Exposing False Hopes - Hebrews 7:1-3

March 28, 2021 Preacher: Series: Hebrews

Scripture: Hebrews 7:1–3

Increase in maturity so that you may increase in hope. At the end of Hebrews chapter 5 and beginning of chapter 6, the writer talks about going on to maturity in the faith. He urges the church toward a deeper understanding of Jesus, because with understanding comes maturity. 

Proverbs 4 says, “whatever you get, get insight.” Get understanding. How well do you understand Jesus? You may think of Jesus as Savior, Lord, King, the Sacrificial Lamb, the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, among other titles.

But Christian maturity includes recognizing Jesus as your priest. This passage of Scripture today begins an explanation of how Jesus became the priest of His people, and also, why his priesthood is above the priesthood of ancient Israel.

The priests of Israel had a major role in the lives of the Jewish people, and the original audience of the book of Hebrews consisted mostly of first-century Christians who formerly practiced Judaism. They were being persecuted for following Jesus, and many were tempted to return to Judaism. At one time, the priests and the sacrifices for sin offered by the priests were comforting to these folks, providing hope for peace with God. 

But the writer of Hebrews wants these folks to understand that the Jewish priesthood is obsolete because the priesthood of Jesus is superior to it in every way. To explain this, the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood, he gives this in-depth look at Melchizedek. It’s a complicated explanation, much like the explanation of God’s oath that we learned about last week. 

But sometimes understanding the complicated is essential for maturity. It’s similar to a child growing up. They learn about the complicated aspects of life, they think deeply about various things, and they mature.

This is true with faith in Christ, and without growing in spiritual maturity, we cannot grow in hope. We need deep and lasting hope that God is for us and the future is bright. But can an explanation of an ancient priest provide you and I with insight we need for hope? The writer of Hebrews would say “yes.” 

Now, maybe you were raised in a tradition that valued a priesthood, maybe not. Maybe you were taught that you needed a priest, maybe not. I would suggest to you today that the need for a priest is written on every human heart. How so?

Well, we all have beliefs about how God views us. And out of those beliefs, we generate hope. What we naturally produce, however, is self-centered hope, hope based on ourselves. Many Christians fall into thinking that how God views and treats us is based on us, which is more like a belief in karma than in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do good things, get good results. Do bad things, get bad results. You get what you “deserve.”

In that system, you are your own priest. You represent yourself before God. And while “cause and effect” is a reality, and there are consequences for our actions, the message of Jesus runs counter to that.

The Scriptures teach that Jesus came into the world because God’s acceptance and blessing is simply not attainable for us on our own. Jesus taught and preached that when it comes to being accepted and blessed by God, hope in yourself is an empty hope. 

But there is hope. God the Son came to earth to serve as a worthy representative for His people before God the Father. He came to serve as our priest, and he is the only effective and capable priest. Jesus is our only hope, and understanding the real hope of Jesus as your priest exposes every false hope. Then the comfort of true hope can fill your heart.

But what kind of false hopes are exposed by understanding Jesus our priest? Notice the statements printed in the WG. Each one can be based on either false hope or true hope. Unless someone is hostile to belief in God or discussion of Him, these statements resonate:

“I hope that when God looks at me, He sees someone who belongs in His presence.” “I hope that when God looks at me, He sees someone who meets His standard.” “I hope that when God looks at me, He sees someone He can permanently accept.” These hopes are relevant to all of us. So let’s examine them together.

Genesis 13-14 in the OT describes circumstances under which Abraham saves his nephew Lot from kidnappers. Various nations are at war with one another, and Lot is swept up in the conflict. So Abraham, along with 318 of his servants, rescues Lot, along with others who are kidnapped, and recovers various possessions that are taken.

Afterwards, Abraham gives an offering to God through a priest, recognizing that his success is from God. He gives ten percent of everything recovered. He gives a tithe. Now, this was long before Moses, long before God’s law given at Mt. Sinai, long before God commanded the Israelites to give a tithe in worship, long before the priesthood of Israel was established with Aaron, the brother of Moses,

But here was Abraham presenting a tithe through this mysterious priest. Who was he? Notice verse 1 says he was “king of Salem.” Salem appears to have been the ancient name of the city of Jerusalem, when the surrounding area was still known as Canaan. 

Also, he was a “priest of the Most High God.” In Gen. 14, when Melchizedek blesses Abraham, he says, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” Melchizedek recognized one sole possessor of heaven and earth. 

This is fascinating, given that a slew of false gods were worshipped. Many worshipped multiple gods. But the worship of the one true God had remained intact after the fall of Adam and Eve. There were still people who knew and understood that there is only one God, that He is holy and mankind is sinful; and that a mediator - a priest - is necessary between God and man. 

In other words, some people still believed that mankind does not belong in the holy presence of God; that when God looks at us, in our natural, sinful state, He does not see people who belong in heaven with Him. Abraham honored Melchizedek as a priest worthy to receive his offering to God. Not that Melchizedek was not a sinner, but that he was set apart by God to intercede and to communicate God’s blessing. He was appointed to intervene on Abraham’s behalf. Notice the first part of verse 2, “and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything.”

