Everything about Jesus, the offices He holds, the sacrifice He offers, the ministry He performs, the hope He introduces and the covenant He mediates is much, much better than anything that came before – even under the Old Covenant with Moses and the Levitical priesthood. We’re going to see more evidence of this as we look in detail at the terms and conditions of the better covenant (the New Covenant) that Jesus brought into being with His blood!
LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 7:11-25)
The writer is going to show us how crucial a priest like Melchizedek is for our salvation – to our drawing near to God.
Aaron’s priesthood and the law that came with it couldn’t make anyone perfect, which is what we need to be in order to draw near to God. The Aaronic priesthood according to the law was a family business. It had to pass from father to son down the male line of those descended from Aaron. But it was weak and useless to make people perfect, says the writer.
Melchizedek represents God’s answer to this – our huge problem – a Priest from a different order who had an indestructible life, who was actually greater than Abraham, greater than Levi, greater than Aaron and the law under which he and his descendants were ordained as priests. The installation of this new and better priest would necessarily mean the introduction of a new and better law. And the new priest in the order of Melchizedek is Jesus, from the tribe of Judah and not from Levi. Jesus was ordained an eternal priest by the oath of God, and thus the former commandment was set aside, giving way to a better hope, in which people may be made perfect and may draw near to God! This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant – He has taken on the legal responsibility for the success of the covenant. And since He lives forever, He can carry out completely the work of salvation that was given to Him by the Father.
Even though he appeared a long time before Aaron was born and the law was given, the appearance of Melchizedek and David’s reference in Psalm 110 to the Messiah being a priest forever in his order effectively announced the obsolescence of the Aaronic priesthood and it’s replacement by something far better – a better covenant!
The point is this – we need to be perfect if we are to draw near to God. The law given to the Jews didn’t make anyone perfect. The law under which Gentiles live (the works of which are written on their hearts) can’t make them perfect either. We need someone to be the end of the law as a means to be right with God, because none of us can keep the law on account of our sin. We need Someone Who is perfect and can keep the perfect law perfectly for His people. A priest who can make a sacrifice that cleanses their consciences from all their sins and who therefore can draw His people infallibly to the Father. Only Jesus meets that need, and Melchizedek wonderfully points us to Him!.
You aren’t perfect, are you? But you need to be if you are ever going to draw near to God in this world or the next. Only Jesus can make you perfect and bring you near – why not ask Him to do that for you even now?
LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 7:26-8:13)
The writer repeats and summarizes some of the points he has made earlier in arriving at the conclusion that the covenant that Jesus mediates is better than the one inaugurated under Moses. Jesus ministers in heaven and not in a copy of the heavenly tabernacle. He offers a much better sacrifice than they did and so he has a “much more excellent” ministry!
It’s almost as if he expects the readers to blow off his arguments as being “too good to be true” so he says, “It is true – we really do have this great priest and His great sacrifice and His everlasting intercession in heaven for us!
This could never have happened under the Old Covenant, because of failure on the part of the people, who did not (and could not) continue in it. So God establishes a New Covenant of which Jesus is the guarantor. He has done everything needed to redeem those to flee to Him for refuge. It no longer depends on their efforts to “stay saved” because sin makes that impossible. Now, God’s laws are in their minds and on their hearts, and everyone who comes into this covenant enters an intimate relationship in which they truly know the Lord. Their sins are no longer remembered – not that the omniscient God “forgets” them, but that because Jesus paid their debt in full, He will never bring them up against His people again.
This covenant, the terms of which were anticipated through the ministry of Jeremiah centuries before Christ came, is so much better than the old covenant that it renders that one obsolete and ready to vanish away.
Friends, you are invited to enter this better covenant even now as you read these words. Think of it – a perfect Savior, Who fully cleanses your sins through His own self-sacrifice so they are never held against you by God, coming into an intimate relationship with God (which Jesus says is the definition of eternal life). Having a heart of love for God and the desire to live your life for Him, and the certain prospect of heaven ahead. Too good to be true? God has gone out of His way to make sure we understand that this IS true, this IS real and you may know it’s truth and it’s power right now if you will turn from your sin and trust Jesus to save you!