What do Abraham, Melchizedek, and David all have in common? They’re part of the unfolding theme of the royal priesthood in the Bible. In this week’s episode, join Tim and Jon as they explore how this theme is part of humanity’s quest to get back to the blessings of Eden.
What we want is someone who can mediate to us the life and the blessing of Eden and the abundance of Eden, and Melchizedek fits that slot. But to do that we have to get past those cherubim. In other words, we have to deal with this problem that’s been created by human folly and evil. And so what is the way to access and pass by the cherubim to experience the blessing of Eden? It requires a surrender of your plan for how to succeed. And precisely the moment that you think that Abraham’s future and family is about to die is the moment that God has mercy and provides a covering through the substitute.
In part one (0:00–11:30), Tim and Jon revisit Genesis 1 and 2, where we see that Adam and Eve must live in the world as royal prophet-priests in order to rightly bear the image of God.
A royal priest is a human gateway to the divine. When humans are in their ideal role, they have moments in which they display aspects of God’s wisdom, power, and even glory. As royal prophet-priests, Adam and Eve have a responsibility to remind each other of the word of God.
When the Bible first mentions the image of God, God blesses Adam and Eve and Heaven is experienced on Earth (Genesis 1:27-28).
When the humans choose to disobey God, God banishes them from Eden.
And Yahweh God said,
“Look, the human has become like one of us, knowing good and bad,
and now so that he won’t send out his hand and take also from the tree of life (חיים), and eat and live (חי) forever…”
and Yahweh God sent him out from the garden
to work the ground from which he was taken
and he banished the human
and he made to dwell at the east of the garden of Eden
cherubim and the flame of the whirling sword to guard way to the tree of life (חי).
After Adam and Eve are banished, humans still bear the image of God, and work is still an important part of their role in the world. But outside of Eden, work is full of toil and ultimately leads to death. God’s blessings are still good, but suddenly, there’s a danger to accessing them in the way humans were originally intended to. Humans are exiled, and God stations a guard in front of the door to the sacred space.
The beginning of the biblical story prompts a vital question: How can humans get back to Eden?
Outside of Eden, humanity is on a steady downward trajectory, making unrighteous choices that mar their responsibility to bear God’s image. And it all culminates at the tower of Babel when God scatters the humans to keep them from unifying around their own image instead of his. God’s strategy now is to raise up a new adam, a new human, who will be his vehicle for restoring blessing to the nations.
In part two (11:30–18:45), the team moves ahead in the biblical story to Abraham, God’s chosen vehicle of blessing to the nations. God’s calling of Abraham is rich with edenic language.
And I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you,
and make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and him who curses you I will curse;
and in you will be blessed all the families of the earth.
The Eden dream is coming to the whole world through Abraham’s family, and God promises to bless anyone who blesses Abraham and to curse anyone who curses him. The first time Abraham’s family is in danger and the first time he receives a blessing are both in Genesis 14.
When Genesis 14 opens, four eastern kings are angry at five Canaanite kings who have neglected to pay their taxes.
At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
In the war that ensues, Abraham’s nephew Lot is kidnapped, and Abraham rescues him with only about 300 men. This is the first of many conquests God’s people will win against impossible odds because of God’s blessing.
In part three (18:45–25:00), Tim and Jon discuss the first priest named in the Bible.
When Abraham returns from battle with livestock and other spoils, he’s met by two kings.
The king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God-Most-High (el elyon). He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abraham by God-Most-High,
Possessor of skies and land;
And blessed be God-Most-High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
He (Abraham) gave him (Melchizedek) a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abraham, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” Abraham said to the king of Sodom, “I raise my hand to Yahweh God-Most-High, possessor of skies and land, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abraham rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”
Melchizedek is the first explicit royal priest in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve’s role as royal priests is implied, but Melchizedek is clearly called a royal priest, and not from the line of Seth, Noah, or Shem (or at least, not in the text). Melchizedek is a Canaanite who somehow knows Yahweh apart from Abraham. He comes to Abraham with a feast and a blessing, and Abraham gives him a tenth of all he has.
In part four (25:00–31:30), the team explores the design of Genesis 14, which highlights a contrast between Abraham’s relationship to the king of Sodom and his relationship to Melchizedek, king of Shalem.
The king of Sodom comes to take, but Melchizedek comes to give. Abraham is more than happy to respond with generosity and give a tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek, but he refuses to take anything from the king of Sodom, lest he be indebted to him.
Melchizedek the priest-king comes bearing the blessings and abundance of Jerusalem. This is a really significant moment in the narrative because it is a vignette that represents Eden, and Melchizedek is the first person to bless Abraham.
Within God’s blessing economy, Melchizedek and his descendants are bound to be blessed by God in response, and this is a signal to readers to keep our eyes peeled for more priest-kings from Jerusalem throughout the story of the Bible.
In part five (31:30–end), Tim and Jon conclude their discussion by looking at how God covers Abraham’s sin and fulfills his promise to his family.
God promised Abraham that he would give him and Sarah many children, but instead of waiting for God to fulfill his promise, Abraham and Sarah come up with their own scheme that hurts a number of people. When the couple does receive God’s promised son, Isaac, God puts Abraham to the test and asks him to give up his son’s life on Mount Moriah to show his faithfulness.
While Abraham is tying Isaac to an altar to sacrifice him, God stops him.
And the messenger of Yahweh called to him from the skies and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place Yahweh Will See To It, as it is said to this day, “On the mountain of Yahweh he/it will be seen.” Then the messenger of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time from the skies, and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and you have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Abraham’s son was about to die for his father’s sins, but God provided another way for Abraham’s sins to be forgiven. In Genesis 22:14, the “mountain of Yahweh” (הר יהוה) is only used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer to Mount Zion, the temple mount in Jerusalem (see Isaiah 2:4, 30:29; Micah 4:2; Psalm 24:3) where sacrifices for sins take place every day.
In Genesis 14 and 22, the biblical author points out two key moments in Abraham’s story that foreshadow the importance of Jerusalem. In both stories, the royal priesthood theme stands out and shows God’s people that we can both receive the blessings of Eden and a covering for our sins, so that Eden’s blessings can be released to the nations.
To experience Eden’s blessings, we have to surrender our own plans, our own definition of good and bad, as a sacrifice of our own wills to God.
Interested in more? Check out Tim’s full library here.
Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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