Our text this morning is Hebrews 7:1-10. At the outset, I want to warn you that my message this morning is going to be a difficult. Back in chapter 5, verse 11, the writer had said that he wanted to pick up the topic of Melchizedek. But, he couldn't. It was "hard to explain" and the readers had become "dull of hearing" (5:11). They had come to the place in their lives where they had need of "milk and not solid food" (5:12). They had not trained themselves to take in the "word of righteousness" (5:13). The writer knew that these matters of Melchizedek would be difficult for them. And so, he spends time pointing out why it would be so hard (5:11-6:20).
And yet, it is very interesting that the author if this epistle didn't simply say, "Well, I guess the topic of Melchizedek is too difficult for you. So, we'll let it pass. You don't really need to learn about it anyway." No, that's not what he does. Even with the difficulty of the material, the writer didn't back away from it. In chapter 7, verse 1, he boldly picks up where he wanted to near the end of chapter 5. He says, "For this Melchizedek" and proceeds to describe who this man was and what the significance of his life is for us today. Indeed, these words are not are not easy to understand. Of all the words in Hebrews, these are at the top of the list in terms of difficulty. But, they are important to understand. Let me illustrate
At Rock Valley Bible Church, our youth group is pretty simple. It consists of mothers, who meet with their daughters. It consists of fathers, who meet with their sons. As a church, we want to come alongside these discipling relationships and facilitate them. I have heard it said, "The primary cause of teenage rebellion is lack of relationship with their parents." You show me a child that is rebelling, and I'll show you a child that has not fostered a healthy relationship with his (or her) parents! As a church, we want to do all that we can to promote healthy relationships in the family.
With the men and the boys, we have just begun to read this book by Joshua Harris entitled, "Dug Down Deep." In this book, Joshua Harris describes his own personal journey from a large mega-church that was strong in flash and excitement, but little in substance to a church that viewed Christian theology as a beautiful thing , the means through which our love for God is cultivated and expanded. His own experience has tracked along those same lines. At one time, his Christianity was all about flash and excitement. But, now, things are different for him. He sees the importance of knowing God deeply and accurately, and the result is that it has stirred his love for Jesus in greater ways than ever before. What has come as a result is excitement and enthusiasm, all grounded in the truth.
The thing that I appreciate about Joshua Harris is that he's not promoting a cold-hearted, intellectual study of doctrine, where we become egg-heads in theology. Cold intellectualism is just as bad as empty passion. Rather, he's promoting a deep study of the Scriptures that will have its fruit in passion for Jesus.
Listen to what he says in this video which expresses the heart of his book:
I've come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God's nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.
Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.
I know the idea of "studying" God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.
But studying God doesn't have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?
Knowledge doesn't have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?
We're either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he's about, or we're basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.
We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true. 
He continues on, ...
I know from experience that it's possible to be a Christian but live life on the surface. The surface an be empty tradition. It can be emotionalism. It can even be doctrine without application. I think I've done it all. I've spent my share of time on the sandy surface of superficial Christianity. ... The past ten years of my life have been the story of uncovering the relevance, the joy, and the practical power that comes from Christian doctrine. Doctrine isn't dry and boring. It isn't just for arguing. It's for knowing God and living life to the fullest. 
These words capture well what we are trying to do with our sons and daughters. And they capture well what we are trying to do with our church. It's not theology for theology's sake, but theology for doxology! It's learning about God, so as to be enamored by His beauty; knowing God deeply, so as to serve Him joyfully. And sometimes, this means working hard to understand. Sometimes, it means tackling the difficult issues. But, the reward on the other side is tremendous.
This is what's taking place in our text this morning: Hebrews, chapter 7. Again, let me illustrate.
