Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. Hebrews 7:4
The author now begins to explain the level of greatness of Melchizedek, something he will do for the next seven verses. The reason for this is because he will then show how the greatness of Melchizedek’s priesthood exceeded that of Aaron’s. From there, and because of the parallel between Melchizedek and Jesus, he will make the obvious conclusion that the priesthood of Jesus exceeds that of Aaron. To begin this, he relies on what has been stated so far in verses 1 through 3 and says, “Now consider how great this man was.” It should rather say, “Now consider how great this man is.” The reason is because of what it said in the previous verse, that he “…like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.” It is a state which continues.
From there, he now returns to the thought of verse 7:2 for explanation by saying, “to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.” In 7:2, he repeated the information given in Genesis 14 which stated this fact. Here, he calls Abraham, “the patriarch.” It is a term meaning, “first father.” He is the “head” or “founder” of a family, and is thus considered the greatest of that family. In the Bible, this title is given to him, the 12 sons of Israel, and to David. We can infer it also applies to Isaac and Jacob. The term comes from pater meaning father and arche meaning first or greater.
The use of the word patriarch here is purposeful. If Abraham was the greatest of the family of the Hebrews, and if he can be shown to be in a lesser position than Melchizedek, then it will imply a surpassing greatness in Melchizedek. If that can be established, then Jesus – who is the One being set in comparison to Melchizedek – will then be shown to also be in surpassing greatness to the patriarch Abraham – even though He descends from him in His humanity.
It is for this reason that the author now brings in tithing. It was a concept understood by every person in Israel. The specific guidelines, as were practiced by the people, are explained fully in Deuteronomy 14:22-29, with many other references scattered throughout the Books of Moses and elsewhere.
The people were to set aside one-tenth of everything they accumulated each year. For the first two years, they were to enjoy that tenth themselves in the Lord’s presence – eating, drinking, and rejoicing in His provision. Of the third year, it says –
“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” Deuteronomy 14:28, 29.
This tithe was then further divided (as is mentioned in Leviticus 27) and a 10th of that was given to the priests who ministered at the temple. This was the sacred portion for the Lord’s service and the best of all that was gathered.
Life application: Tithes and all offerings of the Old Testament were, like praise, from the lesser to the greater. The common people tithed to the Levites and the Levites to the priests – in ascending order. In the verses ahead, we will see a most fascinating reason why the author proclaims the greatness of Melchizedek. Yes, Abraham gave a tenth to him, but this signifies something even more interesting. How willing are you to be patient and slowly learn the word of God? Too often, people hear about a concept, such as tithing, and they run with it as a precept for the church. However, the law is a completely different dispensation than the church age. Is it appropriate to mandate this Old Testament precept? The only way to know is to learn the word first, and then apply its precepts in context. Be sure not to run ahead of sound doctrine, but keep things in their intended context!
Yes Lord! What a fun thing to look into the words of the Old Testament and then see how they point to the Person and work of Jesus. In understanding these types and patterns, we can more fully understand the surpassing greatness of the work of the Lord. Thank You that redemptive history is so carefully recorded for us to know – with all certainty – that we are following the proper path in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.