Melchizedek is an impressive priest. He blesses Abraham, which implies that even father Abraham is inferior to him. This is an order that would be described as hieros, rather than the usual term used in the New Testament, presbuteros, and coms not by descent from Levi, but is an order that allows sacrifice to be offered from the rising of the sun to its setting.
All of the Bible leads to the conclusion that God will come to be with us, but sin separates us from God. Sometimes we are tempted to downplay our sin, but that downplays God’s holiness. We see God’s holiness overpower many people in the Bible.
We also see that the Messiah is prophesied to have a priestly role, who will finally end sin by sacrifice of Himself, and that He would come in what we call now the first century AD. The Messiah, however, need not be a Levitical priest, but as we know, is a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek.
We can be confident that God will save us if we call on His name, but salvation is a process, and is not a magical proclamation that assures us Heaven no matter how wicked we are in this life. We must rejoice in our hope and in our sufferings, and know that to the extent that we cooperate with God’s grace, we are rewarded in the next life.
Throughout all of biblical history, God has rewarded those who hope in Him. There are those who will deny the action of God in their lives, even as the Hebrews ignored the explicit miracles they saw in the times of the Exodus, but those who have a fear of the Lord or who have an expectation the Lord’s grace in the world are praised in the Bible.
In 2 Sam 7, David seeks to make a house for the Lord, but God declares that He will establish a house for Israel, a promise fulfilled in Christ.
Isaiah 7-12 concerns a prophecy to King Ahaz. A virgin or young woman will bear a son, and call him Immanuel, or God with us. This may have been a double prophecy, with multiple meanings, but it is clear that by the time of the translation of the Septuagint, the woman was considered to be a virgin. This is a promised heir to the throne of David.
On Jacob’s deathbed, he declares that Judah is the tribe from which a king will come. Similarly, Balaam prophesies that a king would come out of Jacob. Jer 31:31 prophesies a new covenant, and Isaiah prophesies a suffering servant whose life points to Christ. There are several covenants, those of creation, conscience, Noah, Abraham, the law, David, and the new covenant of Christ, each building on the other.
God has been willing to come to man and be intimately with us, as the word immanuel, God with us, implies, but the priesthood is instituted to keep us from transgressing, by holding us to the service of God, and acting as a buffer between man and the holy things.
God promises to Abraham that through him, all the nations will bless themselves. God is so involved with man that He will even send an angel to wrestle with man, as Jacob does. We are told to not be unclean, and God will welcome us.
Through this time, we can see many Christophanies in the Old Testament: Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, his chosen son, Melchizedek, the priest who offers sacrifice of bread and wine, the 3000 who died at the giving of the law prefiguring the 3000 saved at Pentecost.
It is through the promises of the Old Testament that the love of God, which will be fulfilled in the New Testament, is clear.
Here begins a sweeping overview of salvation history.
God created man because of love. God wants a relation with man, and man gropes after God. Prov 8:17 says that those who seek God diligently find Him, and Hebrews says something very similar. Sin clouds our minds, but even in Genesis 3, God promises an end to this state. In the very next chapter, the sin of eating the fruit has become murder.
From the Rochester NY Chesterton Society’s 8th Annual Conference, Dale Ahlquist (President, American Chesterton Society) talks about the end of the world and how it factors into the world that God has created, a world of justice and peace, and a world that will undergo a revolution to conform it to God’s plan. We must use our free will to be a part of this plan. Whether or not you agree with every point touched on here, you will find this talk timely, provocative, and stimulating.
Visit the Rochester NY Chesterton Society’s website at www.rochesterton.com.
See more from the American Chesterton Society at www.chesterton.org.
In this recording from the 2011 Rochester NY Chesterton Conference, Hilaire Belloc (played by Kevin O’Brien) takes a sweeping overview of Christian history with a look at what he conceptualized as the five major heresies.
Arianism, one of the earliest great heresies, claims that Jesus was not God but a creature. St. Athanasius and some military victories dealt a blow to the heresy, but so did the rise of Islam.
Mohammedanism began as a heresy, as an oversimplified version of Catholicism, which denied the incarnation. It grew because of its promise of freedom from slavery and usury, and as recently as the 17th century, the Ottoman empire was trying to overrun Vienna.
Albigensianism is a heresy that claims that evil is as much a force as good, that all matter is of evil, and therefore that all matter and anything pleasurable must be eschewed.
Protestantism began as a reaction to correct abuses of the Church, but quickly added in ideas of John Calvin, who claimed that there was evil as part of the divine nature. This allowed people to accept evil in the world as part of divine will.
Modernism is a heresy that denies the supernatural and attacks truth, beauty and goodness. The result of this is the rise of slavery in other forms, as well as cruelty.
While the way in which these ideas are presented may at points seem dated (Belloc died in 1953), they remain thought-provoking. And more importantly, Kevin O’Brien’s masterful performance of Belloc and his comments that follow illustrate the great potential of ”evangelization through drama,” the mission of O’Brien’s Theater of the Word.