A couple of weeks ago, my grandson walked into our house on his own two feet for the very first time. There was snow on the ground — an indescribable delight to a sixteen-month-old — and, although he is still working on balance, he strode manfully across the lawn. The expression on his face revealed that he was fully in the moment, completely unaware of the miracle of physics and biology manifested in his teetering steps.
My approach to Hebrews 7 this week feels a little like that toddling journey across my driveway. With barely a thimbleful of scriptural information available as background, the mysterious Melichizedek holds sway over the chapter and demonstrates the amazing ability of the author of Hebrews to connect the dots between Old Testament shadows and New Covenant reality. The truth is exquisite, the implications are breath-taking, and I am fully in the moment, enjoying them — all the while being dimly aware that I am barely scratching the surface of this topic.
Here’s what we know:
- Genesis 14:18 – Melchizedek was a contemporary of Abraham, thus pre-dating the Levitical priesthood. His name meant “King of Righteousness,” and he was the king of Salem — an ancient name for Jerusalem, which also gives him the designation “King of Peace.”
- Psalm 110:4 – David speaks of the coming Messiah as a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” This unending priesthood supersedes the traditional Jewish priesthood which ended in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple. These words of God to the Son elevate Melchizedek’s role to that of a pointer to (or type of) Jesus.
- Hebrews 5 – Picking up these strands of truth, the author of Hebrews tightens the weave, presenting a whole cloth of truth in which Jesus emerges as The Superior Priest, not a flawed human being who requires a personal sacrifice for his own sin before he is qualified to represent the people before a holy God. His is not a veiled heart whose selfish neediness prevents Him from entering into the needs of those He represents.
- Hebrews 7 – Here the author, dipping his paintbrush into what he knew of Melchizedek, reinforces the truth that Jesus, our King and Priest, has completely superseded the traditional priesthood, the shadow of the former now being replaced by the solid reality that had been pre-figured. Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah; not temporary but eternal; not a hopeless merry-go-round of many priests, but a “better hope through which we draw near to God” through a “better covenant” based on Jesus’ indestructible life.
At Hebrews 7:25, the author guides us to a magnificent conclusion with the word “therefore”:
“Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
As theologically and historically fascinating as all this is, there are three excruciatingly practical truths embedded in this one verse, corresponding to the three clauses:
- Christ is able to save forever. Filling up the word “save” with biblical meaning brings me back to the truth that God is infinitely holy — and I am not. My own righteousness is insufficient, in itself, to take me into the presence of God. John Piper describes Jesus as our “Asbestos-like Priest” who can take the believer into the center of the fire of God’s holiness. There would be no “coming to God” without this great salvation.
- He can save forever because He “always lives to make intercession.” Jesus’ on-going role as intercessor adds depth to my understanding of His role as Savior. While it is imperative that He died and rose again at an actual historical point in time, it is equally imperative that He continues to serve in the role of Advocate, Intercessor, Great High Priest.
- He “saves . . . those who come to God through Him.” Just as Jesus’ role was not a one-dimensional point-in-time, over-and-done-with deal, my role is also on-going. I am to keep on drawing near, every day looking back at the anchor that secures my hope, and then entering into the minute-by-minute journey of enjoying God.
How would your relationship to God change if you lived in the realization that it is not a static, past-tense transaction but a living, ongoing work?
How would your day be impacted by embracing this statement: “I, today, will draw near to God through Jesus Christ”?
Thanks for joining us in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book. These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. This is the seventh week in the series, and if you’re interested, here’s last week’s blog post.
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