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Wednesday, October 4th, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Hebrews 7

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-28

Shall we turn now in our Bibles to Hebrews, the seventh chapter.

In the book of Genesis, after Abraham and Lot had parted company, there was a confederation of five kings that conquered in the area where Lot lived, and took him captive and spoiled several cities. Abraham, hearing of it, armed his servants and he went out to met these five kings in battle, and defeated them. He took from them the spoils that they had taken from the many cities that they had conquered.

As Abraham was returning victoriously with the spoils from these five kings, there came out to meet him a man by the name of Melchisedec. The name means "the King of Righteousness." He was also known as "the King of Salem," which being interpreted is "the King of Peace." Nothing is told us concerning the origin of Melchisedec. We know nothing of his genealogy, nothing of his parents. We know nothing of what happened to him after his meeting with Abraham. This was 400 years before Moses and the law.

Melchisedec, a mysterious priest of which we know so little, is only mentioned twice in the Old Testament. The first time being there in Genesis 19 , when he met Abraham. But then in Psalm 110 , out of the blue the psalmist writes concerning God, that He had sworn with an oath that, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." This one hundred tenth Psalm is a psalm concerning the Messiah. It begins, "The Lord said unto my Lord, 'Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.' The Lord shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of Thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, 'Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.'"

Now there was the Aaronic order of priesthood from the tribe of Levi. One of the requirements of being a high priest in the nation of Israel under the law was, first you had to be from the tribe of Levi, and then of the Aaronic order. Here is an order of priesthood that antedates the Levitical priesthood by 400 years. A priesthood to which Abraham, the father of the nation, gave tribute, paid tithes, and received a blessing.

So the writer of the book of Hebrews, in the seventh chapter, is going to point out that this priest, Melchisedec, was of a higher order of priesthood than was the Aaronic order of priesthood established under the law. And that even after the Aaronic order had been established, a thousand years later...in fact, there is a thousand years' time difference between the two mentions of Melchisedec in the Old Testament. Abraham lived about 2000 B.C. when he met Melchisedec, a thousand years later. You see, we read of it in the same Bible and it's only a few books back, but it is a thousand years back. Suddenly this comes forth, "God has sworn and will not repent, 'Thou art a priest forever, (talking of the Messiah), after the Order of Melchisedec,'" not after the order of Aaron, after the order of Melchisedec. So that gives you a little background.

One further note before we get into the text itself. One day as Jesus was disputing with the Pharisees, they were challenging Him concerning His claims as Messiah and the Son of God. They said, "We are the sons of Abraham." Jesus said, "If you were the sons of Abraham, you would have acknowledged me, because Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it." And they looked at him and they said, "What are You trying to tell us? Abraham saw You. You are not even fifty years old." And Jesus responded, "Before Abraham was, I am." And they took up stones to kill Him" ( John 8:56-59 ).

Now this statement, "Abraham rejoiced to see my day and saw it." When did Abraham see Jesus? Many Bible scholars, and myself included (but not necessarily the Bible scholar, I just love the Bible), many Bible scholars believe that Melchisedec was, in reality, one of what they call the Christophanies of the Old Testament, the appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament to Abraham. And that He was actually Melchisedec who came out to meet Abraham who received tithes from him and who blessed him. It is interesting that Melchisedec gave to Abraham bread and wine, the symbols of communion, the body and blood of our Lord.

Now, let's get into the text.

For this Melchisedec, the king of Salem, priest of the most high God ( Hebrews 7:1 ),

He said that he was the priest of El Elyown, the Most High God, when he introduced himself to Abraham.

who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also the King of Salem, which is, the King of peace ( Hebrews 7:1-2 );

Fascinating name, King of Righteousness, King of Peace.

Jeremiah tells us that when the Lord comes to reign upon the earth that He will be known in that day as Jehovah-Tsidkenu, which means, "the Lord our Righteousness," or, "the King of Righteousness." We know that He is coming as the Prince of Peace. Both of these names incorporated in the name Melchisedec.

Now, Melchisedec, he said was,

Without father, without mother, and without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life ( Hebrews 7:3 );

It doesn't tell us where he was born, when he was born. It doesn't tell us when or how he died, or that he did die. It doesn't tell us anything of his genealogy. It doesn't tell us anything of his father and mother. He appears isolated on the scene, no background, nothing of his future. Just there appearing to Abraham, blessing him, receiving tithes from him, giving him bread and wine in communion. And so without father, without mother, without a genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.

but made like unto the Son of God; he abides a priest continually ( Hebrews 7:3 ).

