In Hebrews 5:10 the writer has made an important declaration that Jesus was designated by God to be a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. But this has caused the writer to stop and make the point that there is so much to this point but that it would be hard to explain to this audience because they are dull of hearing. So chapter 6 has been a warning to these Christians to move on to maturity or be at risk of falling away and not being restored. But his hope for them is to look to the people of faith like Abraham who patiently waited for the promises and ran to the Lord for refuge. This has brought the writer of Hebrews back to his key point in Hebrews 6:20, “Where Jesus…has become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Now he is going to explain about this Melchizedek and what this means regarding Jesus and us in chapter 7. Before we examine this chapter, I want to remind us of the purpose that the writer of Hebrews has for this audience. When we began this study in chapter 1 we noted that the way the author of Hebrews was going to encourage these Christians to be strong in the faith during the difficulties they face is by giving them a greater view of Jesus. Our endurance in the faith is in direct proportion to the clarity by which we see Jesus and understand what he has done on our behalf. The more we see Jesus, the more we will stand in the faith. This is why the author must tell us about Melchizedek. He wants us to have a greater view of Jesus.
The Superior Nature of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
In the first 10 verses the author explains the superior nature of Melchizedek. First, he reminds us about the account regarding Melchizedek that is recorded in Genesis 14. Melchizedek was the king of Salem and priest of God who met Abraham after Abraham returned from defeated the kings who had captured the people of the cities of the plains, which included Abraham’s relative, Lot. Abraham paid Melchizedek a tenth of everything (7:2). Now his kingship and priesthood had meaning. Melchizedek’s name means “king of righteousness” and the word “Salem” (shalom) means “peace.” So when Melchizedek appears on the scene is the king of righteousness and the king of peace.
The writer of Hebrews wants us to see some typological pictures regarding Melchizedek. Not only is he the king of righteousness, the king of peace, and a priest of God, which are all messianic descriptions (cf. Zechariah 6:13; Isaiah 9:6-7), but in verse 3 the author points out that resembles the Son of God by having no beginning of days or end of life. His priesthood continues forever. Now, the author is not saying that Melchizedek was eternal. He is not literally just like the Son of God but he is literarily. That is, when we read about Melchizedek in Genesis 14 we do not read a beginning for his kingship or priesthood, nor do we read an ending to his kingship or priesthood. In a literary way, he resembles the Son because he has no beginning or end.
In verses 4-10 the author is going to emphasize the greatness of Melchizedek, as observed in verse 4. In describing the relationship between Abraham and Melchizedek the author is showing that priesthood of Melchizedek is greater than the Levitical priesthood. Since Abraham paid a tenth to Melchizedek, and the Levites are descendants of Abraham, then Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater than the Aaron’s priesthood (Levites). That is the big point of this section. The historical encounter recorded in Genesis 14 proves superior nature of Melchizedek and his priesthood.
Jesus and Melchizedek (7:11-19)
What we now see in verses 11-19 is essentially an exposition of Psalm 110:4, which is quoted in verse 17. The author of Hebrews makes the simple point that if perfection, that is, removing people’s sins and bringing them to completion were possible through the Levitical priesthood, then there would don’t have been any need for an oath to be made that the coming Christ would be through the order of Melchizedek. It is interesting that in Psalm 110:4 the prophecy is not that Jesus would be priest forever according the order of Aaron or Levi. Rather, the priesthood would be like Melchizedek, not Levi. The reason is that the Levitical priesthood could not fully bring people to God. Please note that this is the whole purpose of a priesthood: enable the worshiper to approach God. Only the Son could provide the ultimate access to God through a definitive removal of sin.
Now the author of Hebrews is going to walk through some logic with his readers. Since God declared that there would be a change of priesthood in Psalm 110, then there must be a change of the law because the Law of Moses declared a priesthood through Levi (7:12). So God promising a new priesthood implies a new law must come with it. As we know, Jesus comes from the wrong tribe to be a priest under the Law of Moses. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and the Law of Moses says nothing about a priest arising from the tribe of Judah (7:13-14).
