Hebrews 6:19-7:28 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 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. 3 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.
4 See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! 5 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. 6 But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 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. 9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 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.’”
22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 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.
26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
My hope this morning, is that you will find a joy and peace beyond all understanding as we see Jesus Christ in his priestly and kingly glory. God’s Word is clear that we have a Great High Priest who has accomplished all that was promised to Abraham, when God told him, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Abraham in the New Testament
Abraham is a pivotal figure for Jews and Christians, for he was the great patriarch of the people of God. His name is mentioned 71 times in the New Testament—a fact which may surprise you, considering he had been dead for centuries. Yet the very identity of the Israelites of Jesus’s day was bound to the Abrahamic covenant and his role as the great patriarch of the faith. Before taking a closer look at Hebrews 7, I think it would be helpful to take a brief look at how Abraham is viewed in the New Testament.
When confronted by Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees defended themselves by telling him, “Abraham is our father.” Their identity was bound in their biological descent from ‘Father Abraham.’ The gospels of Matthew and Luke both include Abraham in their genealogies. Jesus appeals to his fellow Israelites’ compassion, after healing a disabled, bent over woman, unable to straighten herself by calling her a “daughter of Abraham.” (Luke 13:16)
Jesus even puts Abraham in the role of guardian between Heaven and Hell in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Abraham clearly has an exalted position in the Judeo-Christian religions. But there is more to the story than this, as Jesus reminds the Scribes and Pharisees of his day.
When replying to the Jews who claimed Abraham as their father, Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”
This greatly displeased them and they slandered Jesus as having been “born of sexual immorality” and justified themselves as having “one Father—even God.” But Jesus knew better and exposed their hypocrisy saying, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.” He went on to tell them “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”
We are to see that those who are Abraham’s true children, do his works, that is they follow Abraham by subordinating themselves to the Messiah to which the Abrahamic covenant pointed. This morning we will look at Abraham from the perspective of Hebrews chapter seven. Here we find a New Testament writer using the story of Abraham and Melchizedek to see Christ more clearly.
Last week we were introduced to Melchizedek, “king of Salem”, and “priest of God Most High.” Pastor Mike drew our attention to the fact that Melchizedek is the first person given the title ‘priest’ in the Bible, but he is also a king. This is a unique combination in the Old Testament. We’re accustomed to priests, such as Aaron, Abiathar, and Jehoiada. But these priests were never kings, just as kings like David, Solomon, and Josiah were never priests, but only kings.
In Genesis 14 we learned that after Abram and his 318 fighting men defeated Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, Melchizedek met Abram and brought out bread and wine. Melchizedek then blessed Abram, and God Most High. Abram then gave Melchizedek “a tenth of everything”
This morning we will see that as great as Abram was, there was yet someone greater, outside of his covenant line. The priest-king Melchizedek was Abram’s superior, able to bless Abram and one whom Abram was obliged to give a tenth of the spoils from war. Having Melchizedek established as the superior, we see that there was one to come later, from the seed of Abraham, in the order of Melchizedek that was even greater than Melchizedek—an eternal being, with the power over death, with the power to set aside a former commandment and a change in the law. Abraham recognized God’s work through Melchizedek and humbled himself before this high priest. We should recognize God’s work through Christ, and humble ourselves before our High Priest.
Melchizedek and the Greater Melchizedek
When looking for someone to compare Christ to, the writer of Hebrews calls to mind none other than this mysterious, shadowy figure of Melchizedek, priest of God Most High. We already heard about Melchizedek and Abram in Genesis 14. He is also mentioned in Psalm 110, when David prophecies of Jesus, saying, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” The writer of Hebrews calls this Psalm to mind in chapter 5, again at the end of chapter 6, and then goes on to draw a fuller picture of who Jesus is, by comparing him to Melchizedek in chapter 7.
Melchizedek comes on the scene after Abram’s return “from the slaughter of the kings.” Abraham and his personal army return with the spoils of war and encounter the King of Salem—Hebrew for peace. Abram finds peace from the priest of God Most High and king of peace. Where do you look for peace? There is a King of Peace, and we need to remember there is no peace apart from Him. You may have heard the slogan “No justice, no peace.” When we hear such things, whether as threats, or as admonitions, we must reject them on the world’s terms. Apart from Christ there is no justice, nor is there peace. Peace, justice, and reconciliation are only given on God’s terms. There is no other way. Slogans such as this are a bridge to sharing the gospel. May they be used as such, and may such conversations bring sinners into the kingdom of God!
