A Better Hope In Drawing Near To God
Key Verse 7:16
“One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.”
The whole discussion in this chapter was designed to show them that the old institution was put aside for a new one— a better one. What’s the old institution? The Old Testament way of doing things— such as the law, the ceremonies, the sacrifices— and the whole way the Jews followed in their relationship with God, in an effort to draw near to him. Then Christ came and showed them (and us) the new way of things. Why did they need a new way? Because the old way didn’t work! And if you ask why then did God give them the old way if it didn’t work in the first place? The answer is that the old way was given only temporarily. It was given for a good reason. It had its benefits. They needed it at the time. But now it was time for the new way to be introduced and instituted. And this shouldn’t have been a surprise to them at all though. God, through prophesy and prophets, had been telling them that a new way was coming. And now at last the Christ had come and shown them the new way. And now they need to listen to him. They needed to put aside the old way of doing things for the new.
So here’s what the author is discussing with them right now in this passage. A new high priest had been established and everything in the old way has become outdated and obsolete. God had even sworn on this and won’t go back on his word. (20-22) So, if they don’t forgo the old way, then everything they cling to [other than Christ]— the law, the ceremonies, the sacrifices, the ancient ways, all will be useless and to no profit to them at all. (Gal 5:4) The only person worth holding onto is the Christ, the High Priest in heaven. But many of them were set in the old ways. They were stubborn and proud to even listen to God. They were on the verge of losing everything. Now, why is this relevant to us, since we don’t observe the old way but have the new way to follow as Christians? The answer is simple. Because, in many ways we are the same. Often, in our stubbornness and pride, we often have our own ways or we get stuck in our old ways of doing things. And the tragedy is that when our hearts are not humble and open to God’s will, we insist on our own ways! And we end up losing God’s blessings. Worse still, we lose sight of Christ who alone can lead us to perfection [because that is what we really want and aim for in our Christian lives— perfection]. And when that happens we become like the Jews, numb to God and to his holy counsel.
Which brings us to verse 11, where the apostle is still warning and counseling them to give up the old ways completely and to make way for the new. Let us read verse 11. “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come— one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” And before we try to understand what he’s saying here, we first need to think about the meaning of the word perfection. What is this perfection that the apostle is taking about?
First of all, throughout the book of Hebrews, the term perfection refers to complete reconciliation with God, and unhindered access to him. In other words, perfection refers to our salvation! Achieving salvation is achieving perfection, which is our perfect and unhindered reunion with our Father God, and our perfect fellowship and communion with him. So that’s perfection. It’s what we hope for. It’s what we need and what we really want. We want to achieve perfection, the salvation of our souls and the ultimate reunion with our Father God. But without perfection, we can’t have that. Without perfection there can be no salvation for us. But why do we need this perfection? Why is it necessary? Because, God demands it! God demands that you be perfect before the Holy and Perfect God can receive you in heaven. That’s his measure and his standard. God is perfect. He demands that we be perfect as well. That’s why our Lord Jesus said: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) And for this reason God gave his people the Law in the Old Testament Bible.
God gave his people the law, the Ten Commandments as well as all the other Laws we find in the Bible to show us the measure and standard of perfection which he demands for his people. He intimated “follow these laws and you will live. Live by them, keep them, obey them, perfect them, and you will be accepted into my presence.” But God also knew well that not a single human being can abide by these laws. God knew well that his people are bound to break them. And so God gave his people a contingency plan for when they break his laws. He gave them the sacrificial system. What’s that? And that’s for making sacrifices of blood for every time they sin or break his laws. It was a way for God to forgive them for all their violations. He also gave them priests who were authorized to make those sacrifices of blood and to plead for their forgiveness. He also gave them a high priest to oversee the whole sacrificial system and to perpetually pray for these people. So, did those sacrifices work? Well, not really! People kept breaking the laws; they kept sacrificing; and God forgave those who sacrificed for their sins. But the truth is that while the law educated the people on matters relating to their sins, and showed them God’s standard for perfection, here’s the trouble— neither the law, nor the sacrifices, neither the priests nor the high priest were able to do what’s really necessary. And what was that? Nothing could make them perfect as God requires them to be. They failed to achieve perfection!
