Hebrews 7 & 8; The High Priests

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We return to the discussion on Melchizedek that we left in chapter 5.  Chapters 7 and 8 are very closely linked and go into a bit more detail than in chapter 5, so we will look at them both together.

Melchizedek was King of Salem and a priest of the Most High God.  As Abraham was coming back from the battle in which he defeated the four kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. (v1)

His name means King of Righteousness and as King of Salem (Jerusalem, which means peace) was also the King of Peace.  We do not have any mention of his parents, ancestors, birth or death which is highly unusual in the Jewish traditions that paid great attention and importance to a persons’ ancestry and therefore their right to hold such a position.  The absence of these records is likened to an eternal existence and therefore unending, a priest forever.

He was considered so great that Abraham gave him a tenth of all he had gained in the battle, which set the precedent of giving a tenth to the priests of Levi and his descendants.  Melchizedek blessed Abraham, the man who received God’s promises.

There is no doubt that the one who blesses is greater than the one who is blessed (v 7)

I was blessed this morning to receive an email from someone several thousand miles away telling me that they were praying for me.  Blessed by their kindness and obedience in following a prompting from God to pray for me and following that up by sending me a message to encourage me.  Blessed, humbled and grateful that God cared enough to give me a little encouragement and make it clear that it was He that had directed this, as the person who He used would not have known of the things that are perhaps pressing down on me.  He used them rather than someone who is much closer and aware of my “worries”.  But this scripture says that the one who blesses is greater than the one who is blessed.  They will be blessed by God for their obedience who in turn of course is greater still as ultimately all blessings are from Him.  It is He who blesses us abundantly with life, food, shelter. sunshine and rain.

Hebrews 7 explains how the law was given to the Levitical priests but that this law was proved to be imperfect as the people kept sinning and the sacrifices had to be made daily.  If their work as priests and the sacrifices had been perfect, there would have been no need for another type of priest.

In Romans 7 v 7 we see that it is the Law which teaches us what sin is and therefore condemns us.  If we know the Law, then we are condemned for breaking it, however even in British law we have the phrase  “Ignorantia juris non excusat” which means “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”, so even if we do not know the law we are still condemned by it.  Verse 12 of chapter Romans chapter 7 then says;

So then the Law itself is holy, and the commandment is holy, right and good

But God saw that we were unable to keep the law and therefore were still condemned to death so He made a way for the penalty we deserved to be paid though Jesus;

For there is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit which brings us life in union with Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.

What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did.  He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son who came with a nature like sinful human nature, to do away with sin.

God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law may be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit and not according to human nature (Romans 8 v 1-4)

When Jesus was identified as God’s Son and the High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek, it was clear that this was making a change in the Law.  He was not appointed under the Levitical law; He could not be a priest in the order of Aaron as he was from the tribe of Judah not Levi and under that law only a descendant of Aaron could be a Priest.

The Levitical priests were appointed by men, but Jesus was appointed by God through the power of a life which has no end (see v16) and as such will remain priest forever.  This is reaffirmed by God’s promise in verse 21.

The Lord has made a solemn promise and will not take it back; You will be a priest forever

This also highlights the difference in that there were many Levitical priests, they died and their work could not continue.  Someone else had to take up the position but Jesus lives on so there is no requirement for his work to be passed on.  It is completed once for all.

Jesus then, is the High Priest that meets our needs.  He is holy, he has no fault or sin in him; he has been set apart from sinners and raised above the heavens.

He is not like other High Priests; he does not need to offer sacrifices every day for his own sins first and then for sins of the people.  He offered one sacrifice once and for all, when he offered himself. (v26-27)

Chapter 8 of Hebrews continues to explain how Jesus is different.  He is sitting at the right hand of God in the Most Holy Place created in the heavens by God, not a tent made by men on earth.  Moses was given instructions to ensure that he built the tent in accordance with the model he had been shown – the heavenly tent being replicated on earth.

If the work of the first covenant which was being followed by the Levi priests was sufficient, then there would have been no need for God to make a new one.  But the people could not keep their side of the covenant, they kept failing so God says;

The days are coming, says the Lord when I will draw up a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt.  They were not faithful to the covenant I made with them and so I paid no attention to them. (v 8-9 and Jeremiah 34 v31-32)

He then resolves to make a new covenant;

Now this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel in the days to come says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them in their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.

None of them will have to teach their fellow citizens or say to their fellow citizens “know the Lord” For they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.  I will forgive their sins and will no longer remember their wrongs.(v 10-12 and Jeremiah 31 v 33-34)

God is so generous that he gives us a second chance, He made the promise to Abraham and he will fulfill it.  Even though the people failed to keep their part of the covenant, He has remained faithful to his promise and made a way for us to be able to receive the promises of that covenant.  Not only that, He extended it out to everyone, not just Israel.

Quotes from Good News Bible

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