Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 6) Hebrews 7:23-28

POST OVERVIEW. This sixth and final post in our series on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 explains why Jesus is superior to any Levitical high priest who served under the first covenant established at Sinai. (See post #574, #575, #576, #577, and #580 for previous posts in this series.)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. This sixth post concludes the author’s arguments about how our High Priest, Jesus, is far superior to any old covenant Levitical priest and is therefore a fitting high priest for the new covenant that He has ushered in.

REVIEW OF PREVIOUS POSTS

As we have seen in the previous posts, the author has been comparing the Levitical priesthood established under the Law with the priesthood of Melchizedek established in eternity past (Psalm 110:4). The Levitical priesthood has been shown to be weak and inferior at every point, not only by comparison with the priesthood of Melchizedek, but in many cases weak in absolute terms.

Melchizedek himself, the king of righteousness and king of peace, was greater than Abraham and so was greater than Levi, the head of the entire priestly tribe (7:1-10). The Levitical priesthood was always temporary and was always going to be replaced by the permanent priesthood of Melchizedek (7:11-12). Jesus is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek based on an oath from the LORD (YHWH), while the old covenant priests were of the order of Aaron based on the Law’s commandment of physical descent (7:13-22). The Levitical priests were appointed by a commandment of the Law, but Jesus was appointed a priest forever according to an oath from God and so brings in a better hope as the guarantee of a better covenant (7:17-22).

Now, in 7:23-28, the author will make his final points of comparison and draw this portion of his argument to a conclusion. (As we have said before, have your Bible open beside you as you read these comments.)

THE CONCLUDING COMPARISON

7:23. Again we see the weakness of the Levitical priests highlighted because the former priests of the first covenant, died. This is a weakness so obvious that it might go unnoticed. These priests were mortal and were therefore “prevented by death from continuing.” Thus the Levitical priests were appointed by a commandment in the Law, their ministry did not accomplish anything “for the Law made nothing perfect” (7:19), and they were subject to death. This is on the one hand.

7:24. But on the other hand, Jesus is “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (7:17, 21). Therefore, Jesus “holds His priesthood permanently.” This High Priest was appointed by divine oath, has brought in a better hope as the guarantee of a better covenant, and continues as a priest permanently.

7:25. “Therefore, Jesus is able to save forever (save to the uttermost (ESV); save completely; save at all times) those who draw near to God through Him.” Unlike the Levitical priests, Jesus is a High Priest who is able to save. If you draw near to God in the name of Jesus, you will find Him to be a High Priest mighty to save. And Jesus is able to save forever and to the uttermost. In the original Greek, this phrase is “εἰς τὸ παντελὲς,” which means both “to the farthest extent” and “for all time.” The author is expressing both the physical and the temporal completeness of the salvation that Jesus brings to all those who draw near to God through Him. As our High Priest, Jesus always lives to make intercession for us. If we will embrace Jesus fully and unreservedly trust Him, then He will save us to the uttermost.

7:26. Our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, is holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. That is, the High Priest of the new covenant is completely different from the old covenant priests.

So first, Jesus is holy. We are counted as holy by imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, but Jesus is essentially and eternally holy. He has always been and always will be holy, because His is a divine holiness.

Our High Priest is innocent, meaning that there is no evil in Him or associated with Him. In Psalm 92:15, the psalmist declares, “There is no unrighteousness (evil) in Him (YHWH).” Thus Jesus is incapable of evil or malice or harm. In His earthly ministry, Jesus “took our infirmities and carried away our diseases” (Matt. 8:17). Jesus healed multitudes, yet He never harmed any.

The Son of God is undefiled. In His incarnation, Jesus spent more than thirty years among sinners and at least once spent time being tempted by Satan, the father of lies (Matt. 4; Luke 4), yet He remained pure and utterly unstained by sin. The old covenant priests were tainted by Adam’s sin at birth (Romans 5:12) and increased in defilement as they progressed through life, but Jesus died on the cross as our once-for-all-time, undefiled, perfect sacrifice.

Jesus was separated from sinners. It is obvious that this quality does not refer to a physical isolation from sinners, for Jesus was among sinners His entire life. He was “separated from sinners” in the sense that He was completely unlike them. Jesus entered the world as one of a kind. He was the God-Man, the second Adam, the unique, only begotten “un-sinner.” Every other person who ever lives on this planet (including that Levitical priests) is in the group called “sinners,” but Jesus is in a separate group as the One who never sinned.

Finally, Jesus is exalted above the heavens. Our High Priest has perfectly completed His priestly work of atonement (John 17:4; 19:30) and so He has been “exalted above the heavens.” He is now the victorious Lamb, once again the theme of all heaven’s praises (Revelation 5:6ff). Having humbled Himself to death on a cross (Phil. 2:8), God has now highly exalted Him (2:9). “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3) where He now awaits the time when all His enemies will be a footstool for His feet (Psalm 110:1).

7:27. Even in the nature and the efficacy of His sacrifice, our Lord is far superior to the Levitical priests. For, because of the weakness and uselessness (7:18) of their sacrifices, those priests offered up sacrifices daily, morning and evening, year in and year out, the same sacrifices that could never take away sins (Hebrews 10:11). And not only did the Law require that these daily sacrifices be offered, but the priest had to offer sacrifice first for his own sins, then for the sins of the people. But Jesus, being sinless, had no need to offer sacrifice for His own sins, but instead He offered one perfect sacrifice for all time for all the sins of His people.

7:28. The author concludes this chapter by driving home his main point: Everything about the old covenant priests appointed under the Law revealed them to be weak and temporary, but the word of God’s oath, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek,” appoints as high priest the Son of God, who is made perfect forever.

CONCLUSION

Throughout the letter of Hebrews, the author has been demonstrating the superiority of Jesus and of the new covenant which He has ushered in. Jesus is superior to any and all angels (chapters 1-2). He is superior to Moses (3:1-6). True belief in Jesus will allow you to enter into the Lord’s rest (3:7-4:16). Jesus is a perfect priest according to the order of Melchizedek- Part 1 (5:1-10). Now in chapter 7, we have seen that Jesus is in every way a superior high priest to the priests of the Levitical order.

