Most of us have special traditions for our family holidays. Someone recently said that a tradition in our American culture is something we have done for two years in a row! We get a little sentimental over our family’s special ways of doing things, no matter how recent our tradition was established.
- Imagine how you would feel if your family had been doing certain things for over 1,400 years.
- Imagine if those practices had come from God himself.
- Then imagine if God said – “Forget all that – I have something better for you now.”
It might take a little convincing for people to give up those old ways. In our churches today it sometimes causes a great uproar when we try to change our style of music or our ways of conducting a worship service or when we have a change of staff that brings in new ideas for programs.
The writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to prove that the old system under the Law of Moses was a mere shadow compared to the perfect reality that has come to pass.
You may wonder – why do I need to know this? I don’t have a problem with the Old Testament law. I don’t need convincing that the new way is better. But you do need to study this. The law was a schoolmaster for both Jews and Gentiles to give us understanding and appreciation of God’s perfect plan. Besides, there is much to learn in this chapter about the priesthood of Jesus. He opened the way to God so we can draw near in sweet fellowship. This is the best place in scripture to learn about Jesus’ role as priest.
We were introduced to Jesus as our high priest in chapter four. But the author had to stop and deal with their problem of immaturity. They were challenged to move forward and grow up so they could tackle the deeper doctrines like the subject of Jesus’ superior order of priesthood. Now we come back to that subject.
DAY ONE: JESUS’ PRIESTHOOD IS A HIGHER ORDER THAN AARON’S.
READ: Hebrews 7:1-3
A. MELCHIZEDEK WAS A PRIEST OF THE MOST HIGH GOD.
The high priesthood of Jesus is a deep doctrine. Deep doctrine is hard work. We often see people jumping into application before they know doctrine. We will never understand the deeper truths if we don’t take the time to study. God gave us the whole Bible (whole counsel of God) so we won’t be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). He also gave us the whole Bible so we would see the beauty and design of His great revelation and know that it all came from the same inspiration. I hope you find this fascinating!
If we truly understand the greatness of Melchizedek, we will get a better understanding of the greatness of Christ as our high priest. Here we begin to see the miraculous design of scripture.
- The seeds (beginnings) of all major doctrines are introduced in Genesis.
- They are increasingly developed as Biblical history unfolds.
- They have their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And through him the “amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (II Corinthians 1:20)
Here we see a great example of this design:
- In Genesis there are three verses about Melchizedek – a mere preview of a great priest/king in the days of Abraham. (Genesis 14:18-20)
- One thousand years later we have a promise given in the Psalms – “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm110:4) This promise was given to the Son in heaven.
- One thousand years later the book of Hebrews reveals the most wonderful role of Jesus as high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
As we see the way scripture develops the plan of God and the doctrines of Christianity, we begin to understand that no stronger proof of the inspiration of scripture could be given. The Psalmist linked together the beginning in Genesis and the fulfillment in the New Testament in the person of Jesus.
B. MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD IS UNIQUE IN SEVERAL WAYS.
- He was both a priest and a king.
The Aaronic priests under the Law were always separate from the civil rulers. There was a balance of power. God knew the nature of fallen humanity. (As someone has said, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) The power in the nation of Israel was balanced between the civil authority and the religious authority.
- No record of Melchizedek’s lineage is recorded.
He had an independent priesthood – the only one in his line. It wasn’t important to know who his father was. He was appointed directly by God. He was appointed for righteousness. Obviously he was a man of integrity who would serve in the interests of the Most High God.
In contrast, the Aaronic priesthood was based exclusively on lineage.
- There is no record of Melchizedek’s birth and death.
This silence in scripture foreshadowed the eternal priesthood of Jesus. We see the phrases: “high priest forever” (Hebrews 6:20), eternal salvation, eternal redemption, perfected forever.
The Aaronic priests served for a limited period of time from age 25 to 50. (Numbers 8:24-25) There is no record of Melchizedek’s retirement or death.
- Melchizedek ministered to all and not just to one nation.
He was not an Israelite. Melchizedek served both Hebrews & Gentiles.
The Aaronic priesthood was for the nation of Israel.
- Melchizedek was a king of righteousness and king of Salem (peace).
Salem means peace. These designations of righteousness and peace describe the Priest/king reign of Christ.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What does this unique story tell you about the authorship of the word of God?
