Hebrews 5-8
(A Superior High Priest)
December 17th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him:

“You are my son;

this day I have begotten you”

- Hebrews 5:5 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

These chapters continue the explanation from the previous chapters regarding Jesus’ superiority over the high priests. In the beginning of chapter 5, the author notes several key characteristics of the high priest. One is that he is appointed, second is that he can relate to people through shared human experiences, and finally, he is appointed by God, just like Aaron, the first High Priest (as recorded in Exodus 28-30):

    Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

    He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness

    and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.

    No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

    - Hebrews 5:1-4 (NAB)

At the end of chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6 the author of Hebrews tells the readers that they must become more mature in faith so that they can teach the next generation of believers.

In chapter 7, the author describes the mysterious and eternal high priest Melchizedek whom Abraham had encountered, as recorded in Genesis. The author notes that Jesus is of the same order. He says that with a new priest comes a new law and concurs with a Pauline theme when he explains that the Law of Moses never saved anyone:

    The former regulation 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.

    - Hebrews 7:18-19 (NIV)

The author then builds on this point to emphasize that the new covenant of Christ is even greater than the old one under Moses. He addresses the distinctions point by point in this chapter and continues into the next one, which we will read tomorrow. The distinctions addressed in chapter 8 include the idea of the transition from the focus on a physical building to the reign of Christ in believers' hearts and the reality of unlimited promises from God. He also quotes Jeremiah 31 to compare the new and old covenants.

    “The days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
    with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
    It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
    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."

    - Hebrews 8:8b-9 (Jeremiah 31:31-32)(NIV)

Reflection and Application

It’s important for each generation to become mature in their faith so that they can pass it on to the next one. The author of Hebrews emphasizes this point to his original audience, but it applies to us as well. It is time for us to take on the role and help keep the chain of faith going.

The general consensus among theologians is that Paul did not write Hebrews, but there is a section in chapter 5 that sounded very much like the temperament of Paul that we read in earlier letters:

    I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.

    - Hebrews 5:11-14 (MSG)

Ouch! This sounds like one of those hot-tempered chefs on a reality TV show rather than a conciliatory Christian preacher. We must have faith that there is a reason the author took this tone. He must have known that this particular group would respond to this language, but it might not work equally well with the audiences that you and I address. Therefore, we might want to choose more encouraging verses to quote. On the other hand, if you think there is a situation that calls for this verse, then bring it on! Remember that Paul had said that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that men of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17 - NIV).”

We recall the story of Melchizedek from Genesis chapter 14, which we studied last January and will study again next month. The mysterious Melchizedek had a brief, but important appearance during the story of Abraham, whom he blessed, and served bread and wine. What do you think about Melchizedek? What was the purpose for his encounter with Abraham and where did he come from?

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Did you ever have a teacher who could be condescending but actually meant well and enabled the students to learn a lot?
    2. Why did God pick Aaron and his descendants to serve as priests?
    3. What can we do next year to ensure that we do our part to pass on God’s message

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you have created covenants and promised to be with us always. Help us to turn to Jesus as our high priest.

    Prayer Concern
    Religious Leaders

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Hebrews 9-10 (The Mediator)

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