Hebrews 7 (NIV)
Melchizedek the Priest
The theme of Hebrews 7:
The writer to the Hebrews will explain a theme that he has introduced way back in Hebrews 2:17: Jesus as our High Priest. He had begun to discuss the issue in Hebrews 5:10, but had to spend some time warning these discouraged Christians about the danger of not continuing and progressing in their Christian life.
These Jewish Christians would be very interested in Jesus as their High Priest, but would have a significant intellectual objection to the idea. This is because Jesus did not come from the priestly tribe (the tribe of Levi) or the priestly family (the family of Aaron). The writer to the Hebrews wants to remove these intellectual problems the Jewish Christians had with the gospel. These intellectual hang-ups were keeping them from continuing on to maturity in Jesus. (In the same way, too many Christians are hung up on intellectual things that could be resolved so they could move on with Jesus. If a Christian is hung up on issues like creation and evolution, the validity of miracles, or other such things, they should get the issues resolved so they can move on with Jesus.)
This chapter is also important because it shows us how we should think of the Old Testament institutions of the priesthood and the Law.
1This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
Many commentators have suggested that Melchizedek might have been a heavenly being, if not a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Himself.
4Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. 6This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. 8In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
Jesus Like Melchizedek
11If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?
The Levitical priesthood is the priesthood associated with the Law of Moses. The priesthood of Melchizedek is associated with Abraham, before the giving of the law.
12For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. 13He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
18The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a BETTER hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
from The Epistle to the Hebrews, by F. F. Bruce:
The declaration “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” thus announces the abrogation of the earlier law which instituted the Aaronic order. It was inevitable that the earlier law should be abrogated sooner or later; for all the impressive solemnity of the sacrificial ritual and the priestly ministry, no real peace of conscience was procured thereby, no immediate access to God.
This is not to say that faithful men and women in Old Testament times did not enjoy peace of conscience and a sense of nearness to God; the Psalter provides evidence enough that they did. The psalmist who cried “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity” (Ps. 32:1f.) knew the blessedness of a peaceful conscience; and his colleague who said “it is good for me to draw near unto God” (Ps. 73:28) knew that access to the divine presence was always available to the man of faith.
But these experiences had nothing to do with the Levitical ritual or the Aaronic priesthood. The whole apparatus of worship associated with that ritual and priesthood was calculated rather to keep men at a distance from God than to bring them near. But the “hope set before us” in the gospel is better because it accomplishes this very thing which was impossible under the old ceremonial; it enables Christians to “draw nigh unto God.” How it enables them to do so is explained in later chapters, but the fact that the gospel, unlike the law, has opened up a way of free access to God is our author’s ground for claiming that the gospel has achieved that perfection which the law could never bring about.
20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’ ”
22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a BETTER covenant.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (Good News Translation)
For it is he who is the “Yes” to all of God’s promises. This is why through Jesus Christ our “Amen” is said to the glory of God.
23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
A blessed truth: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” –Hillsong United.