Hebrews 8:1-6: A Better Ministry

Read: Hebrews 8:1-6

The author of Hebrews makes a generalized summary statement in Hebrews 8:1 for what he had been arguing for in the previous chapter: Jesus is a high priest that sits at the right hand of God, the great Priest-King of the Christian faith. The author goes on to argue that the things used in worship on earth, such as the tabernacle and the offerings made by priests, were “copies” and “shadows” of things that are in heaven, and that the “true” things in heaven. He quotes from Exodus 25:40, where the Lord instructs Moses to make the tabernacle after the “pattern” which he had received from God. The author is arguing that Moses received a pattern of things in heaven from which the things on earth were modeled after. For this reason, the author argues that Jesus is more excellent than that of the priests under the Law of Moses because Jesus ministers in the heavenly places from which the earthly places were copied.

Jesus ministers in heaven as High Priest and as King, and for this reason there is no need for high priest or temple in the Christian faith. When Christians begin to minister then, the role of the Christian minister is not to be the high priest for someone else. Hebrews already established in Hebrews 4:16 and later talks about in Hebrews 10:19 that the believer can enter with confidence because of Jesus. Rather, the Christian ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 talks about how God gave this ministry; calling is “ambassadors” of Christ. God wants Christians to point people not to themselves or a sacrificial system, rather point them to Jesus who is a very capable of being High Priest for all those who believe.

Lord, make my ministry to point others to your ministry!

Hebrews 7:11-28: Perfection Through Jesus

Read: Hebrews 7:11-28

The author of Hebrews continues in the same vein in the later part of chapter 7 as in the first. The author established that Jesus is the highest high priest. He changes subjects in verse 11 though and starts talking about how a new priesthood brings about a change in the Law. He reasons that the old priesthood and its counterpart, the Law, were unable to make men perfect and unable to give life which is what the author calls a “weakness” in the old Law and priesthood. By necessity then a new priesthood and better Law was necessary to accomplish this task. Jesus’ priesthood is an everlasting and powerful priesthood that is able to grant “indestructible life”. The author here quotes from the second half Psalm 110:4, emphasizing the “forever” and then again from the first half of the verse talking about how the Lord swore an oath. He established in Hebrews 6:13-18 that the promises of God are unchangeable, and is applying this here. He reasons that God swore that Jesus would be priest forever, and because of this Jesus will indeed be priest forever.

The author of Hebrews reasons that because Jesus is priest forever, that he can save forever those who draw near to God. Prior to Jesus’ coming, the priest had to offer sacrifices for even their own sin and intercede on the behalf of those that they represented. With Jesus’ coming, this was no longer necessary, and even more so, Jesus himself is a better priest all around because he does not have sin, will be priest forever, and does indeed have the power to impart eternal life to those who draw near. While the old law was unable to make one perfect, the new way of things does. Thanks be to God for it!

Lord, through Jesus I can be saved forever indeed! Thank you!

Hebrews 6:19-7:9: The Highest High Priest

Read: Hebrews 6:19-20, Hebrews 7:1-9: The Highest High Priest

The author of Hebrews has already shown that Jesus is God, that Jesus is superior to angels, and superior to Moses — as if that wasn’t enough already. Here in Chapter 7, the author of Hebrews argues for Jesus superiority over Abraham and the Levitical line of priests. He does this by showing a pecking order in terms of who was giving and who was receiving tithes. The author of Hebrews recalls again Melchizedek from Genesis 14:18-19. He recalls that Melchizedek name means “King of Righteousness” and that he was “King of Salem” – that is the “King of Peace”. He also recalls that Melchizedek was a priest of “El Elyon”, which means the “God Most High”, a title given to Abraham’s God in Genesis 14:22. Melchizedek was a priest-king who, as the author of Hebrews argues, was a priest with no lineage that entitled him or even a record of his birth and death. He was otherwise an obscure, foreign king, yet he was priest, and Abraham paid tribute to him, and he blessed Abraham. The blessing is significant, because generally speaking it is the greater who blesses the lesser. In this case, Melchizedek is blessing Abraham. The author Hebrews then argues that the Levites were descendants of Abraham making them a lesser to Abraham. In short, Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, and Abraham is greater than the Levitical priests. Likewise, author of Hebrews says that Melchizedek is like the Son of God. If this is so then Jesus is greater than even Melchizedek because Jesus is the Son of God. A priest of Jesus’ standing can be no higher.

