A Shadow of the Savior
Don’t worry, I have not forgotton that we are having a fellowship dinner as soon as I’m done preaching. That’s why I am taking the advice of a wise old preacher. A young preacher once asked an old preacher if he had any practical advice on how to preach a good sermon. This is what the old preacher said: “Stand up straight so that they will see you. Speak loud so that they will hear you. Sit down so that they will like you.” So this morning, I know that your attention can only be held for so long, so we’re going to have to move fast.
I want to begin by reading a verse from Psalm 110. This is what Psalm 110:4 says: “The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, ‘Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” You may remember that there have been a couple of times in the book of Hebrews that the name “Melchizedek” has popped up. And that raises the question, “Who on earth is Melchizedek?” Moses I know. David I know. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yeah, that’s easy. But who on earth is Melchizedek? And when it comes down to it, Melchizedek is truly a man of mystery. If you were to write a biography on the life of Melchizedek, you wouldn’t be able to even fill half a page. We know next to nothing about this man. And yet, he is one of the most influential characters in the entire Bible. And thankfully, the writer of Hebrews has a lot to say about this man of mystery. To see what I’m talking about, please turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter seven, and we’ll be reading verses one through ten. Again, Hebrews 7:1-10.
“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after also King of Salem, which is, ‘King of Peace;’ without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: but he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there He receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that He liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchizedek met him.”
This morning’s sermon is entitled, “A Shadow of the Savior.” Before we get into the main point of this morning’s sermon, we have to answer the question of who Melchizedek is. To see a brief answer to this question, look at what the writer of Hebrews tells us at the beginning of the chapter. I’m going to read verses one and the first part of verse two. “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all.“ Okay, so who is Melchizedek? These verses only give us the snippets of a story from the book of Genesis. If you were a Hebrew in the first century, no doubt you would know this story like the back of your hand, because it talked about your great great granddaddy, Abraham. But since we don’t memorize Scripture as much as they did, I’ll give you a brief crash course in the story of Genesis chapter fourteen. And by the way, feel free to follow along with me in your Bibles.
Genesis fourteen is a chapter that describes a massive battle in the land of Canaan. Essentially, there was evil king named Chedorlaomer (we’ll call him Cheddar), and he ruled all of the land for twelve years. But in the thirteenth year, five kings of cities mounted a rebellion against King Cheddar. So King Cheddar found three ally kings, and the five kings fought the four kings. Well, unfortunately, King Cheddar won the battle, and he took many captives from the cities that he defeated. One of those cities was Sodom, and one of the captives from that city was Abraham’s nephew, Lot.
When Abraham found out about Lot’s capture, he gathered together all of his male servants and prepared them for battle. From Abraham’s household, he gathered 318 men. Abraham was a very, very wealthy man. And while the Bible doesn’t give us many details about the battle, we know that Abraham defeated King Cheddar. It’s amazing that one man and his servants did what five kings could not. But what we have to take from this is that with Abraham, it was not the size of his army that really mattered. It was the size of his God.
And after the battle was over, from out of nowhere a mysterious man approached Abraham. This man was named Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of the city of Salem. And the Bible says that Melchizedek brought out bread and wine to Abraham, because Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God. It’s amazing that Melchizedek was a priest of God, because in the land of Canaan, nearly everyone worshipped idols. And yet, here we have this king, who also happens to be a priest of God. Next, Melchizedek proceeded to bless Abraham, and then Melchizedek proceeded to bless God. Finally, the Bible says that Abraham gave to Melchizedek one tenth of all of his belongings. This is the first instance in the Bible of what we now know of as a tithe.
And that, church, is the story of the man Melchizedek. When the dust settles, Melchizedek enters the scene in verse eighteen, and he leaves the scene in verse twenty. So three little verses in one of the lesser-known chapters in the book of Genesis. And yet, for some reason, this man is so important that David mentions him in the Psalms, and the writer of Hebrews mentions him several times throughout the book. So, what on earth is so important about this man Melchizedek?