Back to Melchizedek. The comparisons between Melchizedek and Christ begin with the meaning of his name, which is a combination of two Hebrew words: melek—king and sedeq—righteousness. So Melchizedek is given two kingly titles: “king of righteousness” and “king of peace.” You may recall that Jesus is called “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6, and of course, God is called ‘righteous’ in more places than we have time to review this morning. Zechariah 9:9 is one example where Jesus is spoken of as “righteous and having salvation”. So it may seem strange to us that a man could rightly own even one of those titles, but Melchizedek in fact has them both.
Having such titles, the writer of Hebrews also says of Melchizedek that “He is without father or mother or genealogy.” Not only that, but “having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Again, these are things we would normally not say of a man.
At Grace Church, we believe that the Scriptures are “the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings,” as our Statement of Faith puts it. This means that we’re bound to believe what the text says here and we must interpret it in a way that does not put it at odds with what the rest of the Bible teaches.
Our first clue as to how to understand what all this means is found in verse 3: “but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” There is a resemblance, but not a sameness. The author of Hebrews emphasizes “the silence of the Scripture points to an important theological truth” as one commentator put it.
We’re to see Melchizedek as a ‘type’ of Christ. This is language that Paul uses in Romans when he says that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come.” As he writes, “sin came into the world through one man”—referring to Adam. But “the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” Adam was a type of Christ—he was the first man, with Christ becoming the ‘Second Adam.’ Paul again uses this kind of language in 1 Corinthians 15 when he says, “The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
When the writer of Hebrews says of Melchizedek that “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” we’re not to believe that he simply appeared on the earth ‘out of the blue’ and was taken up into the air like Enoch without ever dying. No. The writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is speaking typologically using a shadowy person in the Old Testament, to reveal the glory of Jesus Christ. ‘Typology’ “is the study and interpretation of types and symbols.”
Genesis includes no genealogy for Melchizedek. Genealogies are of utmost importance to a Levitical priest, for without fitting into the biological line of Levi, no man could participate in the priesthood. This is one of the reasons genealogies are so important in the Old Testament. During the return from exile, there were a group of priests who “sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.” (Nehemiah 7:64) The priesthood of Melchizedek was of an entirely different nature than the Levitical priesthood—it was not based on biological descent.
The writer of Hebrews also highlights this fact to draw our attention to how Jesus Christ is part of the Triune God who has no beginning and no end. Now, we all know that Jesus, as a man, was born of the virgin Mary. That fact is not meant to be questioned here; the point is that Jesus was a pre-existent being prior to his incarnation in human flesh at the nativity. This text is largely concerned with the eternal nature of Jesus Christ and highlights this by using Melchizedek as a type—a priest-king without beginning or end. In Hebrews 2, the writer already clearly established the human nature of Christ, he writes there:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Melchizedek’s brief appearance in Genesis 14 is intended by God to present a shadow of Christ, that when Christ appears in the flesh, we might have categories to understand who he is and what he did. This is in fact what the Old Testament is about—prefiguring Christ that when he came, we could understand him and our need for him.
We’re meant to see the greatness of Melchizedek. Verse 4 points to this, “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!” Remember, to the Jews, Abraham is the father of the faithful—the father of the nation. He is admired and esteemed by Jews the world over. But this shadowy, enigmatic figure of Melchizedek is greater! Verse 7 tells us, “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” Abraham, the great patriarch was overshadowed by this priest-king, Melchizedek. Abraham gave him a tenth—or a tithe, of all the spoils from the defeated kings, and was blessed by him who was greater.
Abram, the Lord’s chosen father of his holy nation, blessed by God, found himself before one who was greater than himself. He found himself before a different kind of king than he, or the world was accustomed to. He found a king who served first, without first requiring service. He found a king with the power to bless him as God Most High had already blessed him. Recall that in Genesis 14, Melchizedek served bread and wine and blessed Abram before Abram gave him a tenth of everything. It was the encounter with the king of righteousness and king of peace that brought Abram to see Melchizedek’s greatness, and then quickly offer his tithe.
Have you had an encounter with the King of Righteousness, the King of Peace? If you have, you know full well the greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have not, I encourage you to turn from your sin—for it is that which prevents you from the knowledge of the Holy. Acknowledge your sin before God Most High, ask that He forgive you in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and He will meet you. You will then see how he serves and blesses you by forgiving you of your sin and making you a new creature. You will see His greatness. You will feel the unity of the body of Christ through the gospel that reconciles men to God, and one another.
Like Abram before Melchizedek, when we bring our tithe, we are demonstrating to God and the world, that God is our superior. A tithe is a pledge that one hundred percent of what we possess is the Lord’s. We offer a tenth as the first fruits, pledging our all, by giving a tenth. Remember from Genesis that as Melchizedek blesses Abram, speaking the truth that God Most High is “Possessor of heaven and earth.”
