If you think about it, we all work with categories and pigeon holes. When we are learning something new or meeting a new person, we want to place that knowledge or that person within the context of what we know.
For example, when I randomly run into another person who serves as a pastor, I know that I go into pigeon hole mode – I’m asking questions about what church or denomination they are in and where they attended seminary, etc. I’m working in my mind to get them categorized into such columns as conservative/liberal, charismatic/non-Pentecostal, denominational/independent, Calvinist/Arminian, or traditional/contemporary.
The entire argument of the writer to the Hebrews about Jesus as a high priest was totally messing with the categories of this historically Jewish group of young Christians. Accepting Jesus as the king of kings, the Messiah, was one thing, and it at least made sense. His genealogy as given in Matthew and Luke affirmed his rights to this – being from the kingly tribe of Judah.
But seeing Jesus as a spiritual high priest! That was categorically earth-shaking. Those from the tribe of Levi (Levites) were priests, and the high priest had to come from the family of Aaron and be affirmed with certainly through ancestral records.
In the previous section, the writer affirmed the superiority of a priest of God named Melchizedek over the historic priesthood of Levi, as ultimately realized through the generations of Aaron’s family. Jesus did not have this pedigree; but the argument is that he had the better connection to the higher order of Melchizedek. God declared this in the 110th Psalm – clearly recognized by everyone as looking forward to the Messiah – where it says that he would be a priest like Melchizedek. The basis of this was not ancestral but rather was founded completely on the character of “an indestructible life.” The earthly Aaronic priests would come and go (as will be written about in chapter 10) and clearly had sin issues of their own … Jesus was of an entirely different categorical character.
So if a new priest and category now is in effect, and it is the final and perfect version of such, the old order and system of things has therefore now expired and is of no continual need of service. So, as this writer says, the old order is “useless,” and returning to it would be foolish. Rather, “draw near to God.”
And all of this is guaranteed by God by his own swearing of an oath that these things are true and final and forever.
Jesus Like Melchizedek
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’
22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
Because of these great truths, we have had our own categories entirely messed with. We have gone from strangers with God, to now being his family. We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light… from sinners to saints!
Thank God the categories were messed with!