God has sworn and will not repent, "Thou art a priest forever." So he abides, continually abides; the priesthood is continual, forever. "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." It is an order that is established which is an eternal order of priesthood. "Thou art a priest forever," so he abides a priest continually.

Now consider ( Hebrews 7:4 )

You remember, twice before in Hebrews we had been told to consider Jesus. "Now consider him..." Now he tells us to consider Melchisedec. And as I say, I believe that he was an appearance of Jesus in the Old Testament.

Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils ( Hebrews 7:4 ).

Consider how great he must have been.

You see, Abraham was, in the mind of the Jew, the epitome. He was it. He was the beginning of the father. He was the father of those that believed. He was the prime patriarch of the people. Now consider how great this man Melchisedec was that Abraham would have given to him a tenth part of everything he had. That Abraham would have paid tithes to him, a tenth of the spoils.

And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brothers, though they come out of the loins of Abraham ( Hebrews 7:5 ):

God had, under the law, established that the people should give a tenth part of all of their increase, that they should bring it into the temple. This was to be given to the priest. They were to pay their tithes, a tenth part of the increase. When they harvested their crops a tenth was to be brought in and given unto the Lord. The Levitical priests received tithes from their brothers; all of them were descendants of Abraham.

But he whose descent is not counted from them ( Hebrews 7:6 )

Not a descendant of Abraham. He lived at the same time, so his descent is not counted from them.

received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises ( Hebrews 7:6 ).

Abraham had the promises of God. "Unto thee shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed. From thy seed shall the nations of the earth be blessed." This promise was to Abraham, and yet, here is Abraham receiving a blessing from this man. "Consider this man," who is that man? That even Abraham paid tithes to him and he received the blessing from Abraham.

For without any argument the less is blessed of the better ( Hebrews 7:7 ).

The blessing is always bestowed from the greater to the lesser. We are blessed of God. The fact that Abraham then received the blessings of Melchisedec puts Melchisedec even above their great patriarch Abraham.

And here men that die receive tithes ( Hebrews 7:8 );

The Levitical priests, they died and the order was passed on and on and on in a succession of generations. And here men that die receive tithes,

but there he received them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives ( Hebrews 7:8 ).

"Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec." That is, Melchisedec still lives.

And as I may so say, Levi also, who receives tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him ( Hebrews 7:9-10 ).

So in reality, the priesthood of Melchisedec is so superior to that of Levi that Levi actually, who was, of course, in the loins of Abraham or potentially there in that gene structure that was to be passed on, Levi paid tithes unto Melchisedec.

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? ( Hebrews 7:11 ).

So coming to this Psalm 110 , "God hath sworn and shall not repent, 'Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.'" If the Levitical priesthood were perfect, if it could bring man into a perfect state, then why wouldn't God have said concerning the Messiah that, "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Aaron"? It was because the Aaronic priesthood could not bring anything into perfection. Therefore, God reverts to an earlier priesthood and greater priesthood, "Thou are a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec."

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar ( Hebrews 7:12-13 ).

So the fact that the priesthood is after the order of Melchisedec, there has to be a change of the law, because under the law you had to be of the tribe of Levi in order to be the priest. When they had returned from Babylonian captivity, there were some men who claimed priesthood, but they could not prove their genealogies, and so they were not allowed in the priesthood. Only those that could bring their genealogies and prove that they were of Levi.

But here is a priest after another order. Therefore, the law has to be changed, because we know he said that Jesus came from the tribe of Judah. And nothing in the law is said concerning the priesthood of the tribe of Judah, but it is an exclusive right for the tribe of Levi. For he of whom these things are spoken, Jesus is the one of whom this was spoken, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec," pertains to another tribe of which no man gave attendance at the altar. They did not serve before the altar of God, those from the tribe of Judah.

For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood ( Hebrews 7:14 ).

In the book of Hebrews, he has brought out that we have a great high priest, even Jesus Christ, the righteous. The Jew would immediately challenge, "How could Jesus be a great high priest when He comes from the tribe of Judah?" Nothing is said in the law concerning the priesthood from the tribe of Judah. So here he pulls out this 110th Psalm, "For God has sworn and will not repent, 'Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.'" And so he answers the argument of the Jew, who would declare there is no way Jesus could be a high priest coming from the tribe of Judah. He answers that argument quite thoroughly with his prophetic Psalm 110 .

