Genesis 14 – Melchizedek the first priest

 

Meeting_of_abraham_and_melchizadek
Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek – by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–1467

‘Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

Creator of heaven and earth.

And praise be to God Most High,

Who delivered your enemies into your hand”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.’ (Genesis 14:18-20).

We are told Melchizedek was king of Salem and also a priest.  Melchizedek is the first priest to be mentioned in the Bible. He is called priest of El-Elyon, El-Elyon is one of the titles for God that is used by Abram and the patriarchs.  Melchizedek is a priest before the Levitical priesthood was set up. We see Melchizedek bless Abram which is the first blessing since the promises made in 12:1-3 (that Abram would be a great nation and that God will bless those who bless him, ie Melchizedek).  The reason I wanted to focus on Melchizedek here is that he is a very important figure in Hebrews. Hebrews says:

[Jesus] was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 5:10)

and then goes on (in Heb 7) to use these verses from Genesis to show that Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood because Abram gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20).  

‘Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him’ (Heb 7:9-10).

So the priesthood of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical one because in essence Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek. What is more, Hebrews says,

It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior (Heb 7:7).

So because Melchizedek blessed Abram that shows him to be superior to him and therefore his offspring.  This Genesis passage is part of the foundation of why we hold Jesus to be our High Priest even though he was not from the Levitical line and therefore could not be a priest under the law. Jesus is a superior High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

1Samuel 1 – First words

download

A lecturer once told me that within Hebrew story writing the first words of a character are meant to give a clue about that person and how they will turn out.  It is meant to give an insight into their personality or something about them.  Upon asking another lecturer if this was the case they were quite dismissive!   I thought we would explore this a little in the opening chapter of 1 Samuel by looking at the first words of a few characters:

The first is Hannah’s husband:

‘Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping?  Why don’t you eat?  Why are you downhearted?  Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1Samuel 1:8).

First of all his first words are introduced by him being called ‘Her husband’ which in itself tells us something about his character not be very important in the story.  He certainly doesn’t come across very well, he doesn’t understand his wife’s pain and what the situation means to her.

Hannah:

‘And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1Samuel 1:11).

We see Hannah’s first words are very serious, she makes a vow to God, and pleads with God to give her a son who she will give back to the Lord.  Serious heartfelt words, but like Elkanah she is not really a major character after the first few chapters so this doesn’t tell us too much.

Eli:

‘and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk?  Put away your wine.”’ (1Samuel 1:12).

This one might be a little more revealing.  Eli misreads the situation and thinks Hannah is drunk.  What is interesting here is that his first words are to condemn the innocent Hannah whereas in fact as we find out he is unable to keep his own sons bad behaviour in check.

Samuel:

 ‘The the Lord called Samuel.  Samuel answered, “Here I am.” (1Samuel 3:4).

This certainly fits with Samuel’s character.  Samuel’s first words show him to be ready and listening, a servant of the Lord.

So can we conclude that there is something in the first words of a character?  Hmm for me the idea needs more exploring but I certainly think it merits looking into a bit more.  I will try to come back to this in another blog later on.  The useful point is that if the first words are meant to be revealing (something we can check with the main characters throughout the story) then we might learn something more about the minor characters who only appear briefly and speak very little because the writer might be telling us more then we might initially think.

 

Job 9 – The Problem and Solution According to Job

crosses1

‘But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?’ (9:1) the answer is we cannot.  Job goes on to talk of God’s power but the part I want to focus on comes at the end of chapter 9:

‘He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.  If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more.  Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.’ (Job 9:32-35).

Here with have a common image of God as a judge and heaven as a court.  Another name for the devil, is ‘the accuser’ which fits into this image.  Job is lamenting that there is no advocate to speak for him and that he cannot speak for himself because he is not righteous and because God is so great.  This means that there is a breakdown in the relationship between God and man. Job states quite clearly what is needed: a mediator and someone to take ‘God’s rod’ away so that Job might have his relationship with God restored.  Job is, in fact, crying out for Jesus.

‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus’ (1Tim 2:5).   

‘We have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’ (1John 1:21).

‘He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed’ (1Peter 2:24).

‘This is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1John 4:10).

Job sees the problem and the solution, we can rejoice because we have Jesus as our mediator and because of His death and resurrection we are judged righteous.   What is the benefit of all this? It means that we can speak to God and therefore our relationship with him is restored! This is what Job is longing for and this is what God has given us, His only Son so that we might have a restored relationship with Him.  This is what we celebrate at Easter.

Psalm 1 – We are formed by what we love

tree-waters

The Psalm begins promising happiness to the person devoted to God.  The characteristics of such a person are described negatively as the avoidance of bad companions.  We see the psalmist outline the progressive levels of collusion with the wicked. The first and least offensive is walking or to follow the advice of the wicked, then standing or taking the path that sinners tread, which means conforming to their example.  the most corrosive evil would be to sit in the scoffers assembly and participate in their mockery. The wicked scoff at the trust of the good person, who is constantly, joyfully occupied with the study and observance of God’s word. We are called to delight in the word of God and meditate on it.  

