Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Melchizedek, child of faith

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, (JST Genesis 14:26-27)
That bit about stopping the mouths of lions and quenching the violence of fire is intriguing. When I ran across this today I began to wonder just what that meant and mulled over it a bit, trying to imagine what happened. I suspect that it is both literal and figurative.

Stopping the mouths of lions sounds like it could be like the story of Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den but was unhurt because the Lord kept the lions from hurting him. Or did he wrestle them as David had when he delivered one of his sheep from a lion and a bear? It could also symbolize stopping cruel and violent people from saying bad things and confounding them with the truth. We have instances in the scriptures of Lehi confounding Laman and Lemuel with the words of God so that they dared not speak against him, and we have the story of Alma the Younger using the priesthood to strike Korihor dumb.

Quenching the violence of fire could have happened like the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Or it could have reference to using fire-fighting techniques against a huge conflagration threatening his people. We don’t know. Symbolically it could have to do with stopping senseless forces of destruction. We have instances of that in the Book of Mormon when Nephi prayed that the famine among the Nephites would end.

Maybe it was something as simple as a prayer of faith that worked the victory over the lions and the fire. (Who has not seen the extraordinary things that a child’s prayer can do?)

Further commentary on this language (which occurs in Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews) can be found in William Gouge’s book A commentary on the whole Epistle to the Hebrews on page 129. (The link will take you right there and the highlighted text will show you where to read.)

Regardless, these characteristics are noted to illustrate how Melchizedek did very brave things as a child that others were afraid to do. The next verse tells us God approved of him because of it. Certainly doing brave things is good preparation for receiving the priesthood. Another characteristic those acts had is that they subdued violent aspects of nature. This teaches an oblique lesson that obtaining the priesthood requires subduing the natural man. Finally, we can surmise that Melchizedek didn’t do these things for his own amusement, but to save others. That attitude of concern and service is a important preparation for the priesthood and would be most pleasing to God.

3 comments:

In The Doghouse said...

Perhaps the description has more to do with his childhood on the Ark. It may be a subtle way of pointing us toward Melchizedek's identity as Shem. Just a thought.

Gdub said...

Those are some great insights! Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly said...

I like how he did brave things as a child-and that was what made him great. His bravery. I feel that many of us regular latter day saints lack the bravery that could make us more than we already are. I know I lack bravery.