I love ’80s movies. The big hair, tight rolled jeans, rock ballad soundtracks, and most of all…gigantic cell phones. Can you see them? Massive handheld devices so large they required you to carry around a second bag just for them. All those phones were good for was making a simple phone call. There was no caller ID, no Internet, no text messaging, no email, no GPS. Just the ability to make and receive calls.
Imagine you are sitting down to eat lunch with a friend, and from across the table you hear what sounds to be a phone ringing. Then, your friend reaches under the table and emerges with a phone that is larger than his or her head. What would you do? Would you erupt in laughter? Would you get up and walk away in embarrassment? Would you immediately take your friend to the nearest cellular store and make him upgrade into the 21st century? Or would you just sit back in awe of an amazing artifact from the ’80s? What would you do?
No one in his right mind would continue to haul around a cell phone from the ’80s in light of modern technological advances. In light of the newest iPhone with all of the apps your heart can handle, you would gladly set aside your old phone for the new that has come.
In Hebrews 7:1-10, we find a passage that challenges us to look at the old way of doing things in light of the new way of Christ. More specifically, we will see how the greatness of Christ makes the old way irrelevant. Let’s begin at Hebrews 7:1.
The first words of our passage read, “For this Melchizedek.” Who is Melchizedek? Melchizedek is a biblical figure who first appeared in
First, he is “king of Salem.”
Second, he is “priest of the Most High God.” Did you catch that? Not only is Melchizedek a king, but he is also a priest. Not only does he fill both roles as a priest-king, but he is the priest of whom? The Most High God! Now please get this. Melchizedek lived during the time of Abraham. This was way before God established the Levitical priesthood. In fact, Melchizedek is the first person to be called a priest in the Bible. Yet, here we find one whom God has made a priest. A priest of the Most High God. A priest of the God of Abraham. His name as Most High God asserts His transcendence or in other words the way in which He is not subject to the limits of the material universe. He is God eternal and sovereign. Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God.
Hebrews 7:1, in looking back at Genesis 14, tells us that Melchizedek first met Abraham as Abraham was returning from the slaughter of the kings. This slaughter of the kings was when Abraham’s nephew Lot had been taken captive and Abraham along with the men of his household went and rescued Lot. Scripture does not tell us why Melchizedek choose this time to make himself known, but that is what he did.
As Melchizedek met the bloodstained and battle victorious Abraham, Melchizedek blessed him. This blessing is seen as a priestly act and is paired with the first part of Hebrews 7:2, “to whom Abraham also gave a tenth of all.” Do you get the picture? The priest-king Melchizedek meets father Abraham, and as the priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek blesses Abraham and receives a tithe from Abraham.
What else can we learn about Melchizedek? Hebrews 7:2 continues, “first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace.'” The author of Hebrews now breaks down Melchizedek’s name and title respectively to give us a better understanding of who he really is. Melchizedek’s name literally means, “king of righteousness,” and his title as king of Salem means “king of peace.” Why does Hebrews explain this for us? Because both are messianic allusions.
Putting verses 1-2 together we find a biblical figure named Melchizedek who as a priest-king of the Most High God blesses Abraham, receives tithes from Abraham, and in his name and title we find allusions to Jesus. Who is this man? Let’s continue with our text.
We are told in verse 3 what Melchizedek does not have. He is “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Let’s stop there for a minute. Why would Hebrews tell us this, and where is he getting this from? In the Book of Genesis, genealogies are very important. Also, in regard to the Levitical priesthood that would come later, family lineage was essential. In Genesis 14, Melchizedek appears on the scene, and there is no genealogy given for him. Further, their is no priestly lineage described. Some take what Hebrews 7:3 says about Melchizedek as an argument from silence. In other words, Hebrews is making a point based on what is not said in Genesis. Some even go as far as to say Hebrews 7:3 points to Melchizedek as a supernatural being.
This statement makes clear what the author of Hebrews is getting at: What is true of Melchizedek is also true of Christ. Melchizedek is what is commonly called a type of Christ. The ending of Hebrews 7:3 echoes Psalm 110:4, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” God gave us the historical figure Melchizedek to foreshadow Jesus. In other words, Melchizedek helps us to understand Jesus in a fuller sense.
The end of Hebrews 7:3 says that Melchizedek, like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. The Greek word we translate as remains is in the present tense and followed by the adjective continually. These words taken together emphasize the permanence of the Son’s Priesthood. Jesus’ priesthood, like that of Melchizedek, is unending. For Melchizedek, his priesthood is considered permanent because although he died, he was never succeeded in his priestly office. He died a priest of God. Jesus, on the other hand, is a priest forever by the power of His indestructible life. He, as priest, offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven where He remains a priest forever.
Why is this important for us today? First we must ask, what is the purpose or function of a priest? A priest had at least two main functions: First, he went before God on behalf of the people. Second, he delivered the instructions of God to the people. In other words, the priest was the people’s way to God. Both, the way they got to God and the way God communicated with them. Which brings us to our first point from the text: Jesus is the way to God both now and forever.
I know many people who have cell phones with prepaid minutes. That means if they want to talk on their cell phone they have to already have paid for minutes loaded onto their phone. They have to continually buy minutes in order to have the right to make a call; to talk to the person on the other end of the line. When those minutes are used up, that phone is useless to them until they go and buy more minutes. There is a continual need for more, and more, and more minutes.
Imagine with me that you are stuck in the cycle of buying minutes after minutes for your cell phone. You cannot talk on your phone unless you reload your minutes. Then, one day, someone comes along and hands you a brand new iPhone. They give it to you! It’s yours! In fact you turn it over and on the back is your name inscribed for all to see. But, not only do they give you a new phone, they say, “This phone is loaded with unlimited minutes. You can talk as much as you want. It will never need to be reloaded with minutes again. You cannot use up the capacity to talk on this phone. Forever this phone will have minutes.”