- What does Paul say about the breadth of his teaching? (Acts 20:27)
- What does Job say about the depth of God’s revelation? (Job 12:13)
- What does Isaiah say about God’s revelation? (Isaiah 46:10)
- How well have you learned to research and connect the Old Testament with the New Testament?
- How can you develop a love for a deeper understanding of scripture?
DAY TWO: MELCHIZEDEK ESTABLISHED A PRIESTLY ORDER.
READ: Hebrews 7: 4-10
A. NEW PRIESTLY ORDER CAME BEFORE ABRAHAM’S NATION.
The Hebrew people held Abraham in highest esteem and rightly so. He was a great man as the founder of their nation. He was outstanding in his faithfulness to the new thing that God was doing in establishing a new nation to call His own. Yet Melchizedek served before the establishment of the Hebrew nation. He was higher in rank than Abraham.
How do we know that Abraham was inferior in rank to Melchizedek?
- Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek.
In paying tithes, Abraham showed submission to a higher office. In the Aaronic priesthood the priests received tithes from people of their own nation. But here a stranger received tithes from the father of a whole nation. Even Levi (in the loins of Abraham) paid tithes to this priest. Just think how great he was (verse 4). God has placed this hidden prophecy in Genesis to reveal in His time the greatness of Christ’s priesthood.
- Melchizedek blessed Abraham.
The greater is the one who blesses the lesser. Abraham had already been blessed by God (Genesis 12:2). Now he accepts this blessing from Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God. This acknowledged that Melchizedek is superior to the limited priesthood that would come from the nation that descended from Abraham.
B. NEW PRIESTLY ORDER PROVIDED MODEL FOR JESUS.
By showing these two functions of the Melchizedek priesthood, we see two aspects of Jesus’ priesthood over believers today. We give tithes to Him; He blesses us.
- Even the cattle on a thousand hills belong to God, yet he has ordained that we have the privilege of giving to the work of the kingdom by our offerings. It is a great privilege to give of our means to the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom — and to meet the needs of other people.
- God loves to bless his children. When we rest in Him or place ourselves in the position of submission to His will, He is ready and waiting to bless us.
The concept of God blessing His people was given in the O.T. with the Aaronic blessing – “The Lord bless you, and keep you, The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22-27)
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What does Paul say about the way God designed the distribution of wealth so that all people will have their needs met? (II Corinthians 9:7-10)
- Read Psalm 1. Who is it that receives God’s great blessings?
- What do you think is meant by God’s blessings?
4. What can you give to your great high priest that is very precious to you?
5. When have you asked Jesus for some specific blessing (like comfort, encouragement, relief from suffering, etc.)?
DAY THREE: NEW COVENANT CALLS FOR A NEW PRIESTHOOD.
READ: Hebrews 7:11-14
A. AARONIC PRIESTHOOD CAME TO AN END.
The Aaronic priesthood was a source of stability and comfort for the Hebrew people. The High Priest had beautiful attire designed by God, which set him apart for the incredibly important role he was to play in their worship. There are two important questions that we should consider at this point.
- Why was a superior order of priesthood necessary? The author can explain the need by making a comparison:
- The Aaronic priesthood was imperfect although it was very important because it temporarily dealt with sin and prepared the people to understand the sacrifice of Jesus and his role as priest.
- However, it couldn’t accomplish what was needed for permanent atonement or permanent and total reconciliation of man and God.
- How can it be eliminated if God set it up?
- The Levitical priesthood was for a limited time. It was always intended to be It served God well for the time He designed, but now it is no longer necessary. It was in operation for over 1400 years.
- It served its purpose and came to an end when the Messiah came and fulfilled the law. Jesus replaced the temporary priests so the temporary office can now be abolished.
B. AARONIC PRIESTHOOD WAS ADEQUATE FOR THE LAW OF MOSES.
The Aaronic priesthood and the Law of Moses had an inseparable connection. It isn’t easy to give up the very thing that has been central in a culture for so long. They had long awaited the coming of the Messiah, but they didn’t understand that their King would fulfill the Law, making it obsolete.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- If the priesthood changes, what must also change? Give verse.
- What change regarding the law was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34?
- Traditions often become so entrenched in our lives that they become law. What do you practice in your church that is more tradition than scripture?
- How do we overcome old practices when we move to a new culture? (I Corinthians 9:22)
5. How quickly do you obey when God calls you to something new?
6. God was faithful to prepare his people for coming events with prophecy. How important do you believe it is to study New Testament prophecy?