SDG                 rmb                 11/2/2022                   #584

Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 5) Hebrews 7:18-22

POST OVERVIEW. This fifth post in our series on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 explores why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical priesthood established by the first covenant at Sinai. (See post #574, #575, #576 and #577 for previous posts in this series.)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. Our fifth post will continue to follow the author’s argument about how our High Priest, Jesus, is far superior to any old covenant priest and how the priesthood of Melchizedek is far better than the weak Levitical priesthood created by the Law.

REVIEW

In post #577 covering Hebrews 7:12-17, we concluded by saying that “the author has (in these verses) shown how Christ is far greater than any of the Levitical priests, for Jesus was not of the dying, sin-stained Levitical priests appointed to fulfill a commandment of the Law. Rather, He was a sinless Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek who was appointed by an oath from the LORD.”

THE AUTHOR’S POINT IN THE CHAPTER

It is true that it is difficult to follow the flow of the author’s argument in these verses, but the meaning will be revealed with persistence and diligence.

So, before we tackle these verses (7:18-22), we should begin by taking a step back from the details of the text and reminding ourselves of the author’s main point in the chapter. As he proved that Jesus is greater than angels (chapters 1-2), and as he proved that Jesus is greater than Moses (chapter 3:1-6), so here the author is demonstrating that Jesus is a greater High Priest than any priest of the Levitical order. Keeping that in mind will tend to keep us from wandering too far off the exegetical trail.

7:18. Before we again look at the details of these verses, some preliminary work is necessary. Here is Hebrews 7:18 (NAS):

18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness

A “former commandment” has been set aside because it was weak and useless. But the question is, “What is this ‘former commandment’?” As we scan back in the preceding verses of the chapter, we see no reference to “commandment.” What is going on here?

The solution involves a translational decision in 7:16. Where the NAS has “law of a physical requirement,” the literal Greek reads “law of a fleshly commandment.” The Greek word for “commandment” in 7:16 is the same Greek word for “commandment” in 7:18. Thus, the readers of the original Greek text would have seen the connection between 7:16 and 7:18. Therefore, the “former commandment” of 7:18 refers to the “fleshly commandment” of 7:16. The “commandment” here should be understood not as a single instruction in the Law, but rather as the entire temporary, weak Levitical priesthood and all its ceremonial laws, including the law of appointing mortal, sin-stained priests solely on the basis of physical descent.

Our exegetical work so far has yielded something like this: “For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of the old-covenant Levitical priesthood . . .” “Setting aside” is probably too weak a translation for the Greek word in the original. More to the author’s point would be “the cancellation.” Thus, “on the one hand, there is a cancellation of the old-covenant Levitical priesthood . . .”

But why was the Levitical priesthood cancelled; abolished? It was cancelled “because of its weakness and uselessness.” We have already seen the weakness of the Law’s priestly system, in that the priests were all subject to death and they were all sinners like the rest of the people. The sacrifices had to be repeated day after day and year after year because the Levitical sacrifices could only cover some unintentional sins but could not remove any. The priesthood was useless because it was unable to help men draw near to God and it was unable to bring about the justification of sinners before God. Thus, the priesthood failed at both of its chief functions.

“For, on the one hand, there is a cancellation of the old-covenant Levitical priesthood because of its weakness and uselessness”

7:19. After acknowledging what we have already shown in our exegesis, that “the Law made nothing perfect,” the author concisely states how Christ and His priesthood of Melchizedek surpass the useless Levitical priesthood. [NOTE. The word “perfect” in this verse does not convey the idea “sinless” or “without a single flaw,” as much as it means “complete” or “in its ultimate stage of development.”]

“On the other hand . . .” signals the complement to the “on the one hand” in 7:18. The Levitical priesthood has been cancelled because it was weak and useless, but Christ and His priesthood have been brought in (“there is a bringing in”). The idea is of replacement. The priesthood of Melchizedek with Christ as its great High Priest has replaced the temporary, weak, and useless priesthood of the Law.

And what do we know about this Priest according to the order of Melchizedek? We know that Christ brings in “a better hope.” He is a Priest who is able to remove sin and to provide forgiveness for any sin because He lives forever to make intercession for His people and because He has made His one all-sufficient sacrifice to atone for sin. Our Priest offers us a better hope for He has guaranteed our entrance into the heavenly dwellings.

But also, through Christ our High Priest we can draw near to God. Whereas the Levitical priests were unable to draw us near to the throne of grace because they, like us, were also sinners, through Christ the sinless one we can draw near to the Majesty on high.

So, Christ accomplishes for us all that the Levitical priests failed to do.

7:20-22. When God is going to make a solemn promise to someone, He seals that promise with an oath. Of course, all of God’s promises are certain to come to pass because God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), but those promises which last forever are validated with an oath. The author has already given us an example of this when, in chapter 6, God guaranteed His promise to Abraham by means of an oath (6:13-18). So here in 7:20-22 we see the superiority of the priesthood of Melchizedek because this priesthood was established to last forever by an oath from the Lord. The Levitical priests became priests without an oath (7:21), but the LORD confirmed His promise to the Messiah with an oath: “You are a priest forever” (7:21, quoted from Psalm 110:4). Since an oath is far superior to a mere law of physical requirement, Jesus our High Priest “has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (7:22). The author is saying that, since the old-covenant Levitical priesthood has been replaced by the superior priesthood of Melchizedek, then the new covenant ushered in by this new priesthood is a better covenant.

Simply put, a better High Priest from a better priesthood guarantees a better covenant.

Our next article will be Part 6 and will conclude this series by covering Hebrews 7:23-28.

SDG                 rmb                 10/10/2022                 #580

Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 4) Hebrews 7:11-17

POST OVERVIEW. This fourth post in our series on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 explores why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical priesthood established by the first covenant at Sinai. (See post #574, #575, and #576 for previous posts in this series.) (Updated October 5, 2022)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. Our fourth post will begin to unpack the author’s argument about how our High Priest, Jesus, is far superior to any old covenant priest and how the priesthood of Melchizedek is far better than the weak Levitical priesthood created by the Law.

REVIEW

We ended the last post by listing the weaknesses of the Levitical priesthood and then showing the ways that Christ’s priesthood, the priesthood of Melchizedek, was superior. (see post #576) Now we are going to go through Hebrews 7:12-17 verse-by-verse to follow the author’s theological argument.

