Tag Archives: authority

Who’s this Melchizedek?

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:19-20 NASB)

 Get prepared to be nourished, inspired, surprised and intrigued by some amazing words of God.

You might ask : why this unexpected entry of this strange, mysterious, immortal figure, Melchizedek, in this Letter to the Hebrews?

Now Jews were used to having a high priest. The author of The Letter to the Hebrews is giving these people of Jewish background every reason for them to prefer Jesus’ high-priesthood to that of the Old Covenant system of Moses still being practiced in their day. They must not go back into Judaism.

Melchizedek appears first in Genesis 14:17-20 as part of the story of Abraham. Melchizedek is described as ‘priest of God Most High’. But for a Jew, who could be greater than their illustrious father, Abraham? Yet this Melchizedek is clearly greater. Abraham pays tithes to him. Abraham receives Melchizedek’s blessing.

Melchizedek is described as king of Salem, priest of the Most High God and his name meant king of righteousness and king of Salem (= peace). He is without father or mother or ancestry, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but having been made like the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. (Heb 7:1—3)

Who is this mysterious Melchizedek really? And who else does this description of him bring to your mind?

Of course! In this letter, Jesus is being compared with Melchizedek who appears twice in the Tanakh, the Old Testament scriptures – the bible Jesus read.

That passage in Genesis 14:17-20 seems quite irrelevant in the story of Abraham—a strange intrusion in the narrative. Yet this superlative, towering figure, Melchizedek, and the description there, are now at the end of the day, our day, seen to be of great significance.

In the letter we are given quotes from David’s Psalm 110, in which the LORD God is said to invite David’s ‘lord’ to ‘sit at my right hand’ (110:1) and then swears to this David’s lord that he is ‘a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek’ (110:4). This second mention of Melchizedek also must have seemed puzzling for its readers at that time. Just who is David’s ‘lord’ if it is not the LORD God but One to sit at His right hand?

You may remember Jesus threw that puzzling question from Psalm 110 about ‘David’s lord’ to his religious antagonists 1000 years after David wrote that: “How is it that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? (Mat 22:43-44, Luke 20:41). That question remained unanswered and no wonder. Do you get it? Do you see what Jesus was claiming here?

So then, not long after Jesus put that critical question to the religious authorities, this Melchizedek pops up again in this First Century letter. Jesus is our great high priest after the order of Melchizedek—that is, after the order of an indestructible life! This is obviously superior to the Levitical priestly order (the Old Testament/Covenant). Jesus is THE great high priest, the only mediator. Eternal. The temporary priestly order of the Old Testament is now obsolete! Jesus is our great high priest who meets our needs now by divine appointment and in the power of an endless life.

Truly, we have a sure advocate with the Father, one who knows what it’s like to be human! At the place of ultimate power and authority is a man who is the Son of God our mediator. Praise the Lord.

Here is remarkable evidence of the unity of the scriptures and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Firstly, we have a prophetic view given to Abraham about future times, far beyond anything yet to come in the Law of Moses, or the Old Covenant. Then, right out of the blue, God reveals his eternal mind to David, the Psalm writer. God made that promise to the Son to come by speaking a millennium far into the future. Thirdly, Jesus knew the Psalms and understood this was about himself, the Son of God! Then fourthly, in this Letter to the Hebrews, placed there by the same Holy Spirit, we are reading something that shows up plainly where no one had gone before, to draw attention to the awesome work that Messiah Jesus carries on in the heavenly place. For us!

Do you get it? Are you excited? Aren’t the scriptures amazing?

That’s another reason why I trust God that these ancient writings preserved for us so carefully by the Jewish people are sufficient and trustworthy to speak to my heart and mind the things God wants to say.

He speaks today! Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.

He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:24—25, NASB).

 

TRUTH AND AUTHORITY

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Mat 7:28-29)

Matthew ends Jesus’ great discourse out on the hillside with these words which immediately follow Jesus’ parable of the two house builders and their building foundation — see my last posting. Hearers were amazed at his authority.

We have often seen these words: GREAT IS TRUTH AND MIGHTY ABOVE ALL THINGS.

Yet, maybe there is indeed something greater than truth, beyond truth even. I speak of authority. We know that law-enforcers must have more than the truth of the law to command our submission. They must have authority. The airport worker with the ping-pong bats in his hands has authority over the aircraft captain in berthing the plane in the terminal.

What unexpected, out-of-this-world claims this man, Jesus, makes upon his hearers! How they must have struggled with his words. Yet they could not deny the authority of the words he spoke. His words were deadly serious and reached right down into the deepest recesses of their lives. They were utterly compelling, relevant, so different from the meticulous rules and regulations of religious heavies. And they were accompanied by his gracious acts of deliverance from unseen, enslaving powers by hundreds, possibly thousands of works of healing, even raising people from death.