It becomes even more obvious that the new priest must be like Melchizedek because of what we see in Jesus. Jesus became priest not based on ancestry but by his indestructible life. This is what Psalm 110:4 said. The Christ would be a priest forever in the likeness of the priesthood of Melchizedek. Further, this necessary because the old law did not bring people fully to God. So this new priesthood is established with a new law because it is able to bring people fully to God. Notice that this is established in verse 19. “A better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God.” Please consider the important implication. The law was set aside “for the law made nothing perfect.” But now we have a better hope which means that Jesus is able to accomplish what no other priesthood could do. We can be made perfect and made whole through the priesthood of Jesus and through the covenant he enacted. This leads the author of Hebrews to explore the benefits of this great high priest.
The Benefits of This New Priest (7:20-25)
Now Jesus has become priest with an oath, which is not what happened with the Levitical priests. The oath is recorded in Psalm 110:4 as we have noted and is noted again by the author of Hebrews in verse 21. Therefore Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Jesus is pictured as the one who guarantees God’s covenant promises. It is worth noting that Jesus because something is better does not make the original bad. The first covenant was good but the second covenant is better. When a company improves on their product, it does not mean that the original product they produced was bad. It is just not as good as the improved product. This is the idea of the covenants. The Law of Moses, the first covenant, should not be looked upon as bad. In fact, the apostle Paul argues in 2 Corinthians 3 that it is glorious. But it is a fading glory when compared to the glory of the new covenant. So the first benefit described is that Jesus has brought us a better covenant.
The second benefit is described in verses 23-25. The first covenant had many priests but they did not remain because they would die. By contrast, Jesus lives forever and therefore has an eternal, permanent priesthood. This is the perfect priesthood we need. Verse 25 hold two important keys. First, Jesus is able to completely save those who draw near to God through him. We need a priest if we are going to come near to God for a relationship with him. This is the point of the old covenant. People cannot just come near to God. God is holy and pure and we are not. We cannot approach his holiness on our own. We need a priest who can bring us near to God. To come near to God you must do so through Jesus because he is the permanent high priest that God swore would be established forever. The second key in verse 25 is that Jesus is able to completely save because he always lives to intercede. Since his priesthood is permanent because of his indestructible life (he is eternal), he is always able to make intercession for us.
This is a concept that is so hard for us to understand. Not because it is complicated but because the love that we are shown from our Lord is amazing. Everything God has done through Jesus is so that we would have the priest we need to draw near to God. Jesus is the king of righteousness and king of peace. Jesus is the permanent high priest that God promised. All of this was so that all who want to come to the Lord can do so because Jesus’ whole purpose is to make intercession for us. As the writer of Hebrews quoted in the second chapter from the Psalms, “What are people that you are mindful of us?” It is unbelievable how much our Lord cares for us. He always lives so as to make intercession for us. When you sin, we have a sympathetic high priest who is permanently fixed as our priest so that we can still draw near to God. How did this happen? This is how the author concludes in verses 26-28.
We can draw near to God because Jesus is our high priest that we need. He is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He is not like any earthly priests. We have a GREAT high priest. Jesus was faithful to the Father during his whole earthly life. The exalted Son has lived an obedient human life so that he can be exalted as pure, holy, and worthy of our worship (cf. Revelation 5). But look at verse 27. What Jesus did is so different from all priests in the past. Other priests first offered sacrifices for their own sins and then offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. Our great high priest did not offer sacrifices. Our great high priest offered himself for the sins of the people. He did not need an offering for himself. But the sacrifice we needed was for our high priest to offer himself. He lives to intercede because he died for us and rose from the dead, showing his indestructible life and becoming our high priest forever.
So how could you give up now? We have a better hope that has been given to us by which we draw near to God (7:19). This better hope says that despite all our sins we can fully draw near to God. Jesus is able to completely save those who draw near to God (7:25). Jesus is able to completely deal with our sinful condition. Jesus lives to make intercession for you (7:25). We have Jesus as our guarantee of the covenant promises of God because he is our perfect and eternal high priest. Why would you give up? God has done everything so that you do not need to give up on your faith in the Lord. Jesus has offered up himself so that you would not have to quit under the weight of life’s pressures.