As I had mentioned before, I will not generally be quoting the verses from the biblical text, so I am assuming that the reader has an open Bible as they go through this post. I use the NAS as my study Bible, but an ESV Bible should also work well.

Hebrews 7:12. This verse, is to be understood as parenthetical, since it does not address the subject of priest or of priesthood but speaks about the changing of the law. Also, note that, in this context, “law” and “covenant” can be used interchangeably.

The point that the author makes is that, when the Levitical priesthood, established by the old covenant (the Law), changes and is replaced by the priesthood of Melchizedek, then the old covenant must also be replaced by a new covenant. Simply put, old priesthood, old covenant, but now new priesthood, new covenant. This point is established here but comes into focus in Hebrews 8:6-10:18, when the author will demonstrate the superiority of the new covenant over the old.

Hebrews 7:13-14. Jesus was never associated with the imperfect, temporary priesthood of the first covenant, for Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and the Law (first covenant) mentions nothing about priests from Judah.

Hebrews 7:15. Not only was Jesus definitely not part of the weak Levitical priesthood, but He definitely was “according to the likeness of Melchizedek” (7:15), and thus is a Priest of his order.

Remember in post #575, we had carefully collected the characteristics of Melchizedek given in Hebrews 7:1-10 (from Genesis 14:18-20) to arrive at his “likeness.” We saw that Melchizedek was king of righteousness, king of peace, priest of God Most High, without father, without mother, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (7:2, 3). It is apparent that Jesus conforms exactly to this “likeness” and, therefore, is the priest according to the permanent order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).

NOTE. Having established that Jesus is the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, we will see that it becomes difficult to distinguish High Priest from priesthood, since the two are essentially one. The order of Melchizedek has only one Priest, and Jesus is our High Priest from the order of Melchizedek. Because this is the case, I may use priest and priesthood interchangeably in the rest of the passage.

Hebrews 7:16-17. The author now shows the superiority of Christ’s priesthood by comparing the appointment of the Levitical priests with Christ’s appointment to His priesthood. Every priest under the first covenant was subject to death and was appointed to fulfill a commandment in the Law, but Christ was uniquely appointed “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” by an oath from the LORD (Psalm 110:4). Clearly Christ’s appointment is far superior.

SUMMARY

In this short passage, then, the author has shown how Christ is far greater than any of the Levitical priests, for Jesus was not of the dying, sin-stained Levitical priests appointed to fulfill a commandment of the Law. Rather, He was a sinless Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek who was appointed by an oath from the LORD.

Our next post will continue our verse-by-verse exegesis of this passage.

SDG                 rmb                 9/28/2022 (updated 10/5/2022)                    #577

Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 3A) Hebrews 7:11-22

POST OVERVIEW. This third post in our series on Melchizedek from Hebrews 7 begins to dive into the heart of the passage as we explore why the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical priesthood established by the first covenant at Sinai. (See post #574 and #575 for previous posts in this series.)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. Our third post will begin to unpack the author’s argument about how our High Priest, Jesus, is far superior to any old covenant priest and how the priesthood of Melchizedek is far better than the weak Levitical priesthood created by the Law. This post will cover only Hebrews 7:11.

Now that the author has discussed the person of Melchizedek and described his priestly order (Hebrews 7:1-10, see post #575), he turns to consider the significance of there being a permanent priesthood which is better than the priesthood of Aaron. The author’s main purpose for presenting Melchizedek in such detail is to give us a clear picture of his “likeness” (see Hebrews 7:15). This “likeness” defines the characteristics of his priesthood and thus shows us the nature of the High Priest of that order.  

In addition to the “likeness” of Melchizedek, the author’s argument will also draw on the profound truths revealed by Psalm 110:4, in which the LORD (YHWH) makes an oath to Adonai.

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.” – Psalm 110:4

In this study, I will not generally be quoting the verses from the biblical text, so I am assuming that the reader has an open Bible as they go through this post. I use the NAS as my study Bible, but an ESV Bible should also work well.

Hebrews 7:11. It is evident that perfection (completion, finality, fulfillment) was never possible from the Levitical priesthood, because Psalm 110:4 speaks about another priesthood, the order of Melchizedek, in which the priest abides forever. This logical conclusion establishes the point that the Levitical priesthood under the first covenant was a temporary priesthood and was in place only until “another priest arose according to the order of Melchizedek” (7:11).

But there is more here than merely realizing the temporary nature of the Levitical priesthood. Notice the author states that “perfection” (Greek  τελείωσις) was not through the Levitical priesthood. Because perfection was not through the Levitical priesthood, it was necessary that another priesthood arise which was perfect. This would be the answer to the question, “Why did we need another priesthood?” But that leads to another question: “What was imperfect or incomplete about the priesthood under the first covenant and how is Christ’s priesthood better?” It is the answering of this second question that constitutes the rest of the chapter and that reveals the glory of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

But, before we go on in the verse-by-verse interpretation of this passage, we should pause to make a preliminary list of answers to this second question. This will give us a good idea of where we are headed as we proceed through the rest of the chapter. To repeat the question,

“What was imperfect or incomplete about the priesthood under the first covenant? “

  • The Levitical priesthood was temporary, not permanent
  • Priests were appointed solely based on a law of physical descent from Aaron
  • The Levitical priests all died
  • The Levitical priests were all sinners
  • The priest under the first covenant could not offer forgiveness or salvation

“and how is Christ’s priesthood better?”

  • Because Jesus is a priest forever (Ps. 110:4), He holds His priesthood permanently
  • Jesus was appointed a priest forever by an oath from the LORD (YHWH)
  • Jesus never dies, but lives forever
  • Jesus is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners”
  • Jesus is able to save completely and entirely because He lives forever

Now everything is in place to proceed through the rest of the chapter verse-by-verse. That is what we will do when we pick up our study in the next post.

SDG                 rmb                 9/26/2022                   #576

Speaking of Melchizedek (Part 2) Hebrews 7:1-10

POST OVERVIEW. This second post in our series on Melchizedek studies the scant biblical material about him and then examines Hebrews 7:1-10 where the author tells “how great this man was” (Heb. 7:4) and rehearses the characteristics which make up his “likeness.” (See post #574 for the introductory post of this series.)

