Hebrews 7. See How Great He Is!
Key Notes: Christ's priesthood is superior to Melchizedek's as well as Aaron's. We need one go-between or many? Reintroduction of Aaron's priesthood by the early Church.
Paul upset a lot of people, and not just pagans. The Jews were furious at the Christians for changing Moses' laws and customs. For that, they killed Stephen (Acts 7:58) and tried to kill Paul. (Acts 21:28–31). If Hebrews should do away with the Levitical priesthood. that would add insult to injury. Hebrews, however, does just that, showing a better kind of priesthood, replacing Aaron and the Levites, and fulfilling the Old Testament type as well.
The key verse comes from the Messianic psalm 110:4. "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." This reference is given nowhere else in Scripture and is explained only in Hebrews 7. To understand this obscure reference, we must read Gen. 14.
Abram returned from the rescue of his nephew Lot from Elamite kings who had captured Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot unfortunately lived. Coming back with the spoils of war, Abram was met by the king of Sodom, with whom he would have no dealings, and by Melchizedek a mysterious priest. Melchizedek blessed him, gave him bread and wine, and received a tithe of the spoils from Abram.
7:1–17 From this account, the author draws an analogy between Melchizedek and Christ.
|Type: Melchizedek||Reality: Jesus Christ|
|King of Righteousness||GOD our Righteousness. Jer.23:6|
|King of Salem (peace)||Prince of Peace. Isa.9:6|
|Priest of the Most High God||Most High God. Heb.1:8|
|No genealogy recorded||Eternal existence. Isa.9:6|
|Gives blessing to Abram||Gives blessing to the world. Acts3:25|
|Receiver of Abram's tithe||Receives tithes of all. Mal.3:10|
|Giver of bread and wine.||Giver of body and blood. Matt.26:26|
7:3 "...without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life". Unlike OT figures before him who have recorded genealogiies, Melchizedek appears to come out of nowhere. The author uses the silence of the details of his birth and death to further the analogy between him and Christ: "resembling the Son of God". Melchizedek was not immortal: he only appears so because Scripture is intentionally silent about his genealogy, his birth and death.
The author does not take advantage of the fact that Melchizedek gave Abram bread and wine, but I cannot dismiss this beautiful symbolism.
7:4 "See how great he (Melchizedek) is." Yet Christ is far greater.
7:6 Melchizedek receives tithes from Abram, proving that he is superior to him. He blesses Abram, also showing his greater position.
7:10 The idea that Levi gives tithes to Melchizedek through his great-great-grandfather Abram sounds strange. But note that we all were in Adam and partake of his sin. "In Adam all die". (I Cor. 15:22)
Hebrews 7 illustrates the concept of headship and corporate responsibility. (See other notes on Romans 5.)
7:18–28 There is a second set of comparisons between Aaron and Christ.
|Aaron. Old Testament priest||Christ. New Testament priest|
|Under law--weak, imperfect||Under oath--made perfect|
|Daily animal sacrifices||One sacrifice--Himself|
|Sacrifice for his own sin||No personal sin|
Many priests, transient
|One priest, permanent|
|Tribe of Levi||Tribe of Judah; Order of Melchizedek|
|(Occasional intercession)||Permanent intercession|
|(Temporary forgiveness)||Permanent salvation|
The notes in parenthesis are implied but not stated in the passage.
Melchizedek appears three times in history:
2000 BC as a living king in Abram’s time
1000 BC a prophecy from the mouth of David
32 AD fulfillment in the priestly inauguration of Christ at His ascension.
•Christ is greater than king Melchizedek as Melchizedek is greater than priest Aaron. He is both priest and king--a forbidden role that king Uzziah tried to fulfill and failed. (II Chron.26:16–21)
The Essenes, a desert community that lived just before Christ, were confused on this issue--king and priest roles performed by the same person. They expected two Messianic figures: a priest from Levi and a King from Judah. A second century AD sect thought a king from Judah and Levi would arise to save Israel. An early church father, Ireneus said "Christ was begotten as king and priest from Levi and Judah according to the flesh." Worse yet, Origen said Christian priests belonged to the order of Aaron but the order of Melchizedek belongs to Christ. Another leader of the early Church, Clement, “speaks of the Christian minister as high priest, priest and Levite.” (ISBE, Vol.3, p.965). By the middle of the third century Christian ministry was understood in OT levitical terms: ministers were called priests, and were authorized to repeatedly offer "the sacrifice of the mass" at the altar.
Hence the need of this lesson for them.
If the early church had read Hebrews and understood Christ's priesthood, the mistake of reintroducing the Old Testament levitical priesthood into the Christian church could have been avoided. . They had taken the phrase describing the Church as “the Israel of God” (Gal.6:16) and come to false conclusions.
•Do we need an intercessor, one who always lives to make intercession for us? Our Secretary of State is our representative to foreign governments and hopefully he / she will make our positions clear and convincing. It is a great help to have a go-between, a buffer, in negotiations. You need more space? Maybe the secretary in the office can get us a better hearing with the boss than if we try to talk to him ourselves. Maybe someone else in the business can talk to this customer and calm him / her down. We are always dependent on intermediaries, people up front who are paid to say it right, as we wish we could have said it. Lobbyists and union stewards are paid intercessors. We ask the pastor to be our speaker, because he can explain the Gospel better.
The Catholic church has in the past added many other spiritual intercessors--priests, patron saints, angels, the Virgin Mary--in the hope that somehow the message of the poor, sinful, weak person would be heard before God.
Trust Christ. He knows us. He has been where we are. He is able to deal gently. He can hear us and say what we need said better than anyone.