Verse 4 tells us that Abraham acted on that truth by giving “a tenth of the spoils”. ‘Spoils’ may also be translated “top of the heap” or “best of the booty.” This is a first-fruits tithe—giving a part as a way of acknowledging the whole belongs to the Lord. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” Abram recognized this and gave freely, joyfully, and without hesitation. May we do the same.
A tithe is not a tax, like the government requires of us. When we give our taxes to the government, we’re saying they can have that much, but no more! That may not be the way the government perceives the arrangement, as the state has a way of aspiring to deity. Government must never confuse itself with God, claiming all as theirs, with which they may dispense. Instead, they may only claim their portion and no more. Again, a tithe is given, not in the fear of government retribution, but joyfully, returning a portion to the Lord, to whom it all belongs and from whom it is given.
By way of direct application for us today, we’re to see that the tithe is not a part of the Mosaic law that was fulfilled and no longer required; but it is a perpetual, creation ordinance, pre-dating the Mosaic law code. When we offer our tithes and offerings, we must remember that all that we possess is the Lord’s, to do with as he pleases. Like Abram, offer your tithes and offerings with joy, acknowledging God as King, Christ as Lord, and the Holy Spirit as your Helper.
The author of Hebrews continues by explaining that the Levitical priesthood, such an important part of the Old Covenant, is subservient to the priesthood of Melchizedek. The author even goes so far as to 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.” Again, Melchizedek, the first priest-king is superior to all that followed after Abraham—even the priesthood to whom all Israelites offered tithes for centuries!
The superiority of the priesthood of Melchizedek goes beyond tithes, as the writer of Hebrews continues the argument in verse 11. Perfection was not attainable “through the Levitical priesthood” because another, the great high priest came not from the tribe of Levi, but through the tribe of Judah—a tribe about which “Moses said nothing about priests.”” It is here that we’re reminded of Psalm 110, in which Christ is spoken of as “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
In Psalm 110, David tells us that the order of Melchizedek will return (having never really left), and in Hebrews 7 we’re reminded of the superiority of this priesthood. Jesus arose “in the likeness of Melchizedek”—again “likeness”, not “sameness”. Melchizedek served as a type of the one to come—Jesus, who “became a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.” Unlike the Levitical priests who became priests because their fathers were priests, Jesus became a priest because of his power over death!
Here the writer acknowledges that “a former commandment is set aside” but is done so “because of its weakness and uselessness.” The Old Covenant was meant to be temporary—“for the law made nothing perfect”—though it did introduce a better hope which is realized in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “guarantor of a better covenant”—a covenant that will never be set aside. He is the guarantor because “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind…” God has taken an oath, and his promises are sure. How can we doubt with such a clear promise?
The text goes on by contrasting the former priests to Jesus. In verse 22, we’re reminded that the former priests “were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office.” But Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.” Because of his eternal nature, his ability to save is inexhaustible, “he always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him.” I’ll say that again: Because of his eternal nature, Jesus’s ability to save is inexhaustible, “he always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him.”
Perhaps you have felt overwhelmed by your own sin at times, thinking your sin too great to ever be forgiven, too great to be covered. You would be right if you relied on man alone to do that work. But Jesus is the god-man with the power over death. He has already defeated the grave, already born the wrath of God on your behalf if you look to Jesus as your intercessor—as the one between you and God. When we put our trust in Jesus, our relationship with God is restored because God looks first at Jesus, not you. Jesus intercedes, that is, he gets between you and God so that God’s wrath against you is born by Jesus. So instead of a sinner, God sees you as clean, pure, holy. This is what a priest does—he restores peace and fellowship between man and God. Jesus, like Melchizedek, offers bread and wine—a meal that joins us together with the body of Christ.
Again we’re reminded that the former priests had to “offer sacrifices daily”, not only for the people, but they had to offer sacrifices first for their own sin! The law made provision for the priests under the Old Covenant, appointing “men in their weakness as high priests.” By establishing the law and the Old Covenant, God implied a better, perfect covenant to come, as verse 18 says, “a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” And again, as verse 22 states, Jesus is the guarantor of this better covenant. We do not “offer sacrifices daily” today, as Christians because Jesus’s sacrifice was sufficient because he is both man and God. Because Jesus is man, God accepts his sacrifice for it was man that sinned. Because Jesus is God, his sacrifice was unblemished and he had the power over the grave—allowing all who are in Christ to be not only forgiven, but raised to new life.
The Abrahamic Covenant
As Pastor Mike reminded us last week, “Starting in Chapter twelve, the focus of Genesis has shifted to one particular family” after having begun by focusing on the creation of the world and the history of all men. In chapter fifteen, we are going to see God formalize his covenant with Abram. This covenant will establish Abram as Abraham—the father of a great multitude, the patriarch of the nation of Israel.
