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The High Priest Forever
Fall Quarter: The Sovereignty of God
Unit 2: The Sovereignty of Jesus
Sunday school lesson for the week of October 23, 2016
By Rev. Earnestine Campbell
Lesson scripture: Hebrews 7:1-3, 19b-28
Background scripture: Hebrews 7
In this text, the author of Hebrews continues to develop the story of God speaking to his people to live in his order. The writer develops Melchizedek as God’s orderly Priest, a King. The author writes to solidify Jesus’ authority by referencing a human genealogy of a King, Melchizedek from Salem (Genesis 14, Psalm 110). During this First Century, Jewish and Gentile Christians appear to be wavering in their faith. These Christians witnessed persecution along with disparaging treatment from emperors and rulers; surely Jesus could not have been the “forever” Savior because suffering was still occurring.
In the text, the author is conveying you can trust God with your tithes. If Abram could give a one-tenth tithe to a king that he didn’t know, can we follow the order and give our tithes in the order of the High Priest forever, Jesus Christ? Tithing has been a discussion of debate, a source of contention, and for others a time of joy and celebration.
Understanding the Word
In this lesson, we continue in the middle section of Hebrews, expanding from last week’s lesson of “Jesus as the High Priest” and escalating into eternity with the word “Forever.” It begins in 7:1-3 and continues through verses 19b-28. We remember that Jesus’ priesthood is in the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20, Psalm 110:4) rather than that of Aaronic Levitical priesthood.
This text teaches us that giving is a form of worship and celebration and that Abram was instructed by God to give one-tenth of the tithes to Melchizedek. Why is he worthy and honorable to receive a one-tenth or anything at all? There are only two references of Melchizedek before Hebrews. We don't know much about Melchizedek, but here’s what we do know:
- Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness.”
- He’s the king of Salem “Peace.”
- Covenantal figure: He appears to have an agreement with God and his people, Abram (verse 22).
- Eschatological Royal Priesthood: theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and humankind.
- Communion order: bread and wine presented to God’s people (verse 18).
- Establishment of a Levitical law of sacrificial giving of tithes to the priest.
- Pre-Israelite Tradition: He is a King of the Most High God.
- He was without human genealogy: without a father, without a mother (verse 3).
These attributes of royal priestly righteousness represent the establishment of order. Melchizedek’s sets the tone for an ancestral rite of passages for Jesus.
The author compares the “Melchizedekian” (eternal) priesthood and the Levitical priesthood, to remind the readers that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah and, therefore, not to the Aaronic Levitical priesthood (temporary):
- Messianic qualities: Righteousness and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7)
- Moving beyond the law: the commandment was weak and ineffectual because the law was imperfect. God sent Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for hope and the way to God (verses 18-19).
- Jesus is the King of all that receives him and has paid the cost of redemption for all.
- The Covenant moves beyond an “agreement” to an “oath” with a guarantee of “forever” (verses 20-22).
- Intercession through Jesus cannot be prevented by the death of a human priesthood because Christ is the permanent priesthood (23-25) (John 7:9, Romans 8:34, John 2:1).
- Jesus transcends all weakness of the law and ineffectuality. There is no need for the Priestly King to offer sacrifices for his sins for he is holy, blameless and without blemish and made perfect “forever.”
Essentially, what the author conveys to us is Melchizedek as a role model. Jesus didn’t need a role model because he is the ultimate “role” model. But, for the sake of humanity, God provided an earthly forerunner.
Questions to Consider:
Who is your role model? Who is or has been your coach? Who is your mentor?
Have they been effective or ineffective? Have you been impacted positively or negatively?
How can you be a positive role model, coach or mentor for someone by using your human and divine gifts?
I would encourage us all to take the time to meditate, pray and participate in some form of daily devotion to draw closer to God. By participating in these spiritual disciplines and others we can be the best role model for ourselves and for others.
As we move from Melchizedek and the Priestly role in our next lesson, let us remember that he served in the Aaron/Levitical priesthood with messianic attributes of righteousness and peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). Jesus serves as our High Priest for eternity and is one through the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Father, God, we thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, that you gave for and that came for us that we might have life and have it more abundantly. We thank you for his sacrifice that transcends into eternity. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.