A Surety of a Better Testament

Hebrews 7:19-24

 

19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:

21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

He Jews knew nothing of Old and New Testament like we do.  All they knew was what we call the Old Testament, and most of what they knew consisted of the first five books of the Bible and whatever else was read in the synagogue and told around the fire at night.  Hey didn’t have a copy of these things readily available like we do.  They had to remember these things they had heard and pass them on to their children.  One thing they did know, though, was the law.  They knew the necessity of bringing their sacrifices to the temple to make atonement for their sins.  They knew the burnt offering, the trespass offering, the in offering, the peace offering and others.  They knew the dedicated feast times of celebration, like Passover and the Feast of Tabernacle. This is evident as we read the Gospels.  This was their way of life, and this law was strictly enforced by the Scribes and Pharisees.  It had always been this way, from the very beginning of their nation.

Now Paul comes along and tells them the law did not make anyone or anything perfect.  He just tore down over 2,000 years of tradition with one statement.  Surely, he can’t be right!  He must be mistaken on this point.  After all, they relied on the law of Moses to be cleansed from their sin. They relied on the priest to make atonement by offering their sacrifices upon the altar.  In a way, this would be like telling a Catholic that communion makes nothing right with God.  If you know anything about Catholicism, communion means everything to them.!  They would scoff at this idea, just as I am sure the Jews did when they first read this statement of Paul’s.  If the sacrifices of the law make nothing perfect, then there was no way for the people to be right with God!

Paul does not leave them hanging, though.  He next tells them that a better hope has been made available.  A new way has developed that could bring the people closer to God.  No longer did they have to rely on the Old Testament rules and regulations to be close to God.  There is a new way to draw nigh unto God.  And that new way was Jesus Christ.

I can see the common Jews head spin around on top of their neck in disbelief.  What, Jesus?  What a minute.  Isn’t he the one who was crucified and died a painful death?  Wasn’t he the one who did all these miracles we have heard about, and told amazing stories that made the people think?  Wasn’t he the one who brought Lazarus back to life, and who the Pharisees and Scribes thought was a heretic?  Wasn’t he the one who they claimed came back to life?  How could this man possibly bring a better hope?  I can hear them stopping Paul at this point and saying he had to prove this to them, because this was ludicrous.  It made no sense to them at all up to this point.

There is a reason Paul sends this letter to them, though.  He is building a case to show them exactly why Jesus brings a better hope. His method is perfect to do this.  He has talked about the priesthood of Melchizedek to show that there an be a priest outside the family of Levi.  This is a very important point to make for reasons that will continue to unfold as we read through Hebrews. In fact, it is essential that first he convinces the people of Jesus priesthood before they can believe Jesus can do anything to atone for their sins.  A priest had to offer the sacrifice, and had to offer blood for the cleansing of sin. That had not changed.  That was God’s law from the very beginning.  God slew an animal in the Garden to cover the sins of Adam and Eve.  God required an animal sacrifice of blood from Able.  God said there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.  So, Paul had to convince them that Jesus could offer the sacrifice, and to do that He had to be a priest,

Here comes Melchizedek again. He was not a Levite, but from another order.  And the Messianic prophecy from the Psalms, which the Israelites knew well, said that Messiah would be “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”  We know so little about Melchizedek, and yet he plays such an important role here.  The Jewish people certainly knew the story of Abraham bringing tithes to this priest of the most-high God.  They also knew that the tithe belonged to the priest.  The fact that Abraham regarded him as a priest, and that he was also the King of Salem, makes any comparison to him one of great importance.

Jesus was the priest the Psalmist was taking about, and He brings the surety of a better testament because He is still alive! He died, but He rose again, and the priesthood that He offers us is one that will never end.  Their earthly high priest would succumb to death, but this high priest would not.  His testament, His covenant was a better one. It would last forever.  His priesthood would not change with the times.  It would always remain, and no one could take it away.  And His was perfect priesthood, which we will see more clearly as we move through this fascinating book.

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