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The epistle, returning to the subject of Melchizedec, reviews therefore the
dignity of his person and the importance of his priesthood. For on
priesthood, as a means of drawing nigh to God, the whole system connected
with it depended.
Melchizedec then (a typical and characteristic person, as the use of his
name in Psalm 110 proves) was king of Salem, that is king of peace, and, by
name, king of righteousness. Righteousness and peace characterise his
reign. But above all he was priest of the Most High God. This is the name
of God as supreme Governor of all things-Possessor, as is added in Genesis,
of heaven and earth. It is thus that Nebuchadnezzar, the humbled earthly
potentate, acknowledged Him. It was thus He revealed Himself to Abraham,
when Melchizedec blessed the patriarch after he had conquered his enemies.
In connection with his walk of faith, the name of Abraham, victorious over
the kings of the earth, is blessed by Melchizedec, by the king of
righteousness, in connection with God as Possessor of heaven and earth, the
Most High. This looks onward to the royalty of Christ, a Priest upon His
throne, when by the will and the power of God He shall have triumphed over
all His enemies-a time not yet arrived-first fulfilled in the millennium,
as it is commonly expressed, though this rather refers to the earthly part.
Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedec. His royalty was not all, for Psalm 110
is very clear in describing Melchizedec as priest, and as possessing a
lasting and uninterrupted priesthood. He had no sacredotal parentage form
whom he derived his priest hood As a priest, he had neither father nor
mother; unlike the sons of Aaron, he had no genealogy (compare Ezra 2:62);
he had no limits assigned to the term of his priestly service, as was the
case with the sons of Aaron. (Num 4:3) He was made a pries, like-in his
priestly character- to the Son of God; but, as yet, the latter is in
The fact that he received tithes from Abraham, and that he blessed Abraham,
shewed the high and preeminent dignity of this otherwise unknown and
mysterious personage. The only thing that is testified of him-without
naming father or mother, commencement of life, or death that may have taken
place-is, that he lived.
The dignity of his person was beyond that of Abraham, the depositary of the
promises; that of his priesthood was above Aaron's, who in Abraham paid the
tithes which Levi himself received from his brethren. The priesthood then
is changed, and with it the whole system that depended on it.
Psalm 110 interpreted by faith in Christ-for the epistle, we need not say,
speaks always to Christians-is still the point on which its argument is
founded. The first proof the, that the whole was changed, is that the Lord
Jesus, the Messiah (a Priest after the order of Melchizedec, did not spring
evidently from the sacredotal tribe, but from another, namely, that of
Judah. For that Jesus was the Messiah, they believed. But, according to the
Jewish scriptures, the Messiah was such as He is here presented; and in
that case the priesthood was changed, and with it the whole system. And
this was not only a consequence that must be drawn from the fact that the
Messiah was of the tribe of Judah, although a Priest; but it was requisite
that another priest than the priest of Aaron's family should arise, and
one after the similitude of Melchizedec, who should not be after the law of
a commandment which had no more power than the flesh to which it was
applied, but who should be according to the power of a never ending life.
The testimony of the psalm to this was positive: "Thou art a priest for
ever after the order of Melchizedek."
For there is in fact a disannulling of the commandment that existed
previously, because it was unprofitable (for the law brought nothing to
perfection); and there is the bringing in of a better hope, by which we
draw nigh to God.
Precious difference! A commandment to man, sinful and afar from God,
rep]aced by a hope, a confidence, founded on grace and on divine promise,
through which we can come even into God's presence.
The law, doubtless, was good; but separation still subsisted between man
and God. The law made nothing perfect. God was ever perfect, and human
perfection was required; all must be according to what divine perfection
required of man. But sin was there, and the law was consequently without
power (save to condemn); its ceremonies and ordinances were but figures,
and a heavy yoke. Even that which temporarily relieved the conscience
brought sin to mind and never made the conscience perfect towards God. They
were still at a distance from Him.. Grace brings the soul to God, who is
known in love and in a righteousness which is for us.
The character of the new priesthood bore the stamp in all its features, of
its superiority to that which existed under the order of the law and with
which the whole system of the law either stood or fell.
The covenant connected with the new priesthood answered likewise to the
superiority of the latter over the former priesthood.
The priesthood of Jesus was established by oath; that of Aaron was not. The
priesthood of Aaron passed from one person to another, because death put an
end to its exercise by the individuals who were invested with it. But Jesus
abides the same for ever; He has a priesthood that is not transmitted to
others. Thus He saves completely, and to the end, those that come unto God
by Him, seeing that He ever lives to intercede for them.
Accordingly "such a high priest became us." Glorious thought! Called to be
in the presence of God, to be in relationship with Him in the heavenly
glory, to draw near to Him on high, where nothing that defiles can enter,
we needed a High Priest in the place to which access was given us (as the
Jews in the earthly temple), and such a one as the glory and purity of
heaven required.What a demonstration that we belong to heaven, and of the
exalted nature of our relationship with God ! Such a Priest became us: "
Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, exalted above the
heavens"-for so are we, as to our position, having to do with God there-a Pr
iest who needs not to renew the sacrifices, as though any work to put away
sin still remained to be done, or their sins could still be imputed to
believers; for then it would be impossible to stay in the heavenly
sanctuary. As having once for all completed His work for the putting away
of sin, our Priest offered His sacrifice once for all when He offered up
For the law made high priests who had the infirmities of men, for they were
men themselves; the oath of God, which came after the law, establishes the
Son, when He is perfected for ever, consecrated in heaven unto God.
We see here that, although there was an analogy and the figures of heavenly
things, there is more of contrast than of comparison in this epistle. The
legal priests had the same infirmities as other men; Jesus has a glorified
priesthood according to the power of an endless life.
The introduction of this new priesthood, exercised in heaven, implies a
change in the sacrifices and in the covenant. This the inspired writer
develops here setting forth the value of the sacrifice of Christ, and the
long-promised new covenant. The direct connection is with the sacrifices;
but he turns aside for a moment to the two covenants, a so wide-embracing
and all-weighty consideration for the christian Jews who had been under the