A few months ago, my son I were playing pool on our table downstairs. He was asking me a few things about the balls and how they rebound off the cushions and ricochet off of other balls. This morphed into a question about motion in general and laws of momentum. He so wanted to understand some of these things. I remember telling him that these are the sorts of things that you study in physics: the laws of motion - friction, acceleration, momentum, and the like. Having been a physics major in college, I'm always more than eager to share the things I know about these things. However, without sufficient mathematics, it's difficult to get into detail. Everything remains on the surface. I said, "I'd love to explain some of these things to you, but in order to fully understand these things, you need to have a good grasp of mathematics."
At such a comment, my son was disheartened a bit, because he doesn't much like math. He is much more the artist than the mathematician (and that's OK! It's the way that God has made us all unique). So, he said, "I wish that they didn't have to confuse fun things like physics with hard things like math."
And I said, "SR, math is the door that helps you to understand physics and the things of this world. Without math, you can only stay on the surface. But with math, not only can you understand things like the laws of motion, but you can go further to understand more. With math, you can understand things like electricity, magnetism, gravity, forces, pendulum, torque, and yes, even relativity. Math is important."
In the same way, difficult things in the Bible are important for us to learn. They are important for us to know. They are important for us to grasp. Theology is the tool that equips us to go deeper into the things of God. That's why the writer to the Hebrews didn't back away from Melchizedek. Are the things about Melchizedek difficult? Yes. Are they important? Yes. Why are they important? Because, Melchizedek leads us to a greater view of Jesus. With a greater view of Jesus, there is greater capacity to love and serve Him.
With a greater view of Jesus, there is greater desire to press on in our faith. The premise of Hebrews is that Jesus is Better - So Press On! The greater you see Jesus to be, the greater your desire to press on will be. So, if you want to press on with greater passion, let us work hard to know who this Melchizedek is. That is why my message is titled, "Who Is Melchizedek?"
With our passage, things might be difficult; that's OK. My aim is to help you understand. In understanding, you will be helped to press on! Now, let us read our text, ...
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
When studying history, there is a great difference between studying modern history and studying ancient history. When studying modern history, the amount of material available is overwhelming. There is an abundance of documents. There is an abundance of pictures, and in some cases, video footage. There are many artifacts and objects and even eye-witnesses that can be interviewed. And so, the challenge in studying modern history is the challenge of synthesizing all of the material to get a proper picture of the time or event in question.
With ancient history, the case is reversed. With ancient history, there are usually only a few documents available. There are no pictures, no video, and no eyewitnesses to speak with. There may be a few artifacts, or there may be none at all. And so, the challenge in studying ancient history is the challenge of taking what little data we have and reflecting back to accurately reflect upon the events of history.
Today, as we come to Hebrews 7, our difficulty definitely lies in the arena of ancient history. Particularly, the history of a man named Melchizedek. He is mentioned eight times in the book of Hebrews (5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 10, 11, 15, 17). Now, the curious thing about this man is that his name is mentioned only twice in the entire Old Testament: once in the days of Abraham and once in the days of David. And so, let's do some ancient history. We have the opportunity to read about everything that there is to know about Melchizedek.
So, turn with me back to Genesis 14. Here we see the first instance of Melchizedek. There are some pretty wild names here, but please bear with me. We will start in verse 8. Leading up to verse 8, Chedorlaomer and his fellow allies were having great military success, conquering all sorts of territory. In verse 8, we see them encountering the four rebellious kings.
And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar--four kings against five.
Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them But those who survived fled to the hill country. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. They also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.
This is significant. Lot was Abraham's nephew. When Abraham heard about this, he went to rescue him.
Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people. Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley).
You catch the picture? Abraham and his 318 men pursued the kings who had taken Lot captive, and they were successful. Upon returning, we encounter Melchizedek. So, if you have tuned out, please come back in, because this is the first mention of Melchizedek in all of the Bible.
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He [Abraham] gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth of all.
