Hebrews 7:18-22 Weaning off self-reliance towards Spirit-dependence
The age of self-reliance is foregone and the age of the Spirit is come. God has built into the people through the Levitical system the virtue of personal responsibility and the fear of God. Even though the Levitical system is not able to prevent the decay of Israelite society, God must wait for them to grow out of their self-reliant attitude to complete dependence on Christ. Without crossing the chasm of self-reliance to total dependence on Christ, there can be no breakthrough or enduring blessing. Today’s passage teaches us the importance of changing our mindset to depend on Christ who alone will bring us breakthrough.
18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
The former commandment, which refers to the old system of Levitical priesthood with the law of animal sacrifices; it is not meant to bridge the chasm between God and men or break the bondage of sin and curses. However, it is useful in keeping the people looking to God in hopes towards a better day: there is a bringing in of a better hope. Under the Levitical system, the people come to the temple periodically to offer sacrifices and be taught the principles of holy living. Because the sacrifices as stipulated in the Law cannot fulfill God’s requirement for the forgiveness of sins (for the Law made nothing perfect), the former commandment (Levitical priesthood and sacrificial law), which is ineffective (weakness and uselessness) must be set aside to make way for a better system. However, it is important to note that the purpose of the former commandment is not to forgive sins, but to equip the people for holy living and to prepare them to receive Christ as the Lord (draw near to God). Nevertheless, the parts of Moses’ Law that teaches a holy lifestyle are still relevant today.
20 And inasmuch as it was not without an oath 21 (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”); 22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
The role of Levitical priests is to teach and equip the people for holy living, but not to bridge the chasm between God and men. Hence, they were installed without the promise (without an oath) of reconciling men to God. However, God made an oath through the words of the psalmist, that Jesus’ priesthood (in the order of Melchizedek) will bring salvation to men.
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalm 110:4
Through this oath, God guarantees that all who acknowledge Jesus as Lord by obeying Him, and trusting Him to save will be blessed: The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You (Christ) are a priest forever”. The psalm shows that God’s oath concerning Christ’s priesthood for blessedness is eternal, final and unchangeable. The author also makes a distinction between the old covenant and the better covenant (new covenant). Although both the old and new covenant promise blessing if people would repent and obey God’s laws, the new covenant promises forgiveness of sins that will regenerate their hearts. Without the regeneration of hearts by the priestly ministry of Christ, no men can exercise faith and patience to obtain Abraham’s blessing and salvation.
We must place our trust in God because men and physical resources cannot bring the breakthrough which only Christ can. In order to obtain the blessing like Abraham did, we must trust in God and not in what others can do for us or what we can do for ourselves. The former commandment of Moses’ Law could not prosper or prevent the decay of the Israelite society. We must not place our security in visible resources or human wisdom but in walking in God’s truth. Human effort can be useful so long as our plans align with God’s wisdom and ways.
People go out of their way to amass wealth and to make a better life; they depend on tried and tested methods; they go after their heart’s desires having no regard to what God has to say. Businessmen relegated themselves to prayers that turn stones into bread in order to outrun their competitors; they underrate the worth of their employee’s work in order to maximize their profits. Ministers “sell and package” the gospel in a bid to shore up membership; they make their services hip and entertaining; they try to differentiate themselves to attract their target group. Such may see some successes in the short run, but they will not see the unprecedented favor of God or an enduring legacy. They will be predominantly occupied with fulfilling their desires and with making profits.
Those who trust in God will depend on Him for instructions; they will be steadfast in walking in the truth. They are just and righteous in all their ways, showing mercy and humility to their employees and to the community. God’s favor is upon them filling their workforce with gifted and righteous people. God sustains their vision by infusing them with faith until they see breakthrough.
The former commandment is based on the human system of Levitical priesthood. The teachings of the law and animal sacrifices alone cannot bring the full blessing of God. There is necessity that a priest who originates from heaven must arise. The heavenly blessing must be mediated by a heavenly priest, which is Christ.
Therefore, even as men do their due diligence in their daily endeavors, there remains the necessity for a heavenly priest, which is Christ. Without the blessing of Christ, our efforts will only produce results that are mediocre and short-lived. Trusting God involves understanding God’s will and obeying Him. It involves having the right motive in loving God and being a blessing to others, and doing what we can while depending on God to do the rest.
Because God has sworn that Christ is the priest, faith comes from hearing the words of Christ. It is true that God provides interim measures for our problems while waiting for the breakthrough. However, believers are never free of our problems until they put their complete trust in Christ by hearing his words and obeying them. Why? Because God has sworn that Christ is the high priest of salvation that puts an end to every unsolvable problems in our life.
We have all heard that there is no cure for HIV. Hence, treatment involves a basket of drugs that keep the HIV viruses at low levels while protecting the body’s immune system. By using these treatments, many HIV patients lived for many years albeit general weakness of the body. However, in our healing crusades, we see many cases of HIV sufferers being relieved of their HIV symptoms in the name of Jesus. The pains at multiple parts of the body and general body weakness disappear. Even after several months, their conditions continue to improve.
Many churchgoers understood the teachings of the word and they attend church worship services regularly as any Christian would. However, they have never put their complete trust in Christ; there is unbelief in them. They have no hunger for the things of the Spirit and their worship for God is at best ceremonial; they do not obey what the Spirit has told them. Hence, the viruses of curse over their life have not been broken. God in His mercy sustains them, but they are not yet free to live life to the full.
Therefore, believers must hear the words of Christ by reading the Word daily and by receiving instructions from Him. Paul says,
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
By depending on the Spirit to empower, we can do things we have not done before. By depending on Christ, we can make strategic decisions that will secure our prosperity in the longer term.
Although self-reliance is a virtue, we must learn to grow out of it to depend on the Spirit. Many believers even though they understand the saving grace of Christ, they continue to live their lives outside the grace of God. Apart from asking God to bless them, they could not understand how to work with their strength and at the same time depend on God. Hence, they carry the full load of their burdens hoping for a heavenly intervention. The Levitical system emphasizes personal responsibility and diligence in obeying God’s laws but without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the people were left alone to face the clutches of their enemies and the bondage of sin. Because of the sufferings of previous generations, it causes much reservation and unbelief among the present generation. For the people in Moses’ generation, their mindset towards self-reliance is not wrong for their era. However, crossing over from self-reliance to Spirit-dependence became too much of a hurdle for them. Believers must learn to release the sufferings and disappointments of previous generations and embrace the grace and breakthrough of the present. Today, believers are no longer alone as opposed to previous generations; the wisdom and power of the indwelling Spirit is now and forever present with us.
Are you accustomed to looking at your circumstances and letting them dictate your course of action? Or do you depend on the daily instructions of God and the energizing of the Spirit to go about your daily endeavors? Faith involves hearing the words of Christ and obeying them.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the different phases of growth that you have brought me through. Help me to depend more on you as I yield myself to your Spirit. I believe that my future will grow brighter and brighter. And I will experience more of your grace as I learn to obey your every instruction trusting you to bless and to prosper. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.