The Jews were completely wedded to their Levitical priesthood, so it was vital that Jesus was not seen as just another priest in Aaron’s long genealogy. It was necessary to the Holy Spirit’s plan that the Old Covenant priesthood be undermined and quickly abolished. The destruction by the Romans of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70 certainly helped too!
Melchizedek was a ‘walk-on’ part in Old Testament history, barely rating a mention at the time that Genesis was written. However, as we now see, he was planted into the narrative by the Holy Spirit to become a future ‘fault-line’ in the unending loop of Levitical ministry, engineering a clean break for the high priestly role of Jesus the Messiah. Prophetically, King David added his royal weight to the argument by writing the powerful and universally accepted messianic Psalm 110, in which the Lord God himself appoints the Lord Jesus as “…a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”.
Melchizedek was a real historical person, who was both a regional King and a priest of God. He lived in Abraham’s lifetime and was clearly a very important, highly regarded local dignitary. Abraham showed him genuine respect. However, uniquely amongst key people in the Old Testament, he was given no genealogy; no parents were listed, and no birth or death mentioned. He wasn’t immortal, but he was mentioned in a way that set him up as a ‘type’ of someone coming later who would be! He was a ‘peg’ on which a superior kind of priest and priesthood could be hung.
“King of Righteousness” and “King of Peace” were two very grand-sounding titles that he had somehow acquired. Perhaps he ‘wore’ them like robes that were purchased too large for him, in the hope that he would ‘grow into them’ later; or perhaps he was wearing them in readiness for someone else to fit more appropriately! As we now see in Hebrews, it was the latter scenario.
Now for that ‘fault line’: Melchizedek blessed Abraham and accepted a tithe (ten percent) of Abraham’s battle plunder. This proves that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham. (No good Jew would have disagreed). Furthermore, Levi was inferior to Abraham since he was descended from him. Hebrews then completes the logical ‘loop’ by stating that Levi, founder of the Old Covenant priesthood, effectively paid that tithe to Melchizedek since he was at that time “…in the body of his ancestor” (v10). Conclusion? Melchizedek and his priesthood were more ancient and superior to Levi’s.
The author of Hebrews then points out that the Levitical priesthood had already failed to produce the forgiveness and the perfection that it had existed for. A change was required. And Jesus was appointed, from the tribe of Judah (hence, not a Levite) to the enduring priesthood of Melchizedek. (It could have been anyone really, as long as it wasn’t to the priesthood of Levi). What Jesus and Melchizedek did have in common was (at least on paper), an indestructible life – they both had endured beyond the normal human lifespan: Melchizedek because he had no genealogical record of having died and Jesus because he had died and been resurrected. But Jesus was and is the Living Word, whereas Melchizedek was simply a pretext!
The other reason for a change of priesthood is so that a change of law could occur since the Law of Moses was not ‘fit for purpose’ if anyone wanted truly to be righteous. Jesus now has a permanent and effective priesthood, as promised by God on oath (Psalm 110:4) and since he lives forever, there will never be any further change. Jesus can forever be our personal intercessor, calling down from God’s throne of grace every blessing he has purchased for us. He is eternally perfect, holy, blameless, and pure, devoting his whole energies to saving us, since he has no need to divert attention to saving himself.
Good news, don’t you think!
EZEKIEL 9, 10, 11 and 12
In Ezekiel’s vision, the Lord began to pack his bags and to make arrangements to leave his temple. His glory had rested there for hundreds of years, since the days of David and Solomon, and Israel had bowed down to his Presence, knowing that they were close to the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.
Before he finally left, God appointed the six guardian angels of the city to move on a trail of destruction, punishing the majority of the people for their rebellion and idolatry. A seventh ‘man’ was instructed to make a mark (an ‘X’) on the foreheads of God’s loyal and faithful servants, to protect them from the coming wrath. This is reminiscent of the Passover, when marks were put over the doorframes of Israelite houses in Egypt. Therefore, the rest of the population received their just deserts! Do you have the mark of Christ on your life?
In the next chapter, 10, Ezekiel has another vision of the Lord’s throne and hears God command the seventh angel to scatter burning coals from under the cherubim over the city. This was soon done – rather in the same way that Sodom and Gomorrah received fire from heaven as a punishment for their evil ways. The cherubim themselves seemed to be absolutely covered with eyes – representing omniscience – and there is a further description of their four-way faces. The exact meaning of these is inconclusive (to say the least!) and could represent the omnipresence of the Lord in all three physical dimensions, plus time itself. Four is also a number that relates to the whole world (e.g., the four cardinal compass points, the four winds, four seasons, etc) and may represent God’s omnipresence amongst us.
We then read the terrible words: “The Glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple…” (10:18). When God leaves, all that remains is an empty shell of a life. That applies to individuals, to churches, to Christian denominations and to regions of the world. Yet it takes a while for people to notice; if the worship leader moves on, then it is very obvious, but if the Holy Spirit doesn’t put in an appearance, it may take months or years for people to realize this. Jesus, speaking to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2) threatens: “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place”. A lampstand represented a local group who witnessed to Christ – like the parable of the lamp on a hilltop – and Jesus was basically saying that the witness of the church of Ephesus was ineffective. Today, there is no obvious church in Ephesus – indeed the entire city is a ruin – and the nation of modern Turkey is 99 percent Muslim with barely any Bible-believing Christianity known. This region was originally the springboard for Paul’s missions to the four corners of the earth – now it is not even a mission to itself! Jesus really meant it!
Some of the remaining residents of Jerusalem were smugly congratulating themselves on having remained in the city whilst most were killed or taken into exile. They had refurbished their houses and made plans for an easy life. “We are the meat in the pot”, they exclaimed – i.e., the choicest portions, compared to the gristle and bones of the rest of Judah. In the vision, Ezekiel prophesied to them that God did not see it that way and that they would soon all fall by the sword at the borders of Israel. This referred later to Riblah, as described in 2 Kings 25:20-21).
God them promised that the true ‘choicest’ people would truly return – from exile in due time. “I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again” (11:17). Then an even greater promise: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God” (11:19-20). This may have been partly fulfilled during the return from exile, but is only seen in complete fulfilment in Christ, under the New Covenant.
Then the Lord, his cherubim and the strange wheels with wheels all moved away to Babylon, taking Ezekiel with them – in his vision. Ezekiel was returned to the exiles in Babylonia, and he told them everything that the Spirit had shown him.
In a fresh vision, Ezekiel was required to enact a man packing his belongings and digging his way through a city wall to escape to exile. It was another prophecy against the remaining Jews in Jerusalem and a big warning that the Judgment Clock was ticking!!! The so-called ‘Prince in Jerusalem’ was King Zedekiah whom God promised “will not see the land of Babylon” – since he had already had his eyes gouged out! The final wave of the people of Jerusalem would be killed or scattered into exile. After more than 30 years of Jeremiah’s prophesying not much seemed to have happened, making the inhabitants complacent and mocking; the Lord now says that ‘time is up’!