4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. 8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.
Yesterday, we saw the likeness of Melchizedek and Jesus. Recall that the purpose of Hebrews is to demonstrate that Jesus is greater than all of the elements of the law. One of the primary elements of the law was the Levitical priesthood.
When the law was established, Moses’ brother, Aaron, was appointed high priest. You can find this in Exodus 28. He and his sons were of the tribe of Levi, and God chose this tribe to serve as priests. This is known as the Levitical priesthood, which was in place for the duration of the Old Covenant. This tribe, like all tribes of Israel, descends from Abraham. This makes verse four of today’s passage powerful, particularly for the Jew who takes pride in tracing ancestry back to Abraham. “Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.” Melchizedek was so great that the father of the Jewish nation paid tithes to him.
The author of Hebrews goes on to explain that the law contained commandments for the people to pay tithes to the priests, the Levites. But Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, and through Abraham, he received tithes from Levi. Verse six says that “he whose genealogy is not derived from them [the Levites] received tithes from Abraham.” In verse 10, we see that Levi, being yet unborn and therefore “still in the loins of his father” also paid tithes to Melchizedek. Under the law, the Levites receive tithes from their brethren. But they paid tithes to Melchizedek, who is not of their lineage. Furthermore, Melchizedek blessed Abraham, not the other way around. “Now beyond all contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better.”
The Old Covenant was led and managed by the Levitical priests. Yet we see that Melchizedek pre-existed Abraham and is greater than him and his descendants. Now, take this incredible truth and read Jesus’ interaction with religious leaders in John 8:53-58.
52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Jesus is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, who is not of Abraham’s lineage. Yet according to Galatians chapters three and four, Jesus is also the Seed of promise through Isaac, Abraham’s son. He is the I AM of Exodus 3:14, yet He is also the carpenter, Mary’s Son, of Mark 6:3. He pre-existed all things, yet has a genealogy so that we can be grafted into His family tree. He is fully God and fully man. Consider how great this Man is.