Messiah Lutheran Church :: The Mystery Guest

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Dear friends in Christ,

            Judy and I returned from our road trip this week in Colorado.  We rented a condo in Dillon,Colorado and were with our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.  We had fun; it was very relaxing. One thing I realized was this: When you are young and have a family, vacations are about doing; when your kids leave home, vacations become more about seeing. While we were based in Dillon,Colorado(forty or fifty miles west ofDenver), we went to all the big ski resort towns.  We visited Breckenridge, Vail,Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Keystone.  We saw spectacular scenery along the way.  It was nice to be with our family and especially to enjoy Sarah and Catie, our grandchildren.

            But now it is time to get back to Abraham’s road trip, which we had been following before we left for our vacation.  He had been called from Urto Haranto Shechem to Bethelto Egyptto Hebronto Hobah.  I think we saw more spectacular sights in Colorado.  I know Judy and I got to relax more than Abraham and Sarah ever did.  Two weeks ago we left him in Hobah.  He had been there in war.  When he returned from Hobah, he met a most mysterious man - Melchizedek.  That’s what we want to focus on this weekend “Abraham’s Mystery Guest.”  1)  A mysterious believer; 2) A picture of his son – the Messiah.

            Let’s put this all into context.  Kederlaomer, the kingElam, made an alliance with three other kings to expand his kingdom to the east.  That included parts of theland ofCanaan, the Promised Land where Abraham and his nephewLot lived.  Kederlaomer’s gang invaded Sodom and Gomorrah, the home ofLot.  Abraham had to get involved.Lot had been captured along with everyone he had and owned.  

            Abraham formed an army of 300 + and allied with two other bigwigs and went after Kederlaomer.  If Vegas were handicapping, they would have made Abraham a huge underdog, but when the Lord is on your side everything changes. Abraham pursued what was left of the armies of Kederlaomer northward past Hobah andDamascus.  The Lord of Hosts was with Abraham. 

            General Abraham was returning from battle and two people came to greet him.  One was the King of Sodom whose kingdom was indebted to Abraham, the other was Melchizedek.  We are going to talk about the meeting with the King of Sodom next week.  There are lessons to be learned from that. Today we concentrate on Melchizedek.  “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.”

            Melchizedek means King of Righteousness.  He is identified as the King of Salem.  That’s the city ofJerusalem.  He is also identified as a priest to the Most High God. He honored Abraham and thanked Abraham for going to war.  He provided Abraham’s famished troops with bread and wine.  He also praised the Most High God for being with Abraham to defeat a vicious and unwanted enemy. 

            The first part of the sermon I entitled “mystery believer.”  Why?  Think about it.  Where did this guy come from?  How did he know the Most High God?  He shows up out of the blue. God had been interacting with Abraham.  He promised that Abraham would be the father of a great nation.  He said that Abraham’s people would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth.  Jesus would come from Abraham’s family to bring forgiveness of sins and life to the people of every nation.  So how did Melchizedek come to know the Most High God when God seemed to be working through Abraham?

            To be honest, the Bible doesn’t explain the connection.  The Bible says that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”  While that message wasn’t written down yet (that didn’t happen until Moses came along 600 years later) Melchizedek came to know, he came to believe and then came to do.  He was even a priest of the Most High God.

Sometimes you just have to marvel how all that happens because God makes it happen.  The prophet Isaiah said, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

When the promises of God are shared, it is like a shower that spreads across the land and waters things.  Pretty soon here and there plants will sprout.  Christians are found.  God simply takes care of it

            Remember when the prophet Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel to prove who the true God was – the Lord or Baal?  The Lord proved he was the Lord in heaven and earth by vaporizing the altar of sacrifice by sending fire from heaven.  Sadly King Ahab and Queen Jezebel refused to believe and put a price on Elijah’s head.  Elijah fled to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. He complained and muttered that he was the only one left who still believed.  Hold it friend!  God said, Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”  Who were they?  Where were they?  Only God knew that; only God makes that happen.    