Read verse 11 again. “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come— one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” What he’s saying here is that if the perfection God requires could have been achieved through the law and the priesthood, it would have been the end of the story, even if only a few could achieve it! There would be no need for another system if that old system of doing things was working. (18) But it didn’t work. Therefore, the system itself needed to be changed. And a new system needed to be established. And that’s exactly what God did! He introduced the new system. Look at verse 12. “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” Therefore, this new system needed a new law, or laws, and it needed a new kind of priesthood, as well as a new high priest— one who could make this new system work. In other words, a High Priest was needed who himself could achieve perfection in himself, and lead God’s people in the way of perfection, and ultimately make them perfect to God. Someone was needed who could accomplish for us perfection, that is, salvation and bring us back to God.
And our Lord Jesus, God’s pre-appointed High Priest, did just that! Read verses 13-16. Jesus launched a whole new system than that of the old priesthood. Everything was new. He even didn’t belong to the priestly tribe of Levi. He belonged to the kingly tribe of Judah. So it was prophesied, so it was decreed and so it was determined by God. It had to be that way, because the priesthood God put in place newly needed to be perfect in every way and to achieve perfection in every way.
Read verse 28. “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.” And so, Jesus was perfect in every way. How was he made perfect? The Bible tells us that it was through his suffering. (2:10) He lived a perfect life before God. He obeyed all the laws given by God in the Bible. He met God’s standard for perfection in every way. But instead of being exalted by the failed human race, he was arrested and condemned as a criminal. He was subjected to much suffering. Finally he died a humiliating death on the cross. He did even more than that! He represented us before God as our high priest. Every one of us had broken the laws of God condemning us as totally imperfect and unqualified to come into presence of God. Yet when we were doomed to destruction our High Priest Jesus offered a sacrifice on our behalf for our forgiveness and cleansing so that we who are imperfect might become perfect. Rather than animal sacrifices that had to be sacrificed again and again, in this new system, the Lord Jesus offered himself by dying on the cross and shedding his blood.
And his blood was accepted not only for some sins but for all sins committed. And his blood was accepted for the cleansing of our souls as well, such that once washed, our souls become eternally spotless. Jesus blood was accepted because it was itself pure and sinless. And the Lord did even more as our High Priest. He was raised to life everlasting and ascended to the very throne of God so that he might offer prayers on our behalf. He stands as our High Priest our defender, our protector, our advocate in heaven to ensure that we are perfect in the sight of God. Yes we sin, and yes we receive forgiveness and cleansing when we ask for it, but in the sight of God who sees us only through Christ we remain forever perfect. That’s how perfection was attained for us through our Lord Jesus Christ. When nothing or no one could perfect us, Christ did. And the new way or system God put in place through Christ begins and ends with faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is everything! Yet how many, in stubbornness and pride of heart still want to hold on to the old system of law and sacrifice, and of human effort and labor towards perfection! We do that every time we try to improve ourselves by looking to ourselves rather than looking to faith in Christ. It’s hard to let go of a system that satisfies our pride and gives us merits of effort than a system that requires humility of heart and total dependence on faith in Christ!
Read verses 16-22. The apostle once again talks about the greatness of the Lord Jesus, the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. There are a couple of things that the apostle tells us of grave importance in these verses. Look at verse 16 again. The first is that our Lord Jesus became a priest not based on tribal or religious inheritance, but “On the bases of the power of an indestructible life” (16). All life is destructible. What God created God can also destroy. But there’s a certain life that is indestructible, and that is God’s own life. Jesus is the Son of God, the Second person in the Godhead of the triune God. His life, therefore, is indestructible. Here’s what the Bible tells us about Jesus. “God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24) The Bible also says of him that “Through the spirit of holiness [he] was appointed the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4) Listen to what Jesus says is himself in Revelation: “I am the living one; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18). Although he died as a random for our sins, death released him, and so he lives on forever. He told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Jesus asks us the same question today: “Do you believe this?” And we have to answer from the heart!
