Hebrews 7. Theme: Jesus, the eternal priest. Sermon by Pastor David Williams. Strathalbyn Church of Christ. 31 Oct 2021.
A word about the way I’ve been approaching Hebrews in these sermons. Hebrews more than any other NT book is steeped in OT scripture. It is like this because it is teaching Jews who have become Christians about how Jesus, their Messiah, was the focus of the OT and he so he fulfills the law, the institutions and prophecies about him (Lk 24:44-47; Col 2:16-17; Heb 1:2; 8:5; 9:24). These OT scriptures are still the living word of God (Heb 1:1). But it can be hard to see how some of them apply to us in 21st century Australia. To understand them well, we need to first hear them as they were heard by the Jews in their ancient culture, then hear how Christ fulfills them, and finally, listen to how the Spirit wants us to apply this teaching today.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, our eternal priest, open our ears to hear your word, the word breathed by your Spirit to those Jews so long ago, the word still breathed out to us today anew. Open our ears to hear that we may know you, trust you and draw near to you. We ask this in your name, Amen.
The take-away from today’s passage is that Jesus is our eternal priest. Like the mysterious Melchizedek, he is a priest forever. What this means and why it is important we will learn as we look into it. There are 3 sections
· 1-10 Who was Melchizedek?
· 11-19 Jesus like Melchizedek
· 20-28 A priest forever
1-10 Who was Melchizedek?
Melchizedek is mentioned in puzzling ways only twice in the OT. There are only four verses in the whole OT (Gen 14:18-20; Ps 110:4). He is a riddle. We scratch our heads wondering why he suddenly appears and what to make of him. And then we come to Hebrews 7 and the whole chapter is about him, and his successor Jesus.
In Genesis 14, Abraham’s nephew Lot was captured by warring kings, and so Abraham set off and rescued Lot.
When Abraham returned from defeating the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything, v1-2.
There are 5 important facts about Melchizedek:
a. This Melchizedek was king of Salem. He was also priest of the Most-High God, v1. So, he was both a king and a priest.
b. His name means king of righteousness, v2.
Jesus too had this role. Jesus was the Messiah, the Royal Son of David, who would reign with justice.
c. Then also, king of Salem, meaning king of peace, v2.
You may have heard the Jewish greeting, Shalom. These Hebrew words are very similar – Salem, Shalom – and both mean peace. When Abraham met Melchizedek, Abraham had no land. But his descendant David would later take over this city, Salem and name it Jeru-Salem. It was in Jerusalem that Abraham’s descendant Jesus died and rose again, bringing peace to us all. Melchizedek, King of Salem, king of peace, was a forerunner of the great King of Peace.
d. Melchizedek is without father, mother, or genealogy,
without beginning of days or end of life,
like the Son of God he remains a priest forever, v3.
In the Bible, especially in Genesis, important figures are usually introduced by their family tree, and their stories end with details of their death. But the Bible says nothing about Melchizedek’s family or his death. He appears out of nowhere, without warning or explanation. This is really unusual. It is almost as if he is eternal.
Now Melchizedek may be some sort of eternal angel, or he may simply be human. You can read volumes of discussion on this if you really want to. The point is not to speculate on Melchizedek but to look at who he points to. We can spend hours on fruitless speculations and miss the main point (2 Tim 2:14-18; 3:23-24). The main point is always Christ and him-crucified (1 Cor 2:1-2). As you get into theological discussions, it pays to ask, does this really help me understand Christ and him-crucified?
So, I may be wrong but I’m going to take a cautious approach. As occurs so often in Hebrews, a comparison is made between the shadow and the substance; the promise in the Old Testament and its fulfilment in Christ. I think the writer is using this interesting quirk in scripture to make a comparison – just as Melchizedek is without beginning of days or end of life (that is, without it being recorded in the scriptures), so Jesus was truly without beginning of days or end of life … a priest forever. That is, Jesus is eternal.
e. The last point about Melchizedek is that he created his own priestly order. Perhaps the most important theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is our great High Priest, 4:14; 10:21. But how is Jesus a priest?
