Thursday, November 6, 2014
In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 7:20-28
Just before verse 20, in verse 19 of this chapter, the author says that the former system of priests, because of its weakness and uselessness, was set aside, and "a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God."
A significant difference between this "better hope" and the old system of priests, is that God made no oaths or promises that the old system would last forever. In fact, there were clear promises from Yahweh that under certain conditions the Israelites would lose their entire relationship of worship with God. (Deuteronomy 28:15 and context, 28:36, 28:64)
By contrast, the Messiah was prophesied (Psalm 110:4 being quoted here) to be a new and different kind of priest, guaranteed to hold his position as mediator between God and humanity forever.
In the old system, the rebellion and disobedience of humanity would result in the disintegration of the method by which God had relationship with humanity. But with Jesus as our priest, no amount of rebellion or evil on our part will nullify his work as mediator on our behalf. He is our priest forever, no matter what. He will not die of old age or see his position dissolved because of sin.
The verb "to save" here in the Greek is used in an absolute, comprehensive sense that broadly includes "salvation/rescue" in every form we could possibly need it. As we draw near to Jesus, he saves us from the penalty that sin demands, instead having taken that punishment on himself. He rescues us from the power that sin has over us by default, enabling us to break free of selfish and destructive patterns and ways of viewing life. And eventually this nearness to Jesus will rescue us from any potential presence of evil, as those who wish to continue serving themselves will be placed in quarantine forever.
This is all made possible because Jesus is constantly interceding for us in the presence of God the Father. This shouldn't be understood to imply that Jesus is constantly pleading with the Father to forgive us. Instead, the mere fact of Jesus having paid the price for our sin and crediting his perfect record of righteousness to us is all the intercession required. His very existence now makes intercession for us.
The author recognizes that we have a deep need for a mediator like Jesus. Given our constant, repeated failings, selfishness and rebellion against God, "it is fitting" for us to have a mediator between us and God who can't potentially be "part of the problem". Instead, Jesus is completely blameless, with no sin in his track record. In fact his character is so pure that it is only fitting for him to also be removed from sinners right now, which at least in part explains his physical absence from us. Of course it's reassuring to remember at this point that he remains present with believers through his interaction with them in The Holy Spirit.(John 16:7, Matthew 28:20)
The former system of priests and sacrifices was all conditional. It was never promised to last forever, but depended on the obedience of the Israelites to be kept in place. But the priesthood of Jesus is secured by the oath of Yahweh.
It's easy to become jaded toward our local church communities. Many of us geeks have felt judged by other Christians, and so have a hyper-sensitivity to hypocrisy and corruption in the church. We see corruption in church members and even church leaders. And while sin in the Christian community has to be confronted, it is not a reason to give up on local Christian community or assume that what the bible teaches "doesn't work". That would only be the case if our relationship with God were dependent on the character of our fellow Christians and church leaders. But it's not. It depends only on Jesus. Our experience with the local church is there to help us grow in discipline, encouragement, hope and maturity while helping others do the same.
At the same time, our best, most foundational time of connecting with God will not happen if we compartmentalize our faith to something that primarily happens at the church building. Our pastors, elders, worship leaders and friends are not the medium through which we have access to God. Jesus is.
He "saves" us in every way possible as we interact with him. Our initial trust in him rescues us from eternal separation from God and guarantees our eventual, permanent rescue from all evil. And our dedicated time sharing our hearts and thoughts with him and reading or memorizing his word to hear his response, rescues us from a broken, painful view of ourselves and our lives.