Because Jesus is the High Priest, he can enter the “behind the veil”. In the temple and tabernacle, there was a place in the center that was called the “Holy of Holies”. Only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, and he did so only once a year to make an offering for his own sin and the sins of Israel. Jesus, however, can enter in to the Holy of Holies on his own accord because he is without spot or blemish. Hebrews 6:19 calls this a “hope that enters in”, and this is on behalf of those who he represents before God. Hebrews 10:19-22 shows that through Jesus the hearts of those who believe are cleaned and consciences of sin are cleared. This is not done in timidity, rather in confidence because of who the High Priest is.

Lord, because you are my priest, I am confident that my sins are washed away!

Hebrews 4:14-5:10: Jesus is The Priest-King Forever

Read Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 5:1-10

Jesus is a priest like no other. To show this, the author of Hebrews writes to shows Jesus’ humanity yet shows how Jesus does not fail as humans do. Jesus came to earth and while he was on earth he lived a perfect life, yet was tempted in the same manner in which all people are tempted. He had the same weaknesses that men have, yet was not succumbed to them. He was humbled, and did not exalt himself to the position of high priest, yet God chose him to be high priest. He was the Son of God, but learned obedience through his suffering. In every way Jesus was human, but he did fail as humans do.

Jesus’ was also rather unique in another way. The author of Hebrews calls a priest in the “order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek is an obscure character mentioned only in Genesis 14:18-19 and not much is known about him.  But nevertheless the little that is known has huge implications. First, he is king of a town called Salem and a priest of the Most High God – a priest-king that is unlike the traditional priesthood where these were two separate roles. Second, priests usually had to be descendants of Aaron in order to be named priest, but Melchizedek was not. Being in order of Melchizedek allows for non-Aaronic priests such as Jesus, who was a descendant of Judah. (Hebrews 7:14 – Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 7 expounds on this more). The author of Hebrews builds on this further, saying that Jesus is a priest-king “forever”. Psalms 2 establishes that Jesus is a King of kings in that he will receive the nations as his inheritance. Psalm 110 establishes that Jesus is a priest “forever” in the order of Melchizedek, not a temporary priest as those who were of the Aaronic priesthood.

Having Jesus has a priest-king whose reign is eternal means that there is no longer a need for human to fulfill the role of high priest. People can draw near to God with confidence and plead for the grace and mercy at the throne of grace in their time a need. In reality, Christians and the whole world are constantly in need of grace. Jesus sympathizes with weaknesses, yet he himself does not grow weary as a man does. For this reason, Christians can call on him at any time and call on him at all times because his reign and term as priest will never end.

Lord, help me find mercy and grace in my time of need!

Joshua 21:1-42: Staying Close By

Read: Joshua 21:1-42

The Levites were the descendants of the Levi, and they were responsible for a number of cities scattered throughout the land of Israel. The Levites did not receive a land inheritance in the manner of the rest of the tribes of Israel, rather they received cities and some of the surrounding pastures for live stocks. The Levites received God as their inheritance, meaning that their work was to be ministry to the people, and the people in turn would offer tithes and offerings (Joshua 13:8-33). The Levites would take their portion from these offerings so they could have something to eat.

The distribution of the Levites throughout the land of Canaan was strategic because it made the ones responsible for the ministry of God accessible to all. Rather than being cornered away in a particular part of the countryside, the Levites had 48 towns. In a country the size of Israel, this means that there was sure to be a Levitical city nearby. The priests acted as intercessors for the people of God in their time. They were also the ones who offered sacrifices, managed worship, acted as scribes, administered judgment, taught the Law, among many other responsibilities. Having a priest nearby was therefore important to for giving sacrifice, receiving education, having access to justice. If they were far away, one would have to travel great distances to have access to such things.

When Jesus came, he became for Christians the priest before God (Hebrews 7:20-22). He offered the perfect and final sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:25-28) and makes intercession for all (Hebrews 7:25). Christians no longer have to go to a priest for intercession – they can plead before God and Jesus intercedes. Likewise, Christians do not have to make sacrifices because Jesus again is the sacrifice. Staying close to Jesus therefore should be a top priority in the lives of those who believe. While Jesus fulfills many of the priestly duties, there are some duties that are given to the church to administer such as teaching, managing worship, evangelism, collecting offerings, and carrying out the ministries of helps (2 Timothy 2:2, Acts 2:42-47).  Hebrews 10:18-25 relates Jesus’ ministry to the Christian’s ministry: because Jesus is the great priest and the great sacrifice, there is confidence and hope. Around this confidence and hope Christians should unite and encourage one another to love and do good deeds in a spirit of unity. For this to happen, their needs to be a gather – that is a local church – for the believer to both encourage and be encouraged to carry out the ministries of the church God has given. Keeping Jesus close and the church close (not just geographically, but in relationally too) are quintessential to living a life committed to God.

Lord, I want to be close to you and your church!