And church, I hope that the answer to this question excites you as much as it excites me. Melchizedek is important because he is a foreshadow of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know you hardly ever see Polaroids anymore, but I love how you get to watch the photo develop right in your hands. And you know that moment in time where the picture has started to develop, but everything is still really fuzzy? Well, Melchizedek is like a fuzzy Polaroid version of Jesus. Or, a better illustration then that is actually found in the word “foreshadow.” Melchizedek is very similar to a shadow of Jesus Christ. Just like your shadow has several similarities to your body, Melchizedek had several similarities to Jesus Christ. Approximately 2,000 years before Jesus was born on earth, God put this man on the earth that would be a shadow of the kind of man the Son of God would be. Isn’t that amazing? And really, all throughout the Old Testament there are people who serve as a foreshadow of Christ. At Free Will Baptist Bible College, there is an entire course called “Christ in the Old Testament.” This course explores all of the people and events in the Old Testament that paint a picture of Jesus Christ. And out of all of these people, perhaps no one is a better shadow of our Messiah than this shadowy man, Melchizedek.
So now we’ve answered two questions. We’ve answered the question, “Who is Melchizedek?”, and we’ve answered the question, “What’s so important about Melchizedek?”. Now, we need to go back to the book of Hebrews and answer the question, “How on earth are Jesus and Melchizedek alike?” And really, in verses two and three of our text, the writer of Hebrews gives us five distinct ways that Melchizedek is a shadow of Jesus. Look at what these two verses say. “To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of Righteousness, and after also King of Salem, which is, ‘King of Peace;’ without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”
The first similarity between Jesus and Melchizedek is seen there in verse two. You see, the name Melchizedek translated means “king of righteousness.” The Hebrew word “Melek” means “king;” and the word “zedek” means “righteousness.” And while Melchizedek’s name meant “King of Righteousness;” Jesus Christ is the King of Righteousness. Jesus is the King of Righteousness, because He is righteous in everything that He does. Jesus is perfect. And while Melchizedek was an imperfect human just like us, his very name was a foreshadow of the kind of man Jesus Christ would be.
The second similarity between Jesus and Melchizedek is also seen in verse two. The middle of the verse says that Melchizedek was the King of Salem. And Salem is essentially the same as the Hebrew word you have probably heard before: “shalom.” “Shalom” means “peace.” So, by translation, Melchizedek is the “king of peace.” And while you have to do a little word play to see how Melchizedek is the king of peace; Jesus is the true King of Peace. But Jesus is not the King of Peace in the way that the Jews hoped He would be. The Jews hoped that He would bring peace by destroying all of their enemies. Because, once all of their enemies were dead, they would have peace. But Jesus came to bring peace between us and our Creator. The Bible says that without Christ, we are enemies of God. And after we accept Christ, we are the children of God. Where before, there was active rebellion on our parts, now, there is true and everlasting peace. Jesus is truly the King of Peace. And another interesting note that the writer of Hebrews doesn’t talk about is that the city of Salem later changed its name. It added a couple of letters onto the front of the name to become, “Jerusalem.” Melchizedek used to be the king of Jerusalem, and after Christ comes back to earth and establishes His kingdom, Jesus will be the King of Jerusalem. Pretty cool, huh?
The third similarity between Jesus and Melchizedek is seen in the first line of verse three. That verse says that says that Melchizedek had neither father, nor mother, not descent. Now, what we have to realize is that Melchizedek did have two human parents. That’s not what the writer of Hebrews is saying. But the point is that we don’t know who Melchizedek’s parents were, or his ancestors were, because he was this man of mystery that we know so little about. And while Melchizedek didn’t have a known ancestry, Jesus Christ simply doesn’t have a human ancestry. As the Son of Man, Jesus did not have an earthly father; and as the Son of God, Jesus doesn’t have a heavenly mother. And while Jesus’ role in the Trinity is that of the Son, the Bible teaches that Jesus was not born by God the Father. Jesus has been since eternity past.
And the fourth similarity falls along this same idea. Verse three tells us that Melchizedek had neither beginning of days, nor end of life. Once again, this is not saying that Melchizedek was never born or never died. Just like with his genealogy, we simply don’t know when he was born or when he died. And frankly, many Christians do believe that Melchizedek was an angel, and some believe that he was actually God in the flesh. But personally, I believe that Melchizedek was just as much human being as you and I. But, while we don’t know the details of Melchizedek’s birth and death, Jesus doesn’t have a birth or a death. Like I said a minute ago, while Jesus was born in a manger, that was just His earthly body. Jesus has been alive forever, and He will be alive forever. We don’t know about Melchizedek’s beginning and end, but Jesus doesn’t have a beginning or an end. Praise God!