Israel will be established as a nation, with its own law code, priesthood, its own land, and eventually its own kings. As we’ve seen in Hebrews 7, God established a covenant that would point to a “better hope”, a way “through which we draw near to God”, “a better covenant”. All that God would establish through the seed of Abraham would point to the second Adam, the “last Adam” who would be a life-giving spirit, who would become a “priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek”—an eternal priest-king, Jesus Christ, the very Son of God who would be veiled in flesh as the Son of David, Son of Abraham, and Son of Adam.
So as we transition back to Genesis 15 next week, remember that the covenant God establishes with Abram is meant to be temporary, yet it is not unimportant. It is a covenant that is meant to point to a better hope, a better covenant that is fulfilled with Jesus Christ. We may be tempted to look over that which was intended to be temporary and replaced. But we must remember Paul’s words in Galatians, where he wrote that “the law was our guardian until Christ came.” The law acted the part of a parent, or teacher, so that in Christ we might be redeemed out of the law and receive adoption as sons.
We adults do not set aside the things we learned as children—for the very purpose of childhood is to prepare for adulthood. We learn important lessons and life skills—speech, manners, discipline, math, how to read, the basics of the faith, and so on. So why would we set aside the Old Testament? There are great riches to be mined, treasures to be unearthed, wisdom to be gained. Let us pursue the knowledge of God, the glory of Christ, and work of the Holy Spirit in all the words God has given to us. For we can only know God in his fulness, when we know God in the fulness of his revelation to man.
Before Abraham, God was at work in the world, using priests obscure to us, like Melchizedek to offer blessing and hope to the world. In our passage this morning, we are reminded that God has always been at work to redeem the world out of its sin. Abraham recognized God’s work through Melchizedek and humbled himself before this high priest. He recognized the power and authority vested in this man who was king of righteousness and king of peace.
We find ourselves today, like Abraham, before a power and authority greater than our own. We find a great high priest, Jesus Christ, who offers us the bread and wine of a new covenant. His bread is his body, his wine, is his blood. This great high priest is a priest forever—none will ever replace him, none will ever exceed him. Will you receive his gifts of bread and wine? Will you humble yourself before him as Abraham humbled himself before Melchizedek? Will you forfeit the riches of this world as Abraham refused the gifts of the King of Sodom?
We must always remember that we serve one Lord. We obey the only God. All earthly submission whether to parents, to elders, to employers, to mayors, to governors, to presidents, to judges is only done through submission to Christ. Rarely in American history have Christians found themselves in situations where our governing authorities have required things in direct violation of the law of God. But times are changing. In California, for example, the governor has required churches to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely. Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California has set a clear, winsome, biblical case for why they are not complying with the governor’s order, arguing that “Christ, not Caesar, is head of the church.” We need to think clearly and biblically about these matters, that in the face of similar situations we may remain faithful ourselves.
In serving our one Lord, we must be ready to set aside the traditions of the world. When the writer of the Hebrews told his readers that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, he was rebuking those who held to too high of a view of Abraham, and by doing so, rejected Jesus Christ, the greater Melchizedek. They rejected the priesthood of Jesus Christ. They looked for a messiah but rejected him when he came because they clung onto the law and Levitical priesthood. We need not look for a messiah or savior, our Savior has already come, has already accomplished his work. We live our lives in light of the Messiah who is making all things new. We can and should walk humbly and in full assurance that our sins are forgiven. This means unspeakable joy—for we are restored to fellowship with our Creator!
In submitting to our Great High Priest, we do so by recognizing that his work is done, his sacrifice enough. We acknowledge it is Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest that is holy, not us. We look to him to intercede for us. We enter into God’s presence not in our own holiness, but Christ’s. It is Jesus Christ who is “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” All that is ours if we are in Christ. That is God’s view of us as long as we are in Christ. Grace Church, if you are in Christ—stay there. It is the only safe place. If you are not ‘in Christ’, ask for God’s forgiveness in the name of the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, and you too, may be safe from the wrath of God.
Jesus’s life is indestructible. He offers to conquer the grave for you. Those of you today who have not already humbled yourself before the Lord Jesus, call on him now. He lives to make intercession for you before the Judge of all men—to whom one day you must give account. Will you have Jesus speak and intercede for you, giving you eternal life with your Creator, or will you stand silent and condemned before the Great Judge and be cast into the eternal fire?
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus, our eternal priest-king, is our hope, our advocate before our Heavenly Father. He has gone before us, who “always lives to make intercession” for us. What is your hope? Do you have a steadfast anchor providing safety and assurance that when you encounter trials you are kept from floundering? Kept from fear and worry? If you have Jesus, you have the surest anchor, the surest hope there is. May Jesus be your source of peace, joy, and hope. Like Abraham, rest in “God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” Rest in God Most High, who through Christ, our Great High Priest, delivered us from sin.