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Hebrews 7-8

March 25th, 2012 by Vic

Hebrews 7-8

March 25, 2012

“Melchizedek, King and Priest”

 

Melchizedek was king of Salem.  Salem means peace.  The common Jewish greeting ‘shalom’ means ‘peace be upon you’.  Peace means a lot more than the absence of war.  It is a greeting that wishes you health and harmony.

 

Rick Warren was on the Charlie Rose show and spoke about his P. E. A. C. E. plan.  He has an inclusive vision for world peace.  He told Rose that Jesus sent out his disciples to go find the man of peace in every village.  We should all seek world peace.

 

The Bible says Jesus told his disciples while going out make disciples.  He did not tell them to go out and work together for peace.  When Jesus first came into Galilee He preached the gospel of God and said, “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel.”  He came announcing that the new covenant promised by God through Jeremiah the prophet was now happening.  The word gospel means a message of good news.  The good news is that Jesus came to take care of man’s sin problem.  God offers mankind a radical heart transplant.  Man can now receive a heart that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  We can have a heart that is a home for the Spirit of God.

 

Chapter 7 is part of the writer’s explanation of what Easter means.  He tells us how Jesus became our great high priest to take care of our sin problem.   Hebrews 7:1-10 provides an interpretation of Genesis 14:17-20Hebrews 7:11-28 develops the significance of Psalm 110:4.

Genesis 14:1-2 says there was a war of 4 kings against 5 kings.  Genesis 14:11-16 says a fugitive told Abram what had happened.  God blessed Abram and he not only saved his nephew from slavery, he defeated the 4 kings who had just won the battle and captured 5 kings and all their goods.

 

Many heard that Abram had won a great battle (Genesis 14:17-20).  The king of Sodom came to give Abram the praise of man.  Melchizedek came to give the praise to God. Abram knew God had given the victory.

 

Melchizedek also knew that Abram was a man of God and that God had fought with Abram to defeat the 4 kings.  It must have been a miraculous battle and all the news spread quickly.  The king of Sodom probably came to greet Abram in fear.  The king of Salem came as a priest of God Most High to praise God with Abram.  Rather than elevating himself or demanding respect, Abram submitted to this priest as a messenger of God.

 

Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God.  Nowhere else in the OT is a man both king and priest.  Some tried to be, but they suffered God’s wrath.  Notice what Melchizedek does.  He met Abraham, gave him nourishment, blessed him, and gave praise to God.  God planned for Melchizedek to represent Jesus.  Jesus is our King of Salem/peace.  Jesus is our King of righteousness.  Jesus is our Great High Priest.

 

In that short blessing Abram recognized that this man was God’s representative.  In gratefulness to God, Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of war.  The writer is using this event to show that Melchizedek has priority over the Levitical priests.

 

One lesson for us is that the tithe does not begin with the law of Moses; it begins with the love of God.  If you really love God as Abram loved God, you will find it easy to give a tenth of all.  This principle was incorporated into the law of Moses 500 years later.  In the Law of Moses God commanded the people of Israel to give a tenth of all to the priests so the priests could live.

 

Now when Jesus forgives us of our sins, His love will compel us to give.  Abram gave because He knew God had blessed him not because Melchizedek ran a charity.

 

Hebrews 7:1-3 is one sentence that elaborates on the fact that Melchizedek abides perpetually.

 

Here is an argument from silence.  Nothing was said in Genesis about the genealogy of Melchizedek and that is because God wanted it that way.  The Jews loved tracing genealogies.  The book of Genesis has a couple chapters of genealogies but nothing is said about Melchizedek.  This was very unusual.  The Hebrew writer says this omission happened because God wanted to use him to foreshadow the Son of God.

 

For the Jews, no one could be a priest unless he could trace his lineage back to Aaron.  Jesus did not qualify for the Levitical priesthood.  A priest must have been born in a family of priests to be a priest.  Being a priest under the Law of Moses had nothing to do with character.  Only external qualifications were required to be a priest.  But Melchizedek was a priest because of his relationship with the Most High God not because of his lineage.  He did not inherit the job.  He did not buy the job.  He did not train for the job.  He was a priest because that is where God wanted him.  So Jesus was a priest because of God’s appointment, not because He was from the tribe of Levi.  We can be a real blessing to others, only if we are where God wants us to be.  Peter calls Christians a royal priesthood, not because of lineage but because of relationship with God.

 

7:4-10  Melchizedek is greater than Levi and the Levitical priesthood.  “Consider how great this man is.” (4)  Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation,  gave him the best of the spoils.  Abraham recognized him as worthy of receiving tithes.

 

Verse 5 is in the present tense and may suggest that the Temple in Jerusalem had not been destroyed yet.  The priests receive tithes from people according to the law, but Melchizedek received from Abraham who received the promises.  Levi was a great grandson of Abram.  In the Jewish way of thinking Levi was paying a tithe to Melchizedek through Abraham.

 

Verse 8 contrasts their length of life.  As far as the record of Scripture is concerned, Melchizedek has no end of life and no end to his ministry, but the priests are subject to death and have successors.

 

There is a chiastic literary structure in this paragraph.  Melchizedek met Abraham in 1a and 10.  Melchizedek blessed Abraham in 1b and 6.  A tithe is mentioned in 2 and 4.  The keystone of the explanation in 3 is everlasting life.

