King of Peace
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3.
After Abram dedicated everything to the king of Salem, the king of Sodom came along with a ‘better offer.” This teaches us two things. First, God will always test our dedication to Him, and when we stay the course, righteousness with God is the result. Abram swore an oath that he would accept nothing from any earthly king, but instead gave a tenth of everything he had to Melchizedek. Immediately after dedicating himself to God in this manner, Abram met the king of Sodom, who challenged the integrity of Abram’s word to God by offering to Abram all the spoils of the war. But Abram stayed true to his word, and the result is that God appeared to Abram in a vision, telling him that He was Abram’s reward and that He would make Abram into a great nation. Abram believed God, and God declared Abram righteous for his faith.
A few years ago I found a similar testing of my dedication to God. The church I belonged to owned the house that our youth pastors lived in. They were expecting a child and needed to convert the garage into an extra bedroom for guests. A number of men, including myself, said that they would volunteer their time to the project while the church supplied the materials. When I said that I would volunteer my time I had quite a bit of work lined up and money was not a problem. But being a carpenter means that you are sometimes stopped by the weather, even though you are booked for six months’ worth of work. There was a lot of work out there for me, but at that time, in the month of January, the weather was not cooperating with our outside work and I was missing a lot of hours, and therefore a lot of money. I did have this little project going at the youth pastor’s house, however. And true to Scripture, the testing of my word came to a head and I actually considered charging the church because I was missing hours in my regular job. Besides, I thought with great self-justification, when I said I would volunteer I didn’t think that it would involve that much work. And I need the money. The church can’t expect me to go without just because I said I would . . . .
But I had a choice. I could stay true to my word and my dedication to God, or I could go work at the parsonage and charge the church for my hours and hope God still tells me He is my reward. I finally took the chance and believed that God pays better than the church does. Even though I told the King of Righteousness that I would stay true to Him, not too long afterwards the king of Sodom was offering me another deal. I decided to side with righteousness, stay true to my word and faithful to God my Provider. And of course, it all worked out for the best.
The second point is something I am learning as I type: A right relationship to God is a process. It starts with the public dedication of ourselves to Him, moves into a time when circumstances will test that dedication, and after we have been found true, culminates at the place where God speaks and reveals to us our righteousness before Him. God’s ‘rewards” (Genesis 15:1) come because we have shown ourselves faithful and profitable with what God has given us (see the Parables of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27), not simply because we have knelt at an altar and declared our allegiance to our newfound King. It is one thing to profess His lordship in our lives, while it is quite another to be possessed by the Lord of our lives.
The final result of our righteous dedication to God—and the passing of the tests regarding our love for Him—is peace, and this can be seen in the definition of Melchizedek’s name.
‘He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace” (7:2). The order of Melchizedek’s name is very significant, for righteousness always comes before peace. There is no real peace without righteousness to lead it. True peace in any aspect of our lives is a result of righteousness, a right-relatedness to God, for ‘the effect of righteousness will be peace” (Isaiah 32:17). Everything else we call peace in this world is nothing more than an absence of war. And as we look at Scripture, we will see that when righteousness and peace are mentioned together they are always in this order.
‘Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10).
‘The effect of righteousness will be peace. and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isaiah 32:17).
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:6, 9).
‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
‘Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:14. 15).
Can we see that it is impossible to move our feet in peace until our hearts have been covered by the breastplate of righteousness and our waists are buckled with the belt of truth? Peace with God is not a feeling; it is an action that affects those around you. That is why Jesus told us that peacemakers would be called sons of God. Only the children of the Almighty can bring true peace into hopeless situations, and when that happens, people will notice that this peace is different from the peace they have previously experienced.
The only way true peace will come to individuals and to nations is through a right relationship with God.
There is no real peace for any person on earth until that person can say to God, ‘Your will be done. Into Your hands I commit my spirit.” God has created mankind to live one way and one way only, and that is with God as God and man as His grateful creation. Too often we want to be in control of our lives and make God in our own image. But it will never work that way for long. Whenever a man wants to be his own god and then believes that God Almighty is now fortunate to have one such as himself as His child, righteousness and peace are far from him. He is living a lie, an illusion, and a life of virtual reality where he desires to be tolerated for all his beliefs and actions because those are his ‘rights.” And in one sense he is correct. God has granted him the right to think and do anything he wants. God, however, maintains the ‘right” to mete out justice as He sees fit, according to His Word given to us through His Son. God has given us the freedom to choose to love Him, and has maintained for himself the freedom to judge us according to that love. We have the right to live as we want, and God has the right to judge our lives accordingly. We cannot demand our rights and then deny God His rights at the same time. True peace only comes when we deny our self-serving desires and follow God’s ways, when we stop doing things the way we think they should be done, and follow God’s instructions on how they ought to be done.
It’s all very simple. I own a 1996 GMC pickup truck and I want it to run smoothly and efficiently. For that to occur I must maintain it according to the manufacturer’s specifications. When I replace the spark plugs, I look in the owner’s manual and read about the type of plugs that are made for that engine. I buy those plugs and install them according to the directions supplied by GMC. I follow these directions so that the engine will run as it was designed to. It would be very silly for me to check the owner’s manual of a 1998 Toyota Camry if I am trying to fix a 1996 GMC. The only way that my truck will run as it was designed to run is if I obey the owner’s manual.
This is just how our lives were meant to work. The Bible is the owner’s manual, God is the Creator, and the only way that my life will run smoothly and efficiently is if I maintain my life according to His Word. If I need peace in my life, then it will do me no good to check out my neighbor’s design, or a multimillion dollar ballplayer’s design, or Hollywood’s or Wall Street’s or the music industry’s design for righteous living (I don’t really think they even have one), because none of those are associated with the original manufacturer of my life. If I want peace, then I must seek God and understand that true peace does not come from the right image or stockbroker or CD player, but it comes from a right relationship with God. We may not understand the relationship between righteousness and peace, but the relationship is there. It is part of God’s perfect order in His creation of the universe.
As the trees need the sun to grow, and a mother and a father are necessary for the appropriate conception and proper growth of a child, so we need the righteousness of God before we may have the peace of God.
That is where Jesus comes in. All of history, right up until the death of Jesus on the cross, was showing us this one single item: True righteousness and peace only come through God, and now God only delivers that peace through His Son Jesus Christ. There is no other priest, religious system or sacrifice that will bring us into the presence of God except Jesus Christ. He is our High Priest, our system of salvation, our once and for all sacrifice. He is the one who designed us so that our only fulfillment in life will come through Him, for He is our source, our righteousness, and our peace. Upon seeing Him, our response should be like Abram’s as we give to Him freely from all that is ours, for all that we are is due to Him. Yes, this dedication will be tested by the next king who comes along, and there will be other kings competing for our obedience. God will not force us to stay true to our word, but when we do we will hear the Word of God ringing in our hearts, ‘Fear not. … I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Genesis 15:1). When we hear those words of God spoken to His faithful and obedient servant, then we will know the true King of Righteousness. Then we will know the true King of Peace.