Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hebrews 7 Lesson

This is passion week.  Of all weeks of the year we should focus on the cross.  We can approach the cross in many ways, some of which are not really doctrinal (re:  Bill O’Reilly).  But we can even from a Biblical standpoint look at the cross from several perspectives, and the best book on this is John Piper’s 50 Reasons why Jesus Came to Die.  The doctrine of the cross is very rich and deep.

One way we must approach it is from the Old Testament views.  Hebrews definitely looks at it more as Christ fulfilling ceremonial law of the priesthood.  So I would like to talk about the tabernacle some and what it was like for a person to “worship.”

There are two chapters in the Bible on creation and a whole book on how to worship, because we don’t worship creation, as marvelous as it is.  Actually, creation is marvelous but also cruel.
You really can’t do a study of Hebrews without an understanding of the Old Testament tabernacle, which became the temple later, with some modifications. 
Key points:
·      Each piece of it was symbolic of God’s work with Israel and some scholars say, of our Christian experience.
·      The whole nation was involved in its building and gave sacrificially for it.  Where did they get the money?  Spoils from Egypt, trading, available in wilderness
·      The directions are intricately given in Exodus 25-40. 
·      The items were priceless.
·      It was moveable and it was located in Shiloh when they arrived in promised land
·      It was always in the center of the camp.
·      The ark was stolen during a battle with Philistines (I Samuel 4) and remained there until David’s reign.

What’s the deal with this fellow Melchizedek?

Two ideas:
A real person who is used as a description of Christ because he (a) was recognized by Abraham as a spiritual authority, and Abraham gave him tithes even though the Levitical priesthood would not be around for hundreds of years, (b) he has no geneaological record, which is a big deal in the Old Testament.  Jesus was human but not in the same sense, he is special and superior.  And (c) he is a priest of the most High God but not Levitical, and Jesus was of Judah, not Levi.  So the idea inherent in Melchizedek is superiority and nonLevitical. 

He is a Christophany. In a few instances in the Old Testament, an “Angel of the Lord” appears for a special purpose.  Some Bible scholars believe those are appearances of Jesus before the real incarnation.  I do not accept those because the New Testament doesn’t refer to them and says that Jesus came once.  It seems to me that the New Testament would mention them specifically.

Chapter 7 is divided into 3 sections:
1-3:  characteristics of Melchizedek
4-10:  relation of Melchizedek to Levitical priesthood
11-19:  Need for a new priesthood because “the law made nothing perfect.” (v. 19)
20-28:  Greatness of Christ as the new high priest. 
            He continues forever
            He is holy, innocent (what does that mean?), undefiled, separate from sinners
            He doesn’t need to sacrifice for himself, as the others did
            His sacrifice was himself, therefore perfect. 

 It seems like all of  these rules didn’t work.  Why didn’t God just send Jesus right after Adam and Eve sinned?  Get it over with, we’d all be happy, right? 

Jesus reframed the Old Testament.  He didn’t do away with it, or say it was pointless and meaningless.   But he fulfilled it, saying “I am the fulfillment of all of these ceremonies, I explain it, I will make it complete and end the need for it.” All cultural groups become fixed on a place, as the Jews had.

Turn to John 4:19 and following.  Jesus said, “Those who worship me must worship me in spirit and in truth.”  Jeremiah predicted “new hearts” instead of legalistic, hard-as-stone ones that caused them to miss the grace. 

Other religions have an iota of truth, but their only value is to show that they are not enough.  Buddhism makes a person mindful, but does not answer the question of forgiveness.  Islam makes a person aware of the separation of God from mankind, but doesn’t bridge the gap.  Judaism lays the foundation but the whole point of Hebrews is to convince those who are tempted to go back into Judaism (due to persecution from Rome and their community) that Jesus is superior to the Jewish system even though that was the starting point—Go on, move forward. 

So, as high priest, Jesus makes the last and perfect offering, he “tabernacled with us” (John 1:4); he offers only for us and not for himself because he is sinless, he understands our weakness and what temptation means, as well as human experience that can pull us toward temptations, he tears the veil, we can come boldly into the holy or holies, he ever lives to intercede for us based on the perfect offering, he makes access possible everywhere and anywhere, he makes us equal, we don’t have to bring some animal to offer or any other human oriented work.  Faith is what we bring, and we walk away with an ability to obey if we use it. 

Reflection:  What can we do this week to focus on the sacrifice of our High Priest?

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