Hebrews: keep calm & carry on (5)

Keep-Calm-Carry-OnDuring the winter Bible class quarter where I minister some of our adult classes will study the book of Hebrews on Sunday mornings (Dec. 1 thru Feb. 23). This study is entitled Hebrews: Keep Calm & Carry On. To aid lesson prep, I’m posting ten sets of twenty exercises/questions to research and consider from each major section of Hebrews (as broken down in David A. DeSilva’s work Perseverance in Gratitude). Today’s set of exercises/questions interacts with Hebrews 7.1-8.13 and is entitled “Jesus, the Better-Qualified Mediator of God’s Favor.”

1. Heb. 7 is all about a comparison of not only of two men (Melchizedek and Jesus), but of two priesthoods (the Levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Mechizedek). In five sentences, sum up the point being made in each of the five main thought divisions of this chapter (7.4-10,11-17,18-19,20-22,23-28).

2. Without the aid of quality commentary or two, consider the meaning of Melchizedek being “without father or mother or any family. He has no beginning or end of life, but he’s like God’s Son and remains a priest for all time.” (7.3)

3. Find and read what the OT has to say about the origin and work of the Levitical (Aaronic) priesthood.

4. The author’s main argument in 7.4-10 is that it’s obvious that the Melchizedek priesthood is superior to that of the Levitical. One thing that declares such, claims the author, has two points to it. First, Melchizedek blessed Abraham and we all know the lesser is blessed by the greater, not the other way around. That makes Melchizedek superior to Abraham. Second, Levi, a son of Abraham, was yet unborn when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. Therefore, Melchizedek is superior to Levi (the source of the Levitical priesthood). And so: “See how great Melchizedek was!” (7.4a) What sort of questions or concerns can you imagine being about (either among Jews yet to believe or Jewish Christians tempted with turning back) that would lead the author of Hebrews to argue this particular point?

5. What is the difference between Christ having been perfected and our own perfection (7.11,28b)?

6. What is most significant about a priest after the order of Melchizedek is that they don’t die, and so, keep serving forever (7.8,16,23-24). But Christ died. How is it then that he can be a priest after the order of Melchizedek?

7. Since Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, how is it he could ever serve as a priest at all (7.11-17)?

8. In 7.22, the word “covenant” shows up for the first time in Hebrews. What is a “covenant?” What is the “better covenant” in 7.22? What is the “first covenant” in view in 8.7?

9. What is it exactly that makes our salvation “complete” and sure (7.25)?

10. How is it “appropriate for us to have this kind of high priest: holy, innocent, incorrupt, separate from sinners, and raised high above the heaven?” (7.26) Or to put it another way, what do these qualities of Christ have to say about the qualities of the Christians to whom the author of Hebrews is writing?

11. Why doesn’t Jesus, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests (7.27)?

12. The author of Hebrews has stressed the humanity of Jesus Christ (2.17; 4.14-16; 5.7-8). Beginning in ch. 8, the author will stress that Jesus is our man in heaven who sits at God’s right hand as our high priest (8.1; 10.12-14; cf. Ps. 110.1). What do these points of thought say to you and do for you?

13. Remember, Hebrews claims to be a sermon/message (13.22) geared toward “encouragement.” The specific point of encouragement for the original Christian audience is that they keep a tight grip on their confession (4.14). In your own words, how does all that tie in with what the author says is “the main point” of what he has to say (8.1)?

14. No doubt some Jews of the Hebrew author’s time often questioned Christians as to where their temple was located (i.e. – “We have a temple. Where is yours?”). In light of Heb. 8.1-5 and in your own words, how might the author of Hebrews have answered such a question?

15. In Heb. 8, Jesus is portrayed in two ways: (a) as our ministering high priest (8.1-5) and (b) as the mediator of the new covenant (8.6-13). Which of these speaks most powerfully and personally to you right now? Why?

16. In 8.7, the author isn’t saying the first covenant was flawed or messed up from the get go, rather it was God’s people that were messed up (8.9). And the first covenant was never intended to be the end of all things for (a) God clearly had a second covenant in view (something “new”) and (b) something had to be done with his people, a people who had failed to keep God’s covenant with them. What benefit then was the first covenant? Why have it at all?

17. Christ’s way is far superior to the preceding way. Heb. 8.6 names three specifics as to the superiority of Christ’s way. What are they?

18. Jeremiah 31.31-34, quoted in Heb. 8.8-12, comes near the end of a long section in Isaiah that could be referred to as the “Scroll of Comfort.” Read the complete context by reading Jer. 30.1-31.40 and then comment on how it helps you appreciate what’s being said in Jer. 31.31-34.

19. The quotation of Jeremiah 31.31-34 in Heb. 8.8-12 is the longest OT quote in the NT. In this quote, the establishment of a new covenant builds to one supreme, climactic thought (Heb. 8.8-12). What is that point? It will be elaborated on at length in Heb. 9.1-10.18.

20. Heb. 8.13 is another point of persuasion in the talking points offered by the author of Hebrews. The point is this: don’t ditch the new and better covenant with Christ to go back to an old, obsolete, and outdated way that is “close to disappearing.” How was the OT sacrificial system was outdated and obsolete?