Summary: An Overview of Hebrews Chapter 7
Hebrews 7 Outline
Dickerson Road Baptist Church
April 2, 2006
Perhaps the most mysterious figure in the entire Old Testament is Melchizedek, who met the conquering Abraham with bread and wine after he returned from battling four kings and recovering his nephew, Lot. He is called “the priest of God Most High,” designating him as worshiping God even as did Abraham. He blessed Abraham and received tithes from Abraham (Genesis 14). Then no mention is made of Melchizedek for another thousand years, until David prophesies of the Messiah being declared “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110). Again, no mention is made for another thousand years until the author of Hebrews writes to assure and encourage this struggling congregation by understanding the substance of Christ as their priest through the shadow of Melchizedek. While the language and typology might be unfamiliar to our Western minds, the message conveyed in the text is quite clear. All who will come in faith to Jesus Christ will find Him to be an all-sufficient priest who saves for eternity. Do you know Jesus Christ as your priest? Consider the author’s explanation of Christ in the priestly order of Melchizedek.
I. The Foreshadowing of Christ’s Priesthood
The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of Scripture. Peter reminds us, “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (II Pet. 1:21). Our Lord indicated the same when referring to Psalm 110—the same text that the writer of Hebrews bases his exposition—Jesus said, “David in the Spirit” called the Messiah ‘Lord’ (Matthew 22:43). The early disciples, gathered for prayer after Peter and John had been released from jail, declaring that David spoke of the Messiah “by the Holy Spirit,” with David being only a mouthpiece of the Spirit’s utterance (Acts 4:24-26). The revelation of Scripture is the record of the utterances of the Holy Spirit through human vessels. “When the Scripture speaks, God speaks,” as J.I. Packer put it. So what does that have to do with Melchizedek? It is a reminder that this mysterious figure in the book of Genesis did not happen along by accident and that out of all the thousands of days and experiences in the life of Abraham, this one was among the few singled out for our benefit by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Early readers of Genesis did not know what to make of Melchizedek. Then came David, setting forth one of several Messianic prophecies in the Psalms, making the rather odd statement of a divine oath, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psa. 110:4). For another thousand years this psalm was sung in worship of the Lord by the Israelites in both their liberty and captivity. What did it mean? Why would the Messiah be declared a priest according to the order of Melchizedek?
1. A Devine Revelation
The first consideration is to understand that our writer is using typology to explain the nature and sufficiency of Christ as priest and king. Typology is “a hermeneutical concept in which a biblical place… person… event… institution… office… or object… becomes a pattern by which later persons or places are interpreted due to the unity of events within salvation-hist ory” [ISBE, vol. IV, 930]. In this interpretive device you have types and antitypes. The antitype is the fulfillment of the original person or event. It serves as prophetic language, explaining in shadowy fashion a future person or reality. It is more than an illustration; it gives vivid pictures of what will certainly transpire through the antitype.
As an example, the bronze serpent that Moses lifted upon the pole for the perishing Israelites to look upon and be healed was a type of Christ on the cross. Jesus referred to this in John 3:14, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (the type), even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (the antitype).”
It is this interpretive device that the author of Hebrews is utilizing when he refers to Melchizedek. We will spend time analyzing what he has written, but it is important for us to recognize that this biblical author saw the continuity of Scripture. All of Scripture ultimately points to Jesus Christ—the Redeemer and Lord. This unity of the biblical writers stretched over a 1500-year period displays a remarkable symmetry as they record events and prophecies that find their fulfillment centuries later in Jesus Christ. Melchizedek is the shadow of which Jesus Christ is the substance. We understand this through biblical revelation.
There is also the teaching of representation in the figures of our text. “And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.” Even though Levi was the great-grandson of Abraham and not even his grandfather had been born, Levi is considered to have paid tithes and expressed his subordination to Melchizedek through Abraham. The Hebrew idea of Levi “still in the loins of his father” carries the concept of representation. O. Palmer Robertson asks, “How can the action of a person in one generation be reckoned as the action of another person in a subsequent generation?” He answers, “As strange as it may seem, this concept fits the pattern of biblical representations. Adam acted as the representative for the whole human race, and the high priest of Israel acted for the whole nation on the Day of Atonement. In a simple way, Abraham acted for Aaron in acknowledging the superiority of Melchizedek” [The Israel of God, 65]. The solidarity of a family, tribe, or race of people is bound up in the representative. It is through this interpretive instrument that the writer can make his claim that the priesthood of Jesus Christ is greater than that of the Aaronic priesthood; as such His priesthood is altogether sufficient for the eternal salvation of all who come by faith to Jesus Christ.