In the Old Testament, Lot – the nephew of Abram (later renamed “Abraham” by God) – lived in the city of Sodom. Genesis 14 records that the city was captured in war by other kingdoms and Lot was taken captive. So, Abram took men to go rescue Lot, defeating the captors and taking back Lot and his possessions and the others who had been captured with him.
On his return, Abram was met by a man named Melchizedek, who the Bible calls the “king of Salem” and “priest of God Most High.” The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness.” Salem means “peace,” and the place referred to is the city later called Jerusalem. “God Most High” refers to the Lord.
So, Melchizedek is a king and a priest. He is also a prophet, because he blesses Abram in the name of “God Most High.” He says, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” In connection with this blessing, Melchizedek brings out bread and wine to give to Abram. In response, Abram gives Melchizedek a tenth of everything that he had taken in battle (Genesis 14:17-20).
Melchizedek is mentioned in two other places in the Bible.
The first occurs in Psalm 110 which speaks of the coming Christ and calls the Christ “Lord” and “… a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4).
The other reference is in the New Testament book of Hebrews where the writer specifically connects Melchizedek with Jesus the Christ. That is, Hebrews explains how Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The writer explains that Jesus is the “king of righteousness” and “king of peace,” fulfilling the role that Melchizedek pointed to (Hebrews 7:1ff). Jesus comes as the great High Priest of God Most High, offering up his own body and blood as the sacrifice.
Like the bread and the wine of Melchizedek, Christ’s blessing is connected with these signs. The bread and the wine are with Christ’s body and blood which was sacrificed on the altar of the cross as both sacrificial victim and High Priest. This is given to us freely in the Lord’s Supper as a blessing to us, for Christ has conquered our enemies of sin, death, and the devil; “blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” All that we do is a response to this blessing of Christ, just as Abram tithed to Melchizedek in response to the latter’s blessing.
(The preceding is excerpted and adapted from my book The Christian Story: As Seen Through the Old Testament).
(Image: By Tilemahos Efthimiadis from Athens, Greece – Icon with Sacrifice of Melchisedek. 18th c.Uploaded by Marcus Cyron, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30176975 )