The final similarity between Jesus and Melchizedek is seen at the end of verse three. The end of the verse says that he was made like the Son of God, and he abides as a priest continually. This, like the previous two things, is meant to be taken partially symbolically. Melchizedek is not still alive somewhere today as a priest, but he was a priest, and we do not know when his duties ended. And as you’ve heard me say before, Jesus is our High Priest, constantly making intercession for us before the Father. And an amazing thing about Melchizedek, is that Melchizedek is both a priest and a king. This is something that was strictly prohibited under the law of Moses. You could be one or the other, but you could never be both. But Melchizedek was both. And do you know who else is both? That’s right, Jesus.
Melchizedek was by name a king of righteousness, was by title a king of peace. He had no known genealogy, he had no known birth or death, and he was a priest of God. Jesus Christ is a perfect King of Righteousness. He is a perfect King of Peace. Jesus Christ has no earthly father and no heavenly mother. He has no beginning of days, and He has no ending of days. And Jesus will be our High Priest before God for the rest of eternity. All of the fuzzy details in the life of Melchizedek become crystal clear in the life of our Lord and Savior. Melchizedek was a man just like you and I, but God used Him as a shadow, as a type, of Jesus Christ. And all of this was 2,000 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
So now we’ve answered three questions this morning. We’ve seen who Melchizedek was, how he was important, and how he was similar to Christ. But now our fourth and final question this morning is: What are we supposed to do about it?
And before I answer that question, I want you to notice what Abraham did about it. The rest of this morning’s passage details how Abraham gave Melchizedek one tenth of his belongings, and how that detailed how Melchizedek was superior to Abraham. So for Abraham, tithing was how he responded to Melchizedek’s greatness. So, what should out response be to Christ’s greatness? And first off, we have to admit that Christ is great. He is awesome. He is powerful. He is so much higher than you and I. Melchizedek was a very imposing character in the Old Testament, so much so that the great Abraham even paid respect to him. But church, Melchizedek pales in comparison to the greatness of Christ. So knowing that Christ is great, what are you going to do about it?
Well, I have two ways that I’d like to challenge you. First is to be willing to give God what He asks of you. And while tithing is a part of this, it is definitely not all of it. As members of the body of Christ, we must be willing to give God 100% of our lives. We must give our whole selves over to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. What I’m trying to say is that the greatness of Christ should inspire you to do whatever He asks of you, whether that be sharing your faith, reading your Bible through in a year, praying for those you know, or yes, even tithing. Jesus is the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace; and as His people, He deserves our obedience and our lives. As a pastor, I cannot emphasize that fact enough.
But the second way I’d like to encourage you this morning is to, like Melchizedek, become a shadow of Jesus Christ. While we know so little about Melchizedek, what we do know is that he was like Christ. And in the New Testament, we are told to be Christ like. My goal for our church is that when people see our lives, they see the similarities between us and Jesus. Are we perfect? Absolutely not. And yet, there should be an unmistakable like between you and Jesus.
And, as the pianist and song leader come forward, let me ask you one more time. Knowing that Jesus Christ is the King of Righteousness and of Peace, knowing that He has no beginning and He has no end, knowing that He is our High Priest for all eternity; what are you going to do about it? Are you willing to give Christ the obedience He asks of you? Are you willing to devote your life to becoming an exact shadow of our Savior? My goal for my own life and my goal for your lives is that we would always be obedient to our King of Righteousness, and we would always strive to be as much like Him as possible.
But maybe for some of you here today, you have never started the journey of being a follower of Jesus Christ. If you have never accepted Jesus Christ, then Jesus Christ is not your King of Peace. No, the Bible says that you are involved in a personal war with God. But guess what: God desires to be at peace with you. God doesn’t hate you. He loves you. He loves you so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross, so that He could take your punishment. He came so that you could be made right with God. He came so that He could be your King of Peace. But He cannot be your Savior until you take that first step by placing your faith in Him. The Bible says that you are saved through your faith in God’s grace.
This morning, whether you are a Christian who wants to give your all to God, or you are a person who wants to give your life to God for the first time, you have a special opportunity to do that this morning up here at the front. There is nothing magical about deciding to pray up here. The Bible says you can pray to God anywhere. But there is something special about making a commitment to God in front of the people who will become your strongest supporters. But whether or not you decide to come up during the invitation, I pray that your heart would be to become as much like Christ as possible, and that you will actively try to become more and more like Him.
But before we have an invitation, let’s pray.
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