*Introduction: *The book of Hebrews can be divided into 3 major sections: Chapters 1-6, Chapters 7-10, and chapters 11-13.
Today we are going to begin looking at the second major section of the letter, which addresses the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood.
As stated above, this second section covers chapters 7 through 10, and it can be divided further as follows.
* The Priesthood of Jesus is superior because:
* It is from a better order (Melchizedek, not Aaron) Ch.7
* It represents a better covenant (New, not old) Ch.8
* It has a better sanctuary (In Heaven, not on earth) Ch.9
* It has a better sacrifice (God’s Son, not animals) Ch.10
These four points are really intertwined and the arguments formed in one of these can, and does, spill over into those made in the next, but today we just want to look at just the first of these: The priesthood of Jesus is superior because it is from a better order - that of Melchizedek, not Aaron.
Remember, the book of Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish believers, and being Jewish they are very connected to the Levitical Priesthood that was established in the Old Testament in a way that we today cannot understand.
The fact that the author is now saying the priesthood that they have known for centuries is no longer adequate, and that it has actually been replaced by a superior order, was no small thing.
Warren Wiersbe says, “The Jewish nation was accustomed to the priesthood of the tribe of Levi.
This tribe was chosen by God to serve in the tabernacle (Ex.
Aaron was the first high priest, appointed by God.
In spite of their many failures, the priests had served God for centuries; but now the writer has affirmed that their priesthood has ended!”
Why has their priesthood ended?
Because there is a better priesthood.
The rest of Hebrews chapter 7 shows us a comparison between the old (Levitical) and the new (Melchizezekian) priesthoods, and then shows us why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior, and how Jesus is the High Priest of that order.
We will break this chapter into 3 sections:
The Historical argument of Melchizedek (verses 1-10)
2. The Doctrinal argument of Jesus and Aaron (verses 11-25)
3. The Practical argument of Jesus and Believers (verses 26-28)
With that as an introduction let’s open to Hebrews chapter 7 and begin our study.
The Historical Argument (Verses 1-10)*
If we look back to the end of chapter 6 we see that the writer of Hebrews has just told us that Jesus has entered the Sanctuary in Heaven on our behalf and has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20).
As we now move into chapter 7 the writer begins to tell us who this Melchizedek is.
Let’s begin by reading verses 1-3 of Hebrews 7.
For this Melchizedek— King of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham and blessed him as he returned from defeating the kings, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything; first, his name means “king of righteousness,” then also, “king of Salem,” meaning “king of peace”; without father, mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God —remains a priest forever.
So what did we learn in these three verses?
1. Melchizedek was the King of Salem
2. Melchizedek was a Priest of the Most High God
He met Abraham as he returned from defeating the kings
4. He received a tithe from Abraham
5. His name means King of Righteousness
6. His name means King of Salem or King of Peace
He has no recorded genealogy
He resembles the Son of God
He remains a priest forever
This is everything that we know about Melchizedek; he is the mystery man of the Bible.
His name is only mentioned 10 times in the entire Bible, twice in the Old Testament and eight times in Hebrews (five of which occur right here in chapter 7).
We can look at the other places that his name is mentioned to try to get a better understanding of who this man was, but we will not learn a whole lot more by doing so.
God has chosen to keep this a mystery.
Just so you can see what I mean, let’s turn back to Genesis 14 and read the account of Abraham meeting Melchizedek.
After Abram returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest to God Most High.
He blessed him and said: Abram is blessed by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and give praise to God Most High who has handed over your enemies to you.
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Now let’s look at Psalm 110; the only other place we find Melchizedek out side of Hebrews.
The Lord has sworn an oath and will not take it back: “Forever, You are a priest like Melchizedek.”
As you can see, there is not a lot of information given about this man, but the writer of Hebrews uses him as an illustration to show us the uniqueness of the priesthood of Jesus, and the superiority of His priesthood over that of the Levitical system.
