Images of the Savior (8 -- Abraham's Victory and Melchizedek's Blessing)
In the next episode of Abraham's life, in which he arises in behalf of Lot, his nephew, who had been taken captive by Chedorlaomer and the other kings with him, and wins a very great victory over this confederation of kings, slaughtering them in the valley of Shaveh, and thereafter, is blessed by Melchizedek, the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, we may discern two very notable images of the coming Savior: for first of all, Abraham's slaughter of the kings is a type of the Messiah's later victory, in several specific instances; but even more notable yet is the image of the Savior which we encounter in the person of Melchizedek, who stands out as one of the foremost types of Christ in all the Old Testament. From these two related events, Abraham's victory and Melchizedek's bringing a blessing, we will now see what we may learn of Abraham's Seed, who is our great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
First, we must notice the occasion of Abraham's victory, and the end which he was pursuing in taking up arms; which is just that Lot, his younger brother, as it were (or more properly, his nephew), had been taken captive by the nations of the world, and was in desperate straits. Now, consider how well this corresponds to the warfare of the Messiah: for he did not take up arms against the Serpent out of his own need, but solely for the good of all of us, whom he is not ashamed to call his younger brothers, because we had been taken captive by the devil, and were bound to do his will, laboring in bondage under the spirit now at work in this evil world (see Hebrews 2:10-16; Ephesians 2:1-3).
Then, we see that this victory was over a confederation of kings, and that one of them in particular was called the â€œking of nationsâ€ (see Genesis 14:1); by which circumstance we are reminded that the Messiah's warfare should be carried out against all the kings of this wicked world, who had banded together against him (see Psalm 2); and more particularly, against the devil, who is in reality the king over all the nations of the world, having taken them all captive to do his will; and so he is called the â€œgod of this worldâ€ (2 Corinthians 4:4). And so we see as well, that when Christ came and began to battle against the Serpent, he offered him the kingdoms of the world, which were really at that time under his power, if he would but worship him (Matthew 4:8-11); but far from coming into his kingdom in so inglorious a way, our Savior instead put the devil to great shame and defeat, and plundered all his kingdom through the power of his own hand, and his own mighty victory.
Then, we observe that it was the Most High God who gave to Abraham this astounding victory; even as it was prophesied very often of the Messiah that he would wait upon God, and so God would give him a mighty victory, and put all his enemies under his feet (e.g Psalm 18:43-45; 21:8-12; 91:9-16; 110:1-2).
Also, after Jesus had accomplished his victory over the god of the nations of this world, and so delivered his younger brothers, he then satisfied their souls with many good things, and with a great and glorious feast; which he signified to them in his last supper with them, when he made the sign of his broken body and shed blood the substance of a joyful feast, and so taught us to look for a celebration of wine and fat things in his presence, in consequence of his victorious salvation (see Luke 22:14-20; Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 19:6-9); and in this way, as well, the victory of Abraham, being followed by a distribution of great spoil, and wine and bread from the hands of the high priest, very exactly corresponds with the victory of Christ. For all of these reasons, it is not without good cause that Isaiah later refers to the victories of â€œone from the East,â€ by whom he very likely means Abraham, as an example and pledge of the greater victory by which God would sustain his downcast people through his suffering but victorious Servant (Isaiah 41:2-4ff.)
But now, let us note how, in this particular history, that mysterious figure Melchizedek stands out as even more striking a type of the Messiah than Abraham himself, who had delivered Lot with so resounding a slaughter. For first of all, we find it very peculiar that, in a book given to genealogies and the tracing out of origins, this man Melchizedek appears suddenly upon the scene with no record of any father or mother, and as suddenly disappears with no record of his death. In this way, the literary figure of Melchizedek, quite alone among all the characters of the Pentateuch, is quite without origin, ancestry, beginning or ending of days, etc., and so very appropriately foreshadows the eternal Son of God, who is without beginning or ending, but is the first and the last, and the source of all creation (Colossians 1:17-18; Revelation 1:8, 11).
Then, we see that this man is first of all named â€œMelchizedek,â€ which translated means, â€œking of righteousness,â€ and second is called the â€œking of Salem,â€ which translated means the â€œking of peaceâ€. But consider how well this corresponds to the Messiah, who should provide in his body and blood the true fulfillment of those types of bread and wine with which Melchizedek blessed Abraham: for he did not only win a mighty victory upon the cross, and so earn in very fact the title for which he was crucified, â€œthe King of the Jewsâ€ (Matthew 27:37); but moreover, he was winning, in his sacrificial entry into that blessed kingship, both a peace and righteousness for those subjects of his, and Abraham's true descendants. On the cross, Jesus won a righteousness for his people, by which he would be enabled, without compromising his Father's justice, to give them peace. All of the promised blessings of redemption, which are summed up in that designation of peace with the Father, met upon the cross with all the fulfillment of righteousness, which until that time stood in the way of the accomplishment of peace â€“ and thus it is that, on the cross, Jesus made righteousness and peace to kiss each other (see Psalm 85:10), and so earned that title, the King of the Jews, that is, of all his people, and Abraham's true descendants by faith. How remarkably, then, do the name and designation of this Melchizedek answer to Christ's own kingship!
Then, we observe that this Melchizedek was the priest of the Most High God, and that in his priesthood he was neither preceded by any other priest, nor followed by any later priest after his death. In this way, he stands out most emphatically from the later Levitical priests, who were succeeded by many sons, inasmuch as death prevented them from continuing as priests forever. In the same way, the Messiah would enter into his priestly office unpreceded by any priest before him, and would continue forever after as our eternal High Priest, seeing he should live forever to intercede for us. Which is why the psalmist later speaks of Christ as a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, and not of Aaron (see Psalm 110:4).
And again, we see that this Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, and so blessed him, and was not blessed by him; even as the Messiah should be greater than Abraham, and should bring the promised blessing to him, even though he was at that time â€œin him,â€ inasmuch as the human mother of Jesus, Mary, was then in the loins of Abraham. And this was also true of the Levitical priests, who being in the loins of Abraham received a blessing with him, and so certified that they were lesser than Melchizedek, who in this way proves to be a very significant type of the greater High Priest, Jesus Christ.
Then, we notice that Melchizedek was the ruler of Jerusalem (which is probably the same city as that which is here referred to under the designation â€œSalemâ€), even as Christ should become the ruler of the city of God, the New Jerusalem. And he accepted tithes of Abraham, after blessing him, which is a figure of how we all who have been blessed by Christ our King should then be enabled to give back a tithe, as it were, of those blessings which we have received, by giving up our bodies as a living sacrifice to him, and ministering for his cause, and helping out our brothers who should be in any need (see Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Philippians 4:14-19). And also, in the words of his blessing to Abraham, which were in a certain sense prophetic of the Messianic victory, we see the offices of prophet, priest, and king coincide in one figure, which is a most notable shadow of the One in whom these three offices should come together forevermore, who is Jesus Christ our Savior. So we see that, in many ways, this Melchizedek is an unparalleled type of the Messiah; and if we should seem to be wresting too much significance from the circumstances of his history, we may support our conclusions with the similar reasoning of the author of the letter to the Hebrews, in the seventh chapter of the epistle.