls us.  It’s our sins.   Chucka, chucka, chucka.   Big deal; we already know that, right?  Actually, it is sort of a big deal, and that really stinks yet it’s the first of all first principles.

Your pastor is a sinful man.  All pastors are sinful men.   MLK Day was one week ago and most Americans regard Martin Luther King as having been a great man, an upright and moral man who said and did great things that needed to be said and done.   Obscured in history is the fact that he was also a sinner.   Time has revealed that he had at least one extramarital affair during his ministry; he may have had many.   Being familiar with that particular sin myself, perhaps the best I should say is “good men sometimes do bad things, too.”  Remember Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker?   Good men who brought many people to real faith but who also lived double lives of hypocrisy like MLK and me and you.

Next time you see your pastor, remember that he’s a sinner too.   He or she doesn’t have a special dispensation for sin, pope or no pope (and neither does the pope).  Pastors don’t have some special divine exemption from their sins.   They struggle with them just like everyone else.   Some struggle with them while they’re in active ministry for the Lord.  Indeed, in today’s ministry, you’ll meet men and women of the cloth who are right now dealing personally with their adultery, homosexuality, alcoholism, theft, dishonesty and even murder.  Just like you and me.   Just like Jimmy and MLK.   Just like the author of Hebrews.

And just like all those priests of Levi.   God Himself chose Levi’s, then Aaron’s, descendants to be His personal representatives.   Before Levi even knew his children and grandchildren, God knew them and had already chosen them to carry His Good News to people who needed it.   God knew they would be sinful, that some would resent their calling, that all of them would do some things (maybe many things) in their lives that were abhorrent to Him…and He chose them anyway.   He chose them anyway because He needed human messengers to share news about Him until He could finish making all things right.

He could only finish that work with someone who was without sin.   When the time was just right, God gave us Jesus to finish the job once and for all.  Only one person has ever lived who was without sin.   That’s just and only Jesus.   Only Jesus lived a perfect life, one not tainted with the stink of sin.   Only Jesus has ever lived that life, then heroically, willingly given it up to God’s holy purposes, in order that other people might live forever.  MLK didn’t do that; no pope has ever done that.   No televangelist could do that, and neither could you or I.   But Jesus did.

Why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?  Because of sin.  Because sin is blood-red serious.  I’m stained scarlet with it.   So are you.  So is your pastor, and your friends, and your newborn children and grandchildren.  Billy and Franklin Graham are sinners.  So was MLK, and Jimmy Swaggart, and so were Aaron and Levi and even Melchizedek if he was a descendant of Adam and Eve.   And all of us can be cleaned white as pure snow because of the scarlet sinless blood of Jesus of Nazareth.

For further reading:   Hebrews 8:7, Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 5:6

Lord, thank You for the holy sacrifice of Your Son, the one true priest forever. 


Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 20 January 2017

Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.  Hebrews 7, verses 4-10.

These verses contain some pretty detailed theology.   Let’s sum it all up:  give to God.   Give to Him generously.

My home church, Water’s Edge Frisco, espouses an idea:  live 90.  Like any church we want to encourage tithing and giving.   It’s a big way to give something meaningful to God from our hearts.   We also need to pay the bills, as does any organization.  Our leaders have found that the most Biblically centered way to build up giving attitudes is to stick to the Bible.   That means encouraging, not mandating, a ten percent tithe.   The church likes catchy phrases, so along comes “live 90.”   Live on 90% of your income and give the first ten percent to God.   That’s ten percent of the gross in your earnings, your possessions, and even yourself.   Tithe to God and then watch Him bless you in ways you might not have imagined.

It isn’t a gimmick; God isn’t a Pavlov reactor or a divine wish factory.  God doesn’t care whether or not we give anything from our incomes or our talents.   God DOES care very much about the heart behind that giving.  He wants us to give selflessly.   He wants us to want to give to Him “just because.”  Just because we can.   Just because we want to share with Him some of what He’s shared with us.   God wants us to live for Him in an attitude similar to how we live for other people we cherish.  God wants us to express that attitude with things that mean something to us, knowing that other believers will use those things we give – like money  and possessions – in ways to further His Kingdom.

As you can see, it stems from this passage about Abraham and Melchizedek.  Abraham had just won a large battle against pagan Canannite kings and had, accordingly, won great plunder of gold, property, and livestock.  Along comes Melchizedek to bless Abraham.  God had promised that all people would be blessed through Abraham, and Melchizedek reinforces that blessing.   What’s Abraham’s response?   He gives generously to Melchizedek.   He gives ten percent or more of his boodle to a stranger.

Later, as an expression of the blessing, God institutes the formal priesthood through Abraham’s descendant, Levi.  Levi was one of Jacob’s twelve sons (meaning he was Abraham’s great-grandson).  Levi’s family formed one of the twelve tribes of Israel, his tribe being the priesthood.   It would be the pleasure and the purpose of Levi’s descendants to share God’s message – His promises and His promised blessings – with people forever.  That calling reflects the royal priesthood of this stranger, Melchizedek.   We’ve already discussed how Melchizedek’s true identity remains unknown; he might have been a Christophany (a pre-incarnate Jesus), or he might have been Shem, or he might have been someone else altogether.   Whoever he was, he worshipped and praised the true God and did so in ways that would demonstrate the ministry God wanted instituted among His people.   To honor this, Abraham tithed to Melchizedek.

What did Melchizedek do with that enormous plunder, with that selfless tithe given to him by Abraham?   We don’t know; it doesn’t matter.   We can all decry, sometimes rightfully, the excesses that some of today’s ministers flaunt with tithes from God’s people.   Huge churches, lavish lifestyles, rock-star followings:   was that what Melchizedek, Abraham and Levi had in mind?   Probably not.   Yet consider 1 Kings, chapters 2-11, especially chapter 10.   In these, King Solomon’s splendor is described.   Solomon, a descendant of Abraham, was extraordinarily blessed by God with wisdom, wealth, and success.   It wasn’t because of anything Solomon did:  it was because of God’s grace, God’s generosity.   Solomon started life asking for wisdom and was blessed with it and so much more.   Though his life ended in him wandering away in pagan beliefs, God still blessed him.

All that splendor was paid for with tithes from the people.  The people gave of their hearts to God’s purposes, and God chose to bless both them and their leaders in extraordinary ways.   He still does so today.  And it goes back to the precedent set by Abraham and Melchizedek.

So the next time you do your budget, before you pay your bills, say a prayer of thanks to God and then write a check to Him.   Consider giving things to others, giving things that are meaningful and that others may need.  Give of yourself and your time and give generously without expectation of anything in return.  Live happily on ninety percent of what you’re blessed to earn.  Give that other ten percent to God’s purposes.  Through churches, charities, and ministry activities, God will use this to bless others in extraordinary ways.   When you do this, you’re siding with Melchizedek, Abraham, Levi, and Jesus.

For further reading:   Genesis 14:18-20, 1 Kings 2-11, Psalm 76:2, Psalm 110:4, , Matthew 4:3, Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 5:6.

My blessed Lord, thank You for blessing me.   Thank You for Abraham and Melchizedek and the practice they began.   Thank You for opportunities to still give in those ways today.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 January 2017

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, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”  Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.  Hebrews 7, verses 1-3.

Let’s talk about Melchizedek.   He’s been mentioned several times throughout Hebrews, and we’ve chatted about him a little bit already.   In the Genesis account of Abram’s life (before God renamed him Abraham), Melchizedek suddenly appears out of nowhere while Abram is journeying from Mesopotamia (likely in today’s Syria or southern Turkey) to Canaan (today’s Israel).  We know little about him other than he’s a revered man, a holy man, a priest.  He was king of Salem – the predecessor settlement to Jerusalem – and was God’s high priest there.   Not a pagan like the other inhabitants of Canaan, Melchizedek knew the true God and strengthened Abram’s faith.

Wikipedia reinforces much of this narrative.  It also discusses corroborating evidence about Melchizedek from early Hebrew Torah commentaries, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even some Greek documents.   Even the pagan Quran, written centuries later, references Melchizedek.  At the end of all this ancient evidence, we’re still left not knowing exactly who Melchizedek was.   All that we can really know is that He was important to members of both the Jewish and early Christian faiths.  Indeed, if you read these verses closely it’s easy to see why many folks believe Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate Jesus (a “Christophany”).  It’s more than possible.   It’s also more than possible that (as we’ve discussed before) Melchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noah, who had survived the flood and was the forefather of the Semites, Abram’s historic lineage.   It seems likely that Melchizedek was the vocational ancestor of all who would be ordained as either royalty or ministers.  But to tell you the truth, I don’t know; nobody does.   And to get wrapped around the axle about exactly who he was misses the main point about him.

Melchizedek represents unquestioning devotion to God.

Melchizedek is ‘king of peace,’ ‘king of righteousness.’   Melchizedek has no historical beginning or end since we don’t know where he was born or where he died.   He simply existed to give praise and meaning to God, encouraging the chosen man of God’s will at a time when Abram needed it.   Abram had traveled many miles from home for many years, living a nomadic life in obedience to a promise God made to him.  God had been faithful to His promise to bless all peoples through Abram, but hadn’t shown Abram just how He would do that.  Enter Melchizedek, who gives selflessly and provides an example for Abram to do the same.  In doing so, Abram’s faith was strengthened and his devotion sustained.   So much so, in fact, that Abram gave Melchizedek a portion of all he owned.   Some translations of Scripture (including the NIV I use) say it was a tenth of all he owned, perhaps instituting the precedent for the ten percent tithe many believers donate to God even today.   After Abram has won a battle against local pagan kings, Melchizedek visits Abram and bestows on him God’s blessings.  Then he disappears.  Melchizedek plays an important part in God’s historic family and then, like so many other believers, is simply gone, lost to history with his part in the play having acted out.