The objective of this series of posts is to explore and interpret Hebrews 7, which is devoted almost exclusively to a discussion about how Melchizedek relates to Jesus Christ. This post will quickly explore the other biblical references to Melchizedek (both of them!) and then piece the evidence together to create a likeness for this mysterious figure.

MELCHIZEDEK OUTSIDE OF HEBREWS

Outside of the book of Hebrews, the biblical information about Melchizedek is limited to only four verses, and these verses are thoroughly covered by the writer of this epistle. The first reference is when Melchizedek appears out of nowhere in Genesis 14:18-20 to meet Abram as he is returning with his nephew Lot, and then he is mentioned again in Psalm 110:4, a mysterious verse in a mysterious psalm about the second advent of Christ, a verse that we met in our previous post (#574) about Hebrews 5:5-6.

GREATNESS AND “LIKENESS”

GREATNESS. As the writer begins Hebrews 7, his purposes are to establish “how great this man was” (7:4) and to present his characteristics so that we have a picture of his “likeness” (7:15). He will accomplish both purposes by reviewing the description of Melchizedek given in Gen. 14:18-20.

The greatness of this man is shown by comparing him to the patriarch Abraham and noting that, first, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and second, that Melchizedek blessed Abraham (7:6).

ABRAHAM PAID TITHES

The author’s argument about the tithes is a little hard to follow. The writer is comparing the tithes given to the Levitical priests with the tithes that Abraham gave to Melchizedek. In the Law, all the people are required to pay tithes to the Levitical priests. We also know that all the Levitical priests are descended from Abraham (through Isaac and Jacob and Levi, etc.). But Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham, who is the ancestor of all the Levitical priests. The author goes on to say that, since all the Levitical priests were still in the loins of Abraham when he paid tithes to Melchizedek, essentially the Levitical priests, who were supposed to receive tithes, actually paid tithes to Melchizedek. Thus, by this payment of tithes, Melchizedek is superior.

MELCHIZEDEK BLESSED ABRAHAM

Fortunately, the point about Melchizedek blessing Abraham is much easier to follow. At their meeting, Melchizedek blessed Abraham (7:1, 6), then, “But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater” (7:7). The author’s point is clear: Melchizedek is greater than Abraham.

Now that we have established Melchizedek’s greatness, we need to understand his “likeness” (7:15). Therefore, the author of Hebrews will gather together the characteristics of Melchizedek given to us in Genesis 14:18-20 to form his “likeness.”

LIKENESS. He is priest of Most High God (7:1). Also, he is king of righteousness (the translation of his name) and king of peace (7:2 – king of Salem). These are remarkable characteristics but are easy to see in the text.

But the next verse, Hebrews 7:3, is a bit harder to understand.

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. – Hebrews 7:3

The author is not suggesting that Melchizedek did not have a human birth and lives forever, although that may be our first thought. Rather, the author is saying that, in the inspired text of Scripture, and especially in a book of beginnings like Genesis, we expect to see a person’s genealogy. Yet in the inspired text, Melchizedek has no father, no mother, no ancestors or descendants at all. Scripture is silent about his birth and gives no evidence of his death. And since the Scripture makes no mention of his death, the author speaks of him AS IF he lives on. This is a rhetorical device the author uses to create a more complete “likeness” of Melchizedek. And legally, since there is no death certificate, it is permitted to assume that “he remains a priest perpetually” (7:3). Thus, we have a very impressive “likeness” for Melchizedek.

NOT A THEOPHANY

But, just how impressive is this “likeness?” For if Melchizedek was king of righteousness, king of peace, and priest of Most High God in a land where Abraham was the only one who knew anything about God; if he was greater than Abraham and blessed Abraham; if he had no beginning and he had no end and he remains a priest perpetually, is it possible that he is divine? This sure sounds like it may be a theophany. Is Melchizedek a pre-incarnate Christ?

Well, no, this is not a theophany, and that for several reasons. First, it is not a theophany because we know Melchizedek’s name. In Old Testament theophanies, like Genesis 16, 22, Numbers 22, Joshua 5, and Judges 6, the divine figure is never named, and in Genesis 32:29 and in Judges 13:17-18, the heavenly being refuses to give a name when asked. Since we know Melchizedek’s name, this is not a theophany. This one feature is conclusive.

But there are other reasons we know this is not a theophany. For example, there is nothing in the encounter in Genesis 14 to suggest that Melchizedek is divine. Abraham does not bow down to him and Melchizedek does no signs or wonders. The blessing that Melchizedek gives to Abraham is not prophetic, and so contains no display of divinity. Thus, while the characteristics attributed to Melchizedek point unerringly to Jesus Christ, this man who meets Abraham “as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings” (Heb. 7:1) is not the pre-incarnate Jesus. So this is certainly not a theophany.

. . . BUT A “TYPE” OF CHRIST

Instead, Melchizedek is perhaps the most stunning “type” of Christ in the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, a “type” refers to an Old Testament person or event which foreshadows some aspect of Jesus Christ or of His first or second advent. The “type” presents features that Jesus will fulfill when He comes. “Type” is different from prophecy, for a prophecy is a verbal expression about the coming Messiah, whereas a “type” is a picture or a representation of what the Messiah will be or do. Thus, Melchizedek is a remarkably clear picture of the coming Messiah. When you see someone who is king of righteousness, king of peace, priest of God Most High, who appears to be from eternity past and seems to live forever, there is a good chance that you have found the Messiah.

But now we read in Hebrews 7:15:

15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek.

As we consider this verse, the truth emerges that Jesus is that “another priest.” In other words, in Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek established the characteristics of the priesthood, that is, the “likeness” of the priesthood, and Jesus, when He appears, is “according to the likeness of Melchizedek.” Because Jesus fulfills the “type,” that is, because He is “another priest (who) arises according to the order of Melchizedek,” we know that Jesus is our High Priest, not of the order of Aaron (Levi), but of the order of Melchizedek.

SUMMARY

Having established the existence of the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek and having shown that Jesus is the High Priest of that order, we are prepared to see how Christ has replaced the Levitical priesthood. This is what we will explore in our next post.

