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.

Hebrews 6:20

Jesus is our forerunner!

The writer of Hebrews uses the image of an anchor to illustrate the secure position of believers in Jesus. Our anchor is solidly seated with God in the most holy of all holy places. We can relax now knowing that the sacrifice made for our sin has been fully accepted by God and we are hooked securely to our anchor. Now in Hebrews 6:20, the writer changes the metaphor from an anchor to the idea of a “forerunner.” Jesus is not only in the presence of God on our behalf, but He has saved a place for us as promised in John 14:3. Jesus says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” The writer of Hebrews affirms this truth to us by calling Jesus our “forerunner.”

Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong was our “forerunner.” He was the first man to take a step on the surface of the moon. His quote is famous. He said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He understood that he was the one taking the step but he was taking it for all mankind. Spurgeon said that when Jesus entered into the holiest of all places in heaven He said, “I take possession of all these in the name of my redeemed. I am their representative and claim the heavenly places in their name.” Regarding Jesus as our forerunner, Brown observes, “This term (prodromos) was used in Greek literature to describe the function of a small party of soldiers sent fully to explore the way ahead prior to the advance of an army. Christ is our prodromos. He has gone ahead of us.  He prepares our way to glory (2:10). With such a leader who has opened the way through His own sacrificial death (10:20), there is no room for anxiety regarding His future purposes or doubt concerning His former promises.”[1]

Hebrews 6:20 ends the chapter by picking up on the earlier discussion about Melchizedek. It reads, “…where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek is meat that will help a Christian mature. The writer considers the only two places that this priest shows up in the Scriptures and explains How even this obscure character is a reference to Jesus. According to Fruchtenbaum, Melchizedek, “…suddenly appears on the scene and quickly disappears from the scene. There is no record of his origin, birth, life, death, or anything else.”[2] This is all about Jesus according to the writer of Hebrews. Then Melchizedek is mentioned in Psalm 110:4, where Jesus is clearly identified as the priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Chapter 7 picks up on these lessons and applies them to Jesus to assure us of our heavenly destiny. Truly, there is rest for our souls in Jesus.

[1] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 122.

[2] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 95.

Hebrews 6:19

Jesus is our Anchor

Jesus is the guarantee of God’s love for us. Even while we are sinners, God demonstrated His love for us on the cross of Calvary. The cities of refuge were spread out across Israel so that any sinner could make it to a city of refuge in a day or less. This was so designed so that every citizen would have within reach a place where they could find protection and safety.  At the time of the writing of the letter to the Hebrews, the cities of refuge no longer existed in Israel.  But their illustrative value to Bible readers cannot be missed. Jesus took the place of the cities of refuge. Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses on our behalf. Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system. No more blood sacrifices need be made. The Priesthood of Aaron has been superseded by the Priesthood of Jesus in the order of Melchizedek. You see, everything in the Old Testament is about Jesus! The Bible is still relevant today because it all offers mature insights into the person and work of Jesus which nourishes our faith.

In Hebrews 6:19, the writer talks about the most sacred of places in the Old Testament as a picture of where Jesus went on our behalf. He’s talking about the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant rested upon which the mercy seat lay. He writes, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…” As any good seaman knows, anchors don’t always hold. It depends upon what it takes hold of and on the stability of that object. Jesus is our anchor! Jesus is the subject of the whole Bible. He is the physical embodiment of God’s promises from Genesis to Revelation. He is the Lamb of God that makes atonement for sin. He is the true king, priest and prophet. He is the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham and the seed of David. He is the full and complete demonstration of God’s love for us all. Priscilla J. Owens wrote the beautiful little hymn that captures this verse’s truth. One of the stanzas goes like this,

“We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”

Once the anchor has dropped, we can no longer physically see it. But we know it’s there and when it finds a stable hold we can rest knowing that the ship is not going anywhere. Lenski writes, “As the anchor is out of sight, so the hope, promised and sworn to us, is out of sight. It is in the heavenly Sanctuary. It is the promised salvation through the all-atoning blood of Jesus.”[1] In the early church three images arose as acceptable symbols of the Christian faith. Clement of Alexandria around 200 AD acknowledges these three symbols as the Dove, the Fish and the Anchor. Brown observes, “Clement of Alexandria, an outstanding teacher in the early church, mentions the anchor as an appropriate device for a Christian’s ring: And let our seals be either a dove or a fish … or a ship’s anchor. It is sometimes found on early Christian epitaphs as a symbol of secure hope.”[2]

[1] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James (Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern, 1938), 205.

[2] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 121–122.

Hebrews 6:18

Jesus is a sure thing!

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said that there are two unchangeable things. The first is God’s promise of deliverance from our sin through the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, and the seed of David. Is there anything God can’t do? Yes, He cannot lie. He can never fail to keep a promise. The second thing is the clear and undeniable demonstration of His love for us as a guarantee that He will keep His promises as seen in the blood sacrifice of His son on Calvary. These two things, the promise and the blood oath, guarantee our eternal destiny. And God cannot lie. This is what the writer says in Hebrews 6:18. It reads, “So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” Steadman says, “So by these two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, the readers of this letter, and we who share it with them, are greatly encouraged to take hold of the hope offered. Since God cannot lie to us, and actually confirmed His promise with an oath, let us, as the writer says, be greatly encouraged”.[1]

In the history of Israel, God instructed Moses and then Joshua to set up cities of refuge. These are cities where someone could flee from the “avenger of blood” and find protection. Fruchtenbaum says “The word refuge is a reminder of the concept of the cities of refuge. The Old Testament concept of refuge is the background for this verse. Just as a man flees to a city of refuge, the believers have fled to the Messiah for refuge because that is where the hope [is] set before us, the Messianic Hope.”[2] Kent summarizes this issue for us. He writes, “So Christian believers, having trusted in the promise made first to Abraham regarding his seed—a promise which culminated in Christ, the unique Seed—have fled from the prospect of coming judgment to grasp as their own the refuge provided in the Christian hope.”[3]

The writer of Hebrews uses every allusion to the Old Testament to point to Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Adam & Eve, Abraham, and David. Just as surely as God kept His promises to His people in the Old Testament, we too can be sure He will keep His promises to us and even more so, because Jesus, the promised one, was also the blood oath that guarantees those promises. There is so much uncertainty and insecurity in the world in which we live that God wants us to know that there is something we can hold on to which will never change. His love for us demonstrated on the cross of Calvary is something that will never change. That’s why Jeremiah refers to it as “everlasting love.” Just as the cities of refuge gave sinners a place to run for protection from the blood avenger, so too does Jesus give sinners a place to run from the one who has the power of sin and death. “Come to me,” Jesus says, “I’ll give you rest for your souls.” Jesus is the only sure thing!

[1] Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 6:16.

[2] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Messianic Jewish Epistles: Hebrews, James, First Peter, Second Peter, Jude, 1st ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2005), 94.

[3] Homer A. Kent Jr., The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1983), 121–122.

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