            There was a time when Jesus’ disciples saw a man who was casting out demons.  The disciples were bothered by it. “We told him to stop, because he was not one of us,” they said.  Jesus said, “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”  While we are to never get sloppy in the way we teach the Word of God, nevertheless rejoice that God uses others. 

When I served in Florida, WELS tourists from a WELSchurch somewhere else got sick.  A pastor would call and ask whether I would make a visit. More often than not they were in ICU’s.  They didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. A couple of times I went to the wrong bed.  One time after I was done, a curtain around the bed was pulled back and the man there called out, “Hey Pastor I think you were looking for me.”  Right person or wrong person, a heart was showered with God’s word.   

I love the solid Bible teaching of that our church body stands for.  We love the Scripture.  We believe it is the word of God.  We are committed to it.  In fact, I wish everyone were part of our church body.  Yet, our church body has 385,000 members in the United Statesand Canada.  There are 316,000,000 people in the United Statesalone.  The US State Department says that there are 195 countries in the world.  Our Synod has missionaries in 25.  How nice it is to remember Melchizedek and the way God so mysteriously worked faith in him. By whom?  We don’t know but he did. It still continues.  What a great promise that when we get to heaven we will be part of the great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Why? Through the shower of rain when someone spoke to someone else about all that Jesus did. Surely a mystery to us, but not to God!

This story of Melchizedek teaches us that he is a picture of Jesus.  Our God has used these pictures in hi word.  Theologians call these pictures types of Christ in the Old Testament.  For instance, when poisonous snakes affected the nation ofIsrael, God told Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole and all who would look on it would live.  Jesus said that he would be like that – lifted up on the cross so people could live.  Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale. Jesus said he was like that too; he was in the belly of the earth for three days.  

Melchizedek is also a type of Christ, a picture of Jesus who was the offspring of Abraham admittedly many generations removed. 

Melchizedek is mentioned in these three verses.  He scoots into history and then scoots out.  Yet the Bible speaks about him in other places and in great detail.

While Melchizedek honored Abraham by feeding his troops and praising God for aiding Abraham in his battle against Kederlaomer, Abraham honors Melchizedek, not as some phony, but a priest of the Most High God.  Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”  Abram gave Melchizedek a tithe, a tenth of what he had.  Abram recognized that Melchizedek was greater than he was. 

To a Jew no one was greater than Abraham except God.  Remember a conversation that got pretty heated when Jesus told the Jews of his day that his Word sets people free.  The Jews were indignant.  “We are Abraham’s children,” they said.  That’s all that is necessary.  Jesus remarked, “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did.”  What did Abraham do?  Abraham looked forward to the day that Jesus would come.  Being a simple child of Abraham was not enough. 

Melchizedek was Abraham’s spiritual superior. If someone was going to rely on being a simple blood kin of Abraham, that person was out of luck. Abraham is not who we need. He had no ability to save.  We need Jesus.  We only need Jesus.  

            There is another point that needs to be made. Please listen closely.  Throughout the Old Testament God instructed the people ofIsrael to approach him through mediators called priests.  A whole tribe ofIsrael, the Levites, was dedicated to this profession of being priests, of interceding for the people with prayers and daily sacrifices.    Yet the writer to the Hebrews points out that the sacrifices didn’t really take away sin because they needed to be repeated over and over again. 

A better sacrifice and a better priest were needed.  In Psalm 110, a messianic psalm (One that prophesies about Jesus), it said that the Messiah, the great intercessor and sacrifice was a priest not after the order of Levi but in the order of Melchizedek.  In Hebrews there is a summarizing thought, “Such a high priest (referring to Jesus) truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” In other words, the Son of Abraham is whom we really need and really have, one greater than the priests from the tribe of Levi.  

            William Phelps taught English literature atYaleUniversityfor forty-one years.  Just before his retirement he was grading a test shortly before the Christmas break.  Phelps came across the note: "God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas." Phelps returned the paper with this note: "God gets an A. You get an F. Happy New Year." We can say that about our salvation too.  When we try to save ourselves, we get an ‘F.’  God, on the other hand, gives us a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  His name is Jesus.  He gets an ‘A.’.

 

Amen

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