This passage is all about drawing near to God. In a nutshell that is what chapter 7 is about – how sinful people can draw near to God, be with God, stand in God’s presence, be accepted by God, and be approved by God. All that is being taught in chapter 7.
The original hearers of this letter – the Hebrews – were raised in a system that got people as close to God as possible but it was an incomplete system. The system of human priests, all descending from the Jewish tribe of Levi, these Levite priests had the job of acting as intermediaries of the people. The priest’s job was to help people draw near to God as best they could. But they were merely sinful, human go-betweens. They were imperfect people representing other imperfect people, doing their best to help them draw near to God. There is a new work God has done that totally replaces that old covenant, Jewish religious way of these priests helping people draw near to God. A better way. A better covenant than the old covenant. A better Priest.
Chapter 7 opens with the writer talking about a different kind of priest who comes from a different order of priesthood altogether. He does not come from the tribe of Levi, as did all the human priests, one descending from another, working for some years and then either retiring at age 50 or dying before that time. They served temporarily, one following another, in a long line of succession of priests and high priests.
There is this other priest, an unusual priest who appears long before these Levitical priests, and this priest’s name is Melchizedek. He comes from a different order or system altogether. A better priesthood. The interesting thing about Melchizedek is that the Bible nowhere mentions his genealogy, when he was born and when he died. It is like he has no beginning and no ending. It is like he is eternal. It is not that the writer believes Melchizedek to be eternal, but he uses Melchizedek as a picture of someone else, as a foreshadowing, or a forecasting, or a preview, pointing to someone else who is even better. And that person who is better is Jesus Christ, an eternal Priest who really has no beginning and no ending. And Jesus is the better, greater high priest who succeeds at helping people draw near to God.
This chapter is about drawing near to God and why people need this better high priest to draw near. The Mosaic law – the law of Moses – with all its teachings about human priests, was unable to make men perfect and complete because it was administered by sinful, mortal priests. But God has made a better way, a perfect way, and a permanent way for men to be reconciled to God.
As we move forward through these verses, I want to encourage you to see two themes throughout the text. Two themes:
Those two themes run like two threads through these verses. We see the first one immediately there in verse 11, “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron?” The old covenant and the law could not provide access to God. It could not bring anyone near God. It was imperfect.
The law programmed and
Prepared people for sacrifice.
The law could cover sin,
The could not atone for sins.
This passage is all about drawing near to God . . . no one can because of sin. God is holy. We may have the wrong idea of God the Father if we think of Him as an angry God who does not love us. The idea of our drawing near to God is God’s idea! He is the one who makes it possible by coming to us.
Verse 12 says, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.” The law required a succession of human priests all descending from Levi. But Jesus comes from a different tribe. So, if the priesthood is changed, then the law concerning the Levitical system has changed – It is no longer in effect. The Levites, then, are no longer necessary.
Verse 13 declares, “For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.” Jesus is from another tribe, not the tribe of Levi, but the tribe of Judah. A different tribe from which no person from Judah ever officiated or served at the altar, or as a priest.
Verse 14 states, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” Explain. Different place. Picture over here on a linear level, the human priestly system of the Levites. You have to be from the tribe of Levi to serve as a priest. But Jesus comes from a different place – The tribe of Judah. The reason He qualifies as High Priest because he is also the Messiah who comes from this family line of David. He is the long-awaited, much anticipated Davidic Messiah. He is Lord, King, and Priest.
Verses 15-16 say, “And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.” Here the writer speaks of someone who comes in the likeness of Melchizedek. Here comes another priest. Not according to the “fleshly commandment,” a human legal system required of Levitical priests – mother a Levite, dad a priest before you, serve till 50 or die first – but “according to the power of an endless (or indestructible) life.” Speaking of the permanence of His priestly function.
Verses 17 to 19 add, “He testifies: ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’(A quote from Psalm 119:4).For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment(the law about human priests) because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing [al]perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
The Mosaic law was never given
As a means to make men perfect,
To put them in a position
To be right before God.
The law was not able to save.
In that sense it is weak and unprofitable.
The writer says the law made nothing perfect. On the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope – Jesus Christ – through which we draw near to God. Jesus Christ’s work on the cross brings sinners to God. His work as our great high priest allows us access to God, approval from God, fitness to stand before God, and fellowship with God.
