Wednesday Word: ‘He Who Stirs Hearts’ (Ezra 1-2)


I voted yesterday. The presidential primary elections for the state of Missouri took place and I did my civic duty to cast my ballot. For the record, I do not pay that much attention to politics and remain a one issue voter (as soon as something more important than life becomes an issue, then I will think about changing my approach, until then…) Even so, it is hard to not be at least interested in what will happen this November. The coverage of the candidates is all-consuming and thanks to social media we can all pick our man (or woman) to back as publicly and profusely as we like. (Could someone please create a button that will filter all political posts from my Facebook feed?) To be honest, I am usually not paying that much attention at this point in the process, but this year it is hard to ignore.

With all that in mind, I ran across this quote while studying Ezra 1-2 last week:

“Are you worried about recent political developments? About what your government is doing? Do you believe Proverbes 21: 1 (which states: ‘A king’s heart is like streams of water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses’)? This world is God’s stage. The bad guys have their strongholds, but they remain God’s characters. This is God’s cosmic drama. He will have His way.” (From James M. Hamilton’s ‘Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah’)

Now that is a helpful quote for an election year. How does he get this idea from Ezra 1-2?

In order to understand that question, you have to back up a bit in Israel’s history. The Lord rescued His people from slavery to Egypt and then gave them the Law so they could live as His own. Yet, they struggled to obey. From the judges to the kings, Israel’s history is not marked by faithfulness to the Law. In fact, the list of wicked kings far outweighs the list of obedient ones. The situation became so dire that God raised up prophets to warn the people of coming judgement and call them to repent. He raised up men like Isaiah and Jeremiah. But the people would not repent. Instead they refused to listen to the prophets and God sent them into exile. They became slaves again to the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

The Lord knew that this would happen. In fact, He raised up Nebuchdnezzar for this purpose. But He also knew that the exile would not be the end of Israel. He had a plan to set them free which He also revealed to Isaiah and Jeremiah, long before it came to pass. And this was not just some general idea, it was specific. He told them how long the exile would last (70 years) and who would set them free (Cyrus). Listen to what God tells them before it happened:

“For thus says the Lord: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place (Jerusalem).'” (Jeremiah 29:10)

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself…who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my Shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built, ‘ and of the temple, ‘Your foundations shall be laid.'” (Isaiah 44:24, 28)

The Lord will tell Isaiah that He will raise up Cyrus and let him conquer nations “for the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen” (Isaiah 45:4). The Lord tells Isaiah and Jeremiah how the exile will end long before it comes to pass.

And what happens? Listen to the first verse in the book of Ezra:

“In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia…”

And what did the Lord stir up Cyrus to do? He says to the Israelites:

“Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 1:3)

So the Lord warns His people of coming judgement through the prophets and then promises them future deliverance from exile through a king named Cyrus, then raises up Nebuchdnezzar to capture them, then gives the Babylonians to the Persians, and then stirs the heart of Cyrus king of the Persians to send His people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. So let me ask you: ‘Do you believe that God is sovereign over all? Do you believe that He is in control of all things, even the decisions of kings (and presidents)? Do you believe that He will have His way?’ Make no mistake, Cyrus was serving his own ends (he wanted help from any and every ‘God’ he could find and perhaps a buffer from Egypt in the south). But God was still accomplishing His purposes. He was still fulfilling His plans. He was still in the heavens, doing whatever He pleases.

It is tempting to feel a bit rattled by the election year. It is easy to worry and be anxious about the future. But we do well as Christians to remind ourselves of the truth of God’s sovereignty. He is our Rock and our Redeemer.  For it was also His plan to send us a Savior who would pay for our sins at the cross. And just like Cyrus, He would use Judas and Herod and Pontius Pilate to accomplish His plan.  So that by grace and through faith, we might turn from our sins and be saved by King Jesus.  He who stirs the heart has accomplished all of this. All glory to Him!