The second thing the apostle tells us of grave importance regarding our Lord Jesus is in verse 19. “(For the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” Christ Jesus our High Priest offers us a better hope by which we can draw near to God. It’s amazing how honest and straight forward is the apostle with us when it comes to the prospect of our perfection. In verse 18, he tells us of the futility of human effort, of the law and of religion in general— even the futility of observing all the laws of God— when it comes to having a relationship with God. He tells us it’s all weak and useless; it’s all hopeless and futile to ever try. Nothing can help us draw near to God, nothing! All human effort to draw near to God is hopelessly futile.
Listen to what the Bible tells us regarding why human effort is hopeless and futile. Romans 3:10-12 says these words: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Our hearts and minds are intrinsically evil and corrupt. If we do not know this about ourselves, we really don’t know ourselves. Even if all our acts and actions are absolutely righteous, what can you and I do about our heart, what’s inside our hearts! Nothing! Your heart, your inner thoughts, your inner desires will condemn you when you stand before God whose light exposes all the darkness without fail. That’s why God sent the Lord Jesus to bring us hope in the midst of our hopeless situation. The apostle says “Better hope” even though before and without Christ there was and is no hope for anyone at all. But Christ is the “Better hope”. He gives us a better hope because [look at verse 22] he guarantees for us a “Better covenant”.
The old covenant served its purpose for a time. It showed us our sins. It showed us God’s perfect measure and standard. But it guaranteed nothing but judgment and condemnation for those who break the law. It guaranteed God’s judgment because the Old Covenant couldn’t change our hearts, what’s inside our heart and mind; the corruption and filth of a sinful life. It may have been able to change our behavior and our actions. But it didn’t do a thing to change our hearts and its corrupt nature, which is where God looks; which is what God is interested in. That’s why even the best and the most noble of the human race were destined to condemnation. Yet Jesus brought a “Better hope”, and with it also a “Better covenant”. It was a covenant sealed in his blood. It was a covenant that brought us hope with it because it guaranteed for us not only forgiveness, but a cleansing and a total change of heart and mind and thoughts and desires. Anyone who has repented of their sins and put their trust in Christ in faith can testify to this truth! And Jesus also guaranteed it for us when he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to become our defender. Now in him and because of him we can draw near to God.
Who then can draw near to God? Our Lord Jesus can and in him we too can. That’s the covenant, that’s the hope he brings us. Drawing near to God is not something we should take for granted. It is the greatest privilege a human being born in sin and destined to perish in sin could ever hope for. We came from God because he’s our Creator, and all our lives we are searching for God, desperately wanting to return to him, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not. We are all searching for God that we might reunite with him. But people live and die without finding God. And when they do find him in death its too late because they finally realize that they haven’t met the standard. But Jesus offers us perfection even now, a way to draw near to God and to fellowship with him and to enjoy him even while we live out the rest of our human lives.
How then can we draw near to God. The apostle himself tells in 10:22, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” We need our hearts sprinkled with his blood to cleanse our guilty conscience from sin. We do that through repentance and faith in Christ our High Priest. No one can draw near to God on their own. It is God who draws us to himself when we have had a thorough bath inside out and purified from all that cannot come into the presence of God. Some of us need washing from lies; others from gossip; others from indifference; others from immoral thoughts and actions; others from pride and so on. The old system of things doesn’t work, meaning that we can’t perform religious acts and think God would accept us. We can’t rely on Biblical knowledge or righteous acts. We must look to Christ fixing our eyes on him and constantly being purified by his blood. The Jewish Christians found comfort in their rituals and ceremonies and lost sight of Christ, and then lost everything. We can’t allow ourselves to lose sight of Christ— ever. In him and through him alone we can draw near to God.
The author talks a lot about the oath God made in establishing Jesus as a priest forever. “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind” he says. (21) He tells us that since God swore an oath that Jesus is forever a priest in the order of Melchizedek, everything we have in Christ is guaranteed. We have an anchor that can’t be shaken. Let us hold to Christ and to faith in Christ with confidence especially in a world that offers no guarantees in anything. Amen.