Hebrews 7:8, Psalm 110:4, Luke 24:27, John 5:39, 46

Focus on Jesus

Hebrews 7:8 produces another line of evidence for the superiority of Jesus to the Old Testament priesthood. Old Testament priests could not serve until they turned 25 years of age and they were retired when they turned 50. They had a temporary ministry of intercession on behalf of the people they served. This is not true of Jesus who serves as our intercessor forever. The author of Hebrews makes Melchizedek a type of Jesus because of the absence of any restrictions to his intercessory ministry and because of the absence of any mention of his birth or death. The verse reads, “In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.” Great focus is put on the priests according to the Levitical laws. It limits their ministry and restricts the time span of their service. There is no mention of any restrictions or limits to Melchizedek’s ministry and thus he establishes the permanent nature of his office. Pfeiffer observes this and says, “The Levitical priesthood is composed of men who die, but the priesthood of Melchizedek contains no hint of death within it (7:8).”[1]

One might hesitate to understand the Old Testament omission of the birth or death of Melchizedek as being evidence of a perpetual ministry of intercession. The writer of Hebrews, however, knows his Psalms and realizes that it’s the only possible conclusion he can make because the divinely inspired Psalmist speaks of Melchizedek’s ministry as perpetual. Psalm 110:4 says, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” That this Psalm is God’s promise to the Messiah is irrefutable. It has been understood that way in every Jewish generation, although they rejected Jesus as that Messiah. It has been understood that way by all Christian generations who have celebrated Jesus as the recipient of this Messianic promise along with thousands of other promises found in the Old Testament if understood through Christian focus.

We cannot understand the Old Testament or the significance of the Old Testament for us today, if we do not see it Christologically. Jesus said that the whole of the Scripture (Old Testament) was about Himself. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus addressed the two “dull of hearing” disciples and “…interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). To the religious leaders whose ears were stopped from understanding He said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). They were only focused on the Law and establishing and maintaining their own righteousness.  They rejected the perfect righteousness that God offers, not a righteousness attained through the law but a righteousness imputed to sinners through faith in Jesus. But they argued that they believed and followed Moses’ teachings but they did not and could not. So Jesus said to them, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). The only “eternal life” that can be found in the scriptures is to be found in Jesus. Look for him. Focus on him.

[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 62.

Hebrews 7:5-7, John 8:58-49, Luke 24:27

Sermons should be about Jesus

It’s obvious that Abraham saw Melchizedek as superior to himself. The writer of Hebrews explains this in the next three verses. Hebrews 7:5-7 says, “And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” The author of Hebrews is making it clear that Jesus is greater than all the religious rituals, angels, prophets and people of the Old Testament, even the father of the entire nation, Abraham. Jesus made the same claims when addressing the religious leaders but they didn’t like that. In John 8:58-59, Jesus said to the religious leaders who challenged Him regarding His claims to surpass Abraham, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him.”

Hagner says, “Just as the one who receives the tithe is of higher position than the one who gives the tithe, so also the lesser person is blessed by the greater. The great Abraham is thus subordinate to Melchizedek.”[1] Since Jesus’ priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek rather than Aaron, it’s obvious that Jesus is greater than Abraham.  Abraham acknowledges this and as Lenski observes, “Abraham was right, for Abraham was not the king-priest, Melchizedek was; Abraham was not the royal-priestly type of Jesus, Melchizedek was. All the greatness of Abraham remains; by his very greatness he shows ‘how great’ (v. 4) Melchizedek is.”[2]

The only way to read the Old Testament is to read it through the eyes of the New Testament. This is what Jesus meant when He told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27 that the Old Testament was all about Himself. The text says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” I completely agree with Pink who writes, “It has been thought by some (and we deem it quite probable) that in this very Hebrews’ Epistle the Holy Spirit has recorded for our instruction and joy the very things which the risen Savior communicated to those two favored disciples. Whether this be the case or no, certain it is that the leading design of the Spirit in this Epistle is to give us light on many Old Testament mysteries by means of the fuller revelation which God has now made by and through Jesus Christ.”[3] The writer of Hebrews is showing us how the Old Testament is all about Jesus. Why do we insist on making it about us? We’re not the giant slayer David. Jesus is! When listening to a sermon, or reading a devotional ask yourself, “is this about me, or is about Jesus?” It should be about Jesus!

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 103.

[2] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James (Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, 1938), 218.

[3] Arthur Walkington Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews (Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1954), 357.

Hebrews 7:4, Luke 3:8, Luke 16:29-31

Jesus is greater than Abraham

In the fourth verse of Hebrews chapter seven, the writer again makes mention of the fact that Abraham, the father of all Israel, gave his tithe to Melchizedek.  Hebrews 7:4 says, “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!” This was already mentioned in verse 2 of chapter 7 but the writer repeats it and adds the expletive, “see how great!” Melchizedek was! Hagner observes, “Even the patriarch Abraham felt impelled to give him a tenth of the plunder. The magnitude of the event already mentioned in verse 1 is now stressed. It was one no less than the great Abraham who tithed to Melchizedek.”[1] Jesus is greater than Abraham.

The central theme of the book of Hebrews seems to be the full sufficiency of Christ in every way. The writer begins by reminding his readers that it is through Jesus that God speaks to us in our day and age. He doesn’t speak to us through prophets anymore. The most significant message from the Old Testament prophets, according to the author of Hebrews, is how they bring to light truths about the nature and work of Jesus as the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for all mankind. Jesus is better (a word used in Hebrews more often than the rest of the Bible) than the prophets, the law, Moses, the priests, the angels and all the religious rituals you can think of. We should be thinking more about Jesus than anything or anyone else. So now in Chapter 7, the author adds that Jesus is better than the father of the Hebrew nation himself: Abraham!

