For an introduction to this series, click here.
November 10, 2007
In this chapter, the writer more fully explains what it means for Christ to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek:
"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." (7:1-3)
The fact that we don't know much about Mel is exactly the point. He did not have a father or mother that we know of, yet Abraham looked to him as a priest. If anybody didn't need a priest, it was Abraham. Mel was also king of Jerusalem, which of course at that time was a Gentile city. We assume that he had children, because when Joshua came into the land some 500 years later, he met the king of Jerusalem- Adoni-zedek. There are some who believe Mel was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. I obviously disagree with that idea.
"See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.." (7:4-10)
This may be a very fine point, but it's included in Scripture. Levi, of course was the tribe of the Jewish priests. Levi, through his great-grandfather Abraham, paid tithes to Mel. Therefore, Mel's priesthood is greater than that of Levi. The writer says this primarily to show them that Christ is offering something new and greater than the Jewish system. It had its time and its place, but God is doing a new work through a new leader: Jesus.
"For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,'You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.'" (7:14-17)
Jesus was not part of the priestly line from Aaron and Levi, but God had declared him a priest.
"For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: 'The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever.’ This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant." (7:18-22)
This is an important passage to tell us that the Old Testament law has been abolished in Christ. We are not under any obligation to any part of it. Honestly, there is enough in the New Testament for us to obey that we can never do it. The Old Testament is a rich, wonderful book. And there are certainly principles and examples aplenty for us to learn from. But the Law in particular is not binding on us as Christians.
"The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." (7:23-25, ESV)
Here is the climax of this passage, and probably of the whole first half of the epistle. Our Priest, the Lord Jesus, will never die. He will never have to pass his position to another. Therefore He is a priest forever.
This is such a rich book. I kind of feel like a lot of it speaks for itself, and that is why I am not going into a lot of detailed commentary. Hebrews is an indispensable book for us to know who Christ really is. He is more than just a great man. He is the eternal God, who became like us for a while, that we could be forever with Him.