SDG                 rmb                 9/23/2022                   #575

Genesis 22 – Part 1 – Foreshadowing the cross

INTRODUCTION: In many ways, Genesis 22 is the culmination of the Bible’s story of Abraham, for in this chapter we see the foreshadowing of the cross of Jesus, we again encounter the angel of the LORD, and we see the supreme demonstration of Abraham’s faith as he takes his son, his only son, whom he loves, Isaac, to the land of Moriah to sacrifice him there (22:2). This series of articles will cover these different elements of Genesis 22.

The first article will focus on the way the circumstances and details of this narrative in Genesis 22 paints for us a clear foreshadow of the cross of Jesus Christ.

FORESHADOW (TYPE) OF CHRIST (GENESIS 22:1-10)

No word or detail of the inspired text of the Bible is random. The Bible is God’s word to His people, and God has chosen each word precisely for its intended purpose. As we read the Bible, then, we are alert for details that God has placed in the text to communicate His message to us. It is not surprising, then, that a first reading of Genesis 22:1-10 reveals that this father and son event points toward another Father and Son event out in the future. The details of this passage foreshadow Jesus’ crucifixion.

GENESIS 22:2

Examining the passage, then, we first observe that God tells Abraham to “take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as an offering on one of the mountains” (22:2).

Abraham the father was to take his only son. This son was the answer to all his waiting and all his hope. This was his ONLY son. There would not be another. All God’s promises to Abraham rested on this son, his only son. This only son, Isaac, was the son whom Abraham loved. This detail is not given for information, but for emphasis. Can you feel the agony of this assignment? Imagine the father’s pain in taking his beloved only son to Moriah and offering him there as an offering. Notice, also, the place of the offering. Moriah was the place where, a thousand years later, Solomon would build his temple, there to offer sacrifices. So, Moriah was associated with sacrifice and burnt offering. But another thousand years after Solomon, Moriah was also the place outside of Jerusalem where the Romans would crucify criminals. And Abraham was to take his beloved only son to Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.

These details are given to us here in Genesis 22:2 so that, when we see the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross, we can see that these events were pictured for us in this narrative so many years before. For we know that Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son. There will never be another. He is the only Son of the Father. Jesus is the Beloved Son. Jesus said, “For the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20). And in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus was praying to the Father and said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). So, what we see in Jesus’ crucifixion is the Father giving His beloved only begotten Son as a sacrifice on the hill of Moriah.

GENESIS 22:3

The detail to be noticed in this verse is the wood. Abraham “split the wood for the burnt offering.” The wood was necessary for the burnt offering. The sacrifice was not possible without the wood. For our Lord Jesus, His sacrifice was also not possible without the wood of the cross, So, both for Isaac and for Jesus, the wood is essential to the sacrifice.

GENESIS 22:4

Another detail is inserted here in the inspired Scripture – “On the third day.” It is not important that Abraham and Isaac traveled three days to get to Moriah, but that fact is mentioned to draw attention to the immense importance of this passage. To make the passage stand out, Moses mentions the third day. This time period of three days occurs many times in Scripture, and is associated with significant events, so its occurrence here is another part of this narrative that would cause the reader to pause and take notice.

GENESIS 22:5

Abraham announces to his young men, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” At no point does Abraham suggest that he is not going to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac, so this statement to his young men should be interpreted as meaning that Abraham believed that his son would be given back to him by resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19).

But now consider that, as outrageous as Abraham’s belief was, Jesus Christ publicly made statements that foretold His own resurrection after His sacrifice. In fact, Jesus declared that He must be killed to accomplish His mission, and He would certainly be raised up on the third day. Again, we see the details of Abraham and Isaac’s experience clearly contained in the events of the cross.

GENESIS 22:6-8

The plot thickens as the father and the son draw near to the place of sacrifice. The details in Genesis 22:6 are so carefully chosen. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.” The wood of the sacrifice is laid on the son. No doubt, the wood was heavy, and its splinters rubbed into the son’s shoulders, but he carried the wood without complaint. The wood was his to carry, so he carried it willingly. Abraham took the fire and the knife, the instruments of sacrifice, and readied himself for the awful task. The father would sacrifice his beloved only son. “So the two of them walked on together.” The son trusts the father and the father loves the son, so the son does not run away, and the father does not disobey. The father and the son walked on together. Ever since Isaac could walk, father and son have walked together. Now they walk together to the place of sacrifice.

The poignancy of the scene increases still more in Genesis 22:7, as Isaac speaks to Abraham his father. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac is old enough to know the elements for an offering. There must be a sacrifice, but where is the lamb?

Abraham speaks words of immense faith, or at least of great hope. Abraham knows that Isaac, the son of promise, is to be the sacrifice, but the father tells the son, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:8). The father cannot bear to tell the son that the son whom he loves is to be the sacrifice. Isaac accepts the vague answer, and then “the two of them walked on together.” Trust. Love. Father and son going up the hill together to the place of sacrifice. Will God provide the lamb for the sacrifice? Where is the lamb?

Once again, the details so carefully woven into the narrative of Abraham and Isaac clearly give us a foretaste of the events of the cross. The Father figuratively lays the rough wood of the cross on the shoulders of His Son, where the splinters will enter His shoulders and back. Jesus the Son must bear this load alone, the heavy wood of the cross, but more, the terrible weight of the wrath of God. He will groan but not complain, for this is the work, His terrible work. Although the Father is with the Son as He climbs the hill, the Father cannot be seen by the eye of sinful man. Father and Son go on together to the place of sacrifice. The words of Isaac spoken so long ago still hang in the air over Moriah – “Father, where is the lamb?”

GENESIS 22:9-10

Having arrived at the place of sacrifice, the father “built the altar and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood” (22:9). Abraham is old and frail, and Isaac is young and full of the strength of early manhood. It is certain, therefore, that the father could not possibly force the son onto the altar, but the son yields in submission and obedience to the father’s will. The child of promise is now on the altar as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son.

