Tag Archives: high priest

Instead of rules and regulations

The first covenant had regulations—lots, as well as the amazing earthly sanctuary, says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, (chapter 9, verses 1 to 5). The spectacular tent with its out-of-this world design, specially crafted furniture, consecrated unrefrigerated food, the Most Holy Place, incense, the gold covered covenant box, not to mention the hundreds of rules governing the ceremonial work of the priests.

So, what are the regulations of the New Covenant? The setting up of numerous different kind of earthly sanctuaries called “churches”? A worldwide institution “the Church”? Pulpits, pews and altars? Mystical foods? A new order of priesthood? Transcendent sacrifices?  Better smelling incense? A priestcraft elite? Excited audiences and religious entertainment?

None of the above. Definitely. Absolutely not. Full stop.

But as you know, tragically, all too soon, men set up such things which were not even a shadow of the real. These survive today after a long history of slowly evolving forms: Catholicism, Anglicanism, sacramentalism, mysticism, countless other isms, formality, liturgy, clergy driven—old, superseded models but without any of the glory of God, no cherubim, no stone tablets written with the finger of God, no budding rod, and no true sacrifice for our atonement, and without any mandate whatsoever from the Lord of Hosts for the shabby substitutes men instituted. Empty. God has left this kind of house.

Under the Old Covenant, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance, as it says in Heb 9:6-7.

But today in so many earthly temples, earthly priests regularly enter their sanctuaries to carry on their ministry and without any Aaronic authority, imagining they re-crucify the Lord of glory on some pathetic copy of an altar. In a mockery of the real, the true, they imagine wine is magically changed to blood by their mumbo-jumbo mantra instead of directing needy souls to see that Jesus has finished his work once for all and ensure the people of receive their inheritance, now.

In the old Jewish order, sins committed in ignorance were atoned—wonderful grace assuring worshippers that it did not depend on them dotting every ‘i’.  But the so-called sacrifice of the mass keeps people in perpetual dependence on a mediatorial priesthood, for they must come continually to maintain the believed benefits of forgiveness.

But what can really cleanse from sin? And what about sin not done in ignorance–deliberate?  What can cleanse my conscience? –nothing in the old covenant arrangement, glorious though it is. A better deal awaited God’s people, now come in the Christ and his offering for us.

So again you may ask, what are the regulations of the New Covenant?

Well there are none. There are patterns to guide us and above all the example of the Lord Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The habits, practices and attitudes he demonstrated to his little band of followers are there for us to practice towards one another : love, forgiveness, joy, patience, service, cooperation, togetherness, thanksgiving. Here we are not remotely on the same planet as Law, rules and regulations.

Jesus has gone from us to a place where he is constantly at work for us.

And there is the glorious gift of his Spirit! In his place he sends the Holy Spirit! People in the NT era knew they had received the Spirit from Jesus. They knew because they could abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:26). They knew because they were members of a functioning body all joined together, each with manifestations of the Holy Spirit to encourage one another. They knew because the Word of God flowed from their hearts and through their lips. They were bold, courageous.

Yes. There is also the eternal Word of God by which we continually hear His voice. What marvellous resources!

Surely we have such abundance in this great design plan that Jesus has inaugurated! What need then do we have of formalised institutions and commercialised religion? Of priestcraft and liturgical magic?

To hang on to such substitutions instead of God’s creative, revealed ways is to dishonour Him. To hear and put into practice His ways is to honour Him, to hallow His name.

Hear!

Melchizedek: Who’s this?

Now, get a hold of some more solid food in Hebrews 7:1-7. Have you had a look at it? No junk food here but food that will not only nourish and inspire but also surprise and intrigue: Melchizedek again!

Why this unexpected entry of that strange, mysterious, immortal figure, Melchizedek?

Well, they are Jews after all, and Jews are used to having a high priest. Our author is giving them every reason for them to prefer Jesus’ high-priesthood to the system of the Old Covenant of Moses, still practiced in their day.

This Melchizedek is without any doubt highly exalted. And Melchizedek was not a Jew! Not an Israelite! Not even of known earthly parentage!

Now we may not be Jews. Nevertheless, we will learn from our Hebrew author much about Jesus in his comparing him with this Melchizedek who appears twice in the Tanakh, the Old Testament scriptures – our Lord’s scriptures and our scriptures too.

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

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, seen to be of great significance.

Our author again quotes the words of David’s Psalm 110:1-4, in which God is said to invite David’s ‘lord’ to ‘sit at my right hand’ and then swears to this David’s lord that he is ‘a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek’. This second appearance of Melchizedek also must have seemed puzzling for its readers at that time. Another puzzle was who is David’s ‘lord’?

You may remember Jesus threw that puzzling question about David’ psalm and David’s lord to his opposing religious antagonists, which remained unanswered:

“How is it that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? (Mat 22:43)

Then another 1000 years after David this Melchizedek bloke emerges in our author’s work. Jesus is indeed the Son of God and is THE great high priest, the only mediator. Eternal. The old order is now obsolete! Jesus, the Jew, meets our needs now by divine appointment and in the power of an endless life.

Here is remarkable evidence of the inspiration and unity of the scriptures, and the guidance 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. Then, right out of the blue, out of thin air, God reveals his eternal mind to the Psalm writer –God made that promise to the Son speaking 1000 years into the future. Then thirdly, by the same Holy Spirit, our author in his letter, goes where hardly anyone had gone before to draw attention to the awesome work that Messiah Jesus carries on in the heavenly place. For us!

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.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).