And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there arises another priest ( Hebrews 7:15 ),

It is far more evident because the prophecy in Psalm 110 , that there has to arise another priest after the order of Melchisedec.

Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life ( Hebrews 7:16 ).

"Thou art a priest forever." So the law could make nothing perfect. It could only bear witness of a better covenant, established on better promises.

For he testified, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is then of necessity a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitable thereof ( Hebrews 7:17-18 ).

The law has been disannulled, commandments disannulled, because of the priesthood being changed.

For the law made nothing perfect, but it brought in a better hope; by which we draw nigh unto God ( Hebrews 7:19 ).

The Bible says, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God" ( Romans 3:20 ). The Bible teaches us that the law was never intended to make a man righteous. The purpose of the law was to reveal man's sin and his utter sinfulness. It is by the law that I have a knowledge of sin, for God has declared His righteous standard and I realize that I have fallen short of God's righteous standard.

So, the law revealing my failure, points the finger of guilt at me and the law then condemns me to death and to the curse. "For it is written, 'Cursed is every one who continues not in the whole law that is to do the things that are written therein'" ( Galatians 3:10 ). The law makes no one righteous, but it does put us all under the curse, for it reveals to us our sins and it makes us much more guilty, or at least conscious of our guilt. Now, this is the problem in the time of Jesus, was their interpretating of the law. And I think that that is probably a problem that exists all through the history of man, the interpreting of the law.

We're having a tremendous problem in the United States today as we are trying to interpret the law, the Constitution, the freedom of religion. What did they really mean? The way the liberal Supreme Court has interpreted it, is that man has freedom from religion not the freedom of religion. They got the prepositions twisted up. Our Constitution never intended that man should have freedom from religion. It's just that none of us force our religious convictions or beliefs upon each other, but all of us are allowed to practice our religious convictions in freedom.

It is interesting to me that under the present interpretation of the law, teachers can assign reading to our high school students, reading assignments by which they can study Hinduism, Buddhism, and it can be presented in a very favorable light to the children. Huntington Beach High School, one of the teachers there assigned a book that espouses Hinduism, required reading for their class. But surely, if one of the teachers should require that they read a book with Christian connotations there would be an outcry of that liberal half-wit society that it was a violation, the ACLU. I'll tell you...maybe I better not. What damage they have done. They are out to destroy the moral principles and fiber of our nation. They actually create situations where they can challenge the law as they did in the Scopes trial. It was all set up by the ACLU.

Now in Jesus' day, they were interpreting the law as a physical, material thing rather than seeing it as a spiritual thing, and interpreting it in a literal, physical way. They were becoming very smug and self-righteous because they followed the law to the letter. For instance, Jesus said, "You strain at a gnat and you swallow a camel."

Now, over in that land there are lots of gnats, pesky little things flying around your eyes all the time, and just bugging you. And as you were out doing your morning jogging, sometimes these little gnats would fly in your mouth. Now, according to the law you can't eat any meat unless it has been killed in a kosher fashion, thoroughly bled. So you'd see these Pharisees out there with their fingers down their throat straining to get rid of that gnat, because they didn't want to do anything that would violate the law. So they strained at a gnat.

The law said, "Thou shalt not bear a burden on the Sabbath day." What constitutes bearing a burden? So they had to go down the list of the various burdens that a man might bear on the Sabbath day. You have a glass eye? That is carrying something on the Sabbath day, and you've got to take it out on the Sabbath day. Go around with one eye. Have false teeth? Sabbath day, you're carrying a burden. Get rid of the false teeth. Wooden leg? Not on the Sabbath, man.

So they sought to interpret the law, making it a heavy, physical yoke that no man can bear. But in reality, becoming very self-righteous because I keep the law, whereas, in reality, they were violating the spirit of the law every day. God intended the law as spiritual. Their carnal interpretation was wrong.

That is why in the Sermon on the Mount, beginning in the fifth chapter of Matthew, about verse Hebrews 7:14 or so, Jesus said, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you're not going to enter the kingdom of heaven" ( Matthew 5:20 ). And as all of the disciples were aghast, and shocked, "Well, that let's me out, have to be more righteous than those guys," bunch of fisherman. Oh, this was just too heavy to handle. Jesus went on to explain what He meant. For their righteousness was all of works. An outward righteousness in the keeping of the law, but inwardly they were violating the spirit of the law every day.