For the Jews, there was a clear order for people becoming priests. They had to be of the tribe of Levi. A priest could not appoint himself (7:16, Ex 28:1). But here we have a problem. Jesus was not descended from Levi. He was of the tribe of Judah (7:14). But that is ok, because Jesus was a high priest … in the order of Melchizedek, 6:20.
Although Melchizedek doesn’t have a family tree, Abraham does. It will help to remind ourselves of it. We have two great men meeting, Melchizedek and Abraham. Christ took his priesthood from Melchizedek. Abraham’s descendants began with Isaac and Jacob and the 12 tribes of Jacob or Israel. These included Judah and Levi. Aaron was a son of the tribe of Levi and appointed as first high priest. From his descendants, we get the Levitical priesthood.
12 tribes: Judah, Levi …
Christ’s priesthood Levitical priesthood
So there are two orders of priests in the OT, the order of Melchizedek and order of Levi. The order of Melchizedek was greater than Levi’s. The writer makes his case with three arguments:
a. Melchizedek was greater than Abraham. We see this because Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Without a doubt, the inferior is blessed by the superior, v7. Also, Abraham gave him a tenth of everything, v2. Vassal or servant kings would pay tenths or tithes to greater kings. It was an early protection racket.
b. Melchizedek is also greater than Abraham’s sons, including Levi. The priests of Levi also receive tenths (v5). But they too had to pay tenths to Melchizedek. But Levi wasn’t even born when Melchizedek met Abraham! How can Levi pay tenths to Melchizedek? Levi was in Abraham’s loins. So, in a figurative way, Levi did pay tenths to Melchizedek.
9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 for Levi was still in the body of his ancestor when Melchizedek met Abraham.
If you are hopelessly lost, don’t worry. They main point is that Melchizedek was a greater priest than Levi and his descendants.
c. The clinching argument for this greatness is that the normal priests are men who will die, v8_._ However, about Melchizedek, _Scripture testifies that he lives._ That is, his death is not recorded in scripture.
To sum up then, Melchizedek was both king and priest, King of righteousness and King of peace. And his priestly order is eternal.
11-19 Jesus like Melchizedek
The Levitical law and priesthood were but shadows of Christ, our eternal priest (cf., 8:5).
11 If perfection came through the Levitical priesthood … why was there still need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek and not in the order of Aaron?
So, there was still need for another priest. This other priest did not become a priest based on a regulation … but on … the power of an indestructible life, v16.
Did you know that our priest cannot be destroyed? His perfect offering of his life for us cannot fail. He is the one who holds our future securely in his hand. There is nothing that can separate you from the Father’s love because of our indestructible priest (Rom 8:31-39). Not China or COVID or Climate change. Neither poverty nor danger. Not sexual confusion or the rise of Islam. Neither age nor mental illness. Not discouragement and defeat. There is nothing that can defeat or destroy or deflect our indestructible high priest. He holds you secure in his arms. There is nothing that can separate you from his love and purpose.
Jesus’s priesthood is eternal. The only other OT reference to Melchizedek is Psalm 110:4. It is declared: You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, Heb 7:17.
Our priest is eternal, unlike the old priesthood. The priesthood and law could not bring perfection, but we have a better hope.
18 So the previous regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect) but we have a better hope.
Yes, we have a better hope, but many still prefer to rely on human priests. I can’t preach on Reformation Day without mentioning the Priesthood of all believers. This is a great teaching of the Reformation. The Catholic church had priests who were like the OT priests – they stepped in between people and God and made the sacrifice of the Mass so that God would forgive the people’s sin. But Christ is our great High Priest - we don’t need priests anymore. That temple curtain was torn in two (Mk 15:38). In fact, we are a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6; Isa 61:6; 1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6; 5:10, 20:6). As God’s people, we all have access to God, and we can all play a part in bringing others to know him too. That is our priestly function – to represent Christ to the world, to the nations.
