By Diane Barstow
‘Take me past the outer court into the Holy place, past the brazen altar Lord I want to see Your face. Pass me by the crowds of people and the priests in their praise, I hunger and thirst for Your righteousness, but it’s only found one place. Take me in to the Holy of Holies, take me in by the blood of the Lamb. Take me in to the Holy of Holies, take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am. Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am.” I asked our worship leader to play this song today because I thought it would be appropriate to the topic, but my heart was touched in a completely unexpected way. I realized that I had been judging the Jews for being tempted to go back to their previous religious ceremonies, and specifically to the Temple. But this song helps up to imagine what it was like, doesn’t it make us long for this experience? The Temple was magnificently, spectacularly beautiful! It was God’s house! The sights, sounds, and smells were lovely and comforting to the Jews. The pageantry, the animals, the golden doors, candelabras, incense, singing - it was all breathtaking! I appreciate now, more than ever, the sacrifice they made to give up Judaism and follow Jesus!
6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul , a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil , 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek .
7:1 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. 4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.7 And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor. 11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’ ” 22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
Any story worth telling a few common factors - interesting characters, an air of mystery, unexpected outcomes, and the moral of the tale - what the story is written to teach the reader. This chapter has all of this in spades. Jesus, Melchizedek, Abram/ham, David, Moses and Aaron! Plus the artefacts - hope, thousands of years, prophecy, war, the Law, the veil, the Holiest of all!
The word better makes several appearances, both explicit and implied. At the end of chapter 6, Jesus is pictured metaphorically as a forerunner ship sailing into the holy of holies and dropping the anchor of ‘sure hope’ for our souls and then drawing us upward and inward to be where He is! This ‘sure hope’ is certainly a better hope than we ever had. And in the same breath introduces the character of Melchizedek the person and His priesthood to the story.
Then we carry on into chapter 7 (1-3) with a brief history lesson regarding Melchizedek, his titles, his function, and a summary of his 4 verse appearance in the life of Abram.
In verses 4-10 we see how He was proven to be greater than Abraham whom the Jews always fall back on for their claim to greatness, as seen in Matthew 3:9.
In verses 11-14 we see how His priesthood is greater than Aaron’s. And in verses 11-19 we see how His covenant is greater than Moses and the Law.
All of three of these Abraham, Aaron (levitical priesthood & ceremony) and Moses (the Law) were ingrained in their identity. They had to once and for all abandon these shadows and cling to their better high priest and covenant - Jesus!
In verses 14-24 the argument for a deeper magic, a superior, previously unnoticed (except by God) priesthood are found from Psalm 110 where God Himself appointed Jesus to an eternal priest- hood with an oath!
And then finally the summary of all the ways in which Jesus’ priest- hood was superior, how His covenant was superior, and how as a Son He is altogether superior!
Whew that’s a lot of background!
A forerunner ship was small, fast, very maneuverable, and had a shallow draw that could slip into a small or shallow harbor ahead of a larger ship. It would trail a rope and then winch the larger ship in behind it. The picture is of Jesus tearing the veil, entering victoriously into the throne room of God, and sinking an anchor into bedrock, He then draws us to Him with the rope. There He sits on the throne of grace as the great high priest of the great order of Melchizedek.
This story is found in Genesis 14. Previously Abram had left Ur with his father and nephew Lot and moved to Haran. After his father Terah died, God again spoke to Abram and told him to set off to a place to which he would be directed, and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. In Genesis 13 Lot and he decided to separate themselves to maintain peace. He is again given the promise of a son. War erupts and Lot is taken captive, Abram gathers a small army and heads off to rescue Lot. Success brings booty and he meets Melchizedek in King’s valley, gives him 10% of the spoil and is blessed by the King/Priest of El Elyon (God most high). Serving as priest and king is a very unique position. You’ll recall in 1 Samuel 13 how Saul’s disobedience and presumption to act as priest and king cost him his kingdom. After this blessing Abram is again given the promise of a son by Sarai, but also receives righteous standing by faith in chapter 15. This is important to note that his blessing from the king of righteousness and king of peace was prior to the vision in chapter 15, and prior to the doctrine of righteousness by faith, thus righteousness by faith is blessed in Abram before it even happens! In verse 3 we land on a little mystery. ‘Without father,without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.’ made like means to render similarly in that He lives forever. Is the writer using figurative language? Or is it literal? Imo this is a christophany, where Jesus appears in the OT prior to His incarnation, similar to His appearance in Joshua 5.