So go cast your vote.  Be a good citizen and get involved in the process.  But just remember:  ‘This is God’s comic drama. He will have His way.’

wm

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Wednesday Word: ‘We are the wicked’ (Romans 3:9-20)


A church member recently sent me an article that made a distinction between sinful people and evil people. They were wondering if I agreed with such a distinction. At first glance, it seems to make sense of our experience. Most of us would freely admit that we are sinful and that the Bible clearly teaches that all are sinful (Romans 3:23). Yet, there also seems to be those who take their sinfulness a step further. They don’t just make mistakes or have momentary lapses of morality, they actually delight in their sin. And they don’t really care who gets hurt in the process. They lie, they manipulate, they cover up. We may all be sinful, but they are evil.

In order to support the distinction, the author pointed to several passages from the Psalms. Over and again we see the various writers of the Psalms calling their enemies ‘the wicked’ and ‘evil men.’ The author argued that these men were different from ordinary sinners like the rest of us. So is this true? Does the Bible identify two categories of depravity? Does it make the distinction between sinful and evil people?

I don’t think that it does. Yes, the Bible speaks of God giving people over to their sins (see Romans 1) and Jesus talked about a worse judgment coming on those who rejected His ministry (Matthew 11:20-24), but it does not seem that it ever teaches a distinction between sinful and evil. The hard truth is that we are all evil. We are the wicked in the Psalms. This is what Paul teaches in the conclusion of his argument for human depravity in Romans 3. He has argued that both Jews and Gentiles are sinners before God. Those with the Law are sinners and those without the Law are sinners (see Romans 1-2). He concludes:

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? Not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written…” (Romans 3:9)

To support this conclusion Paul goes on to quote from several different Psalms that speak of our depravity. These are the wicked, evil men. They do not seek God. They have become worthless. They do no good and regularly lie. They shed blood and scorn peace. They do not fear God. This is not Paul’s description of the ‘really wicked people out there.’ This is his description of us all. We are the wicked.

Or think about it this way, when you read the Bible, do you see yourself as the good guys in the story or the bad guys? Are you Cain or Abel? Are you David or the Philistine Giant? Are you Judas or one of the other eleven? The truth is, we need to see ourselves as both/and not either/or. We are the Pharisees. We are the prodigal son and his older brother. We are the wicked nations that God has made His chosen people through Christ.

We all want to see ourselves as better than we are. Sure we may not be perfect, but we are not wicked and evil. But the truth is that we are what we despise. We are the bad guys in the story. And the glorious good news is that Jesus came to give grace to wicked people like us. He came for the sick (Luke 5:31-32). He came to save those that Paul described in Romans 3, for the apostle goes on:

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 3:22b-24)

Our experience will tempt us to believe that we are not wicked or evil or as bad as the other guy, but the grace of God in Christ Jesus teaches us the opposite and compels us to share the good news with all. We are the wicked, all of us, and we are gloriously redeemed through sovereign grace! We believe what the Bible says about the bad news because we believe in the overwhelming goodness of the good news!

wm

Wednesday Word: The Fear of Shadows (Psalm 23, James 1:17)


One of my friends recently posted about the day that she and her husband found out that their unborn daughter showed signs of having Down syndrome. It was a year ago and she was reflecting on the love of her church and the beauty of her daughter (now 8 months old) and the faithfulness of God. In her honesty, she wrote about the struggles of that day and those that followed, mostly the struggle of fear. Looking back she can see God’s good and right plan for their lives, but she admits that the struggle was real. She writes: “I was so afraid of the what ifs…the shadows…the things I didn’t know to be true. How kind is my God to be faithful to me even when I was so full of fear.” When I read that sentence, the Lord stopped me in my tracks. As I sat there on my couch getting ready to head to bed, it was if the Lord pulled back a curtain and gave me a moment of clarity. I could not help but think: ‘How often have I feared the shadows? How often have I trembled at things that might, or might not, come to pass?’ I want to believe that my faith is strong in those moments, we all want to believe that. But if we are honest, like my friend was being in her post, we cannot deny our fear of the shadows.

