Now if perfection had been attainable through the levitical priesthood—for the people received the law under this priesthood—what further need would there have been to speak of another priest arising according to the order of Melchizedek, rather than one according to the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’
There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual (for the lawmade nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.
Today is “Armistice Day” marking the end of fighting in Europe in 1918. While there was great rejoicing then the fact that WW2 started some twenty years later showed what little success there was in establishing a just and lasting peace. There was much tinkering with the old order but little desire for radical change to the ways in which nations treated each other and so the high hopes of so many were dashed.
I write as theCovid-19 viruscontinues to take its toll on human lifeand peoplein the UKwonder when or whetherlife willreturn tonormal, whilewanting the“new normal”to be quite different. Will that be so? How ready and willing are we for radical change?
Those to whom the Letterto the Hebrews was written will have been steeped in the traditions of Judaism, with a tribal-based priesthood and established laws regulating all aspects of life. But as our author points out, “If perfection had been obtained through the Levitical priesthood … what further need would there have been to speak of another priest..?” The role in their early history of the shadowy figure of Melchizedek who came to bless their ancestor Abraham, though unconnected with their tribal traditions, was taken as a clear indication of the need to break with the accepted, established order, so pointing to Jesus as the true High Priest who alone could lead to perfection and the “better hope, through which we approach God.”
Such changes as followed the 1918 Armistice did not lead to a better world because leaders, and those they led, were not ready to make truly radical changes and, for example, adopt the Sermon on the Mount as the basis for living – so how ready and willing are we for the radical change we now need?
Almighty God, we praise Youthat in Jesus we have a better hope and invitation to Walk in his Way. Forgive us that we so easily fall into oldways, contributing to theunrest of the world;discriminating against those weconsider different; relyingon weaponsof terror to upholdpeace;showing lessconcern forthe needs ofothers thanwe should want shown to us in our need. Help andstrengthenour resolve,we pray: Amen
The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired Minister, member of Verwood URC