Genesis 14:18,19,20 “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Clearly Melchizedek wasn’t in Abram’s tribe. He was an outsider, albeit a king. Not only did he know about God, he worshiped Him as the ‘God Most High’. How could an outsider have so much knowledge and love of God? Sometimes we can be shocked when we come across an outsider who seems so connected to what we believe is our own special relationship. I struggle with with this, thinking – It shouldn’t be that way. It’s tough to share grace with outsiders!
Who was this ‘outsider’? Wikipedia claims that according to Josephus (an ancient historian) Melchizedek was a Canaanite chief and a priest. Herbert W. Armstrong argued to the contrary; “He could not have been a Canaanite, for they were steeped in pagan customs.” A concern about a person’s pedigree was the basis of Nathaniel’s initial skepticism of Jesus Himself; “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) The Forerunner Commentary states that Melchizedek was the ‘pre-incarnate Jesus Christ’. To me, the most important point is that Melchizedek was an ‘outsider’.
The Bible says that Jesus is the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4) and; “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,‘You are a priest forever.’ This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7:21) This was a tough one for the religious establishment of Jesus’ day to swallow as their claim to authority drew on the Levitical priesthood; “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?” (Hebrews 7:11)
Jesus has a heart for ‘outsiders’. His parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is a powerful case in point. What does Jesus stress? Mercy! How we treat those we feel are not of our tribe is something that God pays very close attention to; “’Which of these three [priest, Levite, Samaritan] do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.'” (Luke 10: 36,37)
For those of us who have been outsiders, never quite fitting in anywhere and carrying the wounds of rejection the message of the Gospel has a poignancy and power that draws us in. When churches lose touch with ‘outsiders’ because they have for generations been steeped in God’s Grace and comforts the power of the Gospel is emptied out of their ministry by the same extent. This is a hard thing to say to good people who are believers. But isn’t this the very message of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
Cannot a person with a pagan origin and sensibilities come to hunger and thirst for righteousness as well? Cannot a person who is ‘red in tooth and claw’ feel pain and need mercy as well? Do not those who are broken and bereft by their own sin, need comfort as well? In this day, we don’t need go far beyond our church walls to find such as these. Perhaps they will come to us if we go to them.
Jesus did; “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. ‘But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12,13)
Praise the Lord!