Hebrews 7:20–28 (NKJV)
The author of Hebrews has spoken of a better priesthood, a better hope, and now addresses a better covenant. Jesus’ priesthood is obviously better in every way than the ministry of man or woman. He is superior in all things. This passage addresses the covenant of grace offered by Christ.
20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath 21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:
“The LORD has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”),
22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.Hebrews 7:20-22
Jesus was again considered superior to earthly priests in the fact that He became priest by an oath. Men became priests by God’s arbitrary calling of their tribe to serve. Jesus was specifically qualified and chosen due to His holiness, power, and eternity. “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ ” The passage then offers a concise statement of the result of this priesthood declaration, that Jesus has become the surety (guarantee) of a better covenant. The concept of covenant in the Old Testament was based upon the similar model of the Hittite suzerain treaty.
In the Ancient Near East, treaties between kings was common. These were treaties drawn up among equals and mostly outlined agreements to honor each other’s boundaries, to maintain trade relations, and return run-away slaves. These treaties are preserved in the Mari Tablets and in the Amarna texts. Also preserved in these collections are treaties drafted between a superior and his inferior. If the relationship was familial or friendly, the parties are referred to as “father” and “son.” If the relationship is bereft of kindness and intimacy, the parties are referred to as “lord” and “servant,” or “king” and “vassal,” or “greater king” and “lesser king.” The greater king is the suzerain and the lesser king is a prince, or a lesser lord in the service of the greater king. The lesser lord is a representative of all the common people who are under the protection of the greater king. He enforces the treaty among the masses.“Suzerain Treaties & The Covenant Documents the Bible”
Notes from lectures of Dr. Meredith Kline, presented at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts
In the context of this covenant or suzerain treaty, the Lord is the superior and mankind is the inferior. The Lord promises to save and protect mankind, and mankind is bound to serve and obey the Lord. Christ is the surety of that covenant of grace. We are offered the protection and covering of Almighty God, and Christ is the promise of that protection.
23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:23-25
Another powerful aspect of the covenant which is provided through Christ is the consistency and eternal nature of Christ’s service. Earthly priests were prevented from eternal service by their humanity, their lives eventually ending in death. Christ can save to the uttermost those who came to God through Him, since He serves and lives always to make intercession for them. Whereas a Jew could have been ministered to by any number of priests, and may have seen priests come and go, live and die, Jesus is the eternal constant, always making intercession to all men at all times.
26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.Hebrews 7:26-28
- The better covenant, provided through Christ, is complete, without flaw. The High Priest is apt and able, perfect for this covenant of grace.
- His attributes are clear: He is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate, higher than the heavens.
- His work is complete: He does not offer sacrifices for His own sins and others daily, but offered up Himself once for all.
- His qualifications are impeccable: He has been perfected forever.
- Jesus is the High Priest for the new covenant, perfect and complete. This new covenant is available to everyone everywhere, and it is thorough and full. Live in this covenant, commit yourself to Christ, and be whole! It is a better covenant.