 

7:11-25  The writer regards Melchizedek not as a type to be fulfilled, but as a witness to the superior priesthood based on character apart from line of descent and ordained by God apart from the law.  He anticipates the displacement of the Levitical priesthood.  The writer now points to a prophecy that reveals the deficiency of the old order and the superiority of the coming new priesthood.

 

Turn to Psalm 110:4.  As David was praising God he realized that the priesthood of Aaron was not perfect.  And God promises David that the Messiah will be the King of kings (1) and a priest forever (4) after the order of Melchizedek not the order of Aaron.  David saw there would be a change in the priesthood and the Law when the Messiah comes.  God had something new in mind.  Moses did not anticipate a priest from the tribe of Judah (14).  Something new was required.  It was not clear until Jesus came.

 

“It is very obvious” (15) the new priest will possess the effectiveness of an indestructible life.  Jesus is the new priest by virtue of His resurrection.

 

The old law and Levitical priesthood could not provide direct and lasting access to God.  It used many priests because it was incomplete, imperfect, and inconclusive.  It did not take care of or end man’s sin problem (19).  The new way offers a better hope just as God promised.  Because of this hope we draw near to God in prayer with confidence.

 

This new hope was promised by God with an oath to confirm its unchangeableness.  God will not change His mind (24).  The new eternal priest has come.

 

In verse 25 the word ‘uttermost’ is only used one other place in the NT, Luke 13:11.  In that verse we find a woman who for 18 years was bent double.  She could not straighten up to the ‘uttermost’ or completely.  She could not stand at her full height.  She could not lift up herself wholly… UNTIL Jesus laid His hands on her.  Then she could lift up herself to her full height.

 

So Jesus is able to save you and restore you to your full height spiritually.  God never destroys in man any faculty which He has created, nor does He add any.  But He does cleanse from all sin and unrighteousness so man can stand tall and live as he was designed to live.

 

Jesus’ touch can save you to the uttermost.  As far back as you can think, as far ahead as you can think, Jesus saves from the consequences of sin.  In contrast to the limitations of the OT priests, in Jesus your sin problem can be taken care of BECAUSE Jesus continually lives to make intercession.  The old high priest came into the Holy of Holies once a year.  Jesus is a permanent intercessor in the presence of God.

 

Hebrews 7:26-28 highlights the deficiency in the Levitical system.  Our Great High Priest offered up Himself (27) as the perfect sacrifice and put an end to the Levitical sacrifices.

 

The law is contrasted to the word of the oath (28).  The many priests are contrasted with the forever Son in God’s presence.

 

8:1-2  The “crowning affirmation” in the teaching points out that Jesus ministers in the heavenly sanctuary.  He has taken His seat in the Holy of Holies (Ps 110:1).  He is a minister in the “true” tabernacle not a pattern like Moses built.  The earthly sanctuary no longer exists or is about to be destroyed.  It was inadequate to permanently deal with the sin of man.

 

Though seated on the throne next to God, Jesus is still our High Priest.  He is in the Holy of Holies and invites us to “Come unto Me.”

 

8:3-4  Jesus could not be a priest on earth.  He was not a Levite as the law required.  But instead He has unrestricted, continual access to God in the real Holy of Holies, the original Tabernacle.

 

8:5  Moses had directed the building of a copy and shadow of the heavenly things he had seen on the mountain.  The copy was to be transitory.  It was a model of the real.  All the rituals and liturgy were clues to what was to be accomplished by Christ.  For us time is real, but it is really a shadow of the reality of eternity.  With our eyes we only see the shadows.

 

8:6-8  Jesus has attained and now possesses a superior ministry.  He is our mediator.  He introduced or mediated a New Testament or new covenant which was based on promises and an oath made by God.  The old covenant was defective on the human side.  The old covenant was based on human promises to obey the law of God.  God found fault with the old covenant and promised through the prophet Jeremiah that he was going to replace the old with a new covenant that men could keep.

 

8:9-12  Jeremiah 31 is the only passage in the OT that promises a new covenant relationship with God.  It is not new in content, but new in the manner or presenting God’s law.  Rather than written on stone, it will be written in the hearts of men.

 

There are 2 different Greek words for new.  One means new like a new model of the same kind.  The other means new of a different kind.  There are also a couple words for old.  One means old like aged wine.  The other means old like worn out, ready to be abolished.  The new covenant is a different new kind of covenant with new qualities.  The old covenant was worn out and ready to be replaced.

 

The new will not be “according to” the old, not after the likeness or pattern of the old.  The old was written to the immature whom God “took by the hand to lead out of the land of Egypt.”  It was not intended to be God’s final plan for his people.

 

God said, “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness.”  When we are convicted of our sin we kneel before God and confess that nothing we have to offer can really pay for our sin, but Jesus died for my sin.  We can cry, “O God be merciful to me.  Thank you for sending Jesus to be my sacrifice.  Thank you for your mercy and love.”

 

Christ has achieved what the OT high priest on the annual Day of Atonement could only copy as he followed the pattern that was given to him.  Jesus ministers in the original Tabernacle.  He mediates on our behalf for the cleansing of our heart from all sin.

 

God’s new covenant is simple.  By His Spirit He writes His commands on our hearts.   When we repent of our sin He forgives us and gives us the Holy Spirit with  the desire to live by those commands.  Fear God and do good.  Honor Him and give thanks.

 

The next 2 Sunday we will learn more about the meaning of Easter.  We have heard the story of Easter told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But the writer of Hebrews is teaching us the meaning of Easter.  Jesus is Lord of lords.  Let’s celebrate.

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