Five Minute Devotions: Hebrews 7
Hebrews 7 highlights the enigmatic Melchizedek. The author reminds his readers of Melchizedek’s part in Abraham’s life (Hebrews 7:1-2), then adds details about his existence that make him seem more than mortal (Hebrews 7:3-4). The remainder of the chapter contrasts the natural priesthood of Aaron and the supernatural priesthood of Melchizedek. The author posits that Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater, as it precedes Aaron—and even Abraham paid tithes to him (Hebrews 7:5-10). Therefore, there is precedent for a priesthood greater than Aaron’s and that is the priestly line Jesus is a part of (Hebrews 7:11-19). Jesus’ priesthood is not of the Old Covenant, but of the New, and his sacrifice is not of animals, but himself (Hebrews 7:20-28).
Not all scholars or commentators agree on this point, but many people believe that Melchizedek was actually a pre-incarnate form of Jesus. Abraham had met such a person before, in Genesis 17 and 18. Elsewhere in Scripture, the phrase “Angel of the LORD” appears to have been used of a divine messenger from the Father.
Hebrews 7:3 gives us the clearest indication of who Melchizedek is:
Without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. – Hebrews 7:3
The author of Hebrews seems to be pointing the priesthood of Jesus back to…well…Jesus. No earthly priest remains one forever. No human can claim to have neither a beginning nor an end. Jesus, as the great High Priest, has always been the high priest. One who transcends the line of Aaron.
More than Moses
The reason for the author’s emphasis on the priesthood of Melchizedek is that he predates Moses and even Israel himself. Salvation, then, transcends the Mosaic covenant and the Israelite people. It belongs to more than just the sons of Jacob. The priesthood can go to more than just the sons of Aaron.
The New Covenant, which is based on the Old Covenant, also has its foundations in something much more ancient than that. The author of Hebrews has been saying all along that the New Covenant is greater than the Old. It is a logical and theological case for Jewish believers to accept Jesus as Messiah. Now, he claims that the New Covenant has a better priesthood.
The Better Priesthood
This better priesthood of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the priesthood of Aaron and serves as the basis for his arguments in Hebrews 8, Hebrews 9, and Hebrews 10. While the Old Covenant priests die and are replaced, Christ remains a priest forever. And that leads to this climactic verse:
Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them. – Hebrews 7:25
The salvation that came by the priests was only a temporary thing. Their sacrifices were not sufficient forever. Their intercession did not last for long. And Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices for himself. While human, he is not part of the human condition. He is a better priest, an eternal priest, one to whom the priests of Aaron and all the sacrifices were waiting for.
Jesus, we ask that you intercede for us before the Father’s throne and lift up your sacrifice as evidence that we belong at this throne of grace. We praise your name for all that you have done and for all that you will do.
What other times in the Old Testament does God appear in a theophany, like he might have done in Melchizedek?
Why is the author of Hebrews so fixated on this better priesthood?
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