The Priestly Family
1 Melchizedek was both king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He was the one who went out and gave Abraham his blessing, when Abraham returned from killing the kings. 2Then Abraham gave him a tenth of everything he had.
The meaning of the name Melchizedek is “King of Justice.” But since Salem means “peace,” he is also “King of Peace.” 3We are not told he had a father or mother or ancestors or beginning or end. He is like the Son of God and will be a priest forever.
4Notice how great Melchizedek was! Our famous ancestor Abraham gave him a tenth of what he had taken from his enemies. 5 The Law teaches that even Abraham's descendants must give a tenth of what they possess. And they are to give this to their own relatives, who are the descendants of Levi and are priests. 6Although Melchizedek wasn't a descendant of Levi, Abraham gave him a tenth of what he had. Then Melchizedek blessed Abraham, who had been given God's promise. 7Everyone agrees a person who gives a blessing is greater than the one who receives the blessing.
8Priests are given a tenth of what people earn. But all priests die, except Melchizedek, and the Scriptures teach that he is alive. 9Levi's descendants are now the ones who receive a tenth from people. We could even say that when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth, Levi also gave him a tenth. 10This is because Levi was born later into the family of Abraham, who gave a tenth to Melchizedek.
11Even though the Law of Moses says the priests must be descendants of Levi, those priests cannot make anyone perfect. So there needs to be a priest like Melchizedek, rather than one from the priestly family of Aaron. 12And when the rules for selecting a priest are changed, the Law must also be changed.
13The person we are talking about is our Lord, who came from a tribe that had never had anyone to serve as a priest at the altar. 14Everyone knows he came from the tribe of Judah, and Moses never said priests would come from that tribe.
15All of this becomes clearer, when someone who is like Melchizedek is appointed to be a priest. 16That person wasn't appointed because of his ancestors, but because his life can never end. 17 The Scriptures say about him,
“You are a priest forever,
just like Melchizedek.”
18In this way a weak and useless command was put aside, 19because the Law cannot make anything perfect. At the same time, we are given a much better hope, and it can bring us close to God.
20-21 God himself made a promise when this priest was appointed. But he did not make a promise like this when the other priests were appointed. The promise he made is,
“I, the Lord, promise that you
will be a priest forever!
And I will never
change my mind!”
22This means that Jesus guarantees us a better agreement with God. 23There have been a lot of other priests, and all of them have died. 24But Jesus will never die, and so he will be a priest forever! 25He is forever able to save the people he leads to God, because he always lives to speak to God for them.
26Jesus is the high priest we need. He is holy and innocent and faultless, and not at all like us sinners. Jesus is honored above all beings in heaven, 27 and he is better than any other high priest. Jesus doesn't need to offer sacrifices each day for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He offered a sacrifice once for all, when he gave himself. 28The Law appoints priests who have weaknesses. But God's promise, which came later than the Law, appoints his Son. And he is the perfect high priest forever.
Every once in a while, a new innovation emerges that completely changes how things are done. The horse drawn plow has been replaced by mechanised farm equipment. Flip phones have been replaced by smart phones. In Canada, our paper currency has been replaced by polymer bills. The old gives way to the new.
Though we may still experience some nostalgia for the good old days, most of us are not eager to return the days of starched shirts, coal oil lamps and rotary dial telephones.
The first century readers of Hebrews were caught in a tectonic religious shift. With the coming of Jesus their Messiah, the ground upon which their ancient faith was built had shifted dramatically. How did their faith in Jesus mesh with the Judaism in which they had been raised? Were there direct links between the faith of their fathers and their new faith in the crucified and resurrected Saviour?
Today’s reading establishes one of those direct links. Our Saviour is a superior priest – a better priest – from the order of Melchizedek. “Jesus is the high priest we need” (v 26), and furthermore “Jesus guarantees us a better agreement (covenant) with God” (v 22). Our new high priest “is forever able to save the people he leads to God, because he always lives to speak to God for them” (v 25).
Lord Jesus, I am thankful that you speak to God the Father on my behalf. You are my advocate, and by your blood, you purchased my redemption. Help me to live in gratitude today. For your sake, Amen.