Thursday, August 16, 2018

BY THE GATES OF SHALEM (Salem)



The path to the unveiling of Jerusalem

In a recent article entitled Whose Tent? we made mention of the encounter our forefather Abram had with Malchi-Tzedek King of Shalem, when the former returned from his successful rescue mission of nephew Lot and his possessions (ref. Genesis 14:12-16).  In this exploit, Abram not only freed Lot and his goods, but also the rest of those taken captive and their property. By his action Abram proved to be the faithful kinsman redeemer that he was designated to be. This, then, is what qualified him for the momentous encounter with One greater than himself, namely Malchi-Tzedek King of Shalem, priest of the Most High Elohim.

Malchi-Tzedek literally means “My King Righteousness”*. The name of this King depicts him as the very epitome of righteousness. Moreover, his domain - “Shalem” – stands for perfection, completeness or wholeness.  Psalm 110:1-4 and Hebrews 6:20-7:3 point to the identity of Malchi-Tzedek, who appears to be a pre-figuration of Yeshua, a Priest of the Most High God (El-Elyon), whom Abram had no problem recognizing (cf. John 8:56).  The Kings’ Highway, where the two met, is also called the Valley of Shaveh – meaning the Valley of Equality or Worth. Psalm 16:8 helps to shed more light on the meaning of “shaveh”, by using it as a verb – shiviti – I have set before me – YHVH. This place of ‘equality’ where the King of Shalem and Abram met is where everyone is of “equal worth, or value”, when they stand before the King-Priest.

The encounter of the two is described thus: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of the Most High El. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High El, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be El Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ And he [Abram] gave him a tithe of all” (Gen. 14:18-20).  The bread, wine, blessing and paid tithe sealed a covenant; A covenant that tied Abram and his progeny not only to their role and call, but also to the site where this significant episode took place (as indeed is seen later on in Scripture, where it is portrayed as YHVH’s “residence” of choice.  See 1 Kings 11:13, 32, and especially 36). 

The righteousness embodied by Malchi-Tzedek soon found expression in Abram. Shortly after his encounter he is said to have “believed in YHVH (concerning his future offspring) and it was counted to him as righteousness” (15:6). The apostle Paul points out that the imputing of righteousness was granted to Abram while still uncircumcised, so “that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, AND the father of the circumcision to those who are not only of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11b-12 capitals added).

But now let us return to Shalem. In the midst of a very worldly scenario involving power struggles and greed, the appearance of Malchi-Tzedek, who is definitely not of the milieu or mindset of those with whom Abram had just been dealing with, is nevertheless anything but ethereal   The location and the interaction of the two interlocutors, although of a totally different nature, are just as tangible and real as anything that went on thus far. In fact, the gate where this meeting had taken place can be still seen today in what became, later on, the City of David, to be known as Jerusalem, or Yerushalayim in Hebrew.

When still under the direct rule and dominion of Malchi-Tzedek that place embodied the fullness of perfection, hence “Shalem”, but later on when it came under a different sort of rule and authority it was no longer in its perfect state, and therefore became the “heritage of peace-perfection-fullness”, awaiting the fullness of its prophetic designation, and thus named “Yeru-Shalayim”. We all are still waiting for Yerushalayim to become “Shalem” once again. Thus, while the promise stands, “Shalem” has morphed (though many times in Scripture it is Yeru-shalem) into Yeru-shalayim, with a plural ending, underscoring the greatness and fullness of the “shalem”.  Could this plural ending be also a prophetic statement about the two Jerusalems – the earthly one, and the one which is to come from above?

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from Elohim, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle (Mishkan) of Elohim is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. Elohim Himself will be with them and be their Elohim” (Revelation 21:1-3).

Thus, even when there are a new heaven and a new earth, there is still a Jerusalem. In order for there to be a heavenly Jerusalem, there must also be an earthly one that represents the heavenly city, according to the principle of ‘first the natural, than the spiritual’ (ref. 1 Cor. 15:46). Moreover, this New Jerusalem does not remain in heaven, but it descends to earth. Which location will it come to if not to that of the earthly one? This is the same Jerusalem named YHVH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jeremiah 33:16), with the King of the city being the One Who IS Righteousness – Malchi-Tzedek. Thus the place unites with its ruling monarch.

Out of the many scriptures with promises regarding Jerusalem, let us cite Zechariah 8:3: "Thus says YHVH: 'I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of YHVH of hosts, the Holy Mountain.'” No wonder Yeshua lamented over Jerusalem, desiring to gather her children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings (ref. Matthew 23:37). Can we then afford to ignore: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!  If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth -- If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5-6)?  Thus, those who “seek” or “ask for the peace (shalom) of Jerusalem and “who love” her are promised: “they shall be peaceful, serene, or carefree” (Psalm 122:6 literal translation).

It, therefore, behooves us to return to our ‘launching’ point, to the place of Heaven’s choice, where the righteous King-Priest revealed Himself to our father Abraham in a covenantal bond that will not fail or end!  This city, although not perfect as of yet, was also where the greatest of all atonements for humanity was affected to the fullest, enabling those who have embraced it (the atonement) to prepare the site even now for the coming down of perfection, both in the person of our King, and His city – the heavenly Jerusalem.
*Tzedek in Hebrew is actually “justice”, while “tzdaka” is “righteousness”. But in actuality, in Hebrew, these terms are inextricable one from the other.

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