After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
— Genesis 14:17-20
A few weeks ago, I posted about feasting, and included a rough Bible overview in four meals. I wish I had put this fifth meal in there, but honestly, I’d totally forgotten about it until I heard a sermon on it this week. Maybe I’ll rework it into a five-part overview, as the meals all have covenantal dimensions, and mark significant changes in God’s dealing with his people, represented by Adam, Abram, Moses, Christ and the Church.
Food Fit for Kings & Priests
A meal of bread and wine may not seem like a feast. Abram himself prepares a calf with cakes and curds when he hosts three visitors in chapter 18 of Genesis, couldn’t the King of Salem have provided a little more than bread and wine? No doubt he could have. And the sparse detail that is typical of Biblical narrative doesn’t give us much of an insight as to why this was the meal Mechizedek served. On one level, bread and wine is simply a shorthand for a typical ancient near eastern meal. But it is also a covenant meal, creating a relationship between Melchizedek and Abram — Abram gives Melchizedek, the superior, a tenth of his possessions, and is blessed in return.
It is also, of course, a foreshadowing of the Last Supper. You shouldn’t have to be a theologian to work that out (a lot of them don’t), you should just have to be a Christian. These are the two elements consecrated by Jesus Christ, the King and Priest in the order of Melchizedek, as he makes a new covenant with the descendants of Abraham on the night before his death. As the King and Priest feeds us with his own body and blood, simple bread and wine become a feast fit for a Kingdom of Priests.
The Victory Feast of the Faithful
The occasion of this first supper is after a battle, in which Abram rescues his nephew Lot from Chedorlaomer and the three kings fighting with him. It is a victory feast, a celebration of the end of a conflict and the restoration of peace, and is appropriately provided by the King of Salem, that is, the King of peace. Melchizedek pronounces again the the blessing of God over Abram. As God Almighty had promised to curse Abram’s enemies, so has he done — Abram’s enemies have been delivered into his hand.
The occasion of the last supper is before a battle. Christ, the Priest-King host of this feast, pronounces the victory before the battle has taken place, and pronounces blessing on the children of Abraham who share the meal with him. The circumstances do not seem auspicious — Christ knows his betrayal, abandonment, and murder is imminent — and yet his tone is unreservedly victorious. He says that his blood is poured out for the forgiveness of Israel’s sins, and so the end of their exile among their enemies (Matt. 26v28). He proclaims he will drink the fruit of the vine in the kingdom of God (Mark 14v25). He declares that he has overcome the world (John 16v33).
When we share the Lord’s supper now, we are invited, as Abraham’s children through faith, to celebrate the victory that God has worked for us, that through the death and resurrection of Christ he has delivered all of our enemies into our hands. Which enemies? The classic formulation of the world, the flesh, and the devil may only be a list of three, but they are certainly formidable, yet in the victory of the cross, all have been delivered into your hands. Christ has overcome the world, so regardless of any persecution of scorn you may have faced during the week, when you come to the table on Sunday, you are attending a victory feast as more than a conqueror. The flesh has been cut off in Christ’s flesh, and His Spirit has been given to you to war against the flesh now. Have you felt defeated by sin this week? A battle may have been lost, but the war has been won: come to Christ, claim forgiveness, and join the victory feast. Satan, the great enemy, the accuser of the faithful has been thrown down, and they will conquer him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony (Rev. 12v7-12; cf. Rom. 16v20). All of Abraham’s children have been abundantly blessed through promised seed, Christ, and God has promised to deliver all enemies into our hand.