I have given you a list of 9 things that we learned about Melchizedek in verses 1-3 and now I want to look closer at a few of these to establish why the writer of Hebrews is using him as the picture of Jesus’ priesthood, and how this illustrates its superiority.
The first thing we see in these verses is that Melchizedek was both a priest and a king.
This is significant because these offices are separate in the Jewish economy, (Priests were from the tribe of Levi and the Kings from the tribe of Judah) and it is actually forbidden for a king to do the work of a priest under the Old Testament law.
But you and your sons will carry out your priestly responsibilities for everything concerning the altar and for what is inside the veil, and you will do that work.
I am giving you the work of the priesthood as a gift, but an unauthorized person who comes near the sanctuary will be put to death.”
Let’s look at two examples of what happened in the Old Testament when a king tried to exercise the office of a priest:
First let’s look at King Saul who lost his kingdom because he acted in the roll of a priest, and then we will look at King Uzziah who was struck with leprosy when he tried to act as a priest.
In 1 Samuel 13 we see Saul and his army in a war with the Philistines.
Things are not going well for the Israelites and they are starting to desert Saul who has been waiting for Samuel to arrive, but Samuel is late so Saul decides that he will offer up the sacrifices to God himself instead of waiting for Samuel.
We pick up the story in verse 8:
He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him.
So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.”
Then he offered the burnt offering.
Just as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived.
So Saul went out to greet him, and Samuel asked, “What have you done?” Saul answered, “When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn’t come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, I thought: The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven’t sought the Lord’s favor.
So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.”
Samuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish.
You have not kept the command which the Lord your God gave you.
It was at this time that the Lord would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure.
The Lord has found a man loyal to Him, and the Lord has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not done what the Lord commanded.”
(*1 Samuel 13:8-14*)
The next example is King Uzziah; we find this one in 2 Chronicles 26.
But when he became strong, he grew arrogant and it led to his own destruction.
He acted unfaithfully against the Lord his God by going into the Lord’s sanctuary to burn incense on the incense altar.
Azariah the priest, along with 80 brave priests of the Lord, went in after him.
They took their stand against King Uzziah and said, “Uzziah, you have no right to offer incense to the Lord —only the consecrated priests, the descendants of Aaron, have the right to offer incense.
Leave the sanctuary, for you have acted unfaithfully!
You will not receive honor from the Lord God.” Uzziah, with a censer in his hand to offer incense, was enraged.
But when he became enraged with the priests, in the presence of the priests in the Lord’s temple beside the altar of incense, a skin disease broke out on his forehead.
Then Azariah the chief priest and all the priests turned to him and saw that he was diseased on his forehead.
They rushed him out of there.
He himself also hurried to get out because the Lord had afflicted him.
So King Uzziah was diseased to the time of his death.
He lived in quarantine with a serious skin disease and was excluded from access to the Lord’s temple, while his son Jotham was over the king’s household governing the people of the land.
(*2 Chronicles 26:16-21*)
In both of these instances we see that kings were not allowed to occupy the office of a priest, yet here in Hebrews we see that Melchizedek was both a king and a priest.
We also that Jesus is both a king and a priest because He is from the order of Melchizedek.
Had He been from the order of Aaron, not the order of Melchizedek, Jesus could not be both our priest and our king, so in this way His priesthood is superior to that of Aaron and the Levites.
Another thing we see in the first three verses of Hebrews 7 is that Melchizedek had no genealogy.
This does not mean that he was immortal (although that argument has been brought up) “Melchizedek may have been an angelic being who reigned for a time at Salem.
If so, the statement that he was “without beginning of days” would not mean that he was eternal, but simply that he had a pretemporal origin.
Nor would this concept of Melchizedek as an angel elevate him to the same level as God’s Son, since the author painstakingly asserted the Son’s superiority to the angels (1:5-14).
There is indeed evidence that, at Qumran, Melchizedek was regarded as an angelic personage.
If this is the case in Hebrews, then the Son of God is the /High /Priest in an order in which Melchizedek is simply a priest.”