Hebrews 7:11-28 Part Two
In last weeks sermon we went to Joshua 23-24 to illustrate how from the very beginning the people of Israel were warned about the inability of the Law to perfect (to bring to completion, to bring to fulfillment) the people. For two chapters Joshua exhorted the people to cling to the LORD and to love Him. They were exhorted to reject all idolatry and to obey the LORD perfectly. If they did these things the LORD would deliver them from the hand of their enemies.
This exhortation could not have gone any better. All of the people unanimously rededicated themselves to the Old Covenant. And yet, the story did not end there. No, Joshua says to them, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for His is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions and your sins.” (24:19)
Joshua then warns the people of what the disastrous consequences will be when the people turn away from the LORD and go after other gods. But despite these warnings the people still seem to think that they can faithfully serve the LORD and they say, “No, but we will serve the LORD.”
On that day Joshua stood before all the tribes of Israel. He spoke this way to Asher, Dan, Ephraim, Gad, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Benjamin, and the tribe of Levi. This event, therefore, shows us that not even the Levitical Priesthood could perfect the Israelites when they sinned against the LORD. Neither could the Law of Moses save them and draw them close to God. The Law and the Levitical Priesthood were temporary until a New Covenant would be established and a greater Priesthood would arrive which could bring perfection and give access to the people before a holy and jealous God.
Our text this morning is found in Hebrews 7:11-28. This is what it says,
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?
12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’”
22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
As we begin this morning I would like to look at a passage in Malachi 1. This is the last book in the Old Testament. After this book was written there would be 400 years of silence before the coming of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus. From the very beginning of this book you see that the people have turned away from the LORD. Their view of God and their worship of Him comes from a cynical, critical, doubtful and pessimistic heart (1:2, 6, 13). The people do not honor God by offering to the LORD the best sacrifices, but instead they offer polluted sacrifices that are blind, lame and sickly. Yet, as they do this they entreat the LORD for favor and they ask Him to be gracious to Him.
But then as you come to Malachi 1:10 we read, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire in vain on my altar! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”
Let me make a couple brief comments about Malachi 1:10 before we turn back to our text in Hebrews 7:11-28. First, this is a picture of Israel’s worship at its worst. This is not a picture of Israel worshiping at its best. That would be described in Malachi 2:4-7 when we are told about Levi. We read, “So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
I mention this because as we turn to Hebrews 7 I want you to realize that the Levitical Priesthood and the Law needed to be changed not only because it had bad days and difficult seasons; but because even when the people did everything well the Law and the priesthood still was weak, useless, and unable to perfect the worshipers.
Secondly, notice that it is the LORD who is speaking throughout chapter 1. It is the LORD who says that He has no pleasure in the people and in the sacrifices that they offer to Him. It is also the LORD who lameents, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire in vain on my altar!”
In those words you can hear the heart of God longing for the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of a New Covenant. The LORD longs for the putting away of the Levitical Priesthood and the establishment of a better priest and the establishment of a covenant of Grace.
Thirdly, notice that the LORD says, “Oh that there were one among you…”. In the context of these words God is longing to see just one Levitical Priest fear the LORD enough that he would do what needed to be done and bring an end to all of the evil practices that were being done at the LORD’s altar.
I also see in those words two other things that are worthy of our consideration. First, the LORD is showing us that there was no Levitical priest who was able to do this. The Levites were given the priesthood, the Temple worship, the covenant, the regulations, the teaching responsibilities, etc. A Levitical priest could not end all of these things so God would have to send someone from the order of Melchizedek and not of Aaron to accomplish this.
Secondly, the LORD is showing us that He would only have to send one man to do this and not countless new priests like the tribe of Levi. He says, “Oh that there were one among you…”. Jesus Christ would be that one man who could come and bring an end to all of these weak and useless things and establish forever a greater covenant and priesthood. Praise the LORD!
In Hebrews 7:11-17 there is a word that shows up three times – ‘another’ (11,13,15).
‘...what further need would there have been for another priest to arise’ (11)
‘For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe…’ (12)
‘This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek.’ (15)
This word is pretty significant in this context. There are two words in the Greek that can be translated ‘another’ or ‘other’. One of these words, ἄλλος,which means ‘another of the same kind’; while the other word, ἕτερον, refers to something that is ‘another of a different kind’.