 

An individual is formed by what they love.  What delights us invades us, it becomes part of us.  The psalmist describes a person who continually (day and night) relishes the word of God, feeds on and is nourished by it.  

 

This person is compared to a tree planted beside running streams.  the imagery is of both the inward and outward. The good person is inwardly devoted to the word of God, deeply rooted in the spiritual and ethical soil that is the word of God.  Outwardly such a person is fruit-bearing like a tree.

 

Psalm 1 is not a prayer in a usual sense, the psalmist neither praises nor complains to God nor laments or rejoices in his or her situation,  the major theme is the adhesion to God’s Word in a person’s life and its importance for the attainment of happiness. This psalm is about the personal commitment to a course traced by God’s word, to live a life according to God’s will.  For a life lived in the fellowship of God and in humble obedience to him is the real way of life.

Isaiah 1 – Seven whole days not one in seven

24-7_prayer_pmj_black_on_white_XL

‘The multitude of your sacrifices what are they to me? Says the Lord.  I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats’ (1:11).

This verse immediately jumped out at me, it is talking about the gap between worship and life.  For the Israelites this was offering sacrifices without living the life that should go with this, this meant the sacrifices were meaningless to God.  We are told in verse 17 what they should be doing:

‘Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.’ (1:17)

The lives of those that follow God must act within God’s world to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth, without this our worship is meaningless.  Isaiah tells that we need to learn to do good.  Learn, seek, correct, Isaiah is telling us that action is required for worship to be authentic.  This was the role of the prophet, through prophetic words and action, to bring the people back to God to His heart for justice.  The closer we are to God’s heart the higher the priority for justice in our lives will be.  This passage reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

‘seven whole days, not one in seven’ (George Herbert).

George Herbert was talking about how as Christians we often are Christians only on a Sunday when we go to worship at church.  We must live as Christians seven days a week.  That means each of us in our spheres of influence at home, in work, with family, with friends we should be learning to do good, fighting injustice and bringing about His kingdom.  Not a Sunday Christian, but a follower of Jesus every day.

Psalm 49 – You cant pay off God

Gold bars

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life,
there is no price one can give to God for it.
8 For the ransom of life is costly,
and can never suffice,

9 that one should live on for ever
and never see the grave.
16 Do not be afraid when some become rich,
when the wealth of their houses increases.
17 For when they die they will carry nothing away;
their wealth will not go down after them.
18 Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy

There is so much powerful stuff in this Psalm.  It tells that those who are rich may be happy in their life, but when we die we can take nothing with us.  All the money in the world will not change this, we all will die, rich and poor alike.  We cannot pay God off!  So then we die and all wealth is wiped away and we come before God, what do we say?

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. (v15)

God has ransomed us through His Son Jesus, and through this ransom we will not perish but have eternal life.  Wealth will not get us there but turning to Christ and repenting of the wrongs we have done will give us the gift of eternal life.  Jesus tells us the same message when He says:

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matt 6:19-21).

How do we store up treasure in heaven?  We follow Jesus!  And when we follow we also listen, we listen to what God is calling us to do.  That might be specific to our lives, a call to a certain type of ministry or job or place.  There is also that which God calls all of us to, to bring His Kingdom on earth and to spread the good news that Jesus is the way to eternal life!

Genesis 2 – Free will and trust

Lucas_Cranach_(I)_-_Adam_and_Eve-Paradise_-_Kunsthistorisches_Museum_-_Detail_Tree_of_Knowledge

‘but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ (Genesis 2:17)

Here is a clear command from God with a consequence for breaking it.  But the question is why place the tree there at all?  One answer is that it is there because God has given humanity free will and therefore Adam and Eve must have the choice to either obey or to disobey God or else they would not have free will.  Without choice, there is no free will.

This command and the breaking of it shows us something else too, it tells us of the relationship between God and us.  For me the key is trust, we must trust in God and in what He tells us to do.  We may not always understand why God is telling us to do or not to do something, but we need to trust in Him and follow Him.  Let us say for example that Adam and Eve could see all the consequences of eating from the tree, would they still do it? No of course not.  And therein lays the key, God’s desire is to be in a relationship with us (free willed beings) and so to be fully in a relationship with God requires that we fully trust in Him.  For if we do not trust Him but rely on our own understanding then we are not in a real relationship with Him because we have not given ourselves completely, we are holding something back.

Here we have Adam and Eve trusting in their own understanding and not God’s and making a decision to disobey God, compare this with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46) where Jesus says:

‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke: 22:42).

Jesus chooses to give himself fully over to the Father and to trust in Him completely.  This is what we must aspire to do, to trust in God completely even when it is difficult, but in doing so we will move into a deep and real relationship with our heavenly Father. But be warned it will not be easy!