You can’t blame the Hebrews who had doubts from having doubts. It’s understandable that some might be second guessing themselves. After all, it’s not like they were following popular opinion. Not as if they were staying within the theological camp of the prominent religious thought of the day. Not like they were maintaining status quo and weren’t rocking the boat a bit. So you can’t blame them if, when the going got tough, they thought about going back to the old ways.
How radical it was for those early Jewish believers to believe. While we can look back, today, and see how the dots connect between the Old and New Testaments, in their day there was no New Testament. Instead, they were re-wiring the Old. Making new connections. Connections which God Himself calls mysteries, things previously not revealed but brought to light by the Spirit through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Case in point, my reading today in Hebrews 7. A better priest. A better hope. A better promise.
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? . . . not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 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. 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 . . . This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
(Hebrews 7:11-22 ESV)
Never did a priest serve at the altar who was from the tribe of Judah. What’s more, “in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests” (7:13-14). And yet, the claim concerning Jesus was that, not only was He a prophet and a king, but He was a priest as well. Shocking! Unheard of! Some would even say, “Blasphemy.” But not unprecedented.
Enter the order of Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20, Ps. 110:4). A priest not of Aaron. No evidence of parents. No trace of a genealogy. Having “neither beginning of days nor end of life” he was the hidden prototype of the Priest to come, the priest above all priests, the Son of God (Heb. 7:3). A priest on the basis of something more than “bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.” A better priest.
And with that better priest, a better hope. A hope not based on a quid pro quo arrangement–you obey, you live; you sin, you die. A hope not founded in our best efforts, but in the better Priest’s once for all sacrifice. A hope not dependent on our righteousness, but secured through His righteousness–“a High Priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (7:26). A righteousness upon which we are declared righteous. His righteousness credited to our account. A better hope providing a better access into God’s holy presence, by which we can draw near to God.
And while the Levitical priesthood passed the baton from generation to generation according to birth, Jesus was commissioned a priest by oath. While the sons of Aaron received the holy garments from their fathers, Jesus became the holy covering for all according to the express purpose, will, and declaration of the Father–God above all. God who is unchanging. God whose word stands forever. God whose “Yes” is “Amen”. Thus, Jesus is the guarantee of a better promise. An unfailing, bet-your-life-on-it promise.
A better Priest. A better hope. A better promise.
Radical. Inconceivable. A mystery now revealed. Received only by faith. Maintained only by faith, through the abiding testimony of the Spirit. Reason for a better form of worship . . .
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
(Romans 12:1 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.