Melchizedek came out to Abraham, bringing him bread and wine. Melchizedek pronounced a blessing upon Abraham. Abraham gave him a tenth of the spoil that he recovered from the kings who had taken Lot and his relatives. OK, that's the first instance of the mention of Melchizedek. Near the time of Abraham, 2000 years before the birth of Christ. Genesis 14 records the historical facts surrounding the days of Melchizedek and his encounter with Abraham. Melchizedek welcomed him home after his successful military campaign and blessed him. They key points to remember here are (1) that Melchizedek blessed Abraham and (2) that Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils.
The second mention of Melchizedek comes 1,000 years later, in Psalm 110, in the days of David, 1000 years before the birth of Christ. So turn to Psalm 110. Psalm 110 records the theological significance of Melchizedek.
The LORD says to my Lord:
"Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
"Rule in the midst of Your enemies."
Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Your youth are to You as the dew.
Verse 4 is quoted four times in the book of Hebrews.
The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
"You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek."
The Lord is at Your right hand;
He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
He will drink from the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He will lift up His head.
There it is. We have done ancient history. We have read everything that there is to know about Melchizedek.
So, turn back to the book of Hebrews. Let's begin to take apart chapter 7. Upon my first reading, you may have found it a bit confusing. I hope to change that, so when you go home, you can understand it. There are treasures here to be found. There's a reason why people dig deep into the earth. That's where the treasures are. And as we dig deep into our passage, there are treasures to be found.
Let's begin with my first point,
1. Some Facts (verses 1-3).
Here, we see a list of fourteen facts about Melchizedek. They all flow out of our reading from Genesis 14.
First of all, he is ...
a. King of Salem.
If you recall, back in Genesis 14, many kings were listed. They were all kings of cities, such as Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim (Gen. 14:2). Melchizedek was just like all of these men. He was the "king of Salem." Salem is probably a reference to Jerusalem, in the land of Canaan.
The next description that we see of Melchizedek is that he was ...
b. Priest of the Most High God.
If you think about this for a bit, you might catch how strange this was. Melchizedek was not a Jew, as the only Jew alive at the time was Abraham. And yet, he was a worshiper of God. More than that, he was a priest of the Most High God. God was doing something outside of the people of Israel.
Third, we see how Melchizedek ...
c. Met Abraham (as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings).
We read about this in Genesis 14. Remember? Melchizedek came out to meet Abraham, bringing him bread and wine (Gen. 14:18). This helps us to know that we are talking about the same man who lived in Abraham's time.
Fourthly, we see that Melchizedek ...
d. Blessed Abraham.
Particularly, he said, 14:19 "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand" (Gen 14:19-20).
Fifth characteristic of Abraham comes in verse 2,
e. Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils [to Melchizedek].
Abraham counted all of the spoils that he had received in recovering Lot from the hands of the four kings who had taken him captive. And then, he gave a tenth of them to Melchizedek. You might say it this way: Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek. Really, it was as an act of worship.
The sixth characteristic comes from his name. Translated, his name means,
f. King of righteousness
Melchizedek comes from two Hebrew words. The first word is "Melchi," which means "my king." "Melech" is the word for "king." The second word is "Zedek," which is the Hebrew word for "righteousness." "Melchizedek" means "King of righteousness."
The seventh characteristic comes at the end of verse 2. He is ...
g King of Peace.
As you translate that, you get "King of Peace." "Shalom" means "peace."
In verse 3, we see seven more characteristics of Melchizedek. Let's look
at the first five of these together. They are a bit more difficult. We will spend more
time on them. He is, ...
h. Without father.
i. Without mother.
j. Without genealogy.
k. Without beginning of days.
l. Without end of life.
We saw all of these things in Genesis 14. There is no mention of his father. There is no mention of his mother. There is no record of his genealogy. We don't know when he was born. We don't know when he died. This is in contrast to so many of those in the Old Testament, who have their genealogies all spelled out so carefully. We know who their father was. When know how old their father was when he was born. We know how old they were when they died. You give me a name of an Old Testament hero, and (with only a few exceptions) I'll give you the names of their parents. In many cases, I can tell you about their birth and death. But, this is not so with Melchizedek.
