Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hebrews and Psalm 110

This may be the most quoted Old Testament passage in the Bible. Matt 22:44. Mark 12:36. Luke 20:42. Acts 2:34. 1 Cor 15:25. Heb 1:13; 7:17, 21. Its first 4 verses must have perplexed readers for a millennium. Christ used it to show that the Messiah was greater than David. Peter used it explain the Resurrection of Christ. Paul used it to point to the Consummation of all things and the author of Hebrews used it as one of the great proof texts for the New Covenant.

Part of its mystery lies in the mention of Melchizedek. Melchizedek appears in the story of Abraham, very briefly. Gen 14:18-20. He then disappears for 1000 years before reappearing in Psalm 110:4. He then disappears for another 1000 years before taking centre stage in the epistle to the Hebrews.

There is much that we could say about Melchizedek but the main point is that he is a Priest-King. Israel was not allowed to have Priest-Kings. Their priests came from the tribe of Levi, and the intention was that their kings would come from the tribe of Judah. Priesthood and monarchy were mutually exclusive. There are no Old Testament pictures of a Priest-King other than the mysterious Melchizedek. So after 3-400 years of Levitical priests why would David begin to speak of a different kind of priesthood? and who is this that David refers to as 'my lord'?

The author of Hebrews sees this as a comprehensive promise that the Old Covenant would be replaced by another, better Covenant based on better promises and with a better Mediator. As the Law and the Priesthood were an inseparable unit, to change the Priesthood meant an inevitable change in the Law; For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. Heb 7:12. This could not be a slow fade into the new but must mean a complete break between the old and the new.

The reign of Christ as Son, heir and firstborn is established clearly but now the author adds a wonderful nuance, this reign will be different; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Zech 6:13 By his ascension he has been declared Son and heir and firstborn and a priest forever, after the model of Melchizedek. He has all authority in heaven and earth but at this point in time he exercises that authority as a 'priest' and not as a judge.

Another time must come when he must judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31) but for the time being... Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:14-16.

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