The apostle, being now on the ground of priesthood, shows the excellency of the Melchisedec priesthood of Christ, and uses it to bring back these Hebrews from that which was after the “carnal commandment to that which was “after the power of an endless life.”
The order of the priesthood is according to Melchizedec, but after the analogy of Aaron—not yet come out from the holiest. Arguments are drawn from Scripture to show that this priesthood is far more excellent than that of Aaron. One point of importance is its being another—“after the similitude of Melchizedec there ariseth another priest:” that implied the setting aside of the other. Directly the Aaronic priesthood is gone, the whole system connected with it is gone; for that was the keystone. According to their own Scriptures, there was to be another, and now that is come. And wherever Christ is concerned the Spirit immediately bursts into all the beauty and excellency of it.
Gen. 14 and Ps. 110 These scriptures bring us greatly into the history of Melchizedec. They are all we have about him, showing us the mystery of his person and glory. The people, when Christ was on earth, could not understand His being David’s Son and David’s Lord. In Ps. 110:4, it is Jehovah, and not in ver. 7. “He shall drink of the brook in the way”—in humbling Himself He shall have His head lifted up.
The history of Abraham is remarkably interesting in Gen. 14—his having entirely done with the world, while Lot, in a selfish way, liked the world, and chose the world when he was a believer. Abraham does not this: he gives up the world in the power of faith. Lot was under the world: Abraham had complete power over the world because he had given it up. He would not take from a thread to a shoe-latchet. And then God says, “I am thy shield,” etc. He had God. Giving up the world, he had victory over it, and has God for his shield.
It is after this that Melchizedec comes out to meet him. In the future day this will be seen in Christ coming out to His people; it applies to ourselves in a heavenly way now. “Priest of the most High God.” In that word, all the peculiar character of Melchizedec comes out. Abraham had overcome by faith. He knew God by faith. Now He is made known to him as “possessor of heaven and earth.” The Gentile powers broken, God rules and does what He pleases; and Nebuchadnezzar gives Him the title of “Most High God.” He takes to Himself His great power and reigns as Most High. This is not the name known to Abraham’s faith; that was Shaddai. “I am the Almighty God; walk before me,” etc. Abraham was called to walk before God, and he suffered no man to do him wrong in passing through the world. Jehovah, the one true God, brought His people into relationship with Himself—all the rest were false Gods. We have the relationship of Father in contrast with these; but all these names are for faith to own. Most High is another thing; Possessor; Col. 1 “to reconcile all things to Himself;” and Eph. 1 “to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” He will be the possessor of heaven and earth; Melchizedec priest, in this character of priest of the Most High, He has gained the full victory over the power of the world. The Heir of Promise is the great victor. Psalm 91 He who has got the secret of who this Most High is, (never the Father’s name in Hebrews; it is the “throne of grace” spoken of) shall have the blessings of Abraham’s God. So Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:33) taunted by the enemy, “hath any of the gods of the nations delivered out of my hand,” Psalm 91:2 I will have the Jehovah the God of Israel, now despised, but He will overcome amidst the gods of the nations. (ver. 9) No secret now in His name. (Luke 4:11,12) And He says, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Tempting God—trying whether He is as good as His word—to see whether it is true. Thou shalt not put God to the test. (ver. 9) The knowledge of the Most High as Jehovah, is Israel’s God. When Christ has taken His real power, He will be Melchizedec priest: at least He will be Priest on His throne. The counsel of peace, as regards this earth is between Jehovah and this Priest on His throne—“righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Aaron was never a king.
Melchizedec brought bread and wine after the victory. There is no thought of a sacrifice to secure blessing while living a life of faith; but he brings forth refreshment for the victor, bread and wine, eucharistic, accompanied with thanksgiving; bread, the symbol of that which strengthens, and wine, of that which refreshes the heart of man. The people on earth are fully brought into blessing. Melchizedec blessed the Most High God on the part of Abraham, and blessed Abraham on the part of God.
