Hebrews Book Study: Part 4
CIT: Jesus' covenant is better than the Old Covenant
INTRO: Tonight we will continue in our series in the book of Hebrews with chapter 7. As I said last week we will discuss the analogy or comparison between Jesus and Melchizedek. See if you remember any of last week you will remember that the writer of Hebrews made a small mention of Melchizedek in chapter 5 and I stated we would discuss more of who or what Melchizedek is and his significance in the book of Hebrews.I want to put a disclaimer on what we are about to look at tonight because if I do not then we could end up with much more questions than answers. Tonight is not meant to understand a Hebrew cultural mystery, rather tonight we are going to see how the writer of Hebrews proclaims Jesus to not be the King of Kings but also the most honorable high priest.
SERMON: This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God,he remains a priest forever.4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.7 And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.Jesus Like Melchizedek11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the peopleestablished that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one 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. 17 For it is declared:“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”[a]18 The 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.20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but 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.’”[b]22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.25 Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike 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. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
1. Priestly Order of Melchizedek
- King of Righteousness
- King of Peace
- Immortal Kingship
We are going to begin tonight as we look at the writer of Hebrews description of this Melchizedek figure. Firstly, we must understand where this mention even comes from. Melchizedek is only mentioned twice within all of Scripture, once in Genesis 14 and once in Psalm 110. However, between these two mentions only one of which gives a description of who Melchizedek is or any of his features and that is found in Genesis 14. In Genesis 14:18-20 we see that Abraham offers a tenth of his spoils to Melchizedek who is referenced as the king of righteousness and king of peace (salem or shalom). Now what we understand about this is that if you are tithing to someone you are displaying the fact that they are superior to you in some form or fashion. Just as we now tithe to God through the medium of the church, so did Abraham tithe to Melchizedek. Therefore, what we see here in this first section of chapter 7 is the setting up that Melchizedek not only served the role of a righteous ruler and king, but also the role of a priest who was to be tithed to because of his standing with God.
Another interesting distinction made about Melchizedek is that he is the king of peace or salem. This is a blatant connection to Jerusalem. Jerusalem being the holy city, thus connects Melchizedek even more to holiness and righteousness. This Melchizedek is being connected not only as a king but a priestly one at that. Remember in order to be a priest in the Old Testament you had to come from the lineage of Aaron for high priests and Levi for the levitical priesthood. No one could be priests if not from those two lines (one or the other) and no one could be a king if not from the davidic line. Therefore, Melchizedek is a shadow or foretelling of a man who served both roles.
This point leads into our third and final subpoint which is that Melchizedek had no genealogy and thus assumed to have no beginning and no end. Now, we cannot assume that Melchizedek was truly an immortal being, however what Genesis and Hebrews both tell us that due to the idea of Melchizedek having no known genealogy, his priesthood is an eternal priesthood since there is no one who can claim to have been before or after him. Therefore, the priestly order of melchizedek is of more importance or of greater spiritual value than that of Levi or Aaron.
2. Jesus our Better Hope
- Covenant based upon faith
- Eternal promise
- Perfected by an Oath
Now we see what Melchizedek was foretelling, or maybe a better way of saying it would be what Melchizedek’s presence foretold. The writer of Hebrews begins this explanation with the idea that the levitical law and priesthood could not save anyone. He gathers this point from the point that there would be no need of another priesthood after Melchizedek or Aaron because had either of those been perfect, then we would still be under those laws. However, we are not under those laws and covenants because of Jesus! See the writer of Hebrews understood what we now understand and that is, the Law could not save anyone. Remember what I told you all last week how the priests had to continually give sacrifices day in and day out for the sins of the people? If the Law had been perfect why would they have to give continual sacrifices to be in God’s grace? Why would their actions continually be the qualifier for their salvation? The answer to this question is that just as Melchizedek is a shadow of Jesus, the Law is a shadow of God’s grace. The writer of Hebrews is attempting to get us to understand the fact that since the Law could not save and only faith can truly save, then having faith in the resurrected Son of God is only the true way of continuing in faith.
Jesus is stated to be the guarantor of a better covenant. What in the world does that even mean? It means that because of the promises given in Psalms and the evidence of who Melchizedek was in Genesis, that Jesus is now the foundation of a covenant built upon his own work and grace rather than the continual sacrifices of his people that could never truly atone for their sins! Jesus’ promises and commands are not built upon our ability to execute them, rather Jesus’ covenant is based upon his own actions and words, which as we know are true and holy and cannot pass away. Jesus’ covenant is not based on whether or not I give my sacrifices every day with sheeps and goats, his covenant is based on his own sacrifice that he freely gave for you and I. Jesus’ commands are not restricted by his own humanity or even his inability to fulfill what he has spoken, rather his commands are based on his holy and divine nature that not only has all power and glory, but also has emotion and sensitivity to the sins of his people. Finally, Jesus’ position as both the King of Kings and the great High Priest is not based upon the Law or a genealogy or any other external force, rather his role as both King and Priest is based upon the promise given by the Father in the oath displayed in Psalms 110.
So tonight and every night from here on out remember that your life with Jesus is not one lived in arbitrary connection to laws and regulations of the Jewish temple period. Those were just a shadow of the greatness that was to come in Jesus. Your life in Jesus is lived based upon the promises of Jesus himself, the one who cannot be moved or changed or defeated or destroyed! Your life is firmly within his hands and you are not alone or not seen by your great empathetic high priest. You are seen, loved, cherished, disciplined, and carried through life by the sustainer of all things. So, live your life for this great sustainer, and King and Priest who not only holds all things in his hands including you, but also is sympathetic to the things in life you go through since he himself was at one time human.