Jesus is also the fulfillment of the office of priest. The priests under the Abrahamic covenant were the mediators between God and His people. They were to offer sacrifices to God for the sins of the people so that their sins could be forgiven. The holy God established this office so that He could dwell among His sinful people. The office was so important that one whole tribe, the Levites, was designated to serve as priests before the Lord.
Yet, David makes a strange prophecy in Psalm 110. He writes:
“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your yourth will be yours. The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek'” (v.1-4).
The first thing to notice about this psalm is how it begins: ‘The Lord says to my Lord.’ Who are these ‘Lords’? Well, the first is obviously a reference to God the Father, the Lord of Israel. Yet, what about the second Lord? Who is David referring to as ‘my Lord.’ The only Lord that the King of Israel would recognize would be God Himself. So who is this Lord and why does David treat Him like God?
Second, notice that the Lord is called a priest. David notes two very interesting characteristics about this Lordly priest. First, He will be a priest ‘forever.’ But how could that be? Once a priest died, he would no longer serve as priest. So who is this priest that will intercede forever? And second, David says that the priest will not be Levite, but will be ‘after the order of Melchizedek.’ Mel who? What is David talking about?
To answer, you have to go all the way back to Genesis 14:17-24, where we are told the story of Melchizedek, who was the King of Salem and a ‘priest of God Most High.’ Before Levi was born, Melchizedek served as a priest to Father Abraham. This makes his priesthood greater than the Levites since it is prior to Levi’s birth (the author of Hebrews makes this argument in Hebrews 7:4-10).
So then, David is saying that a Divine priest is going to come who will intercede forever after the order of Melchizedek. Who in the wolrd could David be talking about? Who is this Lorldly priest?
The author of Hebrews identifies the Promised Priest as Jesus in Hebrews 7. Jesus was David’s Lord because He was God in the flesh. Jesus was a priest because He interceded on behalf of the people. And He is a priest forever like Melchizedek due to His ‘indestructible life’ (v. 16). He is the One that David wrote about in Psalm 110.
Yet, what did He offer for our sins? The priests of old offered the blood of bulls and goats, but the author of Hebrews says that it was impossible for that to take away sins (10:4). So what could Jesus offer to save us from our rebellious ways? What could He sacrifice to bring us to God?
The author of Hebrews tells us:
“He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (v. 27).
Jesus is the only priest who sacrificed Himself to pay for the sins of the people. No bull could pay for my sins. There are not enough goats in the world to cover my debt. All of those sacrifices were only a shadow of what was to come. They all pointed forward to the Lamb of God, our great High Priest, who was slain, and by His blood ‘ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Rev. 5:9). The Promised Priest became the Slain Lamb for the sake of our redemption.
“Glorious now behold Him arise:
King and God and Sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia! Earth to heaven replies.”
Alleluia indeed! All hail the Forever Priest who will never stop interceding on behalf of those He was slain to save! Our King, our God, and our Sacrifice!