DAY FOUR: NEW PRIESTHOOD BRINGS NEW BLESSING.
READ: Hebrews 7:18-25
A. NEW PRIESTHOOD OFFERS A BETTER HOPE.
The Law of Moses demanded an elaborate and precise set of rules and regulations for the priests and the sacrifices. What was needed was not a more beautiful or elaborate system but a system with hope – a better hope (v.19). The law could not perfect the worshipper and bring him into the very presence of God to receive the blessings God has in store for his faithful children.
Believers in Jesus Christ now live by the power of His new life within them and not by legalism. They have access to God and a sweet new fellowship that will endure forever.
B. NEW PRIESTHOOD IS ESTABLISHED WITH GOD’S OATH.
This kind of change must be considered carefully. Since the law was given by God and included “curses” for disobedience, God himself must make the change clear. He did so with an oath, which is permanent and certain. He will not change His mind.
C. NEW PRIESTHOOD IS ETERNAL.
The better hope is in a living savior who will live forever to make intercession for us. He is a resurrected savior who will never die so He will never have to be replaced.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What does the term “intercessor” mean?
- How does Jesus keep the path open between God and believers? (I John 1:9)
- What function does our high priest have in our prayer life?
4. The earthly sanctuary is a copy of the heavenly sanctuary. Look up a picture or description of the tabernacle or the temple in your Bible. Picture yourself entering the very Holy Place and enjoying communion with God.
DAY FIVE: NEW PRIEST IS PERMANENT AND PERFECT.
READ: Hebrews 7:26-28
A. BELIEVERS MUST LEARN THE PARTICULARS OF THEIR NEW PRIEST.
Since God has replaced the old priesthood with a new priesthood, the next order is to get to know Him and to learn what function He performs on our behalf. How is He better than the old? How can we learn to cooperate with Him in order to be all that God wants us to be?
We have already learned that the new priesthood is immutable and unchangeable. Since God named His son as permanent priest with an oath, He will not change His mind. This is the final and best that God has to offer man.
- He is perfect – in wisdom and power and righteousness
- He offered the perfect sacrifice – that ended the temporary sacrifices. Our forgiveness for sins and salvation is complete.
- He doesn’t have to spend his days offering up endless animal sacrifices –He spends his days ministering to believers – making intercession.
- He sends help in time of need.
B. BELIEVERS MUST LEARN TO APPROPRIATE HIS BLESSING.
Our new high priest lives always to be of service and help to the new family of God. He is in the Heavenly Sanctuary to serve as a mediator between man and God. What has he told us to do?
- Each day we are invited to bring our sins before Him and ask for cleansing. He has promised to forgive and cleanse us. This keeps our fellowship pure and sweet. (1 John 1:9)
- Each day we are to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. We are assured that our prayers are heard and will be answered in God’s perfect will. (1 John 5:14-15)\
- Each day we are invited to seek wisdom, strength, and open doors to walk in the ways of God. (James 1:5)
- Each day we are invited to come into the very throne room of God to praise and worship the Father and Son in sweet fellowship. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
We are blessed every day of our lives to have a high priest who intercedes for us as we stumble through this life. The process of sanctification goes on as long as we live, and we need much help to overcome our sinful desires and temptations. He knows and cares for even our hidden sins that surprise us from time to time.
I am stunned from time to time when some root of bitterness shows forth or some jealousy or spirit of revenge. Never let it be said that any of us do not need a high priest to help us deal with these human frailties.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What does John say about Jesus’ help? (I John. 2:1)
- Look back over chapter seven. What attributes of Jesus do you find?
3. How will you tap into this help this week?
If the Old Covenant had been perfect there would have been no need for another one. Jeremiah prophesied many years before that the time was coming when God would replace the old with a new and better covenant.
- What was needed was a perfect priest – now He has come.
- What was needed was a perfect sacrifice – now He has provided one.
- What was needed was an eternal priest – now He serves forever.
- The Levitical priesthood has been replaced with the perfect priest/king after the order of Melchizedek.
- Our new priest has opened the way to God now and forever.
- What a great gift God has given to us.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK:
Sweet fellowship is a two-way relationship. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
Approach the throne every day this week and thank Jesus for saving you to the uttermost and for interceding for you continually before God’s throne. (Hebrews 7:24)
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