Posts Tagged With: priesthood

Hebrews 10: Don’t Throw Away Your Confidence

Are you confident of your standing with God?

All of us are looking for wholeness and peace.  We want to know that God accepts us and His words to us should we die today would be “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”  And we want to have this assurance with an unshakeable confidence.

At the same time, we are fully aware of our own shakiness.  We know our frailty and duplicity better than anyone.  We look in a mirror and see flaws few others see.

So we try harder.  We get on the latest and greatest self-improvement plan.  We reach down deeper within ourselves to muster every ounce of self-discipline we have.  We make lists of things we should and should not do.  We grit our teeth when temptation comes, and just try to hold on.

And then we fail.  We always fail.

Really, we are trying to be justified by law.  He are relying on ourselves.  Sure, we will accept the advice of God on how to live, but really our sense of wholeness, peace, and acceptance is anchored in our own deeds.  Really, we are doing nothing different than any other works-oriented concept of salvation.  Like the Hebrew Christians were tempted to do, we are reverting back to system of holiness based on our own efforts and we make light of what Jesus has done, though usually we don’t outright reject our Savior.

As the Hebrews author winds up his ten-chapter long argument for the superiority of Jesus over the Jewish religion, he makes one last plea that his friends not let go of Jesus.  He summarizes many of his thoughts with a powerful statement that Jesus is the preeminent high priest who offers a superlative sacrifice:

Thus it comes about that every priest stands daily at his duty, offering over and over the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But Jesus offered a single sacrifice on behalf of sins, for all time, and then “sat down at the right hand of God.” . . . By a single sacrifice, you see, he has made perfect forever those who are sanctified. (10:11-12, 14)

If the Hebrew Christians — and we too — will hang on to our faith in Jesus and “not throw away our confidence” (10:35), we can have “boldness” (10:19) and a “complete assurance of faith” (10:22).  We need not worry, because God is “trustworthy” (10:24) and “our lives will be kept safe” (10:39).  We can have confidence in our wholeness, peace, and acceptance because it is anchored in the work of Jesus, not our own vacillating attempts at holiness.

But all of this will take faith.  More on that tomorrow.

Hold on with confidence!

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Hebrews 7: Jesus, the Superior High Priest

Priests are a special breed.  Or at least they are often treated that way.

The Catholic Church was quite strong where I grew up.  Priests were common place.  You might come upon one at a restaurant or at the barber.  Even from an age too young to fully understand denominational differences and the like, I understood that priests were important people in my community, though I couldn’t understand how he was everyone’s “father.”  People would fall over themselves to please him.  I understood enough to know when people were trying to find favor with a person, and my neighbors were certainly doing that.

I am also reminded of “The Fiddler on the Roof” and the esteem the people of Anatevka gave their old rabbi, the closest thing to a Jewish priest these days.  Bless this or that.  Teach me the right prayers to pray.

The Hebrew Christians would have come from a background where that same sort of thinking would have been prevalent.  Priests are the best of the best. They are a step or two closer to God.  These men who can trace their ancestry back to Abraham’s great-grandson Levi, who receive tithes from the commoners, who are holy enough to mediate for others, who have access to the inner sanctum of the Temple, places they had only heard about.  Special people!

And now they were living a common life where all the people of God are equal.  Where they all are holy.  Where all have access to God in a world with no need for a Temple.  Where all can pray for the other, and no one needs their neighbor to mediate their needs to God.  Where ancestry doesn’t matter.

That would be a bit of change.  One could miss their priest a bit.  Demarcations like holy people and commoners do make life easier, at least on the surface.  They make life simple to diagram and spell out.  Everything is predictable and known.  It doesn’t take much depth to understand.

The Hebrew Christians seem to be toying with the thought that it might be easier to return to the systematic structure of Judaism.  This Jesus movement was just too egalitarian, too abstract, too spiritualized.

But what about Melchizedek, that strange non-Jewish priest and king from the first book in the Bible who met up with Father Abraham?  He was a different kind of priest, a superior version it seems:

  • With no father or mother, he arrives as some otherworldly being (7:3)
  • He lives eternally, with no “beginning or end” (7:3, 8)
  • He received tithes from Abraham himself, the great-grandfather of Levi from whom all regular priests come (7:6)

The Hebrews writer reminds his dear friends that they still have a priest.  Jesus is a priest too, a high priest at that.  Not a Levitical one; he comes from this superior order of Melchizedek.  They have the best priest they could ever find.

  • Jesus is an eternal, permanent priest because of “the power of a life that cannot be destroyed” (7:16, 21, 24)
  • Jesus offers a better law and better hope than what can be found elsewhere (7:18-19)
  • Jesus was sinless and did not even need to offer sacrifices for his own sins, something the Levitical priests would have to do (7:26)
  • Jesus’ sacrificed once for all time and for all people, making his ministry far more effectual than anything in Jerusalem (7:27)
  • Jesus offered himself, not a barnyard full of livestock (7:27)

Why would they return to an inferior option when they can have Jesus?

How is modern-day religion easier than following Jesus?

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