But, we don't know any of this detail about Melchizedek. Melchizedek merely comes on the scene, and leaves, just as quickly. And I think that this is the point. Melchizedek comes from nowhere. He isn't a priest based upon his family ties. God has a priesthood which isn't Levitical (hold that thought, we'll get to that next week).
Now, I don't believe that these things mean that Melchizedek literally had no father or mother, which might make him more like an angelic being. Especially because he is identified in Genesis 14 as "the king of Salem." In the context of Genesis 14, we see 9 other kings, who are all identified as a king of a city. It's difficult to take this designation of Melchizedek in any other way. He was a man who ruled over the city. And yet, we know nothing of his genealogy.
The significance of this comes in the next phrase of verse 3, ...
m. Made like the Son of God.
Who came first? Jesus? Or Melchizedek? Without question, Jesus did. Jesus wasn't made in the likeness of Melchizedek. Rather, it was Melchizedek who was made in the likeness of Jesus. This is significant: Melchizedek came to foreshadow Jesus. The reason is this: Melchizedek was a type of the Messiah. In other words, he was a picture of Jesus Christ. He foreshadows Jesus. He prophesies of Jesus.
There are many things in the Old Testament that do this. The sacrifices were types of Christ. They pictured and anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. None of them were exactly perfect, but they pointed to and anticipated the sacrifice of Christ. The law was a type of Christ. It pictured and prophesied of the perfect man to come (Matt. 11:13). Isaac was a type of Christ. His restoration to Abraham after his near death was a picture of the resurrection of Christ (Heb. 11:19). These things were established to anticipate the things to come.
Time doesn't allow us this morning to go into further detail about these things. But, know that Melchizedek is a picture of the coming of Jesus. In Isaiah 9, we read of the coming Messiah, who will be called "prince of peace" and will have a reign characterized by righteousness.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness,
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
At the end of verse 3, we see one last characteristic that is given about
Melchizedek. Again, this is like Jesus. "He remains ...
n. A Priest Perpetually.
In other words, his priesthood knows no end. The Levitical priests of the Old Testament were qualified to serve as priests between the ages of 25 and 50 years of age (Numbers 8:24-25). But, we know of no such restrictions upon the priesthood of Melchizedek. And thus, as a type, he was always a priest, like Jesus, whose priesthood is forever.
We have just seen the fourteen characteristics of Melchizedek given to us in the beginning of our text. And now, (beginning in verse 4) the writer expands upon two of the characteristics, which demonstrated Melchizedek's true greatness. Verse 4, "Now observe how great this man was, to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils."
His argument first of all is that Melchizedek is
2. Better than Abraham (verses 4-8)
This is the argument that he's going to give in these verses. To do so, however, he begins in verse 5 by talking about the Levitical priests. He says, "And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest's office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham" (verse 5).
These words refer to the way that the LORD established His people. There were twelve tribes in the nation, with one additional tribe devoted to performing the priestly duties. This was the tribe of Levi. The twelve tribes supported this one tribe by taking a tenth of their earnings and giving it to this tribe. It was a binding obligation of theirs in the law. There was no way out. It was like their tax.
Now, the benefit was obvious. The Levites used the resources given to them to serve the other tribes. They could come to Jerusalem to worship, and everything was ready for them. They simply showed up and worshiped the LORD.
In verse 6, we see the greatness of Melchizedek. "But, the one whose genealogy is not traced from them (1) collected a tenth from Abraham and (2) blessed the one who had the promises." Here we see the crux of why Melchizedek was greater. He collected the tithe from Abraham. He blessed Abraham. Both of these things point to the privileged position of Melchizedek.