Jesus said, "You have heard that it hath been said, they've taught you that the law says, 'Thou shalt not kill,' but I say unto you, that if you hate your brother you've violated the law" ( Matthew 5:21-22 ). Hatred from which murder springs. "You have heard that it hath been said, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' but I say unto you, whosoever looks upon a woman and desires her has already committed adultery in his heart" ( Matthew 5:27-28 ). It's a matter of the heart. It's the matter of the spirit, and that is what Jesus was teaching.

When you look at the law that way, then we are all guilty. Though we may not have physically clubbed our neighbor to death, we've hated him because he never keeps his dog quiet at night. "I could kill him in the middle of the night when I'm awakened by that pesky dog." Guilty! The law made nothing perfect, but it did bring a better hope by which we draw nigh unto God.

And inasmuch as when a man was made a priest he had to take the oath of the priesthood ( Hebrews 7:20 ):

Even as the president has to take the oath of office, the governor has to take the oath of office, so the priest has to take the oath of office.

(For those priests were made without an oath of God; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent [God took an oath], Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament ( Hebrews 7:21-22 ).

So, we talk about the Old Testament. We talk about the New Testament. Jesus, when He took the emblems of the Passover supper, a part of the old covenant the deliverance out of Egypt, which was a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt. The purpose of the supper was to remind them that their fathers were delivered from the bondage in Egypt by the hand of God. When Jesus took those elements of the Passover, He said, "This cup is a new testament in my blood that is shed for the remission of sins." The old covenant of God to those in Egypt was put the blood of the lamb on the lentils of the doorposts of the house, and when I passed through the land tonight I'll pass over your house--God's old covenant. The sacrificial lamb would cover for the house. God's new covenant, the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse us from sin, and death has passed over us. We have passed from death into life. "He that liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." Oh, we'll be changed. We'll have a metamorphosis. This corruption must put on incorruption. This mortal must put on immortality. I'm going to move out of my old tent into my beautiful new mansion, but I'll never die. So Jesus, being made a priest after the order of Melchisedec by the oath of God, has become the surety of a better testament.

And they truly were many priests ( Hebrews 7:23 ),

They would die, and that was their problem. They'd live out their life span and die, and the priesthood would pass on to the next and the next. It was something that was continually changing. There truly were many high priests of the Aaronic order,

because they were not allowed to continue by reason of death [they were mortals]: But this man, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them ( Hebrews 7:23-25 ).

Now, the purpose of the priesthood was that of intercession. The people could not come directly to God.

In the book of Job, as Job's friends were probing for the possible reasons for his calamities and sufferings, they had come to the conclusion that Job must be a secret sinner. Guilty of horrible acts of sin that he was able to successfully hide. Job attested to his innocence. "I don't know of anything. I haven't done these things that you accuse me of doing. If I've done these things then let me die. I deserve it, but I haven't done these things."

And his one friend said to him, "Why don't you just get right with God and everything will be okay." In responding to him, Job said, "I look up at the heavens, and I realize the vastness of God. And I realize that I am nothing. How can I plead my case before God when He is so great and I am nothing? Who am I to stand before God to plead my case?" He said, "There is no daysman between us that can put his hand on both of us." God is too vast. He is infinite. I'm finite. The gulf between the infinite and the finite is too great for the finite to reach over.

That is, of course, the basic weakness of all religions. The finite man is trying to reach over this gulf to the infinite God--impossible. That is what separates Christianity from all religions. Christianity is not finite man trying to reaching the infinite God. But it's the infinite God reaching down to the finite man. "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son." So the infinite God is reaching down to the finite man. Now, that I can accept that as possible, but religions with the finite man trying to reach the infinite God, I can also see the total impossibility of that.

As one of Job's friends said, "Who by searching can really discover God or know God, find out God to perfection?" The answer is no one can. God is infinite. I have a finite understanding. I have a finite mind. I cannot comprehend or understand the infinite God. Being finite, I cannot reach the infinite God. The gap is too great. There is no mediator between us, one who can lay His hand on us both, no daysman. But to this cry of Job, and the dilemma of Job, comes the statement of Paul, "There is one God (eternal, true, and living), and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ). He lays His hand on us both. He touches God because He is one with God, but He touches me because He became a man and is in all points tempted like I am.