Verses 20-22 state, “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 Melchizedek.’” The writer’s quote of Psalm 110:4 underscores the unchangeable promise that the Lord makes. What a glorious truth and comfort to know that God will not go back on His promise!
Verse 22 says, “By so much more Jesus has become a suretyof a better covenant.” Jesus guarantees the success of a better covenant, the new covenant, namely the Gospel of our salvation – That we can be accepted by God and draw near to God because of Jesus Christ.
Verse 23 states, “Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing.” There were many, thousands of Levitical priests, and no fewer than 80 high priests, according to some tabulations, who served in the Temple. They served from the time of Aaron until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70. They were prevented by death from continuing. They died. Even though they strived to be the most holy of men. Another qualification required for continued service was that the priest be unblemished. According to the literature of the time there were some 142 blemishes could disqualify a man from serving in the Levitical priesthood. This reminds us of what was bad about their weak state – they were sinners and they died!
Verse 24 declares, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood.” The word “unchangeable” in verse 24 also translated “permanent, non-transferable.” Jesus is perfect and the only one who has this record. Perfection and Permanence.
Verse 25, “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. The phrase “to the uttermost” refers to both extent and time. Through the redemptive work of our Great High Priest we are always completely and permanently saved. He always lives to make intercession, acting as a go-between, and praying for those who come to God through Him.
Verse 26 goes on to say, “For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless (or innocent), undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens.” All these words describe the sinlessness of Jesus Christ.
Verse 27 states, “Who does not need 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.” When the Levitical High Priest entered into that model of the heavenly glories, the holy of holies in the Jewish temple, that sacred place behind the curtain, he was merely a human being and thus a sinner. Before he went in that high priest had to offer up sacrifices for his own sins and then for the people. But not Jesus! He had no sin. Furthermore, He offered up Himself as the perfect spotless sacrifice. Not an animal sacrifice, but the sacrifice of Himself for us. Just once. One sacrifice for all who believe. One time for all time. Once for all. No need to repeat. Done deal.
Verse 28 declares, “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.” This is a summary statement of all the writer has been saying. The old covenant law appointed human, sinful, and mortal men as high priests, “men who have weakness,” but the word of the oath, God’s promise, which came in Psalm 110:4, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
Let’s consider three practical takeaways for us based on the themes of perfection and permanence we have learned about in these verses. Because He is perfect, we are perfect in Him . . .
1. We Have Perfection In Him.
Because you are imperfect, you need someone who can help you draw near to God! You need someone who can bring you before the One True and Living God, Who is all holy, all wise, and all perfect. You need a strong Advocate who can represent you. Some folks would be their own lawyer. That would be disastrous! It is common knowledge that you should never go before the judge alone! You need an advocate!! Your advocate will make or break you. What your advocate does applies to you.
To be in union with Christ is to be IN Him! The payment has been made. Jesus paid it all. And what He does, applies to us.
2. We Have Permanence In Him.
The Levitical system could never atone for sin. It was just a temporary forgiveness. It does not clear or cleanse our conscience (chapter 10). It is always weighing us down. It is just a temporary means of getting by. Like paying the minimum balance due on our monthly credit card bill. We enjoy benefits of the purchase, but we still owe on it and the debt is always weighing us down. But the day will come when the balance is due. Jesus pays it all. We enjoy all the benefits and there is no longer a debt.
He always lives! And He always lives to make intercession for us (verse 25). He is always praying for us, always standing there as our great High Priest. It is not like Jesus is begging the Father for mercy. It is already granted once for all. It is just a continual, “He’s with Me.” He holds His children with one hand, and with the other hand he holds on to His Father and says, “Father, here I am, and the children you have given to me.” (cf Hebrews 2:13).
3. We Have Pleasure In Him.
The high priest was beautiful in his wardrobe and in his work. Jesus is the Great High priest. In Him we are beautiful! When we know Him we have found life, meaning, confidence, worth, purpose, and satisfaction in Him, not in our job, our family, our boyfriend, our kids, our girlfriend, or our money. 17th-century Anglican Church leaders put John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, in prison for preaching the Gospel. They said that when the fear of punishment was removed from preaching, people would go wild and do whatever they wanted. Bunyan said to the contrary . . .
“If people really see that Christ has removed
The fear of punishment from them by
Taking it himself, they won’t do whatever
They want, they’ll do whatever He wants.”
O, to know that Jesus has removed the fear of punishment! Remember that when Satan tries to discourage you.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him—and pardon you.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”