Abraham and Isaac on Moriah give us a biblical “type.” That is, this father and son foreshadow for us the much more significant event of the cross of Christ. In the real event, the ultimate event, God the Father has appointed the crucifixion of God the Son. The Son yields in complete submission to the will of the Father (“not My will, but Thy will be done”) and allows Himself to be scourged and crowned with thorns and led up Moriah’s hill, the hill we know as Calvary. Here is the Lamb of God, the Lamb that Abraham said God Himself would provide. Jesus the Lamb is laid on the wood of the cross and then is lifted up so that He can be despised and forsaken of men. Isaac, the son of promise, is allowed to go free and to live while a ram is sacrificed in his place, but Jesus as the Lamb of God is the substitute. He is the sacrifice found in the thicket (Genesis 22:13) that is sacrificed in the place of the repentant, believing sinner, so that the sinner covered by His blood can be forgiven and go free. God the Father forsakes God the Son (unfathomable mystery!) so that the Son can bear the wrath of the Father’s judgment in the place of His people.

In the next post, we will take a close look at the angel of the LORD who appears in Genesis 22:11 and try to understand who he is. It should be a fascinating study.

SDG                 rmb                 12/15/2021                 #470

The man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)

In any discussion of the end-times in the Bible, the conversation will eventually touch on the antichrist. The speculation about the antichrist is often wild and unbridled, conjuring up images and activities that are completely foreign to any biblical text, but in those situations where the speculation is sober and biblically based, attention will turn to 2 Thessalonians 2 and the passage about “the man of lawlessness.” The man of lawlessness represents the clearest and most explicit teaching about the antichrist in all of Paul’s writing, and therefore deserves serious consideration when discussing the antichrist at the end of the age.

In my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama, I cover 2 Thessalonians 2 in depth, along with other eschatological Scriptures that highlight biblical manifestations of the antichrist, so this article is not about my thoughts, because they are expressed there. Rather, this post is about the thoughts of Herman Ridderbos, a Dutch biblical scholar, and are taken from his magnificent work, Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Ridderbos carefully exegetes this passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 and gives clear and helpful guidelines for how to understand this evil person who will appear at the very end of the age. I have selected quotes from his writing below that I think are most insightful and helpful in any study of the man of lawlessness. A careful reading of these quotes will give you a solid understanding of the biblical antichrist.

“The most striking thing of course is that this power inimical to God is concentrated here in the figure of what Paul calls the man of lawlessness.” (RMB: It is noteworthy that Paul concentrates all this evil in a single man.) “Furthermore, it is certainly indicated in the denotation “the man of lawlessness” that this man is not merely a pre-eminently godless individual, but that in him the humanity hostile to God comes to a definitive, eschatological revelation.” (p. 514)

Also, “just as Paul places Adam and Christ over against one another as the first and second ‘man,’ as the great representatives of two orders of men, so the figure of ‘the man of lawlessness’ is clearly intended as the final, eschatological counterpart of the man Jesus Christ.” “The coming of ‘the man of lawlessness,’ just as that of Christ, is called a παρουσία. It is marked by all manner of power, signs, and wonders, like those of Christ in the past.” (p. 514) “The man of sin (lawlessness) is the last and highest revelation of man (humanity) inimical to God, the human adversary of the man Jesus Christ, in whom the divine kingdom and the divine work has become flesh and blood. The divine antithesis between God and Satan that dominates history is decided on the human plane in those (two individuals) who as ‘the man’ represent salvation and destruction.” (p. 515) (RMB: Consider the parallel in 1 Samuel 17 when David, the coming king of Israel, fights Goliath, the champion of the enemies of Israel. Each represents their people, such that, as the champion fares in the battle, so go the people. David, as a type of Christ, vanquishes Goliath, who is a type of the antichrist. At the end of the age, the ultimate representatives will face one another, and the man of lawlessness (antichrist) will be finally vanquished by the returning Jesus Christ. That’s Ridderbos’ picture here.)

“As Christ is a person, but at the same time one with all who believe in Him and are under His sovereignty, so the antichrist is not only a godless individual, but a concentration of godlessness that already goes forth before him and which joins all who follow at his appearance him into unity with him. (He is now restrained because at his appearance unbelief, lawlessness, and godlessness will attempt to set themselves as an organic unity over against God and Christ.” (p. 516) “Paul does not stop with an ‘it,’ with an idea, or with a force, but the organic and corporate unity of human life finds its bearer and representative, as in Adam and Christ, so also in the antichrist, in a specific person. The antichrist would be no antichrist if he were not the personal concentration point of lawlessness, if he were not the man of lawlessness.” (p. 516)

The Angel of the LORD and Abraham (Genesis 22)

This article is another of our studies on the mysterious character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will quickly become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in these posts is to demonstrate how the Scriptures present the angel of the LORD as divine and thus to show that he prefigures Jesus Christ. Then I also want to discover what characteristics the angel of the LORD displays and how Jesus manifested this in His earthly ministry. Finally, an objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

GENESIS 22: ABRAHAM AND ISAAC ON MOUNT MORIAH

Genesis 22 is one of the most memorable chapters in the Old Testament. It begins when God calls Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, to Moriah “to offer him there as a burnt offering.” In an act of supreme devotion and obedience, Abraham painstakingly makes all the preparations for the burnt offering and travels to the place of sacrifice. He arranges the wood, places his son Isaac on the altar and raises the knife to slay his son. It is at that point that the angel of the LORD (AOTL) appears in the scene. Our study will go through Genesis 22:11-18.

11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

COMMENTS: The AOTL calls Abraham by name just as God had called Abraham (22:1). The duplication of verses is significant and is meant to communicate that the two speakers are virtually the same. This would suggest that the AOTL calls Abraham as God.

Notice also that the AOTL spoke from heaven. (22:15 also) Only God speaks to man from heaven. The “from heaven” is an important clue to the deity of the AOTL.

Abraham immediately recognizes the voice of the AOTL and responds the same way that he did to God. (See 22:1) This is significant.

12 He said, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now, I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 

COMMENTS: VERY IMPORTANT POINT – The AOTL commands Abraham NOT TO DO something that God had commanded him to do. God alone has the authority to change God’s commands. A mere angel has no such authority (or ability, for that matter).

Observe that the AOTL is certainly the one speaking in this verse, because he does not make any reference to God or to the LORD. Therefore, it is the AOTL who judges Abraham’s obedience (“I know that you fear God”), and it is from the AOTL (“from Me”) that Abraham has not withheld his son, his only son. But we know that it was God who had called Abraham to, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering (22:2).” The obvious conclusion is that the AOTL is God.

