Genesis 14 – Melchizedek the first priest

 

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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.

Acts 8 – The Outsider and the Good News

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God tells Philip to travel along a certain road and so Philip sets off and he meets an Ethiopian eunuch in a chariot reading a piece of scripture aloud and Phillip feels that he must go and speak to this stranger, and he asks if he understands what he is reading, the guy says he doesn’t and so Philip explains the gospel message and the stranger understands and believes, he sees some water asks to be baptised, and so Philip baptised him.  We are told that they never see each other again. (Acts 8:26-end)

The Ethiopian eunuch has been in Jerusalem, he was in effect an international diplomat for the royal court of the region we call Ethiopia.  He would have been made a eunuch so that he could advise the Queen in private without any restrictions. We can see that he is a God-fearing man because he is reading the Jewish scriptures, the old testament and had been to Jerusalem to worship God.  The trouble was being a eunuch he was forbidden from taking part in the any Temple rituals (lev 21:20) and was not allowed to convert to Judaism and join the community of Israel

No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord. (Deut 23:1).

Someone who believed in God and yet was kept right on the fringe and so was worshipping God as an outsider.  We are told the Eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah chapter 53:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,

   and like a lamb silent before its shearer,

       so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

   Who can describe his generation?

       For his life is taken away from the earth.” (Acts 8:32-33, Isaiah 53:7-8)

Which we say points to Jesus.  But the really interesting thing is why the Ethiopian eunuch reading this passage.  I suspect it is a passage he has read time and time again one that he would keep coming back to.  And that’s because of what happens after Isaiah talks of this lamb being led to the slaughter. We see what eunuch is looking forward to 3 chapters later in Isaiah 56 where it says:

For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,

   who choose what pleases me

   and hold fast to my covenant—

 to them I will give within my temple and its walls

   a memorial and a name

   better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

   that will endure forever. (Isaiah 56:4-5)

Here is a time when the eunuch would not be kept on the outside when outsiders would gain the most prominent position.  This is what the Gospel message is all about, good news for the outsider, good news to those whom society rejects. And so Phillip shows the Ethiopian eunuch that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  That through Jesus’ death and resurrection those whom society rejects, those on the outside are brought into the family of God, and in God’s eyes sit right in the centre.

So Ethiopian eunuch immediately wants to be baptised, he has heard the good news, the time Isaiah look forward to has arrived, he is an outsider no longer.

 

Colossians 1 – What did Jesus look like?

question-mark-2123969_960_720‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation’

When we think of Jesus does an image appear in our minds?  If we look at art that depicts Jesus we see that He is presented in many different ways depending on where you are in the world.  If you are in Belgium Jesus looks like a Belgian, if you are in America, Jesus looks like an American, if you are in Ethiopia he looks like an Ethiopian.

This could be seen as a strength, It becomes easier to relate to Jesus if we imagine him like ourselves, it becomes easier to do mission to other places and present Jesus in different ways.

But what did Jesus actually look like?  Have you noticed that in the Gospels it doesn’t give a physical description of what Jesus looks like, in fact in the New Testament, there isn’t really a physical description of anyone, Jesus, Peter, Paul Pontius Pilate.  At the time people were less interested in recording that information.

We can make some educated guesses about Jesus’ physical appearance.  From skeletons dug up dating back to the time of Jesus, we can see that men would be about 5ft 4-6in.  Jesus would have course have had middle eastern features. He would have had a short beard. A lot of art show Jesus with long hair, but almost certainly He would have had fairly short hair.  The reason being is that there was a Jewish group called the Nazarites, who would take a vow not to cut there hair or beard and not drink any wine, and we see from the Gospels several different times that Jesus drank wine and so, therefore, would have cut his hair so as not look like the Nazirites.

But we know more about what Jesus wore then his physical appearance.  For example in Mark:

“Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes (stolai), and to have salutations in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets”

We can be pretty sure since Jesus makes a point of criticising the scribes in long robes that Jesus didn’t wear a long robe.  Long robes were a status symbol of the rich and powerful. Jesus would have worn tunic down to the knees like most normal people of the time.

Now I find this very interesting, for some it’s exciting to look at because they want to get to a more authentic Jesus for others its a bit more difficult because we have grown up seeing certain depictions of Jesus in art and in our churches, and we might have a particular image in our minds as we pray and read the bible.  

Job 9 – The Problem and Solution According to Job

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‘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.

Matthew 1 – the genealogy of Jesus

 

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Tree of Jesse

 

Over the last few years there has been a growing fascination with our genealogies.  We love to look back at our family histories, create family trees, and search out information about what our ancestors were like.  Last year people even took it to the next level, and one of the best selling Christmas presents was home DNA testing kits.  Which can tell you where in the world your family comes from.  This did cause some issues for some families when the results between family members were not what they should have been!  

Matthew opens with:

‘the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ’ (v1)

which deliberately recalls Gen 5:1:

‘This is the book of the generations of Adam’

Matthew is telling us that the story of Jesus parallels in importance the story of the very first human. Basically, the coming of Jesus is cosmically as big as the creation of humankind!

‘Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah’ (v17)

In the genealogy itself, Matthew is as good as shouting David, David, David. Matthew divides the genealogy up into three groups of 14, and in Hebrew David’s name = 14 (D = 4, v = 6, d = 4). Matthew is saying Jesus is the Davidic Messiah.

Matthew is telling us through the genealogy of Jesus that the coming of Jesus is a cosmic turning point, and that he (Matthew) sees Jesus as the royal Davidic messiah.  For more on this see ‘We have found the Messiah’.