The purpose of the priest was to take this sinning man and intercede for him before God. But the priest himself had sins, so before the priest could offer a sacrifice for you, he had to first of all offer the sacrifice for himself. And then having offered the sacrifices for himself, he then, in turn, could offer for you. He would go before God and intercede for you. He was your representative before God, and then as he would come back to you. He would represent God before you. He was the go-between. He was the daysman. He was there mediating between you and God, because the approach to God was impossible for you to come directly to God. Our sins blocked the door, kept us from coming. You go to God with all your sin, you'd be fried man. You can't stand in the holiness and purity of God. You'd just be wiped out. So that daysman, that mediator. So that was the purpose of the priesthood in the Old Testament.

Jesus, our great High Priest, is able to save them to the uttermost. Now this salvation that we have...now, again, don't mix your prepositions. It is not saved from the uttermost. It isn't here declaring that God can reach down to the lowest level of human existence and take a man from that state of a derelict and raise him to a high level of a redeemed preacher. Now, God can do that, and other text confirms that, but that is not what this text is affirming. It is not saving from the uttermost. It is saving to the uttermost. This salvation that you have, it's the most. Nothing greater, nothing finer, nothing more glorious than this salvation that we have through Jesus Christ. It is going to take us to the highest limits of glory. It's salvation to the uttermost. The absolute, ultimate experience. This glorious salvation that lifts us into the very presence of God and makes us one with Him.

Now Christ our great High Priest, because He is our great High Priest, is able to bring us salvation to the uttermost, something the law could never do for you. Something rules and regulations could never do for you. It is something that Jesus does do for us because He is our great High Priest and He saves me to the uttermost. The salvation is for all. Jesus said, "He who comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out" ( John 6:37 ). He is able to save all who come unto God by Him. And the way of salvation is coming to God by Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life and no man can come to the Father but by Him. He accomplishes this by ever living to make intercession for us.

Christ is there today, at the right hand of God, interceding on my behalf. Presenting me to the Father, interceding, and that is His ministry and His mission. He is not condemning me.

Where did we ever get that idea that Jesus was always condemning us? When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about being born again, Jesus said, "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes is not condemned" ( John 3:17-18 ). Notice He didn't say, "He who works hard, he who is faithful in devotions, he who prays an hour every day, he who reads ten chapters of the Bible every day is not condemned," but, "he who believes is not condemned, and he who believes not is already condemned." The law did that. This is the condemnation, that light came into the world and they wouldn't come to the light.

When they brought to Jesus a woman taken in the very act of adultery, and they said, "Our law says we should stone her. What do you say?" Jesus said, "I say whichever one of you is without sin throw the first stone." Then kneeling He wrote on the ground in the dirt, no doubt the various sins they were guilty of committing, listing them by name and by order of age. And from the oldest to the youngest they began to leave as they saw their name and then some of the things they thought nobody knew written out on the ground for everyone to see. Finally, Jesus stood up, and there was no one left but the woman. He said, "What happened to your accusers?" "I guess I don't have any, Lord." He said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and sin no more" ( John 8:3-11 ).

Why is it we always think of Jesus condemning us? He didn't come to condemn. He came to save. Paul said, "Who is he that condemneth?" For so many years of my life I thought it was Jesus. But Paul answers, "It is Christ who died, in fact, is risen again, and is even at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you." He's not condemning you; He is interceding for you.

What would you think if your attorney went to the court and said, "Now, judge, this guy is a rat. He deserves to go to jail." You'd say, "Man, what did I pay you five thousand bucks for? My wife could have told the judge that. You don't need to." No, you want your attorney to put your case in the best light. You want him to exonerate you before the court. You want him to represent you. You would sue him for malpractice if he didn't properly...he may have properly represented you, but he didn't represent you like you wanted to be represented.

Now Jesus, not only a high priest, He's my intercessor. And He is able to save me to the uttermost because He ever lives, a priest forever. He ever lives to make intercession. So He acts there in the priestly capacity of interceding or of mediating between God and man, but He is there as my mediator representing me before God.

For such an high priest becomes us, who is holy, he is harmless, he is undefiled, and he is separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens [what a glorious High Priest I have]; who needs not daily, as those high priests [from Levi], to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have weaknesses; but the word of the oath, [God has sworn and shall not repent] which was since the law [it came some six hundred years after the law; the time of David], makes the Son, who is consecrated forevermore [a priest forever] ( Hebrews 7:26-28 ).


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Hebrews 7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/hebrews-7.html. 2014.
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