Sunday School Lessons

Temporary or Permanent Sponsor?

In my life (so far), I have observed two kinds of “new things”.  Maybe these are new ideas, new business models, new companies, new inventions, or just new fads, but let’s consider a particular way of doing things.

The first kind of these is launched by an individual, and while this solution is a good idea, that individual ends up taking on the project solo.  Maybe they fit this in during their extra time, or on weekends, to build something pretty useful, but they are the only one doing the work.  While others around them (and, maybe even around the world, if they share it online) appreciate using the finished product, they keep going back to just one person for support, maintenance, and upgrades.  However, none of us will work forever on this earth.  Eventually, we’ll retire or move off onto something else.  In this case, when the inventor of this solution is no longer driving the effort, the result of their hard work just sits there, becoming older and outdated until it can no longer be used.

The second kind of project is one that a much larger group commits to, allocating multiple people to work on it, along with their time and enough money to support the project.  Even if there was a single initiator of this concept, it is not solely their own, as others join in to help.  This sort of project continues indefinitely, as successors, assistants, and other passionate supporters are trained and continue to keep the system or process running successfully.  Things like this can go on for decades or even centuries.

Hebrews 7:11-28 describes two possible answers to two related questions: Is your life (and faith) based on something that will only last until a charismatic leader moves on, or social trends change?  Or, is it built on Someone who lives forever, along with principles that the God of the universe has established permanently and will never cancel?

In the context of the previous article, we learned that the Hebrew law was a good thing, but that it wasn’t sufficient to save us.  Jesus came, and brought a permanent salvation to humankind (including you and me, when we accept it).  The law wasn’t bad, but Jesus is better.

Another point from the previous article was from Hebrews 7:12, which says “For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.”  Jesus brought in a new law and a new priesthood.

Hebrews 7:13-14 reminds us that Jesus (having been descended from the tribe of Judah) was not from the tribe of Levi (from whom the priests were selected, since the days of Aaron, who was himself from the tribe of Levi).  By birth, there was no way that Jesus (even though He was a rabbi) could have been selected for priestly service under the Law of Moses.  He was simply not born into the proper tribe for that…period.

Since Jesus is not a priest like the Levites (since he’s clearly not a Levite), this must be some kind of new priesthood.

Therefore, changed priesthood; changed law.

But what kind of priesthood did Jesus establish?  We find that He didn’t establish a new priesthood like the old one, since the new High Priest (Jesus, Himself) was not from the tribe of Levi.  However, the author of Hebrews references another priest that the Jewish people had probably heard about, because of the account of Abraham.  This priest was Melchizedek.

And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.
Hebrews 7:15‭-‬16 NIV

https://bible.com/bible/111/heb.7.15-16.NIV

Outside of the book of Hebrews, as well as a verse in Psalm 110, our background on Melchizedek in the Bible comes from Genesis 14.  In this chapter, a number of kings were in a battle, but the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and those who remained looted Sodom and Gomorrah.  This was when Abram’s nephew Lot was living there, so they took Lot, as well.

So, Abram (later given the name Abraham, but it’s the same guy) gets his fighting men together, attacks these looters, and gets back not only the loot, but also the people who were taken, including Lot.  For details, read Genesis 14:17-20.

That’s pretty much it: 3 verses that really talk about Melchizedek and his meeting with Abram.  And, I think that’s part of the point of our text from Hebrews today: No backstory.  No chronology.  No genealogy.  No history.  Just a priest of “El Elyon”, God Most High, to whom Abram gave a tenth (or a tithe).

Like Jesus, Melchizedek was not from the tribe of Levi.  In fact, Levi hadn’t been born yet!  Remember, that Levi was a great-grandson of Abram / Abraham.  No Levi yet, no descendants of Levi, yet.  And, it would be a number of generations more (including time in Egypt) until Aaron was born.

I wonder if, were Jesus to have been descended from Levi, the Jewish people would have tried to justify keeping the law as-is, even as they followed Jesus.  In fact, it seems that some of them did so in the early days of the church, but while there were some parallels between the covenants, God created a clear separation of Jesus’ high priesthood from that of Aaron’s, perhaps so that the author of Hebrews could make exactly that point.

Like Melchizedek, Jesus didn’t get his high priestly role from his ancestry.  So, how did Jesus merit becoming high priest?  Verse 16 tells us, “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life”.  Jesus is permanent, living forever, and perfect.  That’s enough to not only give Him the right to be a high priest, but also to bring in changes to the law that He fulfilled.

Now, was the actual Melchizedek born and did he die?  That depends on who you think he was, but I think that the more important thing is that neither his birth nor his death were recorded, so figuratively, he was “indestructible”.  (See Hebrews 7:3)  If we think about it, how many times in the Bible are people’s births recorded, and their deaths?  There are plenty of genealogies in the Bible, and even accounts of people’s deaths (like the passing of kings).  Conversely, Melchizedek kind of just appears, and is there.

In a superior manner, Jesus – being God – created the world, and will never die again.

Many people put their faith into something that will expire.  They follow a person or human idea, or they put their faith in a political system, company, or organization.  Regrettably for them, though, anything that is of this world will pass away.

The only thing that will remain forever is what God created to be eternal.  Faith in Jesus will outlast countries, wars, and apparently this earth itself.  As eternal souls, now that we have found the truth of what will last, let us focus on things that are eternal (starting here in this life, and not waiting until we get to Heaven), and not waste too much of our time on trying to follow rules and ideas that are destined to perish with time.


From Sunday School lesson prepared for October 17, 2021

References:

  • The Lookout, October 17, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press Commentary, Hebrews, by Jim Girdwood and Peter Verkruyse.  College Press Publishing Company, © 1997.

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