Text: Hebrews 2

Facing Today: An 8-Week Study

Economic failure and job losses have become common place. Painful circumstances are tearing away at the cultural, church and family ties that hold us together. It has become hard to see Jesus. But, what if times were worse? What if we were waiting for God to eternally redeem us as well? This was the case before the Son of God came to earth.

After addressing many of the pressing issues of the first century ad (and likewise today), the author discusses Jesus’ priesthood. We must hold fast to the ultimate hope: The Son of God who became Son of Man, Jesus (Heb 1:5; 2:16). He relates to our finite struggles because He too endured pain and temptation (Heb 2:14–18). But the Son of God doesn’t quit there, He alters the course of the infinite by becoming our high priest and the sacrifice that makes us one with God again.

WEEK 1: High Priest of the Past, High Priest of the Present

Pray that God would reveal the purpose of Jesus’ high priesthood to you.

Read the entire book of Hebrews aloud in one setting.

Underline “high priest” each time it occurs. Pay attention to how the author compares and contrasts Jesus as the high priest with other priests.

Reread 5:1–8. What does the vocation of a priest entail? (List the four things the author describes.) Aaron, Moses’ brother, was the first high priest after the Israelites left Egypt. Under the guidance of God, Moses decided how religious practice was to be conducted in the wilderness and eventually in the Promised Land. Aaron and his sons, who were from the tribe of Levi, were in charge of making sure the people worshiped God correctly. They also interceded between God and the Israelites by offering sacrifices that symbolized payment for their wrongdoings. But the system had a fatal flaw—the priests weren’t perfect (Heb 5:2–3), which made the sacrificial system imperfect and temporary.

How is Jesus the same as other priests? How is He different?

What sacrifice did Jesus make? How does His sacrifice alter your view of God and affect your life?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 2: Consider Jesus

Pray that God would show you more areas of your life that Jesus can enter.

Read Hebrews 2–4.

Reread 2:14–18. Why does Jesus help us? What did Jesus have to do to become a faithful high priest? What was His role before becoming a high priest? (See Heb 1:1–14.)

Reread Heb 3:1–6. What type of calling do we have (3:1)? Jesus is an apostle (one sent from God) and a high priest (someone who intercedes between people and God). What is our confession?

Reread Heb 4:11–16. From where did Jesus come (4:14)? What can Jesus do that He previously could not do before He took on flesh (4:15)? What are we commanded to do (4:14, 16)?

What can you do to better align your life with God’s calling?

The Son of God can sympathize with our weaknesses because He became like us. Take hope in having an advocate between you and God who knows what it is like to struggle, hurt and be tempted. Hold fast to your faith in, and obedience to, the Son of God, our eternal high priest.

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 3: Chosen by God

Pray that God would help you understand Jesus’ vocation and your calling.

Read Hebrews 5–6.

Rather than being chosen by people to be a high priest like Aaron (5:1), Jesus was appointed by God to be a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:5, 10).

Reread 6:13–20. God’s promise to us, like His promise to Abraham, is guaranteed with an oath (6:19–20). This oath involves God appointing Jesus as a high priest (7:17, 21), as well as Jesus entering the inner sanctuary behind the curtain in the temple, where God is in His “holy of holies” (6:19). The sacrifice was offered before God Himself in the heavenly temple, which was represented on earth by the tabernacle and, ultimately, the temple in Jerusalem.

Hebrews 6–8 draws from the story of Abraham (called Abram at the time) and his 318 trained men who defeat King Chedorlaomer and a coalition of other kings. These kings had invaded the city of Sodom, where Abram’s nephew Lot was living. After Abram defeats the kings, the kings of Sodom and Salem come out to thank him. Read the rest of the story in Gen 14:17–24. Pay special attention to the actions of the King of Salem, Melchizedek. Salem is where Jerusalem was eventually built.

How does Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham (Gen 14:17–24) relate to God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 15?

God has a plan. The story of Abraham and Melchizedek in Gen 14–15 provides the backdrop for the Christ to come, according to the author of Hebrews. What is God doing today that may provide a backdrop for His future plans? (Think about what the Son of God is currently doing for us.)

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

Hebrews 7–8 (ESV)

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’ ” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 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. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

WEEK 4: Without Beginning or End of Days

Pray that God reveals to you the greatness of His Son and the purpose of tithing.

Read Hebrews 7–8.

What did Abraham apportion to Melchizedek (7:2a, 4)? Should we apportion the same to Jesus?

The Hebrew word Melechi (יכלמ) means “my king” and sedeq (קדצ) means “righteous;” thus Melchizedek’s name means “my king is righteous.”  Since Melchizedek is also a priest of the Most High God, we can infer that his name should be interpreted “my king [the Most High God] is righteous.” His very namesake expresses the idea that the Most High God is king. Melchizedek was the “king of Salem;” Salem has the same consonants as the verb that means “to bring peace, wholeness, or completion” (shalam, םׁלש). In addition to these attributes, what other way is Melchizedek like the Son of God (7:3)?

What is the difference between those in the priestly office of Levi and Melchizedek (7:5–6a)? What did Melchizedek do for Abraham (7:6b)? For one person to bless another during Old Testament times they had to have a superior status. Melchizedek is superior to Abraham because he is both a priest and a king. The author of Hebrews also believed the descendents of Levi were “in the loins of Abraham” when he was blessed by Melchizedek (7:10). Thus, for the author, they too are inferior to Melchizedek and those in his priestly and kingly order (7:7–9).

