A Meditation on Hebrews 7:16
This verse has captivated me for a long time. The paragraphs around it aren't easy reading, but they aren't total misers with their spiritual treasure either. They will yield and yield richly, if you read and think and pray long enough.
The subject in view is the priesthood, those men who mediated between God and His people. Granted, it's not exactly a common topic in our culture, but the point is still very relevant: namely, if we have any sense of God's transcendence, we innately sense the need for help when we have to deal with Him. Mysterious things can be attractive and intriguing, but when they possess awesome power and present potential danger, they can be very frightening. It's very nice to know we have a representative, an advocate, a defense lawyer, if you will.
And when it comes to priests, Jesus is the best of the best.
Here's the writer's argument in a nutshell: He points out that Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, which is an aberration on the Old Testament pattern: Levi was the tribe of the priests, not Judah (7:13-14). But that's OK, because Jesus is from a different order of priests. He doesn't follow Levi; he follows a guy called Melchizedek (7:11-12, 15-16). The writer of Hebrews finds it very significant that Melchizedek has no recorded birth or death—he just appears out of nowhere like an immortal (7:3). (More on that in a moment.)
I just love the wording of verse 16, where the writer brings his point home:
Jesus has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent [like the Levitical priesthood], but by the power of an indestructible life.Like Melchizedek, our Priest had no beginning or end, but the writer uses this great language to convey that image: "the power of an indestructible life"!
In other words, when it comes to priests, Jesus is the best of the best. What an awesome Christ!
Hebrews 7 conjures up in my mind some sort of tryouts or a kind of "Priestly Application Station." I have this picture in my mind of some sort of check-in area with a booth, a sign-in register, a guy behind the counter, and stuff like that. All these men are coming in and signing up to be priests: "Yeah, I'm here to sign up..." "Descendant of Levi?" "Yep." "Sign in below and take a number, please."
Then Jesus walks up: "I'm here."
"Family of Levi?"
"I'm sorry, sir. Priests must be from the family of Levi."
"Oh, I'm not here for that line of priests. I'm here to sign up with the immortal, eternal ones. The ones like Melchizedek. Some Roman soldiers slaughtered me three days ago, but I'm back."
"Uhhh... How's that again?"
"I can't die. They tried to kill me, but my life is indestructible."
Long pause. "Thank you, sir."
Turning to the rest of the room: "You all can return home. The priesthood isn't accepting any more applications. We have the One we need, thank you."