Are you impatient? Do you sometimes wonder at God’s timing in your life? I certainly find, as I get older, that this is one area where I have to listen to what God is saying even deeper.
Abraham, through Scripture, is shown as someone who has patience and faith. The unchangeable character of God, coupled with the oath that God pledged upon his own character, meant Abraham obtained the promise given by God, because it was trustworthy and Abraham had faith in God.
God’s promises to Abraham can be found in Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-22 and 22:16-18.
An oath is a common legal device used in ancient times and still in use today, usually requiring an appeal to a greater authority. In this passage God, speaking with Abraham, swore an oath by himself (there is no greater authority). The character of God is holy, and he does not lie, he cannot lie. Therefore the announcement of his promise is sure, and doubly sure when combined with his oath.
This encourages us to hold fast to the hope, v.18.
This hope, the steadfast anchor of our lives, is Jesus. We can now enter into the inner place, behind the curtain, as it says in v.19. This isn’t some holy game of hide and seek but describes our previous alienation from God. The inner place, separated by the curtain, describes firstly the tabernacle in Moses’ time and then the temple later on. The high priest was the only person who could enter behind the curtain into the presence of God, after much cleansing and purification, trembling in fear.
Jesus has become our high priest for ever; the temple veil was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross, enabling all who accept Jesus’ sacrifice to enter into God’s presence clean – Matthew 27:50-51.
Verse 20 describes Jesus becoming high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Who is this Melchizedek? We first find him in Genesis 14:18-20 where Abraham meets him. The only other place he is mentioned in the Old Testament is in David’s Psalm 110. So this passage in Hebrews and tomorrow’s passage go a long way in explaining this mystery character.
Melchizedek (whose name means King of Righteousness) was King of Salem (the ancient name for Jerusalem, which means foundation of peace), and a priest of the most High God. This shows, in the beginning of Hebrews 7, that he is a prophetic picture of Jesus; he is a priest forever. The passage tomorrow will look further at Jesus compared to Melchizedek.
In Israel, King and priest were separate functions, whereas Melchizedek combines both roles. We see this prophesied about the Messiah in Zechariah 6:9-14, a combining of the two roles. King David understood this when he spent so much effort in conquering Jerusalem. David, in dedicating the new Tabernacle on Mount Zion, personally carried out the blood sacrifices wearing the priestly ephod and forbidding any further blood sacrifice. It was forbidden for the King to do this, (remember Saul and Samuel) but David here prophesied a new covenant through the Messiah. It was such an outrageous act that he wrote Psalm 110 in explanation.
Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek and responded by tithing (one tenth of his income) to him. Israel tithed to Aaron and his descendants (the Levites had no territory in Israel) but here it is reversed. Since Aaron was descended from Abraham’s great-grandson Levi, he effectively submitted during this encounter to Melchizedek through his ancestor.
Abraham’s tithe prophesied that Jesus would become a far greater high priest than anybody in the priesthood of Levi, Aaron and their descendants. There would be a new covenant.
See part 2 tomorrow for Jesus compared to Melchizedek.