The earthly priesthood takes the character of joy and gladness on the victory being obtained. Melchizedec was king of Salem, and king of righteousness. This says nothing about divine righteousness; it is righteousness established. He rules according to it—righteousness looking down from heaven—righteousness in His person, and mercy shown to those who do not deserve it. “A king shall reign in righteousness.” “A man shall be as an hiding-place, and a covert from the tempest,” “righteousness and peace have kissed each other;” righteousness is the character of the rule, and the effect of it, peace. We have it now in a higher way, a divine way. We have it in our souls; but it is to be on earth, in Melchizedec, king of righteousness and king of peace. In Ps. 110 Christ is sitting at God’s right hand, and we connected with Him during the time He is sitting there—“until” his enemies are made His footstool. His people will be willing in the day of His power—we, through grace, are made willing now,(ver. 3) “Thou hast the dew of thy youth;” all the new generations of Israel when the fresh blessing comes in on the earth (a figure, of course). He will come in power, and rule over His enemies—He will judge the heathen. “He shall drink of the brook in the way,” i.e., willing to get the refreshment by the way, being perfectly dependent. “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me;” and this is rewarded with exaltation. Looked at as His title, it is after the power of an endless life; but not exercised according to that yet. When “righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” it will be. It was necessary that the atonement should have been made. The Jews had rejected promise just the same as law, and now they must come freely, through His grace, like any poor sinner. But there is more as to dispensation; there is the question of the new covenant. We have to see what our part is in this; the new makes the other old. That old covenant was made at Sinai: it was addressed to man in the flesh, making a claim upon him. The new covenant is on the ground of the law being put into the heart, and forgiveness given. The new covenant was made with Israel and Judah. Have we nothing to do with it? I do not say that. His blood has been shed. “This is my blood of the new covenant shed for many,” All that God had to do to bring the Jews in was done: their bringing in is suspended because of unbelief. Then what do we get He was minister of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the spirit. We have the law in our hearts, and forgiveness. We have all the blessings of the new covenant—God’s part all thoroughly laid. We have Christ in whose heart the law was hid; not the letter, that was made with Israel and Judah, though they are now outside. Then another thing: I am one with the Mediator of the new covenant. I am, as part of the Church, a member of His body, (that is not brought out here, but while He is gone in—not seen in the Aaron character) I am associated with Him. He has shed the blood on which it is all founded. He is gone to make good that part which is in heaven, and meanwhile I am connected with Him. I have the effect of the blood. He is there on the throne, a proof of its being accepted. He is the forerunner into the glory I am going into. He is a priest forever, while I am here in infirmity. He is a priest different to those priests who died, “after the power of an endless life.” While He sits waiting till His enemies are made His footstool, He has done everything for His friends, and has sent down the Holy Ghost to associate us with Him in heaven, and to maintain us in communion till He comes out. There is no figure of the temple used here: it is all the tabernacle in the wilderness. He who is High Priest after the order of Melchisedec is gone in. There was provided some better thing for us, and we get the heavenly association with Him. In Heb. 7 the superiority of this priesthood is shown (Ver. 3) “Continually,” that is one great thing for us, and that is insisted on much. The constancy of our position comes out in the 9th and 10th chapters. The meaning of it is, without any interruption, not only for ever. Aaron’s priesthood could be broken up—pass from one man to another, but this is an untransmissible priesthood. It has the stamp of eternity on it in its very nature; so the value of His blood is for ever—continually, perpetually that is the force. What do we find in the state of souls generally now? Is their peace continuous? or are they, when conscious of failure, wanting to be sprinkled again? The Jew wanted a sacrifice for every sin; but with us there is one sacrifice uninterrupted in its efficacy—not broken in upon. The priesthood goes on continuously. We fail, and there is the Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous. It is after the power of an endless life—not like Aaron’s—not in the temple—but in the “true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Always there, untransmissibly, “to the uttermost,” right through. “He ever liveth to make intercession.”
Melchizedec was a man, no doubt, like any other—a mysterious personage, appearing on the scene without an origin known. Whose son was he? All kinds of suppositions without any conclusion. Why? Because Scripture leaves us in the dark. As a priest, Christ was without genealogy—not as a man. His mother is known. Again, He was not to be cast off at a certain age, as those priests were. He continueth ever. “Made like unto the Son of God”—only as a priest. Royalty is connected with the priesthood. Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedec is another important point. God had given them Aaronic priesthood, promises, etc.; but there was something greater, something behind, which was above and beyond all this. Levi paid tithes in Abraham, showing the superiority of Melchizedec to Levi. (Ver. 12-14) They must give it all up as applying to Aaron.
Ver. 18-20 give the secret of the whole thing. There was the disannulling of what went before, because not perfect, and the bringing in of a better hope. “Did” is better left out. What is the result of that? We draw nigh to God. (Ver. 19) Did the Jews do this? Did the priests do it? No. “Now we see not yet all things put under him;” but we have a better thing; “we draw nigh to God.” Perfect atonement has been made—the veil is rent—the High Priest in heaven; and when He comes forth, we shall come with Him.
There is a time for Melchizedec Himself when He shall come in glory. To be sitting on God’s own throne is the highest thing. Now He is sitting on God’s right hand in all the fulness and brightness of His glory; and while there, we get all our associations with Him—dead with him, etc. And when He appears, we shall appear with Him. We may take it as to our union and our association with Him in priesthood, He is the High Priest, and we are priests. The Holy Ghost, being sent down, associates us with Him, while He is in heaven. We could not receive the Holy Ghost until Jesus was glorified. Then having perfect righteousness, we are seated in Him.
Ver. 25 “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” We do not come to Him, (the Priest,) but He goes to God for us, and we go to God by Him. As Lord, we came to Him; but as Priest, not. He intercedes, and brings us back when we have failed. He is watching always—thinking of us when we are not thinking of Him.
