A Better Priest
A daily devotion for December 16th
Melchizedek the Priest
7 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.
Jesus Like Melchizedek
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.”[a]
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.’”[b]
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[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. Hebrews 7:11-16
One thing clearly marked the fact that the old priesthood was no longer acceptable as help for men. It was the appearance of a new priest with a different address and a different ancestry. If the old priesthood went, the Law had to go too. This new priest had a quite different address; he came from the tribe of Judah instead of the tribe of Levi. Judah was not a priestly tribe at all, but a kingly tribe. The new priest was a king. If God recognizes Christ as a priest, then the Law which was part of the old priesthood has been set aside.
Also, the new priest has a different ancestry. It was not necessary for him to trace his genealogy back to Abraham. No, as a priest he has no genealogy, he ministers in the power of an endless life. He had no beginning and no ending. Therefore the Law, which is only temporary, must go. It had an inherent weakness in that it could not supply what the flesh in its frailty lacked. Every priest, every psychiatrist, every counselor, whether he realizes it or not, is continually working with the Law. How? By seeking to relate people to reality. That is what the Law is, the revelation of reality. It is the way things are. Any knowledgeable counselor tries to help the people who come to see things as they are, but that is sometimes a very difficult help to render.
Under the old order, a man would take a sacrifice to the priest and the priest would offer it, thus for the moment at least, removing the guilt of the act. Though the problem remained, the guilt from it was removed. That is what the modern counselor does. He attempts to dispel guilt by helping his client see his problem in a different light. If he is a Christian counselor, to help him to see that God has already forgiven him in Christ and thus to remove guilt. But the basic problem essentially remains, if resolving guilt is all that is done. The psychiatrist may rearrange the problem so it does not grate so strongly upon others, but the problem remains. As C. S. Lewis puts it,
No clever arrangement of bad eggs will ever make a good omelet.
Self-discovery is the end of the line as far as the human counselor can go. But what lies beyond that? If you do not go any further, eventually, despair! This is what Paul reflects in Romans 7,
Oh, wretched man that I am! Who can set me free from this body of death? (Romans 7:24) That is where this word of Hebrews comes in. There is a Priest who can go further.
What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, judged sin in the flesh, that the righteousness that the law demanded might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4). That which is worthless, weak, and useless, has been set aside and a new hope introduced which brings us near to God.
Thank you, Father, that what I could not do in myself, and what no counselor or priest could do for me, you have accomplished through your Son.
Life Application: What inherent weaknesses in the Levitical Law are met in the Priesthood of Jesus? How can we move beyond the futility of mere self-discovery to inner conflict resolution? Are we led in the triumphal procession of Jesus Christ, both Priest and King?
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