If someone asked for another piece of fruit and used the former word, ἄλλος, they would be given another similar piece of fruit. If they had a banana, they would be given another banana. If they had an orange, they would be given another orange. However, if someone asked for a piece of fruit by using the word,ἕτερον they could be given a different type of fruit. They may have just eaten a banana but now they might be given an orange to eat.
It is the Greek word ἕτερονthat is used here in our text all three times and it refers to ‘another of a different kind’. Because of this the author of Hebrews is speaking about how Jesus and His priesthood is different than the Levitical priests and their priesthood.
First, there was a need for another priest to arise who could bring perfection, completion and fulfillment. One who could reconcile us to God and bring sinners near to Him.
Secondly, the new High Priest would be from a different tribe. He would not come through the Levitical Priesthood. Instead, He would be from the tribe of Judah.
Secondly, the new priest would be from the line of Melchizedek and not of the priestly line of the Levites.
Seeing that there was a great need for a New Covenant and a new priesthood the author of Hebrews will spend the rest of our text giving five proofs that the Law and the Levitical Priesthood has been replaced by something altogether different and much better.
In Hebrews 7:12-17 the author of Hebrews will argue that because Jesus Christ has come there has been a radical change not only in the priesthood but in the Law.
In Hebrews 7:18-19 the author of Hebrews contrasts the weakness and uselessness of the law, with the introduction of a better hope through which we can draw near to God.
In Hebrews 7:20-22 the author of Hebrews contrasts the priesthood of Jesus who received His office through an oath and the Levites who received their priesthood by birth.
In Hebrews 7:23-25 the author of Hebrews contrasts the temporary ministry of the Levitical priests with the permanent priesthood of Christ.
Finally, in Hebrews 7:26-28 the author of Hebrews contrasts the holiness of Jesus with the sinfulness of the priests under the Old Covenant. They were weak but Christ is the perfect Son who has been made a priest forever.
#1 There is a radical change in the Law and the Levitical Priesthood
Hebrews 7:12-17 he says, “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
The Old Testament Law and the Levitical Priesthood are inseparably tied to one tribe – the tribe of Levi. If there is ever to be a change in that priesthood there must also be a change in the Law as well. In other words, if there is to be another priest it will be a priest of a radically different kind (ἕτερον). And if there is to be a different kind of priest then there will have to be a different Law which is in effect (John 1:17). The Old Covenant would have to come to an end and the New Covenant with a new priesthood will be established forever.
Over the last two weeks we have seen one of the richest men in the world take over a $44,000,000,000 company. Since the change in ownership there have been many changes from top to bottom within the company. The new owner says that He wants to grow and make the company better.
This is not the same as what we see happening in our text with the Law and the Levitical Priesthood. The New Covenant is not taking something old and attempting to improve it and make it better. The New Covenant is not a mixture of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The New Covenant is altogether new. It is permanent and not temporary. It is effective and not ineffective. It is of grace and not law. It has a priest from Judah and not from Levi. It has a priest of the order of Melchizedek and not from Aaron. What the Old Covenant could not perfect this New Covenant can do for those who approach God by faith to worship and honor Him.
We learn in Hebrews 7:12-17 that when the priesthood changed ownership the Levitical priests and the Law were dismissed. They would be let go, handed their severance papers, they’d be fired. The doors would be locked behind them and all the worship that went on in the earthly Temple would cease.
Our text gives us two proofs that the priesthood has changed. First, the new priest, Jesus Christ, was not from the tribe of Levi. He came from a different tribe – the tribe of Judah (7:13-14). Moses never said anything about Judah serving as priests. Therefore Jesus must serve as a priest from a different order. This brings us to his second proof that the priesthood has changed.
Secondly, we see that Jesus’ priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek and it is not of the order of Aaron. Jesus’ priesthood is completely different than the priesthood that Aaron had been given. Jesus has not been given His priesthood through a legal requirement concerning His bodily descent, but on the power of an indestructible life.