Ver 26 “For such an high priest became us,” etc. Why this? It became us! The Jews had worship on earth; we go higher than the heavens. Our priest is there, on the right hand of God. That stamps the character of our worship. “Higher than the heavens” is the place of our worship. In the fullest sense He sanctified Himself (John 17) when He went up on high. Instead of a priest joined with us in the place of sin or its consequences (which could not be, He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, but bore the sin on the cross) He is taking our hearts out of the present world to the scene where He is. The thing that fits Christ for the exercise of His priesthood is, that He can take me where sin is not. He has put it away. It was not put away under the Jewish service; but that is not the character of our relationship with God. We are dead—dead to sin; you cannot connect it with your place on earth. He is gone “higher than the heavens.” We have no other connexion with God than that in Christ, out of the flesh (not physically of course, we have the treasure in earthen vessels). Christ made “higher than the heavens,” “became us.” There is a great deal in the world that is undermining this. Men say we are not dead to sin, and are associating themselves, not dead, with Christ. It is all false. If not dead, I have no associations with Christ at all. The veil is rent, sin is put away—sin in the flesh is condemned—we are dead. I see more and more daily of the danger and conflict there is in connexion with this, and the effort to bring our association with Christ down to flesh. He is risen. We have association with Christ in heaven. Our citizenship is there. Most blessed comfort for us it is, that all I have to go through here, Christ has gone through. He passed through all, “tempted like as we are, without sin.” “He ever liveth to make intercession for us,” while our hearts are associated with Him through the power of the Holy Ghost.
There are two great foundation principles connected with our coming unto God by Christ. 1st. The place, as giving the character of His priesthood; and, 2ndly, the non-repetition of the sacrifice. “Such an high priest became us,” etc. Our place of meeting with God is above the heavens, and the questions of—can I come? how can I come?—are met by His priestly work being carried on there, where we meet with God. He first came down to us in the place where we are as sinners, but in our going to God it must be in the place where He is. The place of the priest was the holy place, under the Jewish order, but with us there is no vail between us and the holiest. God is light. We walk in the light. We must therefore be able to draw near according to the light in which He is. The presence of God is purity itself, and the power of purity.
God has first visited us as enemies. He did not wait for us to go up to heaven; but when we go to Him as worshippers, being partakers of the heavenly calling, we are higher than the heavens. Our intercourse with God is in the sanctuary, in the light where He is; and a high priest is needed for this, who is “holy, harmless, unidentified, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”
The Jews had priests who had infirmity; but in going into the holiest, we could not go in by these. There must be One able to maintain us in the place where divine righteousness has set us. The priest must be holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, i.e., the work is carried on out of the region where sin is going on; the work of Christ on the cross having brought us there. He is separate from sinners (as to His own state, morally, He was always a Nazarite, but) He has set Himself apart as a Nazarite in connexion with us. He is there, where the worship goes on.
Failures are measured by the place where we are. Of Israel it was said to the priests, “ye shall bear the iniquity of the holy things.” We are all priests—there is no separate caste of priests—and all our faults and failings are measured by the place we are in. The place to which we belong, and where our worship is carried on, and where our Priest is, is out of the reach of sin. When we are there in fact, we shall be able to let our thoughts and feelings free; we shall not want our consciences then. Now we must watch everything down here, but there is full liberty with God, there may be the freest, fullest letting forth of every thought and feeling with Him.
The other thing different in our High Priest from those high priests, is that He offered up Himself once, not for His own sins, but for His people’s—for the church and Israel’s. He has done it fully, finally, and once for all; it cannot be repeated. Once for ever constitutes the full character of the priesthood of Christ. This gives us a very distinct place. Brought into the light as God is in the light, where sacrifice never can be made, again, a Priest is there, by virtue of an unalterable condition, in the presence of God. If Christ has not put away sins, they never will be put away. His blood was shed, not sprinkled only. If once you have been sprinkled by the blood of Christ, has anything taken it off? Has the blood ever lost its value? I cannot talk of being sprinkled again, if the blood has not lost its value. I may have my feet washed with water, for renewal of communion; but as to the person, that is never even washed with water again, though the feet may need cleansing.
There were three cases of blood sprinkling in Israel: the covenant, the leper, and the priest. The covenant was sprinkled once for all: it was never renewed, but is set aside by a better. The leper was sprinkled once, not again, and the priest. There was no replacing of the power of that blood. “We walk in the light, as God is in the light; and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” That does not change at all: is heavenly in its character, cleanses and fits for God in light; and it is everlasting in its efficacy. It is a new place where we are set, and set for ever.
Let me stop a moment to ask you how far you have forgotten this? how far you are on Jewish ground? It is connected with “the full assurance of faith.” We must be clean before we are there, as God is in the light. It is a different place altogether from that in which the question would arise as to what my state is. How do I get there? By the cross. But if I come by the cross, am I defiled or undefiled? I am brought into God’s presence, and cannot be there without having been cleansed. Christ came to us in our sins, or else there would be no hope; but it is by virtue of His blood we go to God. How do you go—cleansed or uncleansed? Do we not know whether we are cleansed or not? We may be ignorant of ourselves, but we know whether we are cleansed or not. The way we get into His presence is by being cleansed. That is quite different from the standing of those whose walk was on earth—finding a sin and getting it cleansed—finding a sin and getting it cleansed. The fruits of the light are such and such things. If we are made children of light, it is not to diminish the light, but to judge everything by it. That is the effect of our being there.