Saturday, October 29, 2016

Seeking Continuity and Permanence

Scriptural Reading: Hebrews 7:1-3; 19-28
Devotional Reading: Psalm 110

One day after the third debate during this bitter presidential race the party nominees attended the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner charity roast. It was a white-tie event and I immediately wanted to know the difference between a white-tie event and a black-tie event. The black tie event is a semi-formal dress code for evening events and social functions. Traditionally worn only for events after 7 p.m., it is less formal than white-tie events and more formal than business dress events. It includes a black tie and tuxedo.1 The white tie affair is a notch higher than the black tie affair in the scales of formality; in fact it is the topmost point of any formal event. There is a certain strict dress code for the white tie event, to which even heads of states and royal persona adhere to. The key element of the white tie affair is the tailed tuxedo. However, there are other elements of fashion that must be strictly observed, not simply the usage of a white bow tie as an accessory.2 Like the white-tie affair reigns supreme over a black-tie affair, King David prophesied the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood in Psalm 110 at verse 4, “The LORD has sworn And will not relent,’ You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizadek.” (NKJV)

We are in Unit II – “The Sovereignty of Jesus” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of a five-lesson study. We began by seeing the sovereignty of Jesus over the prophets, the angels, the Jews’ beloved leaders Moses, the prophet, and Aaron, the first high priest of the Levitical tribe. In the lesson today we shall focus on Jesus’ superiority over Melchizedek, a king and priest mentioned in the Old Testament.

In our lesson last week Melchizedek was introduced. This week we shall delve deeper into this model high priest that mysteriously appeared only in Genesis 14 and at King David’s mention in Psalm 110:4. The writer of Hebrews, in writing to Jews to convince them to remain in their newfound faith, explained in Heb 7:1-3, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” (NKJV) As I stated last week, who was this Melchizedek? Like a writer of a good detective story, the writer of Hebrews took this character that many felt was an insignificant person in the Old Testament and began writing about him in Hebrews 5 and 7. The Jews were interested in Jesus as their High Priest, but they had a significant objection to Jesus in that role because He was not of the Levitical tribe. So the writer made a comparison of Jesus with the model Melchizedek. It is unknown who this mysterious character was. Some even believe it was Jesus Christ, appearing by a special dispensation and privilege to Abraham in the flesh. There are others who simply believe he was a Canaanite king, who reigned in Salem (later called Jerusalem) and kept up the religion and the worship of the Most High God as priest. He was both the political and spiritual leader of his people. While sinful man reigns it is necessary to separate church and state. Only when Christ returns and reigns will church and state unite.

King Melchizadek met Abraham when he returned victoriously from battle and blessed him. By blessing Abraham, he blessed his seed, to include Aaron and the Levitical priesthood. Abraham then paid tithes to Melchizedek by giving him a tenth of the spoils from the battle. The name Melchizedek means. “king of righteousness”. Then he is called “king of peace”. As always righteousness comes before peace. Righteousness is the one true path to peace. Peace without righteousness is like the smooth surface of the stream before it goes over the Niagara Falls. Regarding his priesthood, his genealogy becomes important. God chose him to be a priest and there is no record of his parents, birth, or death. Unlike the Levitical priests he was able to serve without a genealogy. Simply because we know very little of him does not mean he was an insignificant being. His priesthood appears eternal. Like Melchizedek, Christ was both King and Priest, had an eternal ministry, and was appointed by God. He did die on Calvary but, he rose and ascended to heaven. He lives forever and His priestly ministry is continuous and permanent in heaven. Neither Aaron nor any of his descendants could make any of these claims.

The Levitical priesthood never made anything perfect. God described the priest He desired to be “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110:4) and not within the Levitical priesthood. There had to be a change in the priesthood of necessity because it related to the Law. (Heb 7:11-12) The new priesthood would come under grace. As Hebrews 7:19-21 begins to describe our hope, “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. And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: ‘The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchezedek’)” (NKJV) An oath is a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one’s future action or behavior.3 God Himself was the divine witness. He gave a solemn promise when He stated Jesus would be a priest forever outside of the Levitical tribe. This was a change in the priesthood. Aaron and his descendants were never given a promise. With the promise given to Jesus came a promise of hope of eternal life and access to God. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 NKJV)

It follows from the fact that when God gave the solemn promise, the oath that Jesus would be a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, Christ became the guarantor of the new covenant of grace. As Hebrews 7:22-25 continues to describe our hope in our permanent High Priest, “by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 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.” (NKJV) The many priests of the Levitical tribe died. There was no continuity or permanence in their ministry. The priesthood of Christ did not suffer because He lives forever. His Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension provide all believers with Salvation continually and permanently.

Jesus is the perfect High Priest, better qualified to be a High Priest than any priest from the Law of Moses. The writer of Hebrews at chapter 7 verses 26-28 indicates, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 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.” (NKJV) By first listing the divine attributes of Christ the writer was able to give the readers a picture as to why He is able to provide complete and perfect Salvation while the Levitical priesthood did not have His personal or perfect character.

Jesus is holy in His standing before God. He is eternally set apart from evil. Christ is without blemish in His dealings with men. He is undefiled and absolutely free from all moral impurities. Christ is absolutely sinless and set apart from sinners at God’s right hand. He is exalted in the heavens to the right hand of God as our Intercessor that we may have access to our Father God. Last week in the comparison of the sacrifices of the Levitical priests versus the sacrifice of Jesus, I stated the Levitical priests sacrificed on an annual basis and the sacrifice of Christ was needed only once. Actually I should have been more specific. The annual Day of Atonement was a time for the Levitical priest to confess before God the sins of the nation.4 Although it included an annual sacrifice which foreshadowed and anticipated a greater and permanent cleansing, the Levitical priests sacrificed daily. Jesus offered Himself up as a sacrifice once and for all. There was no need to offer a sacrifice for His sins as He was, and is, without sins. In short the Mosaic Law set up high priests who held the weaknesses as men. God’s oath appointed His Son, Jesus Christ, as the perfect Priest forever. Through His sufferings on humanity’s behalf, the sacrificial giving of Himself once for all has rendered Him perfected for His high priestly role in God’s presence. This makes it possible for us to go to Him with assurance that the continuity and permanence of His ministry as our High Priest will meet our every need.


Written by Deborah C. Davis

No comments: