"Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and
wine, and he was the priest of the most high God." Genesis 14:18
The first war, which darkens history's page, is ended.
Abraham is moving homewards—crowned with success—laden with spoil. Suddenly
a scene breaks on us—marvelous in what it reveals—marvelous in what it
conceals. A personage, who is all wonder, stands on the stage of Scripture.
His name bids us mark him well. It is a full Gospel-note. He is high in
earthly dignity, for he is Salem's king. He is high in holy function,
for he is the priest of the most high God. Do we ask his lineage? It
is shrouded in a veil, which we may not pierce. Do we seek the morning of
his days? His sun never rises. Do we seek the evening of his life? His sun
never sets. He only appears in full-blown stature, and in meridian blaze. So
obscure is he in sublimity, so sublime in obscurity, that it is no surprise
to hear the question, Can this be merely man? He comes forward with
neither empty hand nor silent lip. He strengthens the patriarch with
refreshment for the way. He adds, too, the greater strength of blessing in
the name of God. Abraham owns the claim to reverence and to homage. He
presents a tenth part of all.
Such is the record. But Scripture pauses not here. It
teaches us, that all these lines of mystery are lineaments of Jesus.
It shows, in this stately person, no doubtful glimpse of the glories of the
office of the Lord. It tells us in distinct phrase, he is "made like unto
the Son of God." The tidings are often repeated, that Jesus is "a priest
forever after the order of Melchizedek." Hence faith, which only lives
looking unto Jesus, sits at His feet in holy, happy musings, and finds the
cheering of full Gospel-rays.
Behold Melchizedek! In wise purpose his descent is hid
far beyond our sight. So, too, clouds and darkness mantle the first rise of
Jesus. He is, by eternal generation, the co-eternal Son of the co-eternal
Father. But who can grasp such mystery? He, who begets precedes not the
begotten. This truth is a boundless ocean. Let us meekly stand on the shore
and marvel. But let us not repine, that we cannot fathom what is
fathomless. This truth hides its lofty summit in the heaven of heavens.
Let the poor worms of earth repose in reverence around the base. But let
them not venture to climb the giddy heights. To know God's essence, we must
have God's mind. To see Him as He is, we must be like Him. To span the
lengths of His nature, we must have His infinitudes. To survey His
magnitude, we must sit as compeers on His throne.
We read, and are assured, that Jesus, by eternal birth,
is God of God, and very God of very God. But while we cannot dive into the
depths, we bathe our souls in the refreshment of the surface. For hence it
follows, that He is sufficient to deal with God and to satisfy God, and thus
to save His people to the uttermost. We see not Melchizedek's cradle. But we
distinctly see him man on earth. Eye-witnesses, who heard Jesus and handled
Him, give testimony, that He, too, has tabernacled in our clay, and thus was
qualified to shed His life-blood as our ransom.
In Melchizedek we find neither first nor last hours. No
search can tell when he began or ceased to be. Here is Jesus. His age is one
everlasting day. From eternity past to eternity to come, His being rolls in
one unbroken stream. Before time was, His name is, "I am that I am." When
time shall have run its course, His name is still, "I am that I am."
Reader! does such greatness fill you with tremblings of
awe? Do you sigh, How can I draw near? How can I cast myself into His arms?
Behold Him! His eternal being is eternal love. He never lived, He never will
live, but with His people engraven on His heart, and spread before His eye.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness
have I drawn you." Zion's walls are continually before Him. Immeasurableness
encourages, for it is immeasurableness of tender grace.
Melchizedek! How mighty is this name! He that utters it,
says, "King of Righteousness." Who can claim that title, in
its full purport, but Jesus? What is His person, what His work, but the
glory of Righteousness? Since Adam fell, earth has seen no Righteousness
apart from Him. But His kingdom is first Righteousness, then Peace.
There is a throne in it righteously erected to dispense Righteousness. All
the statutes, decrees, ordinances, every precept, every reward, every
penalty—is a sunbeam of Righteousness. Each subject is bright in royal robes
of purity—each wears a crown of Righteousness. Each delights in
Righteousness, as his new-born nature.
Reader! do you not long to be righteous, even as He is
righteous? There is one way—only one. Cleave to Jesus. His Spirit-giving
scepter will kill in you the love of sin, and plant in you the living seeds
of Righteousness. Melchizedek was a local monarch. His city was graced with
the name of Salem, which is Peace. The war which stalked through the land,
troubled not these tranquil citizens. Here again we have the sweet emblem of
Jesus' blissful reign. His kingdom is one atmosphere of peace—one haven of
unruffled calm. Heaven is at peace with the inhabitants. Sin had rebelled.
It had aroused most holy wrath. It had armed each attribute of God with
anger. It had unsheathed the sword of vengeance. It had pointed the arrows
of destruction against our world of transgression. But Jesus cleanses His
flock from every stain of evil. He is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the
sin of the world." The eye of God can no more find the cause of antagonism.
