Do you know (or are you) a person who has nice things? Someone like this might not be unusually wealthy or living in a mansion, but they have well-made shoes, their car starts every time, and it’s clear that they value quality over the base price of something. While one can be frugal to a fault, this attitude is often reflected in philosophies like “You get what you pay for”, and “It’s cheaper to buy quality once, than to buy junk again and again.” I think that we would generally agree that there are many things where investing in a superior product might cost us a little more up-front, but the total costs are lower in the long run. (On the other hand, my wife doesn’t tend to spend extra for our sons’ shoes, when they’re going to grow out of them before even the cheap brands of shoes can wear out!)
Much of the book of Hebrews in the Bible is about Jesus being superior to what came before (as I’ve learned from commentaries, and found to be accurate in my own studies). In Hebrews 7:18-19, a hope is described, which allows us to “draw near to God”. Compared to a “former regulation” that was “set aside because it was weak and useless”, I agree that this hope is indeed superior.
The reverse is the challenge of legalism (which happens to be something that I have struggled with, in trying to earn salvation with my deeds): No matter how well we might follow the rules, any attempts to “draw near to God” through that “former regulation” are merely trying to succeed through something that “was weak and useless”. However, while salvation through legalistic means is useless and exhausting, it stands in contrast to the hope that we have in Jesus, which is effective and probably easier than many rules-based lifestyles (see Matthew 11:28-30).
In Hebrews 7:20-22, God’s oath further solidifies the superiority of Jesus’ role in “a better covenant”. Jesus isn’t just a priest (or a high priest). He is the one who God has sworn to be a priest forever. As a result, our faith doesn’t have to be limited to Jesus’ “indestructible life” (verse 16). Although that could be enough, we also have the oath that God made, which also secures this high priestly role of Jesus.
A priesthood with many mortal priests was associated with a law that couldn’t save us. On the other hand, Jesus’ priesthood is permanent, and is therefore powerful to save us forever.
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Hebrews 7:23-25 NIV
However, while this permanent priesthood provides a salvation that is available to each of us, it must be received in order for us to receive the benefits that it offers. In verse 25, we read that Jesus saves “those who come to God through him”. Not those who never come to God. Not those who try to come to God through other means. Not those who try to follow the law. Those “who come to God through him”.
In the passage above, I think that the word “through” is important. Jesus is our Intercessor. He goes to God for us, since He can both hear our prayers and is seated at the right hand of God. He can understand our prayers because He was a human being. He can communicate with God because He is sinless [ref. Girdwood commentary], not to mention the fact that He is also God (a different person from God the Father, but still one God). No one else could intercede for us exactly like Jesus, because He is uniquely qualified.
Hebrews 7:26-28 reminds us that even the Levites who served as priests were imperfect, and they served under a law that couldn’t save them (as priests), much less the rest of the people. Jesus is the perfect high priest, “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens”, who offered the perfect sacrifice (which was only needed once).
If you’ve been following along for several articles, do you remember how Hebrews 7:11 started out (you’re welcome to read or re-read it now), with a sort of rhetorical question about previous priesthood achieving perfection? Here, in verse 28, we find that Jesus – through God’s oath – is “a Son, who has been made perfect forever”. [Girdwood]
Jesus is a superior priest, who was given His role through a superior promise. He is a superior Savior, and gives us superior hope.
If you think about it, the Levitical law would (or should) have had a lot of impact on the daily lives of the Israelites. It told them what to do, and what not to do. It involved sacrifices to remind them of their sins, and regular activities to remind them about God.
In the same way, Jesus taught us a new way of life that achieves the same kinds of things, only in a superior manner. He provided the sacrifice for our salvation (and a regular reminder of this through the Lord’s Supper / Communion). He gave us examples of praying, absorbing God’s word, and spending time with other people who served God, so that we can do the same while we regularly remember God and His ideal plan for us. He demonstrated living out not just a bunch of rules, but something far better: the natural actions that result from having our heart right with God, and wanting to please Him.
Let’s fill our lives up with the superior choices that Jesus taught us. It might cost us more up-front, but it will be worth it in the long run.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for October 17, 2021
- 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.