Intro: The writer of Hebrews uses the word “hope” 5 times in his book; twice in chapter 6 and once in chapter 7. Hope is an important element in a discussion of the priesthood. The hope of the Israelite depended on the qualification and work of his priest, especially his High Priest. So, if Jesus is our High Priest, He is the source of our hope.
- Hebrews 6:17-20 – Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
- Later in chapter 7 he calls this hope a “better” hope… Heb 7:18-19 – For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
- Sandwiched in between these two references to hope is a discussion of the problem involved in Jesus’ priesthood. Although the apostles had proclaimed Jesus to be the “new” high priest of the Christian (as opposed to any other), there was an obstacle that stood in the way. How could they put their hope in a priest that was not of the proper order? How could He be better?
I. The problem with Jesus’ high priesthood: Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not Levi. That might not seem problematic to us, but to the original Jewish audience it was a major obstacle. In order to be a king, one needed to come from the line of Judah (Gen. 49:10). Since Jesus was from David’s lineage it was not difficult to accept that He fulfilled the OT prophecies as the King of Israel. But Jesus’ physical lineage forbid Him from serving in the Temple in Jerusalem. Num 3:6-10 – 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 7 And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle. 8 Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are given entirely to him from among the children of Israel. 10 So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” How could Jesus be my high priest?
- It would be like Arnold Swartznegger being nominated as a Presidential candidate. In our culture, there would be a major difficulty with this: Arnold was born in Austria—not America. According to the U.S. Constitution, this would disqualify him from the Presidency.
A. Validating a New Order: For this reason, the author of Hebrews needed to offer a valid theological argument for why Jesus could rightfully replace the priesthood of the OT. He writes in Heb 7:11-14 “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. These first century Jewish Christians would have agreed with the author at this point. While Jesus was the King Messiah from Judah, he still didn’t replace the priestly line. Thus the physical priesthood and their sacrifices should continue?
1. The Author begins by pointing out that the OT predicted another priesthood that would supersede the priesthood of Levi. This new priesthood would be inaugurated through the Messiah. Heb 5:5-6 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” 6 As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek”; The writer quotes from The 2nd and 110th Psalm. His argument comes right out of the OT scriptures.
2. Melchizadek – we may not be familiar with Melchizadek. What does he have to do with this discussion? He is first mentioned in connection with Abram’s rescue of his nephew, Lot. (2000 years years before Christ). After Abram returned from his victory over Cedorlaomer and all his allies, he met with the king of Sodom in the valley of Shaveh. It was there that Melchizadek, king of Salem, came and blessed Abram. Gen 14:18-20 – 8 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. 19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; 20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. This passage describes Melchizedek both as a king and as a priest.
a. Melchizedek as a PRIEST: The text describes Melchizedek as “a priest of God Most High.” A strange title for a person that lived before the birth of the Jewish nation! In fact, the Levitical priests wouldn’t exist for another 500 years!
b. Melchizedek as a KING: But he was also “The king of Salem“. Melchizedek’s name literally means “king of righteousness.” The city of Salem literally meant “city of shalom” or peace. The city of Salem later became known as Jerusalem, capital city of Israel. Therefore, according to Genesis 14, Melchizedek was priest-king in Jerusalem 500 years before the Jews even entered into the Promised Land. Later, Jesus would come to Jerusalem and would claim that he was a king-priest, also. Jesus—the “prince of peace” (Isa. 9:6)—would bring true peace to the people. Thus Melchizedek was a type (or foreshadowing) of Jesus.
c. Melchizadek BLESSES ABRAM: notice in Gen 14:19 that Melchizadek blesses Abram. By blessing Abram, Melchizedek was demonstrating that he was superior to Abram. If there are two military officers in the room how do you know who has the higher rank? If you cannot tell from the patches on their arm of chest, you can always tell by who salutes first. The salute is a sign of respect or deference. In Abram’s culture whenever someone gave out a blessing it was from a position of superiority or authority. By accepting a blessing, an individual was admitting that they needed what the other provided. Thus Melchizedek was demonstrating here that he was greater than Abraham. Heb 7:7 – “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.”
