If you haven’t heard yet, you will learn soon about ‘Temple Zero’ in the city of Jerusalem. Long ago, the city of Jerusalem was named ‘Salem’ and it had a king Melchizedek. That king was a priest of the same God that the Jews and Christians worship, and we are told that Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation respected him and gave him some generous gifts.
Now, some people claim that ‘Temple Zero’ has been found, in Jerusalem, and tourists can see it.
We can be cynical. This discovery may boost the local tourist industry, and someone will probably charge admission, if you want to see an old piece of stone. We can also know that a stone in Jerusalem probably marks a place where the God of the Bible was worshipped, and the people who worshipped there were not Jewish.
The Israelite or Jewish people came much later and built a temple on a hill at Jerusalem, and rebuilt it twice. The temple that Jesus knew was the third edition, and the last. It was destroyed by Roman soldiers in August of the year 70. If you visit Jerusalem, a Muslim mosque is now on the temple site. There are rumors that some people are preparing to rebuild the Jewish temple, and Christians see this as a sign that our time in history is almost over. Jesus will return to that new temple.
So, before we spend our tourist dollars, what is the meaning of Melchizedek’s Temple Zero?
Melchizedek is one of the odd characters in the Bible. He seems to be important, but we are told almost nothing about him. The name means something like “my God is the God” or “my God is righteous.” Hebrew disappeared as a spoken language just after the time of Jesus, and now it is something in old books, mostly studied by scholars. The modern language of Israel is rebuilt by scholars, and we don’t have the subtlety and slang of the old living language. The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews called Melchizedek “King of Righteousness” and that author was probably one of the last witnesses to the ancient living language.
Melchizedek is mostly unknown today. The story that we know is that Abraham fought to recover some property stolen from his neighbors, and when he returned, Melchizedek met him:
“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!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (Genesis 14: 18, 19, 20)
The name is mentioned again in a poem, in the Book of Psalms:
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”” (Psalm 110:4)
In the New Testament, a Christian writer wrote the most about the man. An entire chapter, Hebrews chapter 7, is dedicated to Melchizedek.
The opening words are:
“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. See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!” (Hebrews 7:1 to 4)
Now back to that stone in Jerusalem. Yes, we can visit the site, when it is opened. We don’t know if the actual Melchizedek ever saw the stone, but someone used the site to worship God our creator. Someone, in a village called Salem erected a stone to mark a place where they worshipped God. We live in a world where our ancestors worshipped that one God.
There are Temple Zeros in every part of the world, and there were many Melchizedeks. When I decided to follow Jesus, I had a sense that I was going back to something that we had lost. I didn’t join a new religion, I went back to the old way. I have friends who are from Africa, and some who are native “Indians” and they all feel the same way.
We want to go back to something we lost.
The world is filled with religious power, with priests and kings, and temples and cathedrals. Every organization wants followers, and they hate to lose us when we drop out. Jesus did not start a new …ism to compete with all the others. He sent us back to the beginning. He directed us to the God who made us.
That stone in Jerusalem might attract tourists, some day, and it is interesting. It is also clear evidence of the ancestors; people in a village worshipped God. Their ‘religion’ was a simple thing.
That is true for every one of us.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1: 19 to 23)