Lesson 21

The Epistle to the Hebrews

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

7:11 Now if there was perfection through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people have received the law), what further need was there for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 7:12 For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law. 7:13 For he of whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord has sprung out of Judah, about which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.

Today's Lesson  

Psalm 110 is one of the royal psalms that were used in the coronation of a new king of Israel. This psalm is quoted in several places in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but no quote is more important to the line of reasoning to this letter than this one, "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek." Understanding this one quote and its use in this epistle is essential in following the reasoning that is advanced.


Several conclusions are drawn from this quotation. One of the conclusions that has already been discussed is that the priesthood of Melchizedek is an eternal priesthood. Melchizedek enters Scripture as a king of Salem and a priest of God Most High. There is no mention of his lineage or any mention of him after his meeting with Abraham. As far as Scripture is concerned, he has no beginning and no ending. The author of Hebrews combines this fact of Scripture with the quotation of Psalm 110 and concludes that the priesthood of Melchizedek is an eternal priesthood that is sanctioned and blessed by God.


The second conclusion is the basis for Today's Scripture. The psalmist is writing during the times of the kings of Israel, long after the Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood were well established. The psalmist is looking toward the day when the king of Israel will sit at the right hand of God and all of the blessings that God has promised the line of David will be fulfilled. One of the blessings that he prophesies is that the king will be made, "a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."


Why would the king not be made a priest forever after the order of Levi? The only conclusion is that the Levitical priesthood falls short of perfection and short of the blessings that God would eventually give to the descendants of David. The order of Melchizedek must be granted to the descendants of David because it is greater than the Levitical priesthood.


Now the Levitical priesthood was codified and established through the Law of Moses. There could never be another priesthood established as long as the Mosaic Law was enforced because the Mosaic Law did not recognize any other priesthood. Therefore, if the psalmist looks forward to the time when the priesthood of Melchizedek was re-established in Israel then there must also be a change of the Law.


Now concerning Jesus Christ, there is no doubt that there can be no claim that Jesus was a priest after the order of Levi. Jesus made no claims to any Levitical authority. But, on the basis of His everlasting, resurrected life, Jesus can claim the priesthood of Melchizedek. Only Jesus may claim this priesthood for only Jesus can be a "priest forever." Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, the tribe of the descendants of David. He does not inherit the office of the High Priest from Aaron, who was of the tribe of Levi. Rather, he is appointed a "priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."


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