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son.

COMMENTS: The AOTL provides a substitute. Although it is not explicitly stated, the implication is that, because the AOTL prevented the burnt offering of Isaac, it was the AOTL who provided the ram for the burnt offering. Instead of the sacrifice of Abraham’s beloved son, the LORD (22:14) provides a substitute.

Here, on this mountain, the beloved son is spared, and the substitute is sacrificed, but in the future on another mountain, the beloved Son is sacrificed AS the substitute and the sinners are set free. This provision of a substitute for sacrifice unmistakably foreshadows the death of Christ.

14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

COMMENTS: Abraham calls that place “The LORD Will Provide,” but the AOTL was the one who had provided the ram of the sacrifice. There is intentional ambiguity here as to who is providing, because, by that ambiguity, the Scripture is communicating to us that the AOTL is, in fact, divine.

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 

COMMENTS: Why did the LORD Himself not speak to Abraham from heaven? Before it waws always the LORD who had spoken to Abraham. Why now the AOTL twice? This is done to present the divinity of the AOTL, that He is like the LORD.

16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 

COMMENTS: Once again, it is intentionally ambiguous who is speaking here. It is clear that the words come from the AOTL (22:15), but whose words are they? Is the AOTL speaking FOR the LORD, or is he speaking AS the LORD? That is, when the AOTL says, “declares the LORD,” is he giving the real source of the words, or is he stating his identity?

When the AOTL says, “By Myself I have sworn,” are the first-person singular pronouns referring to him or to the LORD? Again, intentional ambiguity.

The most natural way to read 22:16 is as a continuation of 22:12.

In 22:12, the AOTL says, “since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.”

In 22:16, the AOTL says, “because . . . you have not withheld your son, your only son.”

In 22:12, it is certain the AOTL is speaking for himself. I can discern no reason not to think that the AOTL is also speaking for Himself in 22:16. That being the case, we must conclude that the AOTL is speaking AS the LORD. Once again, we reach the conclusion that the AOTL is divine.

17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand, which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

COMMENTS: The AOTL says, “I will greatly bless you,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 12:2. The AOTL says, “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 15:5. The AOTL says, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 12:3 and 18:18. The AOTL speaks with all the authority of the LORD, as if he is the LORD. He repeats and confirms what the LORD has already said.

CONCLUSION

In these eight verses in Genesis 22 we have seen many reasons that suggest that the angel of the LORD is divine, as somehow related to God and the LORD, and yet also distinct from either of them.

The AOTL speaks with all the authority of the LORD. In fact, often it is impossible to determine whether the AOTL is speaking purely for Himself or if he is just communicating the words of the LORD to us.

The AOTL has authority to issue divine commands and to correctly declare the truth of all Scripture.  

The AOTL provides a substitutionary sacrifice.

The wonder is that, when we see that angel of the LORD, we see an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. He is the one who speaks with all the authority of the LORD. When Jesus speaks, God speaks. Jesus has the authority to issue divine commands and to rightly apply all of God’s commands. At His word, all discussion ceases. And finally, Jesus was the one who would offer Himself not as a burnt offering, but as a sin offering on the cross as a substitute for all the sinners who would believe in Him.

SDG                 rmb                 3/9/2021

The Angel of the LORD in Genesis 16 with Hagar

This is the first of a series of studies on the Old Testament character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in each of these posts is to demonstrate how the angel of the LORD prefigures Jesus Christ. Then I also want to discover what characteristics are exhibited by the angel of the LORD and how Jesus manifested this in His earthly ministry. Finally, an implicit objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

GENESIS 16: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD MEETS HAGAR

As the narrative in Genesis 16 unfolds, Sarai, Abram’s barren wife, has given her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to Abram so that Abram can go into her and have an heir. The plan backfires when Hagar conceives and, as a result, despises her mistress Sarai. Sarai then “treats Hagar harshly,” and Hagar runs away into the wilderness (Genesis 16:6). We will pick up the action there.

After the angel of the LORD finds Hagar in the wilderness, he speaks to her and asks her what is wrong. Hagar replies that she is fleeing from Sarai. The angel of the LORD then directs Hagar to return to Sarai and submit to Sarai’s authority (16:9).

We need to pause here for a second, because something interesting has just occurred. Notice that the angel of the LORD commands Hagar to return and submit to Sarai because it is right for Hagar to submit to her authority. Thus, the angel of the LORD has the authority to give people commands and to make moral judgments. This is a clue that this angel is divine.

Next, the angel of the LORD declares that He “will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count (16:10).” Now stop and consider this. With no reference or allusion to God or to the LORD, the angel of the LORD just declared the future as if it were already fact and promised to Hagar that He Himself would give her many descendants. He had said, “I will greatly multiply . . .” Notice he speaks in first-person singular: “I will.” Only God has the power to declare the future because only God controls and ordains the future. Also, God is the one who opens the womb and God alone is the one who determines who will bear children and how many they will bear. Yet here, the angel of the LORD has both declared the future and has promised Hagar children. These are strong clues that this mysterious angel is none other than the LORD Himself, since He does what only God can do.

The angel of the LORD goes on to make specific prophecies about Hagar’s son-to-be, Ishmael. He gives Ishmael his name and He describes his personality and even tells where he will live (16:11-12). All this is declared as fact, even though Hagar had just conceived. It is almost as if the angel of the LORD knows the future in detail, almost as if he is omniscient.

Finally, we examine Genesis 16:13 and see other clues about the identity of the angel of the LORD. Hagar “called the name of the LORD who spoke to her . . .” Hagar is convinced that the Person who spoke to her was the LORD but notice that the only Person who spoke to her in this story was the angel of the LORD. We must conclude that the angel of the LORD is the LORD. Now notice the name that Hagar gave to “the LORD who spoke to her:” “You are a God who sees.” Clearly Hagar believes that the LORD who spoke to her is God. At the end of this verse (still in Genesis 16:13) she says, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” In Hagar’s mind, when she saw the angel of the LORD, she had seen God. She was amazed that she remained alive because no one can see God and live. Again, Hagar believes that, in the angel of the LORD, she has met and talked with God, a God who sees her and has compassion on her, a God who is not going to let her perish in the wilderness or be treated too harshly by her mistress, Sarai. Yet Hagar had talked only talked with the angel of the LORD.