Elon Musk paid $44,000,000,000 for a company called ‘Twitter’. Since that time there has been many people who have said that he paid too much. Jesus, however, paid a much higher price to become our Great High Priest. He paid for it with the shedding of His precious blood and He has now been raised back to life by the power of God.And now Jesus has become a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. (1 Peter 1:18-21 - For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God)
#2 The Old Covenant was set aside so we could draw near to God
The second argument that the author of Hebrews makes is found in Hebrews 7:18-19. We read, “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”
In these verses we see that ‘the former commandment is set aside’. This means that the first covenant has been disannulled, cancelled, voided, dismissed, eliminated, removed. We are given five reasons why God had done this.
The First Covenant was weak. The law had no strength to draw sinners to God. Its strength was to reveal sin and not to impart righteousness. It condemned us and could not justify anyone.
The First Covenant was useless. This means that there was nothing profitable in the Law that could bring men to God. Even on our best day the Law could not bring us to a holy God. Even when we obeyed the Law we could not be justified by the Law.
The Law made nothing perfect (7:11). The Law could not complete, perfect or bring fulfillment between us and God. The Law could only point out our sins, transgressions and iniquities.
Once it is set aside a better hope is introduced. A Christian’s hope is that through Jesus Christ all of our sins, iniquities and transgressions are forgiven and that we have been made righteous through Christ alone. This is our hope and confidence. When we come to Christ and abandon our self-righteousness a better hope is introduced to us through which we draw near to God.
Finally, once the Law is set aside worshipers can draw near to God. The Law does not allow anyone to draw near to God. But here we see that when the Law is set aside we can draw very near to God. This week I was reading through the gospel’s and read each story through the lens of seeing Jesus as a better High Priest. One of the stories that caught my attention was in Matthew 19:13-14, “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.'”
#3 The New Priest is established by an oath and not by birthright
The third argument that the author makes is in Hebrews 7:20-22, And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.”
The oath that is mentioned here is found in Psalm 110:4, “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Go home this week and read the book of Malachi. As you read it consider just how bad things had gotten with the people and the priests. One of the reasons that God did not annihilate the people right then and there was because He had promised to make His Son a High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Oh, what a wonderful promise!
The Levites were not given such an oath. No promise was given to them that God would not change the Old Covenant and do away with the Law and the Levitical Priesthood. But of Jesus He said, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” Because of this we are told, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” On your worst day you need to remember who has guaranteed this covenant of Grace that we enjoy. It is not you, but Christ!
#4 The Levitical Priesthood was temporary but Christ’s is permanent
The fourth argument the author makes is in Hebrews 7:23-25, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Jesus is, and forever will be, a believers Great High Priest. We draw near to the Father through Jesus and He always (permanently) lives to make intercession for us.
My grandparents lived in a small town called Roper, Kansas. There was a sign near their house that read, “Population of Roper, Ks: 25 people”. The nearest town to them was called Fredonia, Kansas and its population was about 250 people. It was in Fredonia that my grandparents went to church. One of their great frustrations was that every two years the pastor of their Methodist church would be removed and they would have a new pastor installed. So every two years they had to get to know a new pastor and his family. It was difficult.
In our text we see that we now have a High Priest that never changes. He lives forever to make intercession for you and I. We look to Him. We get to know Him. We love Him. We cling to Him. We learn to trust Him. He will never leave us or forsake us. Because of this He is able to save completely, to the uttermost, entirely.
#5 The Levitical Priests were sinful but Christ is holy
The fifth argument the author makes is in Hebrews 7:26-28, “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”
In this text we are given 8 reasons why Jesus can save us to the uttermost.
Jesus is holy. This means that Jesus is perfect in righteousness, piety and holiness.
Jesus is innocent. This means that Jesus is untouched and undamaged by any evil.
Jesus is undefiled. This means that Jesus is free from any defilement, contamination of sin, or impurity.
Jesus is separated from sinners. Jesus is completely separate from all sin and sinners.
Jesus is exalted above the heavens. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father where He lives to make intercession for us.
Jesus does not need to offer sacrifices for Himself. Jesus offers Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of the people.
Jesus’ appointment is greater than the Levitical Priests. Jesus was appointed by the Father to this position. He holds His priesthood forever and the Father will never change His mind concerning this.
Jesus is God’s Son who is the perfect High Priest and able to accomplish these things. In Christ we have been adopted and He is not ashamed to call us His brothers.