d. Melchizadek RECIEVES ABRAM’S TITHE: The other element of the relationship between Abram and Melchizadek is seen when Abram gives him a tenth of the spoils of the victory. This again points to the greatness of Melchizadek’s priesthood. Heb 7:4-6 – Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. 5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; 6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. The writer of Hebrews extrapolates the contrast to include Aaron, by concluding that Aaron (who himself received the tithes of the Israelites) was paying tithes to Melchizadek representatively through his predecessor, Abram. It is clear that Melchizadek was a superior priest, or a superior order. But how do we connect the OT Melchizadek to Jesus?
3. Psalm 110 – There is one other OT passage that refers to Melchizadek. Psalm 110. According to the superscription, this is a psalm of David. Therefore, David writes in v. 1 – The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” David was the Lord (Hebrew adoni) over Israel. However, in this passage, David claims that God (Hebrew Yahweh) was speaking to someone who was Lord over him. Since David was the highest ruler in Israel, this “Lord” must be the coming Messiah. Therefore, Psalm 110 is Messianic, and more than that, the Messiah is depicted as a victorious king. Later Peter quotes from the 110th Psalm in Acts 2 to demonstrate that Jesus was sitting on His throne following His ascension.
a. Notice what this next verse states: (Ps. 110:4) “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’” What does this Psalm indicate about the Messiah – The King will also be a Priest – from the order of Melchizadek. This was a profound and unique picture. It could not exist under the order of Aaron. In 2 Chronicles 26:16-18 Uzziah, the King, tried to offer incense, but Azariah the priest stopped him saying, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary.” So the superior priesthood of Melchizadek eliminates the Priesthood of the Levites.
4. The priest-king in Zechariah: the prophet also describes the future Branch as a priest-king. Zechariah writes that there will be a “Servant” in the future, who will be like “Joshua” the high priest. However, he states that this priest would wear a crown and sit on a throne. – Zechariah 6:12-13 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”‘
II. “After the order of Melchizadek” – Melchizedek is a type of Christ.
[note: As we have noticed, The Bible gives very little historical information about Melchizedek. All that we know is located in Gen 14; Ps 110, and Hebrews 5-7. Rather than diminish the validity of his significance, the synchronizing of the accounts of Melchizedek in the Bible form a marvelous proof of the inspiration and unity of scripture.
- In Genesis we have only three verses about Melchizedek. (Written by Moses)
- Some thousand years later David mentions him in Ps 110:4, declaring for the first time that the Messiah’s priesthood would be like Melchizedek’s.
- After another thousand years, the writer of Hebrews reveals things about Melchizedek that even Melchizedek, or his contemporary, Abraham, did not know. (David had only a glimpse.)
- So we reason that the God who wrote the book of Hebrews wrote the book of Genesis and Ps 110- and all the rest of Scripture.
A. The Unique Priesthood of Melchizadek: In conclusion, what can we deduce from the Bible about the priesthood of Melchizadek, that corresponds to the Priesthood of Christ?
1. A Royal Priesthood: What we have already considered, in connection with the 110th Psalm and Zechariah, is that Melchizadek was both a Priest and King at the same time. So, as well, is Jesus.
