Friday, October 17, 2014

In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 7:4-10

A theme of Hebrews so far has been "holding on to hope and confidence in Yahweh so that we can be engaged in his plans and experience his blessing and rest". In the verses we looked at previously, the author has been building an argument for trusting in Jesus as the ultimate priest/go-between for humanity and Yahweh. The popular idea today that "all paths lead to God" conflicts with the point being made in Hebrews, that Jesus is far superior to any other so-called, or even true, representative of God.

The author illustrates this by comparing Jesus to the ancient priest-king Melchizedek, which he continues to do in verses 4-10 of chapter 7.

The author observes that Abraham gave a tenth of his resources to Melchizedek, implying that Melchizedek was a figure to be honored for his role as the representative of "God Most High"(Genesis 14:18). The author points out that the tribe of Levi also collected a tenth, but from their fellow Israelites and only because the law of Yahweh gave them this particular role.

However Melchizedek received a tenth from Abraham, not because it was commanded by God, but because Abraham recognized something unique in the nature of Melchizedek, who was not God's representative by right of birth, but due to some other quality within him.

Melchizedek also blessed Abraham, the revered father of all Hebrews, who had already received stunning promises of blessing from God. One would expect that if anyone was going to do the blessing, it would be Abraham. But the author observes that Melchizedek was in a better position to bless Abraham than the other way around, and was in some sense "superior" even to the great "Father Abraham".

Verse 8 compares the Levitical priests, who are mortal, with Melchizedek, for whom scripture records no point of death. (7:3) Again, the author is not suggesting that Melchizedek was literally immortal, but is using the representation of him in scripture (including what scripture does NOT say about him) to illustrate truths about Jesus the Christ.

The author goes on to suggest that, in a manner of speaking, Levi himself paid tithes to Melchizedek, since Levi was "inside" his ancestor Abraham.

Like Melchizedek, Jesus is categorically different from any other priest, preacher or pastor in history. His words are more trustworthy and authoritative than any philosopher or guru the world has ever known. And if all that sounds like a lot of fluff talk, Jesus is something else that backs up that claim. He is undying. He literally, bodily, rose from death and has never, will never be subject to death again.

Even God's word acknowledges that everything hangs on this reality, and implicitly challenges us as readers to investigate the claims of Jesus' resurrection.

(1 Corinthians 15:13-19, ESV) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Because of the way I am wired, I think creatively almost all of the time. Often in the form of "what if" scenarios I dream up in my mind. All of geek entertainment starts with "what if". What if this were to happen to me? What if this weren't true after all? For no good reason at all I tend to entertain "what if" scenarios that have no particular likelihood of being true.

One that comes back now and then is the scenario "what if Jesus, the Bible, the whole thing, is a big load of crap, or at best a well-intentioned misunderstanding of the truth?" The ramifications are all spelled out in 1 Corinthians 15.

If this thought nags at me long enough, I find it useful to take a little time to go back to the drawing board and ask myself, "What do I believe about Jesus and why? What are the current, best opposing arguments to those beliefs? What is the current best defense of those beliefs? Do I need to adjust any of my conclusions about Jesus in light of these things?"

If you are the same way, or experience similar thoughts that cause you to wonder if Jesus really IS all the Bible says he is, I'd encourage you to investigate the claims of Jesus' resurrection. In my experience, that investigation doesn't answer every question I have. But when balancing the evidence in the end I always, forced by reason itself, arrive at the same basic conclusion, as Paul does in his continuing words in 1 Corinthians:

(1 Corinthians 15:20-22, ESV) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

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