Melchizedek was one of those puzzling people in the Bible who appear only briefly but are mentioned again as examples of holiness and right living.
His name means "king of righteousness," and his title King of Salem also means "king of peace."
The startling fact about Melchizedek is that although he was not a Jew, he worshiped God Most High, the one true God. Melchizedek blessed Abram, later to be renamed Abraham, after Abram rescued his nephew Lot from enemy captivity and brought back other people and goods. Abram honored Melchizedek by giving him one tenth of the plunder of battle, or a tithe. Melchizedek's graciousness is contrasted with the rudeness of the King of Sodom.
God revealed himself to Abraham, but we don't know how Melchizedek learned of the true God. Monotheism, or worship of one god, was rare in the ancient world. Most of the people worshiped several gods. Some even had dozens of local or household gods, which were represented by manmade idols.
The Bible does not shed any light on Melchizedek's religious rituals either, except to mention that he brought out "bread and wine" for Abram. This act and Melchizedek's holiness have led some scholars to describe him as a type of Christ, one of those Bible people who show the same qualities as Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. With no record of father or mother, and no genealogical background in Scripture, this description is fitting. Other scholars go a step further, theorizing that Melchizedek may have been a theophany of Christ, or a manifestation of deity in temporary form.
Understanding Jesus' status as our high priest is a key point in the book of Hebrews. Just as Melchizedek was not born into the Levitical priesthood but was appointed by God, so Jesus was named our eternal high priest, interceding with God the Father on our behalf:
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:8-10, NIV)
Melchizedek lived a holy and righteous life.
He recognized Abram as a follower of the true God and blessed him.
In an era of paganism and idolatry, Melchizedek clung to God Most High and served him faithfully.
Many "gods" compete for our attention, but there is only one true God. He is worthy of our worship and obedience. If we keep our focus on God instead of frightening circumstances, God will strengthen and encourage us so we can live a life pleasing to him.
Salem, in Canaan, which later became Jerusalem.
Referenced in the Bible:
Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6, 10, 6:20, 7:1-17.
King of Salem, priest of God Most High.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (NIV)
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? (NIV)
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." (NIV)