Picture a student, maybe in high school, maybe college. We’ll call him “Abe.” Abe is new on campus, he doesn’t know his way around yet. He studies his class schedule, searches for his first class, enters a room and takes a seat. He doesn’t know any of the other students. 

Then the teacher arrives, begins to take attendance, calling each name. But the teacher doesn’t call Abe’s name. Then the teacher says, “Did anyone not hear their name?” Abe raises his hand. The teacher says, “What class are you looking for?” He says, “Biology 101?” The teacher says,“This is Chemistry.” I’ve seen that scenario take place. I may have even been in Abe’s position.

Have you ever found yourself somewhere that you didn’t belong? Many people today believe that when God looks at them, He sees someone who belongs in His presence. Most folks see themselves as good people; why would they not belong in God’s presence?

But you see, we naturally grade “goodness” on a curve. You know how the curve works, right? The best grade in class has points added to make it 100; all the other grades then get those points as well. Now, you may think you have 100 in God’s eyes. You might think you barely pass, or you fall somewhere in between. Some people, sadly, believe they could never get a passing grade in the eyes of God. 

But the gospel of Jesus Christ says that all people fail. No person naturally belongs in God’s holy presence. In Psalm 15 in the OT, King David describes who can enter the presence of God. He writes, [2] He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; [3] who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor [speaks falsely against a] friend; [4] in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; [5] who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent.”

Have you done all those things perfectly? Do you grade yourself on a curve? God does not solve the problem with a curve; he solves it with a priest.

Now, perhaps you agree that no one is perfect, but at the same time, you still hope that God will understand that you’ve done your best, and you hope that will be good enough for God to meet His standard. These next verses about Melchizedek address that false hope. Notice the rest of verse 2.

It says that he, “is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness.” The name “Melchizedek” is the combination of two Hebrew words: “melek” which means king, and “tsedek,” which means righteousness. Melchizedek championed righteousness in his kingdom, he promoted righteousness. He advanced the cause of righteousness. He upheld it. 

Look at the rest of verse 2: “he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace.” He upheld, promoted, and championed peace as well. Not perfectly, of course, but being set apart as a priest of God, Melchizedek valued and defended the righteousness of God, and in doing so, he pointed to or foreshadowed Jesus Christ. 

Only Jesus perfectly upheld and promoted righteousness and peace. Melchizedek was what we understand to be a type of Christ. He was the shadow; Jesus is the reality.

I think a common hope for parents is that as their children grow older, they will see their parents as having done the best they could as parents. In whatever we do, we feel like there should be some credit for trying, some points for effort.I remember taking the SAT in high school and people were saying that you got some points for just writing your name. Have you heard this? That’s not really true, as I understand it.

In your heart, you may admit, “There are many things I’ve done wrong or left undone, but what I have done has to count for something, right?” In light of the gospel, I’ll put it this way: the sum total of everything you’ve done could be called your priestly work. And it simply will not pass the standard of the overwhelming holiness of the one true God. There should not be one proud person in this place, you see. We let ourselves off the hook, but God will not; He requires a priest.

I can think of at least three marks of spiritual immaturity: 1. looking down in judgment on people because of their unrighteousness, 2. feeling continual shame and fear that others looking down on you, 3. or being indifferent toward your sin, because you reason that what’s done is done.

Understanding Jesus as your priest dispels that immaturity, because you look only to Him to make you acceptable to God. 

But then you might think, “Ok, I see. I need to trust in Jesus Christ as my priest today. But what if, in the future, I mess up. What if I fall; what if I stumble? Can I lose God’s acceptance?” Notice finally what verse 3 says about Melchizedek. [3] He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

Typically in Scripture, some degree of genealogical information is given about a person. But not with Melchizedek. He is unique in this way. The writer of Hebrew reasons that by presenting him without a family line, the Holy Spirit describes Melchizedek as if he were eternal, with no birth or death, no beginning or end. 

This is another way in which he points to Jesus Christ. Melchizedek only appears to be eternal; Jesus actually is. It is essential to understand that Jesus stands permanently as the high priest for those who trust in Him. Though we sin daily throughout the course of our lives, even after we are born again; though we struggle with habits, though we fall down, though we get puffed up with pride or wallow in self-pity or grow apathetic, Jesus is always there representing us before God, intervening for us, keeping us secure in God.

When God looks at you, you don’t want him to see you; you want him to see Jesus. 1 Timothy 2 says, “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” One mediator, one priest. Look at these three statements again. “I hope that when God looks at me, He sees someone who belongs in His presence, someone who meets His standard, someone He can permanently accept. 

There is someone. It is Jesus. Only Jesus. Only Jesus belongs in God’s presence; only Jesus meets the standard, only Jesus is permanently acceptable to God. 2 Cor. 5, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

This is the message of the gospel. As I administer the elements of this table now, each of us must examine yourselves. Is Jesus Christ the priest in whom you trust? Is he the priest whose work you rest in each day? Is he the one who represents you before God? Admit your sin, turn from it, and believe in Him.

Let’s bow in prayer.