Theme: A Better Covenant
In this week’s lessons we learn how Psalm 110 and the book of Hebrews points us to the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who brings a new and better covenant.
Scripture: Psalm 110:4-7
Hebrews presents an inspired exposition of each of three ideas about Melchizedek in this verse: with an oath, forever, and the order of Melchizedek, which we look at in today’s study.
3. The order of Melchizedek. The last time the author of Hebrews mentions “the order of Melchizedek” is in 7:10, but he does it in such a way that he sets the pattern for his exposition in the three following chapters (chs. 8-10). He explains that what the words mean is that “the former regulation [order] is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God” (vv. 18, 19). The point here is that the new priesthood of Jesus is distinct from and superior to that of Aaron—it is “in the order of Melchizedek,” not according to the order of Aaron—the basic point of the exposition in chapters eight through ten. In what way is the priesthood of Jesus superior to the priesthood of Aaron? Chapters 8 through 10 give three answers.
First, it established a better covenant. When the old covenant was established, it was on the principle that if the people would remain faithful to God and obey God, he would protect and bless them. This was the covenant established at Mount Sinai. It was a good covenant, just as the law on which it was based was good. But the people were not able to live up to it. Therefore God pointed to a new and better covenant to come:
…The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Heb. 8:8-12; see also Jer. 31:31-34).
The covenant brought by Jesus does what the ancient covenant could not. It changes the heart, so that those who are affected by it both know and are able to obey God.
Second, it was a real atonement. In the ninth chapter the author makes a contrast between the ceremonies carried out by the ancient Jewish priests and the true sacrifice for sin made by Jesus Christ. The old sacrifices were useful in teaching the way of salvation. They pointed to the coming of Jesus and suggested the nature of his work. But they did not actually remove sin and therefore did not truly clear the burdened conscience of the worshiper. “The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (Heb. 9:9, 10).
How different in Jesus’ case! He actually made an atonement for sins. He did it by dying himself, offering his own blood in the place of those who had broken God’s law. The writer argues that Jesus
did not enter [the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle] by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God (Heb. 9:12-14)!
Why is the former priesthood set aside in favor of Melchizedek?
How does the priesthood of Jesus establish a better covenant for us?
What was the purpose of sacrifice in the Old Testament? What did Jesus’ sacrifice accomplish?
Application: What privileges do Christians experience because of the better covenant Christ has brought?
For Further Study: For more on Melchizedek, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Genesis 14, “The Two Melchizedeks.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)