In verses 4-7 there’s a command to observe (behold, view mentally, consider) this man’s superiority because all jews in Abram gave a 10th to Him, and the lesser (Abram) was blessed (under God-given authority) by the greater - Melchizedek. Remember that this was at least 400 years prior to Moses and the Levitical priesthood.
Next we see the faults of the Levitical priesthood - no one was ever made more than ceremonially clean through their ministry, they didn’t live forever, had to be replaced frequently, and were only chosen for their genealogy, not moral fitness to serve. When they did serve they had to first offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could make offerings for the people’s sins, but that was only a temporary fix.
That Jesus came from the lineage of David precluded Him from becoming a levitical priest, so if He is to be their/our high priest, He must belong to a superior order, one which possesses the power of an indestructible life. The Lord Himself attested to the fact that the Messiah is a priest forever, and swore an oath to the fact. This provides a better hope and a better covenant, to which Jesus Himself is the guarantee!
And because Jesus holds His unique position forever, eternally, and always at full strength, ‘He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.’
Able present tense
To save present tense
Those who ‘draw’ near present tense
Always lives present tense
Make intercession present tense
Isn’t that amazing? Every single one of those verbs is in the present tense! He is always able to save forever (or to the uttermost possible) those who always draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession! 24\7 without tiring, without ever losing efficacy, in perfect harmony with God’s will because of His perfect sacrifice!
What a sneaky guy to throw in a tiny caveat - those who always draw near to God THROUGH HIM, that’s a qualifier. We may only draw near to God through Him!
And what does God say next? It was fitting for us, FOR US, to have such a high priest!! Holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, exalted and glorified even above the heavens! Yes He’s fitting for God Who is perfect and holy to have such a representative! Yes He’s fitting for angels, but for us? God knows exactly what we need, He knows we can get it NOWHERE ELSE! Oh how He loves us and has provided perfection! One who doesn’t need to perform temporary sacrifices for His own sin and ours, because this He did ONCE FOR ALL when He offered up Himself! The writer closes the loop for the jews. He presents them with evidence that in every way Jesus as their great high priest is vastly superior to the system they were so tempted to return to! How can you go back to that when you now have this? It’s a good thought for us to consider as well. How could we go back to whatever system of self-righteousness in which we trusted before coming to Jesus?
What does the intercession of Jesus look like? Is He asking the Father to not strike us with boils? What we think Jesus is saying to the Father reveals whether we’re sure of His love toward us. Do we recall the character of the throne on which our great high priest sits? It is a throne of grace, where we may receive mercy and grace to help! Or is He asking the Father to help us? Is He asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us, to assure our heart, comfort us in our difficulties? Is there ever a moment when He’s not performing His duty? Is He just bragging on us? Look at what My daughter just said or did? Isn’t my bride lovely? Father, do You hear how they’re praising us? Look at how they love one another!
If our imagination doesn’t extend to heaven, or you’re new in the Lord, you can read through a few of Jesus’ prayers to get an idea of the kind of things HE PRAYED FOR during the time He was on earth. This is not an exhaustive list, but if we’re unsure of what His prayers may contain, we can examine the prayers that are recorded for us in the Bible.
The Lord’s prayer instruction - Matthew 6
His ’Come unto Me’ address - Matthew 11
Prior to raising Lazarus from the dead - John 11
“Glorify Your name” - John 12
His high priestly prayer - John 17
At His baptism - Luke
3 prayers in Gethsemane - Matthew 26
3 prayers on the cross - Luke 23
Frequent thanksgiving for food, especially with the disciples in Emmaus - Luke 24
He frequently strengthened Himself in the Lord in prayer by withdrawing from the crowd and seeking solitude
How will this understanding of His intercession for us change how we intercede for others?