Melchizedek is an enigmatic figure, appearing seemingly out of nowhere in Genesis 14 before disappearing without any mention of his fate. He is mentioned only one other time in the Old Testament, in Psalm 110, which is quoted in today’s passage. The paucity of references to the priest-king of Salem, coupled with his apparent importance for the Davidic king in Psalm 110, led to much speculation about Melchizedek in extrabiblical sources. For example, the Qumran community, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, believed Melchizedek was an angelic-type figure who would fight for God’s people at the end of the age.
The New Testament recognizes Melchizedek’s true importance in being a type or anticipation of Christ and His everlasting priesthood (Heb. 7:1–14). In today’s passage, the author of Hebrews applies Psalm 110 specifically to Jesus as he continues his argument that the Melchizedekian priesthood of Christ has replaced the old covenant Levitical priesthood. It is no impediment to Jesus’ priestly service that He comes from the tribe of Judah rather than the tribe of Levi, for the Levitical order of priests is supplanted by the order of Melchizedek. This had to happen because the Mosaic law makes nothing perfect and, in fact, cannot make anything perfect (vv. 11, 19). In this, the author of Hebrews echoes the clear New Testament teaching that the failure of old covenant Israel as a nation to obey the law proves that the law in itself cannot make people do what it commands (e.g., Acts 15:1–11). Something better was needed, a new order under which a priest is appointed not merely by “legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 7:15–16; see Ex. 28:41). Only the indestructible life of the perfect High Priest, which life He shares with His people, can make them righteous (see John 4:13–14; 1 Cor. 15:45; 1 John 3:2).
Christ’s anointing is grounded not only in His new order but also in the indestructible life that He possesses inherently according to His divine nature and that He has secured for His human nature by His life, death, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15). Through this new life, we have a better hope and a means by which we can draw near to God without fear (Heb. 7:18–19). This hope can never pass away, because the One through whom we come to God—Christ Jesus our Lord—lives forever. He will never cease bringing His people to God because He will never cease to be our Mediator.