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Jun 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 14, 2020


Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:11

Intro: Are you familiar with the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

He was a twentieth century martyr – imprisoned for opposing Hitler
– he gave a great deal of thought to what it means to be a Christian
• also, to what a true church, not compromised by the world would look like
• one conclusion he drew was that a Christian meditates on the Scriptures
◦ that got him asking questions like:
◦ “Why do I meditate?” “How do I meditate?”
Bonhoeffer,What do I expect from meditation? In any case, we want to rise from meditation different from what we were when we sat down to it. We want to meet Christ in his Word. We go to the text curious to hear what he wants to let us know and to give us through his Word.”
– yes, it is possible to have this kind of vivid encounter with God
• the writer of Hebrews explains how this has been made possible
• and, once again, he invites us to draw near to God

In building his case for Christian faith and endurance,
– our writer’s argument will stress two key words
another, which occurs three times (vv. 11, 13, & 15)
better–occurs two times (vv. 19 & 22)
◦ two Greek words can be translated another
allos means “another of the same kind” (comparing apples to apples)
heteros means, “another of a different kind” (apples to oranges)
◦ the word used in this passage is heteros
Jesus is another kind of priest belonging to another kind of tribe

The writer points out the inadequacy of the Levitical priesthood

Dissecting one verse (Ps. 110:4), the writer examines closely each part of it
– you know what I mean when I refer to a “religious order”
• there are many monastic orders within the Roman Catholic Church
◦ for instance, the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, etc.
◦ in Israel, there was one religious order; namely, the tribe of Levi
• last week we were taken back in time to when Abraham met Melchizedek
◦ we learned that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham
◦ which means Melchizedek’s priestly order was greater than Israel’s
– in Psalm 110 God announced that the Messiah
is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek
• so now the writer asks, why would that be necessary?
◦ why is another priest from a different order than Levi be needed?
• the answer: perfection wasn’t attainable through the Levitical priesthood
◦ we must take a closer look at this

The writer tells us that under the Levitical priesthood,
the people received law
– Moses entrusted the law to the Levites (De. 31:9, 24-26)
• the Levites instructed Israel in the law (Le. 10:10-11; De. 17:11; 33:10)
• and the Levites judged people according to the law (De. 17:10)
◦ it was in the law, that tribe of Levi was set aside for God (Nu. 3:5-9)
◦ so there is a strong connection between the tribe of Levi and the law
– there was something the Levitical priests could not do for people
• and the same was true for the law–something that it could not do
• but still, I think it’s important that we have a correct understanding of what this means

The beginning and end of the writer’s argument is marked by a word
– the perfection that was not attainable through the Levitical priesthood
– and then the law that “made nothing perfect
• this might look to us like both the priesthood and the law were failures
◦ but that is not what the writer is saying
The law and priests were established for one purpose:
– to maintain God’s covenant relationship with Israel
• this was like a marriage covenant
◦ Mt. Sinai was the altar, and the law’s commandments were Israel’s vows

From early on, God stated his intention for choosing Israel. He told Moses, I will take you as my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7). This will be reiterated many times in the Old Testament, and especially in the prophets. For now, we want to notice this especially in the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the new covenant, and that God says that as a result of its formation, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

• in time, the law and priests could not hold the covenant together
◦ that doesn’t mean they failed,
◦ because they were designed to hold the covenant together

The purpose of the law was not to make people righteous
– nor was it meant to empower them to be righteous,
• but it was to show them what righteousness is
• the priests were there to secure forgiveness when people sinned
◦ no one could keep all of God’s commandments
◦ so there had to be a means of forgiveness and atonement
Howard Marshall, “The author must have assumed that the old system did do something, since it was of divine ordination and God cannot have created an empty institution.”
– the weakness of the law and priest was revealed,
• only when asked to do something they were not designed to do
◦ they did not perfect the people, because they were not meant to do that
◦ the crux of the issue is revealed in Hebrews chapter 8
For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them [when he presents to them a new covenant] (vv. 7-8)
◦ the law and priests were effective in fulfilling their purpose
• when God presented the law to Israel, they promised to keep it
All that the LORD has spoken we will do (Ex. 19:8)
◦ many years later, Moses informed the people of Israel,
. . . the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments (De. 5:28-29)
◦ if they could have lived up to their words, they would have never broken God’s covenant

What did the Levitical priests and law not do for the people?
1. Did not transform them – change their hearts
2. Did not empower them to be righteous
3. Did give them unrestricted access to God

With a change in priestly order, writer sees change in law
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests
Hebrews 7:12-14

The law established the priesthood, and it belonged to the tribe of Levi
– so a change in the priesthood involved something not covered by the law
William Barclay, “Under Jewish law a man could not under any circumstances become a priest unless he could produce an unbroken and certified pedigree going back to Aaron.”
– this actually became an issue for the Jewish migration home from exile
• it had to do with one particular clan that had served in Solomon’s temple
. . . they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel . . . .
These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean
(Ezra 2:59 and 62)
• here’s the problem (v. 13) – Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi
◦ he had no right or authority to serve as a priest in Israel’s sanctuary
For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests

The writer argues that this is not a disqualification, but a revelation
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 7:15-17

What is “even more evident”?
– that neither is the Messiah of the order of Levi!
• Jesus did not meet the law’s requirement to be a priest
◦ he did not belong to order the order of Levi
• however, Jesus surpassed both the law and the priestly order
◦ because, as we have seen, the order of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical order
– the order of Melchizedek was not established by the law
legal requirement is more literally legal commandment
◦ Jesus did not need to be qualified through the law
◦ his qualification was based on something that predated the law
• nor did Jesus need to be qualified by his DNA
◦ in the the term bodily descent, “bodily” could better be translated “fleshly”
◦ it refers to that which is “merely human”
Luke T. Johnson, says fleshly “. . . means it lacks the power to communicate God’s own life. Only life can generate life”
• compare this with statement to what Jesus’ told Nicodemus,
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6)
• the contrast between Jesus qualification for priesthood and the Levites,
◦ is a contrast between law and life,
◦ and between a legal command and power

God has provided us something beyond the law
For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God Hebrews 7:18-19

Again, “the former commandment” was weak and useless,
– not because the law was flawed,
• but because it was given to people, who were flawed
◦ this was Paul’s horrific struggle in Romans chapter 7
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (Ro. 7:12)
• the problem is that the power that the law does exert, works against us
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Ro. 3:20)
– now, in Jesus, we have a better hope
• and through it, and not the law or Israel’s priesthood, we draw near to God
• this is Hebrews’ most characteristic description of the Christian experience
◦ we are allowed to approach God, up close
◦ we have access to his presence that not even the high priest enjoyed
– it’s a better hope, because it depends on who Jesus is and what he has done
• and not on our ability to, on our own, keep all the commandments

Conclusion: We cannot leave this passage without the following verses
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
You are a priest forever.”

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant Hebrews 7:20-22

Notice that the for the first time, the writer quotes the full verse
– until now he has left of the opening line:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind

• not even the Levites had this going for them
• they were made priests legally
◦ Jesus was made a priest personally — God swore an oath to him
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant
– you see, we had to include these verses
• they are nothing less than the total assurance we need
God has sworn an oath
He will not change his mind
And Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant
• the guarantor of our relationship with God

Now what?
Let’s draw near to God!
How do we live this?
By practice
We train ourselves to focus awareness on God himself
By doing this, we draw near to him in this present moment
We meet with Jesus like this every day,
so that we constantly renew this better hope,
and enjoy the rich intimacy of this better covenant

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