            We have looked at the textual evidence about the identity of the angel of the LORD, but there are also intangible, subjective hints that let us know who he is. From the moment of His appearance on the scene, he possesses a divine presence, a bearing that radiates authority. It is obvious that the angel of the LORD is no ordinary angel. There is in his demeanor a simple, confident assurance that He is in charge, the He is in control.

            Notice one other thing about the angel of the LORD. In Hagar’s encounter with him, even though he is an angel, his appearance does not frighten Hagar. Isn’t that curious? In other encounters with angels, it is normal for the angel to calm the person, but this angel does not tell Hagar, “Fear not!” Maybe he appears to Hagar as an ordinary, flesh and blood man. The angel of the LORD does not intimidate her, but rather seems to have compassion on her. She trusts Him. It is only after her encounter that she realizes who He was. His words. His demeanor. His presence. His compassion. His authority. “Why, He must be God!”

WHO IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD?

Who is the angel of the LORD? Surely, it is obvious who he is. Who is a divine being who appears as a flesh-and-blood man? Who is the one whose very presence exudes authority? Who is the one who existed in the form of God, yet did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6)? Who is the one who speaks as the LORD, yet is not the LORD? The angel of the LORD announced that He Himself would greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants and that she would have a son. But only God has the authority to make and fulfill such promises.

Yes, the angel of the LORD is none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other candidate, no other suspect.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ANGEL OF THE LORD

            First, we see that the angel of the LORD is compassionate. Hagar is running from Sarai, running into the wilderness. She is just a runaway Egyptian maid, wandering in the wilderness, but the angel of the LORD seeks her and finds her and speaks kindly to her and sends her back to the place of safety and blessing.

            We also see that the angel of the LORD has the power to create the future. He declares to Hagar that He will greatly multiply her descendants and that she will have a son, who she is to name Ishmael. He is sovereign over the future.

            Finally, the angel of the LORD sees us, and He gets involved in our lives.

            And now we know this angel of the LORD as Jesus Christ, the great King of kings.

SDG                 rmb                 2/22/2021

Crippled in both feet (2 Samuel 9:3)

When I was younger, it was a lot easier for me to believe that people were a pretty noble lot and that, if a person applied themselves and made the effort, then life would turn out pretty well. But as I have gotten older and have seen so many of my own best efforts amount to nothing as plans disappear like mist, and as I have watched those with promising beginnings become mired in mediocrity, I have wondered if maybe I overestimated our nobility. Maybe the truth is that we are broken and crippled in both feet and need someone to lift us up out of our futile existence.

MEPHIBOSHETH, THE CRIPPLE

In 2 Samuel 9 we are introduced to Mephibosheth. It is an odd name that he was given. His name in Hebrew means “dispeller of shame,” which is ironic because Mephibosheth’s life is marked by brokenness and shame. When we meet him in this story, “he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar (9:4).” The most noticeable feature of Mephibosheth is that he is crippled in both feet (9:3).

“How did he become crippled?” you ask. Mephibosheth was the grandson of the king of Israel, King Saul. One day when he was five years old, the report came that his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul had been killed in battle. His nurse took him up and fled, and in her haste, Mephibosheth fell. He fell and became crippled. In one day, Mephibosheth became crippled and orphaned. When he was five years old, all reasonable prospects for a happy future were irreversibly shattered. His father was killed, his legs were crippled, and the nurse he trusted failed him. And so, eventually, he drags himself out to Lo-debar, into the house of Machir the son of Ammiel. There in this dusty, backwater town, he ekes out his existence; forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. End of story.

But it is not the end of the story, because there is an anointed king, King David, who is seeking for Mephibosheth. From his house in Jerusalem, King David “sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar (9:5).” David calls Mephibosheth by name (Isaiah 43:1) and, for no reason other than to show him kindness, the king makes promises to Mephibosheth, extravagant and astonishing promises of kindness and of lands and of a place at the king’s table where Mephibosheth can eat regularly as one of the king’s sons. In one day, Mephibosheth exchanged the miseries of Lo-debar for the glories of Jerusalem, and the house of Machir for the house of the king.

How does Mephibosheth respond? First, he “fell on his face and prostrated himself” before King David. What else would a person do when entering the presence of the king? Then Mephibosheth confesses his own unworthiness to receive such mercy and kindness. “Why do ‘you regard a dead dog like me?’” This is not self-loathing or self-pity, but an acknowledgement by Mephibosheth that he deserves none of David’s kindness. All he can bring to the king is his homage and unworthiness.

Through David’s kindness, Mephibosheth, who once was living in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar, crippled in both feet, now lived in Jerusalem and he ate at the king’s table regularly as one of the king’s sons. Oh, and he was lame in both feet.

THE GOSPEL IN THE STORY OF MEPHIBOSHETH

As fascinating as this story of Mephibosheth is, it is the “normal” story of everyone who has trusted in Jesus the Messiah. The sober truth is that we are all broken from birth. All of us are victims of the fall, ruined because of the sin of Adam. We are figuratively hiding out in Lo-debar, waiting for someone who can be a “dispeller of our shame.” All our reasonable prospects for a happy future have been shattered or have evaporated. Like Mephibosheth, we are forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. It feels like the end of story.

Then one day, we hear about an anointed king, King Jesus, the Son of David, who is seeking for us (Luke 19:10) and who is calling us by name. As we listen to His voice, this King makes promises to us, extravagant and astonishing promises of forgiveness of sins, and of joy in this life and eternity in heaven, and of a place at the King’s table where we can eat regularly as one of the King’s sons or daughters. According to this gospel of good news, in one day, in one moment we can exchange the miseries of our brokenness for the pleasures of His holiness. Jesus the Messiah is the great dispeller of our shame.

How do we respond? We fall on our face and prostrate ourselves before the glorious Messiah Jesus and we confess our sins and our unworthiness, and then we give Him our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) so that He can make use of even our lameness and our brokenness.

Yes, we are Mephibosheth.

SDG                 rmb                 2/20/2021