And then the ultimate: though certainly dead, murdered by his religious enemies, and buried with such tight Roman security measures, Jesus came roaring back to glorious life, God confirming his authority.

Even the opposing rulers and leaders had to admit “No man ever spoke like this man!”

Come now, what measly excuses do you come up with to ignore the stupendous demands he makes upon the very core of your existence? Or how do you rationalise away the pointy ends of his shocking words?

And what reason are you going to give your Judge in the End why you have ignored these words as they come down to us in century 21 with undiminished force, though two millennia have come and gone? Time in this respect has stood still. He has not changed and his words have not changed. Neither has out humanness changed, our failure to find peace on earth, to master our own human natures, to do good the way we should, to honour our Maker.

He meant what he said and he said what he meant. God has not spoken since with such conviction, as he did in his only-son. Those of us who love history can easily demonstrate the unbroken links back to the time and place of these spoken and lived-out words. That’s history.

Are you like the religious leaders who condemned the best man who ever lived? Some said he was mad, or possessed by demonic forces. Do you honestly believe such a judgment can fit this unique life lived out before thousands of people? Neither can the conclusion others came to that he was a deceiver continually and deliberately misleading his hearers to join his pathway of error into virtual suicide, throwing away their lives for a lie.

Jesus calls on his hearers—and that includes you, dear reader—to not only hear his words but to obey them. In fact, to merely hear his words and not obey them is to invite disaster in your life. It is not enough to acknowledge the truth of these words or to applaud them as great teaching, amazing wisdom, admiring him patronisingly as some great teacher.

Do you call yourself a Christian? A believer? A follower? You will be destroyed if you merely accept his truth but not his authority to govern you. Sitting on some virtual fence won’t do – there is simply none to sit on. To not turn is to remain unturned.

His truth is one thing. His authority to command our attention and our obedience is quite another.

JESUS, AND er, WELL, HELL

Rob Bell in his popular book teaches that the idea of the punishment of unrepentant sinners in Hell keeps people from coming to Jesus. That is an unsettling thought, but on closer look, it falls in upon itself.  Jesus spoke very clearly about Hell, using language that can only be described as explicit. He warned of “him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell (Hades).”

Really, how could Jesus agree with sending anyone to Hell?

Actually, Jesus mostly had religious professionals in his sights! It is always important to thoroughly examine the context of Jesus’ sayings. Sometimes we are asked to explain to a critical person about hell. We don’t want to stop all arguments, to cut off all possible means of communication. It is wise to leave the implications, the mysterious details, to Jesus. Better to quote him saying ‘I did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save …..’ The bottom line of the good news of the Kingdom is that God is good and his generosity freely given to all.

So do his references to Hell really stop people from following Jesus? Well, the record shows otherwise. Everywhere he went he was met by crowds, in their thousands, from all over Israel and beyond Israel’s borders. And it did not inhibit the astounding revolution across the Roman world under the apostolic proclamation.

However, why would the authors of the New Testament books include the hard words of Jesus knowing that these would inhibit people’s following Jesus?

Life is serious. Death is serious. What happens after death and judgment that is surely coming, is of immense importance. Unless we are playing Russian roulette with our future and that of others. As the IVF Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol 2 says “Nothing must be allowed to detract from Jesus’ warnings re the terrible reality of God’s judgments in the world to come.”

In the end if we stumble over this word of Jesus what else will we reject? Anything else which seems hard to take? There are heaps of difficult things said. We miss the Kingdom of God because we want our way, our truth, our life. Our facts. Our beliefs.

“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Mat 11:6

The authors of the New Testament documents did not keep back the hard sayings of Jesus, though they must have been tempted. This surely indicates their authenticity. We have to take the whole Jesus, not just the parts we like. If we only take the parts we like, then we appoint ourselves as the ultimate authority.

Following Jesus can only be authentic if you actually follow him, in obedience. Otherwise you are merely setting your own philosophy above Jesus’ living words which he heard from the Father.

You may not like what you hear. Are you going to reject other things he says because they don’t suit you? This issue goes to the very heart of many of Jesus’ living words from God. e.g.,

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Mat 6:14-15

Pretty plain, right? Or did the authors get their reporting wrong? Or this, similarly:

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Mat 7:1-2

John’s Gospel will say the same as the three others. Paul and the other writers say the same too.

Of course, God is a Lover, the very source of love. He is kind and good to all:

He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust”  Mat 5:45 (GW)

Yet he alarms us with words like this:

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21

In Jesus, we do not hear the voice of one who brings a gospel of compromise, of wishy-washy, ear-tickling, men-pleasing words. Who would serve a god like that, in whom justice has no meaning? No. This is the living God who made everything and to whom we must all one day, give an account.

 “…… our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us …. We are far too easily pleased”  C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Man, this is serious. Much more serious than we like to think. Dare we trivialise the words of Jesus?