Get ready to have your minds blown, as the reader will take us into deep and glorious truths that he feared the immaturity of his readers would prevent them from understanding and appropriating to themselves! This is amazing stuff, and all the time we spend in meditation and reflection on it will be repaid abundantly in blessing from God!
LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 6:13-20)
The writer had challenged his readers to stop being sluggish in regard to the truths of the gospel, but rather to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God. Writing to those who have one eye looking behind to what they had left under the Old Covenant to follow Jesus under the New, the writer chooses Abraham (the very one who received the promises of God) as the example his readers should be following as disciples of Jesus! So we looked at what it is about Abraham that is so worthy of our imitation:
- An Unshakable Confidence in the Unchangeable Character of God. We reviewed key events in Abraham’s life and saw that he trusted in the unchangeable character of God, the one who had demonstrated time and again that he was faithful. When Abraham couldn’t make sense of what God was doing, he knew that God was still moving, still acting to fulfill his promise. That’s faith and patience mixed together in the trustworthiness of God, no matter how bleak the situation. That’s greatness worth imitating!
When you can’t line up the data and have it make sense, when circumstances come on you and they can’t be fixed, when you’re persecuted for your faith, will you keep patiently trusting God as Abraham did?
- An Unshakable Confidence in the Unchangeable Word of God. We saw the lengths to which God has gone to comfort and reassure first Abraham and then all true believers (including those in the days when this letter was written and also us today) about the unchangeableness of His kind purposes for them in Jesus. God had already given Abraham a promise to bless all the nations on earth through Abraham’s offspring – and there was never any doubt but that He would keep it. However, He supplemented it with an oath, sworn by Himself, so that through the promise and the oath, both unchangeable, the original readers of this letter and we ourselves might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
Friends, we imitate what we think is great. Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness. We believe in the same promise, now seeing it from the other side, knowing the truth of the gospel of Christ, and it brings us STRONG encouragement to hold fast to our hope! And Jesus has gone into heaven ahead of us to secure this hope on our behalf. He is an anchor for our souls. How could God have done anything more than He has already done to secure our salvation and then to assure us that we are securely saved?
LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 7:1-10)
The writer put his discussion on hold for a while to chastise the readers for their sluggishness, which was making it harder for him to give them the encouragement they needed, since some of it is drawn from deeper truths of the gospel that the readers were not ready to digest. Now, though, he returns to the theme he had begun early in chapter 5, concerning the priesthood of Melchizedek, where he had indicated that Jesus was appointed to be an eternal high priest in the order of Melchizedek, and to be the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Now in Hebrews 7:1-10, the writer wants to paint a picture for us of this priest, Melchizedek, showing us more of what it means that Jesus was a priest according to his order.
He shows that Melchizedek displayed these characteristics in his priesthood:
- He was, by name, the King of Righteousness.
- He was also, by name, King of Peace.
- He had an eternal priesthood. There is no record of his family tree before or after his appearance to Abraham. He is “without beginning of days or end of life”.
- He was a very great man, seen by the fact that he blessed Abraham (who was regarded as a prince of God in the land – Genesis 23:6), and Abraham effectively worshiped him by giving him a tithe of his possessions.
And Jesus walks in this priestly order, in at least the following ways:
- He is both king and priest – something that couldn’t happen under the Old Covenant but was essential if He were to provide an eternal salvation.
- He is king of righteousness – He reigns in righteousness and justice, He loves righteousness (Psalm 45:6-7). Of course, this means that He is set apart from and implacably opposed to our sin, so that we are His enemies by nature.
- This is why it is so wonderful that He is also the King of Shalom – of peace. His heart is set on removing the enmity between Himself and sinful people, and through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross He accomplishes this. Whereas righteousness and peace before could not combine in His dealing with sinners, in God’s wonderful salvation they now kiss each other:
Psalm 85:8–13 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.
- He has an eternal priesthood, so that His ministry is eternally effective for all those who will trust and obey Him. He has no beginning and can have no end, and He has sanctified Himself (set Himself apart) to redeem His people eternally from their sin.
- He is the greatest of men, embodying all the attributes of perfected and glorified humanity. He blesses all mankind – and especially those who obey Him. He is worthy not just of a tenth of our substance, but of all of it – He has redeemed us and we belong utterly and full to Him. How wonderful that we can gladly surrender and consecrate all our lives to such a Person!
Melchizedek’ ministry is perpetual, combining both righteousness and peace as he represented fallen people before God. In contrast, the ministry of Levi and his descendants already looked like last year’s model before it was even rolled out. It is a ministry of death and not of life.
And here the writer of the letter to the Hebrews presents Jesus to us as (in effect) a new and improved Melchizedek! He has earned righteousness that can be credited to His people. Then, they also have peace with God, through His finished work! He lives, He reigns and He ministers righteousness and peace forever to save His justified people!
Why would the readers go back to the descendants of Levi when, in Jesus, the priestly order of Melchizedek has come in its fullness? And why would we look for peace with the infinitely righteous God anywhere else than in the Priest God has installed to make this happen, and in His sacrifice which brings it about?