Theme: God’s Eternal Oath
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
We have looked at the first mention of Melchizedek in Genesis and the follow-up reference to Melchizedek in Psalm 110, where the oracle “you are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” is cited. We must now turn to Hebrews, which contains the longest treatment of Melchizedek, as well as the definitive biblical exposition of this theme. I use the word “exposition” deliberately, because the treatment in Hebrews is an inspired New Testament exposition of each of the ideas in this verse: 1) with an oath; 2) forever; and 3) the order of Melchizedek.
1. With an oath. Hebrews introduces Melchizedek as early as the fifth chapter, in verse 6, quoting Psalm 110:4, and referring to “the order of Melchizedek” again in verse 10. But then it breaks off, explaining that “we have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn” (v. 11). What the writer wants to explain is the significance of Psalm 110:4. So as soon as he gets back on track again he begins to explain the importance of God swearing to some truth, as he does in Psalm 110, and his point is that an oath stresses the certainty of what is said:
Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged (Heb. 6:16-18).
One example is God’s oath to Abraham: “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants” (v. 14). Another example, the author’s main point, is God’s oath in regard to Melchizedek: “Jesus…has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (v. 20).
This was not the case in the inauguration of Israel’s priests. They were not confirmed by an oath. But because the priesthood of Jesus has been sworn to by God, his work as priest has become “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (v. 19). Another way of talking about this is to speak of the eternal security of the believer or the perseverance of the saints. The reason the saints will persevere is that Jesus has done everything that is necessary for their salvation. Since he has made a perfect atonement for their sin and since God has sworn to accept Jesus’ work, the believer can be as certain that he will be in heaven as that Jesus himself will be there.
2. Forever. In chapter seven the author continues his exposition of Psalm 110:4, focusing on the word “forever.” He makes two points. First, because no genealogy of Melchizedek is given, this ancient king becomes an apt symbol of an eternal priesthood, that is, one without beginning or end: “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever” (Heb. 7:3).
The second point is the inverse of this. Unlike the priesthood of Jesus, symbolized by that of Melchizedek, the ancient Jewish priesthood was not forever since the priests followed one another in a long succession of priests and each died. Moreover, their deaths signified the transience of what they represented. “There have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (vv. 23-25). The last verse of the chapter combines the idea of God’s oath with “forever,” saying, “For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever” (v. 28).
How is Melchizedek described in the Hebrews passages?
What is the importance of God swearing to some truth?
What is God’s oath in regard to Melchizedek?
What two points does the author of Hebrews make about the word “forever”?
Application: How does God’s oath provide certainty for you?
Key Point: The reason the saints will persevere is that Jesus has done everything that is necessary for their salvation.