Not only is Jesus the way to God both now and forever, but you need Jesus to bring you to God both now and forever. You see, God has provided the way to Himself. You cannot make your own way. You cannot follow on the heels of your parents. Your good deeds will never measure up to God’s holiness. You need Jesus to forgive you of your sins and bring you back to God. Jesus is the only way God has provided for you to know Him. No other way will do.
Let us now move on to the rest of our passage. Hebrews 7:4 tells us to consider the greatness of Melchizedek, the one to whom the patriarch Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils of war. In order to understand the point of this verse we must first see Abraham for who he is. Abraham is the great patriarch. He is the father of the Jewish people. We sing songs about him, “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord…” Abraham is without question one of the greatest figures in the history of the Jewish people. It is precisely this Abraham, the great patriarch, who does not receive a tithe but rather gives a tithe to Melchizedek. The great Abraham recognized one who was greater than he.
Verse 5 continues the discussion of the tithe, “And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham.” Hebrews is telling us the Levitical priesthood had a command of God to receive tithes from their own people, the children of Abraham. This command can be found in
While the Levites had a command from the Law to receive a tithe from the people, Melchizedek, “whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.” Melchizedek is not a priest from Levi, but by an oath of God. And as the specially ordained priest of God, he both received tithes from Abraham and blessed Abraham, who is the forefather of Levi. Therefore we see that Melchizedek’s greatness not only extends over Abraham, but by extension over the Levitical priesthood, as well.
Abraham is described in verse 6 as the one whom “had the promises.” What are these promises? They are found in Hebrews 6:13-18, which quotes Genesis 22:17. In Genesis 22, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. By faith, Abraham obeyed God and ascended the mountain with Isaac, a flint for fire, a knife, and a bundle of sticks. Abraham built an altar there on Mount Moriah and laid Isaac upon it. As Abraham raised his hand to slay his son, God called out and stopped Abraham. In response to Abraham’s faithful obedience, God made a promise to Abraham which the author of Hebrews would quote in Hebrews 6, “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore: and your descendants shall possess the gates of their enemies.”
Melchizedek as a type of Christ is not from the tribe of Levi, but a priest by an oath of God. Likewise Jesus, from the earthly tribe of Judah, is our High Priest forever, not by having His ancestry traced to Levi, but by the will of God. He is an enduring priest who arises from outside the normal priestly line.
The final four verses of our passage make clear the overall argument of Hebrews 7:1-10. “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.”
The author of Hebrews assumes a common knowledge with the recipients of his epistle when he states in verse 7, “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.” Again, the blessing of Melchizedek displays his greatness not only over Abraham, but over Levi, as well.
Verse 8 contains a contrast between the mortal Levitical priests and the one who lives. This is meant to bring out the always changing nature of the Levitical office versus the enduring nature of the priesthood of Melchizedek and by way of typology, Jesus.
In verse 9, we find a play on words where the one who normally receives tithes, that is Levi, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek through Abraham. Hebrews makes this point by asserting that Levi was still in the loin of Abraham when Abraham met Melchizedek. What the patriarch Abraham did, Levi did also. This type of argumentation finds a parallel in
As we come to the end of the passage we see not only is Melchizedek, and by extension Christ, greater than Abraham, but he is also greater than the Levitical priesthood. Melchizedek points to the Son who does not contradict Levi, but fulfills the priesthood through His sacrifice for our sins and His endless life. Not only is Jesus’ priesthood unique in that it is endless, but, it is also unique in that in Jesus, God has come to man. What we could never do on our own, God has done permanently through the Son. God came to us. We must not only see Jesus as the only way to God, but also as the great way to God that invalidates all other ways. The second and final point from this passage is that Jesus’ priesthood is greater than any and every other way to God.
Years ago my family and I moved to Fort Worth so I could work on a Ph.D. Before beginning classes, I had only been in the city of Fort Worth maybe a total of five times. Needless to say, I did not know my way around town. In fact, I had to use the GPS on my phone just to get to the house I bought in Fort Worth. It was pretty rough at first.
One day I was to meet someone from our church for lunch at Chipotle in north Fort Worth. I remember leaving early to give myself plenty of time to get there. But, after quite a bit of driving, I concluded that once again I was lost in Fort Worth. I called the Chipolte and asked what their sign looked like and what other stores were around them. Then, I began to look for what I was told would be a silver, black, and white sign in a shopping center next to Sports Authority and Office Max.
After a brief time, I spotted it. A sign that read C-H-I-P-O-T-L-E. I was there at last! You know what happened? Once I made it to Chipotle, once I stepped inside and met my lunch appointment, guess what I no longer cared about? I no longer cared about the silver, black and white sign out front because I had arrived at the destination to which the sign pointed. The sign had fulfilled its purpose and had become irrelevant in light of receiving a large black bean, chicken, and guacamole stuffed burrito. Not only had the Chipolte sign become irrelevant, but so also the Sports Authority and the Office Max signs. They did not have a function for me anymore.
In view of the greatness of Jesus, you must turn away from all your striving to God and trust in Christ alone. Your good works cannot save you. If they could then the Bible says Jesus’ death was in vain. Christ has come! Your guru cannot save you. He has his own sins to deal with. Christ has come! Mohammad cannot save you. He is dead. Christ has come and is alive forevermore as your High Priest!
Jesus always has been the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for you. The entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament, including the priesthood, find their fulfillment in Jesus. All of time and eternity are bound up in the person of Jesus. He is the goal and sustainer of all life. He will sustain you if you will come to Him by faith.