2. Universal, Not National: Priest of the Most High God” – some view this designation as a point of contrast with the priesthood of Aaron. John MacArthur makes the point that this is a universal designation of God. With Israel God took the name of Yahweh (Jehovah) and that was the name of the covenant to Israel. The Levitical priests, therefore, were priests of Jehovah. The Israelites were Jehovah’s people and the Levites were Jehovah’s priests. The Levitical priests could minister only to Israel and only for Jehovah. But Melchizadek ministered as a universal priest, Jews and Gentiles, and as such was a type of Christ.
a. Jesus made atonement for the sins of the whole world. 1 Tim 2:5-6 – For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 1 John 2:1-2 – And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
3. Personal, Not Hereditary: “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (7:3). This unusual depiction does not mean that he came from nowhere. It simply means that in the Old Testament record nothing is said of his parents or origin. It is interesting that the single Greek word agenealogetos (ag-en-eh-al-og’-ay-tos) translated without genealogy is found nowhere else in Scripture — in fact nowhere else in Greek literature. The reason, no doubt, is that it would have had no use because it would have made no sense. Everyone has a genealogy, whether he can trace it or not. The point in Hebrews is that Melchizedek’s parentage and origin are irrelevant to his priesthood. Whereas to the Levitical priesthood genealogy was everything, to the Melchizedek priesthood it was nothing.
a. In this, Melchizedek was a type of Christ, not because Jesus had no genealogy but because Jesus’ genealogy was not significant to His priesthood. God chose Him personally, not hereditarily. He had no priestly genealogy and He needed none. Jesus Christ was chosen as a priest because of His personal worth, His quality. He was chosen because of who He was, not because of where He came from genealogically. Jesus “not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.” (Heb 7:16).
4. Eternal, not Temporary: “remains a priest continually” (7:3) Individually, a priest served only from the time he was 25 until he was 50. No priest, no matter how faithful, could serve more than 25 years. Collectively, the priesthood was also temporary, as it was a aprt of the temporary Law given through Moses. Melchizedek’s priesthood, however, had no such time or dispensational bounds. He abides a priest perpetually. It does not indicate that he lived forever, but that the order of priesthood in which he ministered was forever. Christ’s priesthood is truly eternal. Hebrews 7:24-25 – 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 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.
I. Weakness vs. Strength: Even with a specialized group of ministers, there were inadequacies inherent in the Levitical priesthood. In the book of Hebrews these are contrasted with the strength of Jesus’ priesthood. Heb 7:28 – 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. In what way were the priests of the Law of Moses weak?
A. The priests failed to maintain their personal holiness. The efficacy of the work of the Levitical priests was dependent on their personal holiness, and strict obedience to the words of God. They failed.
1. Nadah and Ahihu did not follow God’s commands regarding their service (Lev, 10:1 2).
2. Eli’s sons were corrupt and behaved wickedly before the Lord (I Sam. 2:12-17, 22).
3. Second Kings 23 mentions idolatrous priests of the high places in the cities of Judah who were removed during the reforms of Josiah. (2 Kings 23:5, 8-9)
4. Even after the return of the righteous remnant from Babylonian captivity, there was corruption within the priesthood. In Malachi 1:7 God condemned the priests for offering polluted bread upon His altar. He then rebuked them for not taking His commandment to heart (Mal. 2:2) and concluded by saying, “You are turned aside out of the way; you have caused many to stumble in the law; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi” (Mal. 2:8)
5. Welch observes, “The character of the priest determines the nature of the religion. If the priest or his sacrifice is imperfect, then the religion is imperfect” (324).
B. The O.T. priests died and their intercessory work was disrupted. Heb 7:23-24 – 23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. This weakness was particularly apparent when a good priest was replaced by a bad one (Aaron and his sons; Eli and His sons) But Jesus’ work is not given to another (no priesthood that follows, certainly no human priesthood, such as that of Catholicism)
1. Jesus’ one sacrifice was sufficient: Heb 9:23-28 – 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
- Heb 10:11-18 – 11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
C. The sacrifices themselves were inadequate.Heb 9:9 – 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience — Heb 10:1-4 – For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. The Aaronic priesthood served as a shadow of the One who would be revealed, showing man how to approach God, but only accomplishing this symbolically in imperfect men.
D. The weaknesses of the OT priesthood were inherent (even though this priesthood was designed by God) as it was a humanly officiated system. It was therefore a temporary shadow by design. Hebrews 7:11-12 11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.