One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Melchizedek. The name itself is pretty fun to say out loud - nice and loud!
I first became interested in Melchizedek while at a Clergy Conference and reading the entire letter from beginning to end as a group. Each of us took our turn reading 3 to 4 verses until we finished the letter. It took about 35 minutes.
I was surprised that in the 4th and 5th chapter, the author chooses to dedicate all of its emphasis to making a blatant connection between Jesus and “the great high priest” Melchizedek. What was the author thinking? What was the author trying to say about Jesus? What were we missing?
In Genesis 14 we get our only other glimpse of Melchizedek. The context is interesting. Abram (not yet Abraham) has made his way from the Land of Ur to a promised land. Once arriving, it goes really bad for him and his family and they have to run away. The only place they can go is to Egypt where he has to lie to Pharaoh in order to live. When Pharaoh finds out he has been lied to he runs them out of town with significant anger. Abram runs and finds himself surrounded by lots of enemies, each with their armies.
Then Melchizedek shows up, almost out of nowhere. There from his tent, Melchizedek invites Abram, Sarai, and their households into his safety. At this point it is important to give the full name of Melchizedek. His name, with title, is King Melchizedek the King of Salem.
It is simple, yet amazing, what happens now in the story. First, Melchizedek offers a safe place. Second, he offers the guests something to eat. And third, he gives a blessing.
Safe place to be. Some nourishment. A blessing. I think all Nebraskans know this triad to be hospitality.
Was the author of the Letter to the Hebrews trying to equate the priesthood of Jesus to the priesthood of Melchizedek? If this is the case then we can conclude that the priesthood of Jesus is shown to be hospitality. We can further conclude that to follow Jesus, to do as Jesus does, is to live a life of hospitality as shown in the holy triad.
It turns out that in Genesis, in the chapters that follow, the core notion of hospitality is offered over and over again to reinforce the concept. It certainly is what God is trying to tell us. It is offered an a recipe for ministry and faithfulness.
One more important thing and why it is important to know the complete name and title of Melchizedek. It turns out that Melchizedek, is hebrew for Justice. Do you remember that he was a king? Actually he was the King of Salem. The kingdom of Salem is the predecessor of Jerusalem. Salem, in hebrew means Peace.
What the character of Melchizedek, offers us in his name, is the following: He is King Justice, the King of Peace, who lives Hospitality. This is the core of the ministry of Jesus and why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews makes the connection of the two!