Again, in all these things, it doesn’t matter who he was but very much matters what he did and believed.  Melchizedek represents that unquestioning faith in God.   He followed God.   He lived a life devoted to God.   He was an example of and a precursor to Jesus, who became the inheritor of Melchizedek’s temporal priesthood.   Melchizedek did in act what Jesus would later do in both act and Spirit.

That’s a lot to understand from someone who is mentioned by name in only three places in the Bible (in Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and in the book of Hebrews).   If you consider it, however, that’s more than most people are documented anywhere in history.   Maybe God is trying to tell us something we need to remember.  Maybe God is trying to say “don’t worry about who he was.   Remember who he believed in.” Many thousands of years after he lived, that makes Melchizedek timely and relevant to us.

For further reading:   Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 76:2, Psalm 110:4, , Matthew 4:3, Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 5:6.

Lord, thank You for teaching about Melchizedek.   Thank You for his ancient example of faith in You that can still encourage me today.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 6 December 2016

In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”  And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”  Hebrews 5, verses 5-6.

First let’s discuss the Son and Father:  there is nobody else in all of human history who can hold that title other than Jesus Christ.   Christ is the only Son of God the Father while still being one with the Father.  He could have taken on the glory of accepting God’s calling to be an ordained high priest of the Jewish faith, but He didn’t.   He could have assumed God’s glory for Himself, but He didn’t.   If He had done these things, He wouldn’t have been the perfect Christ who satisfied the hundreds of Old Testament Biblical prophecies about the Christ.   And yet Jesus did become the ultimate priest, the ultimate pastor and Good Shepherd of God’s flock that is the church.   It is only Jesus who intercedes for us with the glorious Father, who demands perfection to satisfy His just holiness.   It is only Jesus who sacrificed Himself so that something could be done that had never been done before and couldn’t have been done since.   Only Jesus could atone for all of humanity’s wrongdoings; nobody before or since has so satisfied all the requirements of being the penultimate and perfect Passover lamb.

And then there’s Melchizedek.   Verse 6 quotes Psalm 110, which says “you are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizidek.”  Perhaps ancient Jewish discussions focused a lot on Melchizidek, who is a minor, almost obscure figure in the early part of Genesis.   But he was important.  Melchizedek is the “king of Salem” who came out to meet Abraham and to whom Abraham gave a tenth of all he owned (providing precedence for our practice of ten percent tithing).   Historically, almost nothing else is known of him though it’s interesting to note that “king of Salem” likely means that Melchizedek was the ruler or high priest of Salem.   That location was, according to some scholars, what became Jerusalem.  How fascinating is it, then, in knowing this considering the later importance of Jerusalem to the stories of King David, King Jesus, and even in our world today.

Some Bible scholars say that Melchizidek may have been a pre-incarnate Jesus, come to reside for a short time with His people but, as the author of Hebrews notes, “a priest forever” (and the only priest forever).  Other Bible scholars think Melchizekek may actually have been Shem, the son of Noah.   Shem had been on the Ark with Noah and the rest of their family, and is regarded as the father of the line of Semites (“Semite” being derived from the name Shem).   Shem was the son whom Noah blessed after Noah’s post-Flood sin of drunkenness.  He lived an extraordinarily long life both before and after the flood; after the flood he and so many others bore many children to repopulate a lonely and empty earth.  If you flow out the timeline, you find that there is a short period of overlap in the lives of Shem and Abraham, so the theory becomes possible, maybe even plausible.  That about exhausts my non-internet-researched knowledge of the topic; if more is to be known, we’ll have to consult Google, Bible scholars, or both.

In a few chapters we’ll talk more about Melchizidek; much of Chapter 7 is about him.  Whether he was the pre-incarnate Jesus or Shem or someone else altogether, if we navel-gaze about who he was we miss the point of what he represents in this verse (and in Psalm 110).   Melchizidek was the example of an ultimate high priest, one who would be able to intercede for man on man’s behalf.   Pastors do this.   They are men of character who both minister to us in ways we need, and pray to God on our behalf, which we also very much need.   The priesthood was and is a necessary function to human existence even when we don’t hold it in regard.   Pastors and priests, other than Joel Osteen, don’t make much money.   We hold them in high esteem yet we insist that the most effective of them live in near poverty.  Like God Himself, when times are good most of us don’t seem to want our pastors around, but when we fall on hard times we want them there immediately.   Whether he was Jesus, Shem or someone else, this is the kind of person Melchizidek must have been.   He must have been a deeply spiritual man who sought God’s will and God’s wisdom.   He must have been a man of impeccable character.  Melchizidek is a man from whom we can learn much even if we actually know very little about him.

Hold on to these thoughts…we’ll need them in a little while.

For more reading:   Genesis 14:18, Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 7:1-22, Psalm 110:4.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the life of Melchizidek, and for the example He set in how You want Your priests and pastors to live here.   Indeed, Lord, for how You desire all of us to live.