A flood of smiles descends upon the blood shed kingdom. The inhabitants are
at peace with heaven.
Sin had filled them with hatred of God's holiness—dread
of God's avenging arm—aversion to God's presence. But Jesus, by His Spirit,
plucks out the heart of stone, and implants a heart of filial love. The one
delight is now to draw near to God—to walk by His side—to listen to His
voice—to sing His praise. The inhabitants are at peace within. The sight of
the cross stills each rising storm of conscience, and stifles the accusing
voice of Satan. They see a divine Redeemer quenching by His blood the flames
of hell—building by His merits the palace of heaven. Trouble vanishes before
this morning star.
Reader! there is no peace but in this Salem. But within
these walls there is one song of perfect peace. The gates are yet wide open.
The Prince of Peace calls to His standard. Blessed, blessed are they, who
hear, and hasten, and are at rest!
Melchizedek is called to the most hallowed functions. He
is the consecrated priest of the most high God. As king, he sat above
men. As priest, he stands before God. This holy office exhibits Jesus. He
spurns no office which can serve the Church. The entrance of sin calls for
expiation. No sinner can approach a sin-hating God without a sin-removing
plea. This expiation can only be by the death of an appeasing victim. The
victim can only die by a sacrificing hand. Hence we need a Priest to
celebrate the blood-stained rite. And all which is needed, we have in Jesus.
Cry out and shout, O happy believer, your "Christ is all." An altar is
upraised. The altar is Christ. No other can suffice. He alone can bear the
victim, which bears His people's sins. A lamb is led forth. The lamb is
Christ. None other has blood of merit co-equal with man's guilt. Jesus,
therefore, God in essence, man in person, extends Himself upon the accursed
tree. But who is the Priest who dares approach a super-human altar? Who has
a hand to touch a victim-God? The very sight would shiver man into
annihilation. Therefore Jesus is the Priest. But can He slay
Reader! God's will is His nature. Love for His people is
His heart. He looks to God—He looks to His Church, and counts it joy to give
His blood. Believer, open wide your eyes of faith—gaze on this glorious work
of your glorious High Priest. He spares not Himself, that all who flee to
Him might be spared forever. But mark it well, the Lamb has died once and
forever. The Priest's work on earth is finished once and forever. The
shadows are passed away. The one Priest entered with His own blood into the
holy of holies, having obtained eternal redemption. Will any now
speak of priests, and altars, and sacrifices on earth?
Let them beware. Let them consider. It is no light matter to trifle with the
Spirit's language, and the names of Jesus. What begins in ignorance may end
in death. "It is finished," is gloriously inscribed on the Priest's work
below. "It never ceases," is as gloriously written on the work above. Jesus
lives and His office lives!
Believer, behold Him on the right hand of the Majesty on
High. He appears in priestly vesture. The names of the true Israel are on
His shoulders—a token that all His strength is theirs to uphold them.
The names are on His breast—a token that, while His heart beats, it
beats for them. The voice of His pleading ever sounds and ever prevails.
Father, forgive them; and they are forgiven. Father, have mercy on them; and
mercies speed on rapid wing. The incense of His intercession ever rises.
Father, bless them; and they are blessed. Father, smile on them; and it is
light around. With extended hand, He takes their every offering of prayer,
and praise, and service. He perfumes all with the rich fragrance of His
merits. He makes all worthy in His own worthiness, and thus our nothingness
gains great reward.
Melchizedek meets Abraham with bread and wine. The weary
warrior is way-worn and faint. Refreshment is provided. The Lord is very
tender of His people's needs. Dreadful is the curse on the Ammonites and the
Moabites, because they did not meet Israel with bread and water in the way,
when they came forth out of Egypt. Here again we see our great High Priest.
With God-like bounty, He bestows every supply, which wasted strength, and
sinking spirits, and failing heart require. The fight of faith is fierce—the
journey of life ofttimes seems long—but at every step a banquet-house is
open, and refreshing delights are spread.
There is the solid sustenance of the Word: there
are the overflowing cups of the promises: there is the abundant feast
of holy ordinances, as manna from the hand of God: there is the
spiritual food of His own body given—of His own blood shed. Our true
Melchizedek invites us to draw near. And while we regale in soul-reviving
faith, the gracious voice still sounds, "Blessed be Abraham by the most High
God." The Patriarch, in grateful reverence, makes an offering of a
tenth part of all. O my soul, what will you render to your great High
Priest? Let your adoring language be, O Lord, I am Yours! You have bought me
by Your blood! You have won me by Your melting grace! You have called me by
Your constraining voice! You have subdued me by Your all-conquering Spirit.
I am Yours! My soul is Yours to adore You! My heart is Yours to love You! My
body is Yours to serve You! My tongue is Yours to praise You! My life is
Yours to glorify You! My eternity is Yours to gaze on You—to follow You—to
hymn Your name. But Eternity! Eternity! Eternity is too scanty for a
redeemed soul to magnify a redeeming Jesus!