Further Upstream in search of good water
I wonder if, when Dentists talk with their patients about flossing, they go home and floss. I wonder if mechanics preach about changing the oil and then realize that the oil in their own car needs changing.
I can’t speak for other Bible teachers, but I can tell that this is my story on a regular basis. I become convicted by my studies and teaching, and realize that there’s something in my life that needs to change.
It’s certainly been happening this week as I’ve been teaching through the book of Hebrews here. Last night the discussion was about Melchizedek, the bizarre, obsurly referenced priest in the Bible. It’s a rather complex topic, but the point in Hebrews 8 is that people were giving away their liberty in Christ by enthroning and empowering men as priests and kings in various roles. This was the Hebrew Christian’s way of creating a strange blend of following Jesus AND adding a dash of dependency on spiritual specialists. After all, spiritual specialists preceeded Jesus, so if we really want to get ‘primitive’ about our faith, we need the guys with pointy hats and crowns. We’ll just add Jesus to the show.
Of course, it’s been a tendency every since. “In God… and a strong military defense… we trust.” “The truth will set you free… through your counselor.” These are just two of dozens of ways we either idolize or come close to idolizing sources other than Christ in our lives. We erect human systems, which we come to depend on as sources of deliverance and transformation, and too often these systems have the side effect, intentional or unintentional, of diminishing the role of Christ in our lives. We’re not sure any more if He really is the source of living water. The amount of time invested in prayer and reading the Bible in contrast to the pursuit of other self-help operations would indicate that we think the source is elsewhere.
Anyway, these Hebrew Christians, for whom life had become really tough, thought the source was further back in history, and so were reverting to the priesthood once again, (and conveniently avoiding persecution from a testy Jewish community in the process, a people not too pleased that this Jesus spelled the end of the religious industry for them).
The author’s point in this great, though technical book: You Hebrew Christians are right; you do need to go back further to find the source, but going back to Abraham isn’t going back far enough. Because even ancient Abraham acknowledged, through the offerings he gave that Melchizedek (whose name means king of peace and righteousness) was a greater priest than Abraham. And then the punch line: Christ is of the same bizarre priestly line as Melchizedek, like him in that Christ is eternal, a king, AND a priest. So why are you Hebrews settling for Abraham’s system, when Christ represents the system that even Abraham acknowledged was superior?