So don’t look to earthly priests to do what our High Priest alone can do. We have a better hope: but a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God, v19.
Draw near is a common saying in Hebrews (4:16; 7:19, 25; 10:1, 22). Remember how once a year, only the High Priest could enter the Holiest of Holies – drawing near to God’s presence (9:7). But through Christ, our great High Priest, we can all at any time draw near to God our heavenly father.
We often use draw near in a limited way to mean a special approach to God when we worship or pray. But it is far wider than that: In all our work and play, our thoughts and dreams, our passions and pains, we can keep on drawing near.
We draw near to God as we keep on trusting despite tiredness, temptation and disappointments.
When I mess up, that is the time to draw near.
When I am hurt by a brother, that is the time to draw near.
When I am confused, that is the time to draw near to God and know the peace that passes understanding.
When I doubt my salvation, that is the time to draw near and remember his promises.
When I am angry with God, that is the time to draw near and speak frankly and fearlessly to my heavenly father.
When you’re sick, you draw near to a doctor, don’t you? When you sin, draw near to Jesus.
“Christ our priest has given us complete access to God: are you making the most of it?” I have a smart phone. It does so much more than my little brain can begin to understand. I probably use less than 5% of what it can do. We have 100% access to God. Yet many of us are using less than 5% of that access. Why is that? What is stopping you? Unlike my smart phone, I don’t need to be smart to access God. Just trust and draw near.
20-28 A priest forever
The last section uses an oath to show that Christ’s priesthood is the greatest. [Aaron’s sons] became priests without an oath. But Christ became a priest with an oath, v20-21. The Levitical priests became priests by descent. That was the law. But Christ became a priest by God swearing an oath. God didn’t need to swear an oath. On rare occasions, he swears an oath to show us he really means business. It’s as though God is saying, “if I fail to do this, my name is mud”. This is the second time in Hebrews God swore an oath. And both oaths, both promises are critical to our faith.
He swore to Abraham, I will surely bless you and give you many descendants (Gen 22:17, Heb 6:13-20). This first promise was fulfilled first in Abraham’s children, the people of Israel, second, in Abraham’s son, Jesus who brought blessing to all nations, and finally in Abraham’s children today - the church of Jews and Gentiles – as it continues to grow.
God’s second oath or promise is that Christ is a priest forever. The Lord has sworn, and He will not change His mind, you are a priest forever, v21. God fulfilled this promise by sending Jesus as a man, by Jesus offering up his life, and by God raising him to his right hand where he continues as a priest forever.
We think all depends on us for our growth as Christians – our willpower, our plans, but this is wrong. God promised, he swore an oath – his reputation depends on it – to see you and me through to heaven. It is his promise, his power that is at work in us, certainly not our weak and changing willpower (Eph 1:11-14; Phil 2:12-13). I am a Christian by no decision of mine but because of God’s sworn promises – first to Abraham and then to Christ.
The chapter ends with a summary of our great high priest. If you were creating a job description for a high priest, what would you put? Clearly you would want one who is up to the job. Someone who is pure, permanent, perfect and powerful.
First someone who is able to approach a holy God – who is pure:
26 For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
Our High Priest has no retirement plan. He is permanent.
24 But because He remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently.
The priest and his work are perfect, nothing has been left out.
… a son who has been made perfect forever, v28.
Finally, he is powerful to save
25 Therefore, He is always able to save completely those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.
Jesus saves us – not 50% or 95% of our sins but 100%. He is able to save completely those who come to God through him. Have you turned to Jesus?
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, our great High Priest, thank you for the incredible sacrifice that you made when laying down your life for us to reconcile us to God. Help us to trust fully in you, our pure, permanent, perfect and powerful high priest. Amen.
· Adam, P. (2004). The majestic Son: Reading Hebrews today. Sydney South: Aquila.
 The only other NT references are Heb 5:6, 10 and 6:20
 Adam, P. (2004). The majestic Son: Reading Hebrews today. Sydney South: Aquila.