God speaks to us today through Jesus, so we need to hear His Son. God provides salvation through Jesus, so we need to obey Him. Jesus is the great first-and-last high priest of Christians, so we need to serve diligently under Him. The way of the Christ through His new covenant is superior to everything before and after it, so we need to stick with it. These great truths all are set forth clearly in the Book of Hebrews, an epistle that over and over again points to the supremacy of the new covenant arrangement.
For this study, we are jumping into Hebrews 7:14, where it is written, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” Before we examine this verse, we need to take a look at the context in which this statement appears.
The Context – We can see a contrast, a conclusion, and a consequence. Verses one to ten of this chapter show the Christ as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. The contrast is between the Melchizedek-style priesthood and the Levitical priesthood (priests from the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron). The conclusion is spelled out: “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law” (7:12). That is, since by God’s decree the priesthood was changed, it follows that there must be a different law, too (a new priesthood means a new law). What about the consequence of that change? Does it mean that God altered or adjusted the Law of Moses? No, what He did was make a change in terms of which law was in effect. Since that change took place, the old law is no longer binding, no longer in force, no longer the standard by which men and women are to serve Jehovah. The High Priest over the house of God (10:21) no longer comes from the tribe of Levi (7:13). Now, let us go back to verse 14, which we quoted above.
“It is evident” – This matter is one that is “openly evident, known to all, manifest” [Thayer, word no. 4271]. This is not a topic that is hidden in symbols or is so complex that we are not able to ascertain its meaning. It is a clear message, and this is the point: we are now under a new law, so let’s get on with it!
“Our Lord” – Peter’s message to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost was that the Father made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). “Lord” means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord” [Thayer, word no. 2962]. Jesus is “the Lord” (John 21:7), the “one Lord” (Ephesians 4:5) to whom all Christians are to submit in all things. Notice also the personal element – He is “our” Lord. Like Thomas, each of us can refer to the Messiah as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28; emphasis mine, rdc).
“Arose from Judah” – In the Old Testament,“Judah” was first used as the name of a person (Jacob’s fourth son). Later “Judah” referred to a tribe (the descendants of Judah), then a land territory, and finally the Southern Kingdom was called by that same name. Whereas under the Law of Moses the priests in Israel were required to come from the tribe of Levi, our high priest is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5; Genesis 49:10).
“Moses spoke” – He was a prophet of God to the Israelites. He was the mediator between them and God. When Moses spoke to Israel, he was speaking on behalf of Jehovah. Thus, his message was not human, but divine, and one that had the authority and endorsement of heaven behind it. God did, indeed, speak through Moses, and those who chose to rebel against Moses’ message, were, in fact, rebelling against God Himself. That is how God’s chain of authority works. But, look further.
“Moses spoke nothing” about priests coming from the tribe of Judah – What did the Lord God say about the priesthood under the old covenant system? His designation was that the priests were to come from the tribe of Levi (Deuteronomy 18:1). There was no message from God about anyone from the tribe of Judah being a priest God. Thus, we could say that God was silent about a Judahite being a priest. What did God’s silence indicate concerning that matter? His silence meant that no one from the tribe of Judah was allowed to be priest under the Law of Moses. God did not have to say directly, “No man from the tribe of Judah, no man from the tribe of Reuben . . . may serve as priest.” All of the Israelites understood this point: the fact that God “spoke nothing” about Judahites serving as priests meant that they were not authorized by Him to do so and thus, were not allowed to serve as such. God’s silence forbid a man from Judah being a priest under the arrangement of the old covenant.
Consider some modern application of this principle. In the New Testament, God “spoke nothing” about a human serving as “the Pope” of the church. Again, under the new covenant God “spoke nothing” about the church financing entertainment activities. What about using mechanical instruments of music when singing praises to the Lord? Our God “spoke nothing” in the New Testament about that, either. Just as the fact that God “spoke nothing” about a man from the tribe of Judah meant that no Judahite was authorized to serve as a priest, so God’s silence on the above-noted matters shows that they are unauthorized, too. Each of the items listed came from men, not God.
May the Lord bless you as you search the Scriptures and strive to apply them in your life.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.