Why is Jesus not part of the Levitical priesthood (7:13–14)? How did Jesus become a high priest in the likeness of Melchizedek (Heb 7:15–17; compare Psa 110:4)? Was the law about priesthood changed when Jesus became a priest (Heb 7:11–12, 18–19)?

Jesus is a better hope than the Old Testament Law (7:18–19) because He helps us personally draw near to God. He has become a priest by the power of His indestructible life and His anointing by God the Father (7:16–17). Do the finite things of this world seem to matter less to you when you reflect upon the indestructible, eternal person of Jesus?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 5: Perfect Priest Forever

Pray that God would show you the strength and power of Jesus’ priesthood.

Read Hebrews 7–8.

What is the difference between Jesus’ priesthood and the priesthood of the Levites (7:20–21)? (Hebrews 7:21b is a citation from Psa 110:4.)

Jesus’ priesthood guarantees a better covenant than that of Abraham (Gen 14–15) and Moses. How long will Jesus hold his priesthood (Heb 7:23–24)? What is Jesus able to do because of his priesthood (7:25)? A covenant is an ancient contract. The covenants between God and Abraham, God and Moses, and God the Father and Jesus all involve God promising He will do something, with the expectation that God’s people will respond a particular way. How is the covenant between God the Father and Jesus different than God’s covenants with Abraham and Moses?

What are the five ways Jesus is described in 7:26? Why were these five descriptions chosen by the author to include here? (Compare the attributes of Jesus and those of the Levitical priests listed in 7:26–28.)

Jesus can perfect us in our weaknesses. His abilities are beyond those of the weak priests of past. The Son of God has altered history. How can we join Him in bringing change to our world?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 6: The Point of Hebrews

Pray that God would show you how sending His Son is different from His other acts.

Read Hebrews 8.

This is one of the few places in the Bible where the author says, “Now hear is the point.” What is the author of Hebrews’ point (8:1–2)?

What was every high priest appointed to do (8:3)? What do the priests on earth offer, and whom do they serve (8:4–5a)? Why was Moses asked to make things for the sanctuary as he was “instructed … on the mountain” (8:5b)? (Hebrews 8:5b is a quote from Exod 25:40.)

What covenant did Moses represent (Heb 8:6a)? What covenant does Jesus’ ministry embody (8:6b)? What are the “better promises” mentioned in Heb 8:7? (See Heb 7:15–22.)

Jesus has given us a new and better covenant. How should we respond to this covenant?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 7: A New Contract

Pray that God would write His law, as enacted by Jesus, on your mind and heart.

Read Hebrews 8.

Hebrews 8:8–12 is a quotation from Jer 31:31–34. Read Jer 30–31. This prophetic oracle was originally addressed to God’s people who had been taken into slavery in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. The land and possessions of God’s people were seized, and their king was dethroned. The people then endured the pain of marching across the ancient Near East as slaves. In the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation, Jeremiah offered the prophecy in Jer 30–31. The prophecy promised God’s people redemption, and God personally declared that He will do what He originally asked of them in Deut 6:4–6. God will be the primary actor in this “new covenant.” He is the issuer and signer of this new contract.

What is the difference between the “new covenant” and the “old covenant”? (Compare Jer 31:31–34 with Deut 6:4–6, looking for specific examples. Think of these examples in terms of Jesus.) How does God begin His “new covenant,” according to the author of Hebrews?

How is the old covenant “obsolete” (Heb 8:13)? If the old covenant is “obsolete,” should we still read the old covenant laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? Has the old covenant been completely set aside, or has the arrival of Jesus just seriously reworked it?

What does our contract (covenant) with God now look like?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

WEEK 8: Once and for All

Pray that God would show you the reason for Jesus’ sacrifice.

Read Hebrews 7–9.

Hebrews 7–8 serves as a backdrop to the ideas in Hebrews 9. Why does the author go into such a detailed description of God’s earthly dwelling?

What is the difference between the earthly priesthood and way of worship (9:1–10), and the way that Jesus establishes (9:11–28)?

What did Jesus do “once and for all” (9:26)? Why was the Son of God offered to God the Father as a sacrifice (9:27–28)?

What is the significance of Jesus being both the priest and the sacrifice? How does Jesus’ role as priest and sacrifice in God’s miraculous story of redemption change our position with God?

Continue to reflect and pray through these questions throughout your week.

With an ordinary priest, our sins would be forgiven, but the change would only be temporal, since we would inevitably sin again. With the Son of God as our priest and sacrifice, we are eternally forgiven. With Jesus, we can reach the heavens and as members of His new covenant bring a little heaven to earth. May you see Jesus transform your life and the lives of those around you.  May you take hope in the fact that your situation, as dire as it may be, is only temporal. Life in Jesus is eternal.

Want more out of your study of the book of Hebrews? Find the resources you need at Logos.com/Hebrews.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Each issue of Bible Study Magazine provides tools and methods for Bible study as well as insights from people like John Piper, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Kay Arthur, Randy Alcorn, John MacArthur, Barry Black, and more. More information is available at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com. Originally published in print: Copyright Bible Study Magazine (July–Aug 2009): pgs. 28–31.

Publication date: May 12, 2011