Thursday Hebrews: A Better Hope (7:18-19)

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. – Hebrews 7:18-19 (ESV)

In chapter seven we’ve gotten ourselves knee deep in a discussion of the high priest Melchizedek. This section is so important that one probably needs to study it verse by verse to make sure all of the important pieces are picked up. But in doing so, one can also lose sight of the big picture. So, for a moment, let’s step back and remind ourselves about what the writer is trying to tell us.

In chapter four, the writer is trying to encourage the audience to hold fast to God and to the confession they have made to Him. As help for this, he reminds that we have a great high priest, by which we have access to draw near to God.

As chapter five begins, the writer reminds us of the role of a priest,

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. – Hebrews 5:1 (ESV)

From here, the writer begins to explain why Jesus is a better high priest, and to do this he first mentions Melchizedek, an Old Testament character mentioned in Genesis 14. However, once Melchizedek is mentioned the writer seems to remember that the audience may have trouble with what he’s about to say because of their lack of maturity, so he spends the rest of chapter five and half of chapter six encouraging them onward toward improved maturity in Christ. Toward the end of this encouragement, he reminds them,

11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6:11-12 (ESV)

With this mention of “faith and patience inherit the promises,” the discussion turns again toward Melchizedek and Jesus’ role as High Priest. Jesus was made High Priest with an oath – or promise, from God. There will be more discussion of faith as the book continues, but for now (i.e. here in chapter seven), the discussion centers on how Jesus was appointed high priest and on how His calling and work as high priest is greater than the Levitical priesthood. And that brings us back to our Scripture passage for today,

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. – Hebrews 7:18-19 (ESV)

The old system – the Levitical priesthood, and the new system – Jesus as our High Priest, are in stark contrast here. The old way is described as weak and useless (v. 18) and as making nothing perfect (v. 19). In hindsight, we know that. We know now that this imperfect system should have pointed all toward something that would permanently and perfectly pay for and defeat sin. We know now that this should have pointed all toward Jesus. That was one purpose of this weak and useless system.

Through Jesus Christ, though, we have “a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God” (v. 19). Wow. The old has passed away and the new has come. A better hope. And one by which we can “draw near to God.”

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