First of all, we deal with the blessing. Verse 7 says, "But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater." In other words, when a blessing is given, it is the greater that pronounces it. It's the fathers who give the blessing to their children. Abraham blessed Isaac. Isaac blessed Jacob. Jacob blessed his sons. It's never the other way around. The son never blesses the father, because the father is greater than the son. Likewise in this instance, Melchizedek, the greater, blessed Abraham, the lesser.
Such a perspective was shocking to the Jews. To them, there was no one greater than Abraham! He was the father of their nation. He was the father of their faith. He was the patriarch of patriarchs. He was the greatest saint of the Jewish people. Everyone Jew could trace his lineage back to father Abraham. So, when Jesus came to the Jews and implied that He was greater than Abraham, they said, in shocked unbelief, "Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham!" (John 8:53).
The Jews had never even thought of Melchizedek as the greatest of all! Surely, at this moment, the writer is rocking their world! I doubt that many Jews had thought that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. And yet, as high as the Jews lifted up Abraham, Melchizedek is lifted higher even more. With a bit of thinking, it's quite obvious that Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, because Melchizedek blessed Abraham.
The argument continues in verse 8, where we return to the instances of tithes. Verse 8 says, "In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one received them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on!" As the tribes of Israel gave the tithes to Levi, it was mortal men giving to mortal men. But, when it was given to Melchizedek, who has neither beginning of days nor end of life, it's like giving to an immortal, which testifies to the greatness of Melchizedek.
We see in verses 9 and 10, this act had far-reaching consequences.
And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
These verses demonstrate that Melchizedek is
3. Better than Levi (verses 9-10)
Yes, it was Abraham who was giving the spoils into the hands of Melchizedek. But, there was more going on than that. We read here that Levi, the great grand-son of Abraham was every bit as involved. Why? Because Levi was in Abraham's loins at this time.
The Bible often speaks of how those not yet born are in solidarity with those who live. For instance, when Rebecca was pregnant with twins, the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb" (Gen. 25:23). They are the seeds of the nations. And when Paul was talking about the sin of Adam, he said that when Adam sinned, "all sinned." You and me (Rom. 5:12). We are guilty because of Adam's sins. We, as Americans hate such an implication. "Do you mean that I am guilty for the sins of my father?" We are such individualists, that we believe that everything that we have must be earned by us, including the punishment for our sins. But, the Bible speaks of a measure of responsibility that we have as a result of the actions of our fathers. As Americans, we know this: our children will be responsible for the debts that we are racking up today.
In the days of Joshua, they made a covenant with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9) that had implications to their children hundreds of years later, and the fact that Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek had implications upon his great-grandson, since Levi was in the loins of Abraham. It was just as if he were paying tithes, himself. It was just as if the tribe of Levites was tithing, giving to Melchizedek.
Again, this is an indication of the greatness of Melchizedek. He is better than Levi.
I close with one final point. As great as Melchizedek is, he is
4. Less than Jesus
A hint is given in chapter 7 verse 3, where it says that Melchizedek is "made like the Son of God." As Jesus preceded Melchizedek, and as Jesus was the model for Melchizedek, Jesus is greater than Melchizedek. So, Melchizedek (as great as he was), is still less than Jesus.
We also see this in chapter 6, verses 19-20, which we briefly looked at last week.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
I want to focus our attention upon the phrase, "Enters within the veil." When the Levitical priests ministered in the temple, they spent the vast majority of the time outside the veil. But, once a year, the high priests would enter into the veil, into the holy of holies, when they would present their offering on behalf of the people. But, the veil of verse 19 is different. This is the heavenly veil. The temple veil here upon the earth was a type of the heavenly veil. you can see this in the following verses.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
As Jesus passed through a heavenly veil, the obvious implication is this: Jesus is better than Melchizedek. He has a better priesthood. His priesthood brings us to God Himself, in the heavens.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
March 21, 2010 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.
 Ibid. pp. 10-11. Tristan Carnahan created a very interesting video using the words of this quote. You can watch this video here: http://www.joshharris.com/2010/02/dug_down_deep_film_contest_and.php#more.