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A Whole New Way

Hebrews 7:11-12
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood – and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood – why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. (NIVUK)

Why change things? In the fast-moving world of today we need to harness technology and adapt to shifting market forces. But for some new managers, change is simply an opportunity to make their mark – and not always for the best. So why did God change the system of priesthood from what He prescribed to Moses in the Law (Numbers 3:5-10)? It was an important question for the Hebrew-background believers to whom this letter was written. Their whole upbringing had been centred on the temple, tithes, sacrifices and worship which were all controlled by the priests. Why had God apparently changed His mind about the law He gave to Moses?

That old priesthood was set up under the old covenant law to do four things: to announce and enforce God's law, to intercede with God on behalf of the people through prayers and sacrifices, to discern the will of God, and to encourage the people to worship the Lord. But the law and those priests could never make people perfect or create a perfect community, or indeed be perfect themselves. However, their role did point forward to a Priest-King who would be perfect in every way, and have the power to transform sinners into saints and bring in a new covenant of grace (Hebrews 2:17).

Jesus did not come from the tribe of Levi, but from Judah, but He perfectly fulfilled the priestly function of Melchizedek. He announced the gospel of grace, sealed by His broken body and shed blood, and remembered in bread and wine (Genesis 14:18). He offered the all-time sacrifice for sins and also became the sacrificial lamb (John 1:29). Jesus taught what pleases God and later sent His Holy Spirit to remind the apostles so that they could write it down for us. And Jesus still intercedes for us and draws us into His grace (Hebrews 7:25).

While many people find comfort in the routines of religious systems with their rules, rituals and priestly figures, Jesus has called us to a personal relationship with Himself. In Christ alone our sins are paid for and removed from us (1 Peter 3:18). In Christ alone we have access to Father God and the right to be His children. In Christ alone we have the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. In Christ alone we are confident of heaven. That is why the old system was replaced; it was as inadequate as an engineer's model – although achieving its purpose in foreshadowing the fulfilment of God's perfect design. Do not be satisfied with anything less than Jesus: have full confidence in Him alone (Hebrews 10:19-23).

Perfect God. Thank You that You have replaced the law we cannot keep, by a convenant of grace in which we are kept by Jesus Christ. Forgive me for the times I have gone back into religious mode, trying to please You by my good works, and not by relying on Your grace. Please give me a fresh confidence and joy in my relationship with Jesus, and the courage to tell my friends and colleagues about Him. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams