Throughout our new series “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I am writing prayers related to the text on which we are preaching each week. This prayer is drawn from Hebrews 7:1-25. The complete list of prayers inspired by Hebrews is included at the bottom of this post. You can also view my message from this passage “Unlike Any Other,” here.
Father in heaven,
You made humanity in Your image
that we might show forth who You are to the world.
Thank You that although we fell into sin
and failed in our created calling,
You sent Your Son, Jesus, to redeem us
as both the once-for-all Sacrifice
and the Eternal Priest who offers that great gift.
Our lives have been bought with a price –
they are Yours, our God –
so fill us with Your Holy Spirit
that we might live in the fullness of Your power
and display the fullness of Your character
to the far reaches of this world
until the fullness of Your kingdom.
All this we pray, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
In Advent we enter into the longing of Israel for a Messiah; the longing for the promises of the prophets to be fulfilled. We sing songs with words like, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear.” We sing these words to remind us of the longing of God’s people for the appearance of a figure who would bring about the restoration of God’s people in a new way as a priestly king.
The early Christians saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this promised priestly king. His teaching was unlike any other because it had such power. His sacrificial crucifixion and His resurrection from death spoke of Him as Messiah. As they reflected on Jesus’ life and ministry, again and again they returned to Psalm 110, finding in this psalm a picture of Jesus as the promised Messiah, who would be a priestly king forever.
Thus, Peter, at the first sermon of the newly founded church on Pentecost day in Acts 1 and 2, weaves Psalm 110 into his message, saying this:
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
Peter understands that Jesus is the eternal priestly king, not just for Israel, but for humanity. On that Pentecost day, Peter knew that as the priestly king, Jesus brought salvation and also the great gift of God’s presence – His Holy Spirit – to empower His people to live out their calling.
We need a priestly king who can fill us with God’s life – the Holy Spirit – so that we can live as God has called us to live upon earth, and Jesus is the priestly king who pours out the Holy Spirit of God upon all who reach out to Him in faith.
And Paul, writing to the early church in Corinth about the meaning of Christ’s resurrection for believers, weaves in Psalm 110, writing:
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
(1 Corinthians 15:22-25)
Paul saw that Jesus, in His death and resurrection, had put won victory in battle over the principalities and powers of evil, as well as against the ultimate enemy of humankind: death. In the face of human sin and failure, Jesus is the priestly king who deals with all of our greatest opponents, putting them all under His feet.
We need a king who can destroy death and bring life, and Jesus is the priestly king who destroys death and brings life forever.
The unknown writer of Hebrews, in his extended “letter,” which is more of a sermon, writes about Jesus as both High Priest and High Sacrifice:
15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
The writer sees Jesus, in light of Psalm 110, as the fulfillment of the deepest longings of God’s people for a king who can bring true worship of God from the heart of humanity. We know that, as Isaiah the prophet reminds us, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We need a new High Priest who can deal with that forever.
We need a priestly king who can stand before God on our behalf as the perfect human being living perfectly righteous. And we also need a kingly priest who can stand before us as the very face of God Himself, bringing forgiveness of sin. The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus is the priestly king who stands uniquely forever representing humanity before God and God before humanity with an indestructible life.
So join me this Advent in praising God that our Advent hope is not an empty hope but a pregnant hope, giving birth to righteousness, peace, and love through Christ.
This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series, “Songs of the Savior: Psalms for Advent,” by exploring Psalm 110.
I began by walking through the two sections of the psalm, giving attention to promise and fulfillment in those sections. I followed this by looking at the psalm Christologically, with attention to the many New Testament references and allusions to this psalm. Finally, we explored what it looks like to utilize this psalm within our Advent journey toward Christmas.
You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here, participate in Eastbrook’s Advent devotional, or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.
In the book of Genesis, Abraham and Sarah leave their homeland in present-day Iraq to follow God to wherever He will lead them. Their nephew, Lot, accompanies them, eventually getting into all sorts of trouble. At one point, Lot and his family are taken captive in the midst of a military campaign waged between two groups of kings who formed alliances between cities (Genesis 14). Abraham follows after his family members, eventually successfully delivering them and many others. On his return, Abraham encounters Melchizedek, king of Salem, who pronounces a priestly blessing over Abraham and his descendants.
The episode is interesting, but seems like a side alley in the journey of Scripture, until it reappears in Psalm 110. There, the messiah is described both as a conquering king and an eternal priest, bringing together both political and religious duties before people and God. King David seemed to serve in this way, leading the people to military victory while also restoring worship with the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem.
Melchizedek never appears again until the book of Hebrews, which mentions him nine times, each time describing this unique king and priest as a precursor of Jesus. In Hebrews 5, the description of Jesus as king from Psalm 2 is immediately connected with a description of Jesus as priest from Psalm 110. Jesus is simultaneously the once-for-all sacrifice that restores us to God through the Cross and the one-of-a-kind priest who offers that sacrifice in a way that endures forever. The entire book of Hebrews is an exploration of Jesus as the eternal priest before God on behalf of all humanity. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).
As we journey through Advent, we readily remember how Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem many years ago, heralded by angels as “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). May we also remember that good news of joy arises because this infant Messiah would one day stand before God unlike anyone else, and both offer and become the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And now, “Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). He is our Eternal Priest.
REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT:
As Romans 8:34 points out, Jesus stands before God interceding for us. What does that mean for you and your life today?
The sacrifice Jesus offered as “the perfect high priest” was Himself. How does this change your perspective on Advent and what kind of response does that invoke from you in your celebrations this year?
FAMILY TALK WEEK 3
Intended for Families with Young Children
“The LORD has made a promise. He will not change his mind. He has said, ‘You are a priest forever, Just like Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4, NIrV)
“First, the name Melchizedek means “king of what is right.” Also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Melchizedek has no father or mother. He has no family line. His days have no beginning. His life has no end. He remains a priest forever. In this way, he is like the Son of God. . . He [Jesus] isn’t like the other high priests. They need to offer sacrifices day after day. First they bring offerings for their own sins. Then they do it for the sins of the people. But Jesus gave one sacrifice for the sins of the people. He gave it once and for all time. He did it by offering himself.” (Hebrews 7:2-3, 27 NIrV)
God is 100% super-holy. People are not.
So, back in the Old Testament, God made a way for people to come near to Him, even though they had sinned. God appointed “priests”—men who would offer people’s sacrifices on the altar, so that their sins would be forgiven. Priests represented the people before God.
In the Savior Song from Psalm 110, God is saying that Jesus is like a priest. Not like most Old Testament priests, but like one called Melchizedek (Mel-KIZ-uh-dek).
Most priests were born into the tribe of Levi.
Melchizedek was not from Levi. He lived before God’s people were divided into tribes.
Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi. He was from Judah.
Most priests were born into a family and died.
Melchizedek doesn’t have any family, or birthday, or time of death recorded in the scripture.
Jesus lives forever.
Most priests had to offer sacrifices over and over.
Jesus offered one sacrifice—HIMSELF—to pay for everyone’s sin, for all time!
This is why we don’t offer animal sacrifices at church. Jesus Himself is our priest, representing us before His holy Father, and Jesus Himself is our once-for-all-time sacrifice. He is our priest, sitting at the Father’s right hand, always praying for us (Romans 8:34).