As I thought about her post over the next day, the Lord brought to mind two passages that deal with shadows. The first is the most famous poem/song in the Bible, namely Psalm 23. We use this psalm often at funerals to comfort ourselves as we think about death and dying. Yet, in our familiarity, we sometimes forget the original setting of the psalm. David was a man who was very aware of the constant threat of death. Maybe the next lion would get the best of him. Maybe Saul’s spear would find its mark. Maybe the Philistines would finally defeat him in battle. He knew that death was certain and he knew it could come for him at any moment. Yet, Psalm 23 is a song about the comfort and peace he had even in the midst of the threat of death. He writes:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”

How could he not be afraid? From where did his comfort come? He tells us:

“…for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

David did not fear the unknown because he knew that the Lord was with him. God never promised that things would go easy or that no trouble would come, He just promised to be with us. His promise is not peace and ease but presence. Even when we sit in the presence of our enemies, even when their threats are all around us, even when the shadows are dark and unknown, even then, the Lord prepares a feast for us to enjoy. Even then, our cup overflows.

The shadows of the unknown are always before us. What will happen with my job? What will happen with my finances? What will happen with my children and my family? What will tomorrow bring? What is lurking in those shadows? The truth is, we don’t know, we can’t know. Sometimes the next day will bring sorrow and sadness. Sometimes we can look back and laugh at our fears. But during the dark night, we cannot know what the morning will bring. Yet, we can be certain about this: Our God will be there and He will be for His people. How do I know that? Because of the second passage that I thought about after reading my friend’s post:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17)

No variation or shadow due to change. Everything around me can change, but not the Father of lights. There is no shadow in Him. And through Him, through faith in Him and what He did for me in sending His Son to ransom my soul at the cross, I can overcome my fear of the shadows.

I am so thankful for the honesty of others as they share about what the Lord has taught them in difficult times. It helps me understand my own struggles and hopefully prepares me for the ones I have yet to face. It helps me see that in Christ I have no reason to fear the shadows.

wm

Wednesday Word: A Final Word on 1 Corinthians


I finished preaching through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthains on Sunday. Just wanted to post some final thoughts on the letter today.

The early church was not what we often believe it was: It is hard to read this letter and conclude that ‘we need to get back to the early church.’ If Corinth is any indication, we might need to steer clear just a bit. Truth is, every local church has faults, even some serious faults. That is not an excuse for us to just dismiss our shortcomings (that is not the approach that Paul takes in the letter). But it should keep us humble, give us perspective, and prevent us from being too harsh on the local church today.

Sexual sin is not new: The Corinthians were struggling with what to do with their bodies. Due to cultural leanings, some wanted to act as if what we do with our bodies is inconsequential. Who cares if we sleep with prostitutes or our father’s wife? Paul confronted these errors directly and did not shy away from the truth that God commands us to use our bodies (and our sex) for His purposes and His glory. Such truth will be needed in our churches until the Lord returns.

Christians must labor to love each other: It sounds so simple: “Let all that you do be done in love” (16:14). Yet, churches continue to struggle with this command. We claim to love each other and at least act like we do at times, but when push comes to shove, we all have a tendency to act in our flesh. We look out for number one and convince ourselves that we are justified in our actions. In doing that, our love looks more like what the world has to offer than what was displayed by our crucified Savior. If we thought about Him before we made the call or sent the email or spoke in the business meeting, then perhaps we would learn how to love like He did. The sacrificial love of Christ will overcome any division in the Body of Christ. We must never stop laboring for that kind of love.

The gospel is the answer: Paul confronts numerous problems in the church at Corinth: division, worldly wisdom, sexual sin, lawsuits, divorce, idolatry, selfishness in corporate worship, and denial of bodily resurrection. And what is the answer to each of these problems?

“For this I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (15:3-4)

Living out the Christian faith with a community of believers is not easy, but neither is it complex. The problems will be numerous and varied. But the answer is always the same: live the gospel. Treat each other as Christ has treated you. Serve each other as Christ has served you. Forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you. Show mercy and grace and love to each other as Christ has shown to you. If we are all sinners deserving of death and Hell who have been gloriously redeemed by the love of our Savior and set free to walk in the power of the Spirit, then surely we can overcome any problems that might threaten to divide us. No matter what Paul is addressing in this letter, he is constantly pointing them back to the gospel. He does the same for us. May we build well upon this solid foundation!

wm

Wednesday Word: 1 Thessalonians 3:3 and 5:9


We had a great time at Feast Week working through Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. The sermons were encouraging and convicting. The fellowship with other believers was sweet and uplifting. And I was once again reminded of the value of viewing the books of the Bible as complete works, as opposed to various verses that are loosely connected. Let me try to illustrate what I mean.