Abraham was the most important figure in Judaism. It could be argued that he was even more important than the lawgiver, Moses himself. After all, he did come centuries before Moses and Moses is simply a descendant of Abraham. John the Baptist made it clear that the genealogy from Abraham was not as significant as what Jesus was bringing into the world. He said that clearly in Luke 3:8. It reads, “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”  Jesus put some interesting words in Abraham’s mouth in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Jesus claimed that the writings of Moses and the prophets was truly all about himself. Moses attested to that and in Luke 16:29-31, Abraham says so as well. According to Jesus, “ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” Abraham, as he acknowledged the greatness of Melchizedek, was acknowledging that the whole Bible is about Jesus.

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 102.

Hebrews 7:3, Zechariah 6:13

Look for Jesus!

The writer of Hebrews appears to be taking real liberty in his application of the description of Melchizedek and how it relates to the Messiah, Jesus. But our writer does not force the text to say something that it doesn’t. Instead,  he reads the text as it was intended by the divine author and it’s all Christ centered. Brown explains this well. He writes, “Old Testament Scripture is essentially Christ-centered. As we have seen earlier, it eagerly anticipates his coming; it describes his earthly ministry, vividly relates the precise circumstances and eternal benefits of his death for mankind, and looks beyond itself to the eventual fulfillment of its finest hopes. Its historical development, spiritual value, and moral lessons are all fully appreciated by our author, but he comes to its arresting narratives as a man equipped by the Spirit of God to discern a further message. It is a book about Christ. The Son of God dominates the word of God in both Testaments. The marks of Christ are clearly impressed on all its pages for those who have the eyes to see them.”[1]

Hebrews 7:3 says, “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Being without father and mother and genealogy seems to be contradictory because of the great lengths the gospels of Matthew and Luke go to ensure we see that Jesus is the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, and the seed of David, making Him the predicted Messiah. But the reason for seeing Jesus in Melchizedek did not concern itself with the lineage. In the Aaronic priesthood, the defining characteristic was the lineage from Aaron. Jesus’ priesthood, His role in making atonement for our sins, is not something that starts from being born into the line of Aaron and ending at age 50 according Numbers 8:24-26. But like Melchizedek, there are no temporal boundaries to Jesus’ ministry on our behalf. Again we see that the subject of the Bible, including the Old Testament, is the full sufficiency of Christ. He has satisfied the law on our behalf. Through faith in Him we find true rest.

Jesus is the eternal King of Peace as Melchizedek was King of Salem. Jesus is the eternal Priest as Melchizedek was King of Righteousness, atoning for our sins and depositing His own perfect righteousness into our accounts. The whole Bible is about this eternal king and priest just as the Old Testament said. In Zechariah 6:13, we read what the Messiah would be when He comes. Whereas, it was forbidden by law for a Levitical Priest to be king, it is not the case with the Messiah. This makes Melchizedek a forerunner of Jesus because he was both.  The verse says, “It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” When you read the Bible always look for Jesus.

[1] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 127.

Hebrews 7:1-2, Isaiah 9:6-7, Romans 5:1

Jesus: King of Peace!

At the end of Chapter 6, the author of Hebrews shifts gears from warning his readers about missing out on the rest available to believers through faith, to presenting to us Jesus, the King of Peace, as seen in the person of Melchizedek. To our writer this is spiritual meat. Milk is essential in the nourishment of babies, but there comes a time in everyone’s life where milk just isn’t going to satisfy. We need meat. Much of the meat of spiritual food according to the book of Hebrews are the morsels from the Old Testament that illuminate the person and work of Jesus in ways that strengthen and nourish our faith in Him. The writer of Hebrews considers the Biblical record concerning Melchizedek and identifies at least six ways in which he previews for us the Messiah.

It might seem the writer is taking liberties in making these connections between Melchizedek and Jesus, but he substantiates each connection with other Old Testament passages to show that the story of Melchizedek is really about Jesus. In Hebrews 7:1-2, he asserts that Melchizedek is both priest and king. He says, “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.” Fruchtenbaum catches this significance and notes the first of the six ways. He says, “Not only was he the King of Salem, but he was also the priest of God Most High; therefore, he was both king and priest. His name and title characterized two things about his reign: he ruled in righteousness, which is what his name means; and he ruled in peace, which is what Salem means.” But how does our author leap from Melchizedek to Jesus? Fruchtenbaum concludes, “These two characteristics are also mentioned of the future reign of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6–7. The first similarity, then, is that Melchizedek was both king and priest as is Jesus the Messiah.”[1]

The Messiah was the king of righteousness and the king of peace. As king of righteousness, He atones for our sins as any good priest, and as king of peace His sacrifice on our behalf gives us rest from all our labors. Psalm 85 has a beautiful allusion to these two characteristics as they will manifest themselves in the Messiah. The Psalmist writes, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Sinful man is totally incapable of making himself righteous through his own efforts; by either good deeds or abstaining from sin. As he flounders in the various religions of the world which teach various ways of how to measure up to God’s standards, there is nothing but failure and regret and guilt and shame. But the King of Righteousness deposits in our account His perfect righteousness. He shares with us His own righteousness which, like Abraham’s, is appropriated by faith.  God’s rest, or peace with God, can never be earned or deserved. It can only be received as a free gift from God by faith. In Romans 5:1, Paul expresses it this way, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

[1] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 96.

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