On Monday night I preached 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13. In this passage, Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians in their sufferings and afflictions. He tells them to remember that the followers of Christ are destined for this (3:3). That may seem like a very discouraging thing to tell these believers who are struggling, but Paul sees it as just the opposite. We can persevere through afflictions when we know that they ultimately come from the sovereign hand of God. He is using every ounce of our suffering to make us more like our Savior, who suffered in our place at the cross.

On Wednesday night, one of my brothers (HT: James Guy) preached 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. The main point of this section is that we have hope for those who have fallen asleep in Christ because we know that they will be raised with Him on the final Day! What a powerful promise! At the end of that section is one of my favorite verses: For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…(5:9). The glorious good news of the gospel is that Jesus took the wrath that I deserved at the cross. He paid for my sin. He bore God’s righteous wrath in my place! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

What struck me Wednesday night as I was listening to my brother preach is how these two passages go together. The truth is that the followers of Christ will face affliction in this life. We should not be surprised by it or overwhelmed by it because God has destined us for it to make us more like Jesus (see Romans 8 for more on this). Yet, even though we may face affliction on the earth, the amazing news is that we will never face God’s wrath as believers in Christ. Jesus has already faced that for us. Affliction will come to refine me and conform me to Christ, but I am not destined for wrath because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Either one of these ideas is encouraging and comforting, but when you consider them together, it makes you want to sing and shout (or tremble and weep) at the amazing love and plan of our God.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to study through a book of the Bible in one week with other believers. We should carve out more time as followers of the Word to sit and read through whole books of the Bible in one sitting. I believe it helps us see the big picture of the story of our redemption and the great God who stands behind it all!

wm

Wednesday Word: Getting ready for Feast Week


For the second year now, some local pastors and I will be preaching through a book of the Bible in five consecutive nights (Sunday-Thursday). Last year we worked through 1 Peter and this year we will be studying 1 Thessalonians. We break it up into five (hopefully manageable) sections and take turns preaching through the text. We call it Feast Week because our hope is that we will feast together on the Word of God!

This year begins on Sunday and we are preaching through 1 Thessalonians.  My assignment? 1:1-2:16 (still wondering why I was given almost two chapters!) It has been fun preparing for my message Sunday night. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were some of his first (most think only Galatians was earlier). In these, we get an early glimpse into Paul’s missionary work and the fruit that it produced through the power of the gospel. In particular, we see his love and concern for the churches he planted and his longing to see them live as faithful followers of Christ. He also addresses some issues that had already arisen in the lives of these new believers. For instance, a good bit of 1 Thessalonians deals with the question of what happens to believers who die before Christ returns? Paul speaks of the hope that we have for them in chapters 4-5. One of my all-time favorite verses is found chapter 5: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 9). What a gracious God we serve!

My passage (1:1-2:16) includes Paul’s thanksgiving for the Thessalonians and their faith and a recap of his visit with them, which probably happened a few months to a year before he wrote the letter. He is reminding them of their identity in Christ (indicative) before he gives them instructions for living out their faith (imperative). He follows a similar pattern in a number of his letters. In preparing for teaching this passage, I came across some good quotes from a couple of commentators:

Leon Morris: “In every age this (that we are not to please men but God) needs emphasis, for the Christian preacher is always tempted to accommodate his message to the desires of his hearers. People do not want a message that tells them that they are helpless sinners and that they must depend humbly on God’s mercy for their salvation.”

Every preacher must learn from Paul the importance of striving to please God and not men (2:3-4).

G. K. Beale: “God’s word is the power that works in people and transforms their lives, whether at the inception of the believer’s life or at any other point along the way.”

Beale is commenting on 2:13, which says, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” The word of God continues to be at work in believers. It continues to comfort and strengthen, wound and heal, convict and transform. It is our hope and belief that the Spirit will use the preaching of 1 Thessalonians to do just that. I can’t wait for the feast!

wm

(If you are in the area, come out and join us each night at 6:30)

Wednesday Word: Sermons on the Sanctity of Human Life


Continuing in my effort to provide resources for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, I want to point you to some sermons on the topic that I believe reveal the Bible’s teaching on the subject. Many great sermons about this issue are available, but I just want to point you to some that I hope will be helpful.

  1. John Piper: Piper observed Sanctity of Human Life for the majority of time that he spent at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He has numerous sermons on the issue and they can be found here: Sermons for Sanctity of Human Life.
  2. Matt Chandler: For the last few years, Chandler has done a series on prayer in January that included a sermon on the sanctity of human life. Here is the one that he preached last year (you might have seen a clip of this one): Prayer and the sanctity of human life.
  3. David Platt: Along with his book (that I mentioned yesterday), Platt has some sermons on this subject as well. You can find a couple of them here: Sermons on children and life.
  4. My own: We have celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday for most of the years that I have been at Trinity. I have taken different approaches to the topic, but I try to start each year with whatever book I am preaching through at the time (since I am currently working through 1 Corinthians, I will be preaching this year on reasons to fight for life from that letter). You can listen to some of the previous ones here: TBC Sanctity of Human Life.

If you have some time this week, pick one of the above and hear what the Word has to say about the sanctity of human life!

wm

Wednesday Word: Bible reading plan (January edition)


I wrote about Bible reading plans back in September of this year (the timing makes better sense if you read the post). I noted that I was using the ReadingPlan app (pictured above) and that I was working through the ‘Five Day Plan.’ I finished it up a few days ago and I have to say, it is by far my favorite plan for reading through the Bible in a year. It starts you in a few different places (Genesis, Mark, Psalms) and does not repeat anything. The five days are through the week, which gives you the weekend to catch up. It really is my favorite plan (I decided to start it again for this year).

So what about you? What is your plan for 2016? If you are reading this and you do not have a plan, whatever it may be, then I encourage you to find one right now! (If you are still reading, then you better already have a plan!) Seriously, without some sort of plan we will simply not be as faithful as we could be in reading the Bible. So pick a plan, make some time, and feast on the Word of God in 2016. You will not regret it!

wm

Wednesday Word: The promised King


Don’t you just love genealogies? How many people have been told to read the New Testament and gave up before they even finished the first chapter? Matthew begins his telling of the story of Jesus with these words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” And from there goes on to list over forty names (If you are unfamiliar with them, you should listen to Andrew Peterson’s great song: Matthew’s Begats, seriously that is a good video, you should check it out!) What a terrible way for Matthew to begin his Gospel!

Well, not if you are familiar with the Old Testament. The people of Israel began with Abraham. They were given promises by God that the people originally reading Matthew would have been very familiar with. Matthew is telling them that Jesus, being born in the line of Abraham, is the fulfillment of those promises. Not only that, but they were longing and looking for a promised King that would come from the line of David.

Why were they looking for such a King? The story of Israel’s kings begins with Saul, who due to his disobedience to God was removed from the throne. Then God chose David to be king. He was the greatest of Israel’s kings and a man after God’s own heart. Before King David died, the Lord gave him a promise recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12-16:

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”

The Lord told David that he would have a descendent who would reign forever. Of course, many see David’s son Solomon as the fulfillment of this promise, and in one sense they are right, for it was Solomon who committed iniquity. But even though Solomon would sin, the Lord would not take the throne from him as He did with Saul.

Yet, what about that reigning forever part? Solomon did not reign forever. In fact, his sons divided the Kingdom, which eventually led to captivity and exile. By the time Jesus is born, there is no king of Israel. The only other way for this prophecy to be fulfilled is if a descendent of David lives and reigns forever. Yet, who could do that? If a genealogy teaches us anything, it tells us that death is unavoidable. So who will fulfill this promise of reigning forever from the line of David?

It is this question that prepares us for Matthew’s genealogy. You can imagine the wonder of the original readers as they read through the names and realized what Matthew was claiming: Jesus is the promised forever King, born in the line of David. Just like all the other kings before Him, Jesus would taste the sting of death. Yet, unlike all those before Him, the grave would be unable to hold Him, unable to defeat Him, unable to end His reign. The great Jewish king the wise men worshipped (Matthew 2:1-12) was actually the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And 2,000 years later, all who turn from their sins and trust in Jesus’ death on the cross continue to worship the forever King, just as they will through all eternity.

“Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the new-born King.'”

wm

 

Wednesday Word: The Promised Priest


Last week, I wrote about how Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophetic office. He came and made known the Father to us (John 1:18).

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!

wm