Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sermon -- Advent Vespers -- Week 2 (December 11, 2013)

PSALM 110:4

Foretold As High Priest.
In the name + of Jesus.

     The word of the Lord stands forever.  So when the Lord says something, it stands.  But here we have something even stronger than that.  The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind…. (Psalm 110:4)  The Lord has emphasized his conviction here by taking an oath.  And therefore, you have all the more confidence that this word of the Lord stands.  The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4) 
     Christ’s office is foretold here.  He is commissioned as a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek lived back in the days of Abraham. Abraham had gone into battle, pursuing the captors who had taken his nephew, Lot, as well as many others from Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities.  After (Abraham’s) return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).  And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.  (He was priest of God Most High.)  And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.  (Genesis 14:17-20)
     Melchizedek presented a feast to celebrate the victory of Abraham and his people.  Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Abraham received his blessing; for, he recognized Melchizedek as a priest of the true God.  And to honor the Lord and the Lord’s priest, Abraham presented his tithe to Melchizedek.
     Melchizedek was a priest who kind of shows up from out of nowhere.  He has no ancestry mentioned anywhere.  Nor do we hear of his descendants.  We only hear of Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God.  But as priest, he did what priests do.  He interceded for the people he served.  He made sacrifices to atone for them, and he pronounced God’s blessing.
     Now listen again to God’s promise: The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)  The Christ is foretold as a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  That means, as the write to the Hebrews says, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but … he continues as a priest forever. (Hebrews 7:3)
     But the longevity of a priest is useless unless he makes a useful sacrifice.  For centuries, a great number of priests ministered before the Lord offering up bulls, sheep, and goats.  The blood of these animals was spilled on behalf of the people.  The bulls and sheep were slain instead of the people being slain, which is what their sins deserve.
     While the sacrifices of animals taught the people that blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sins, the blood of bulls and goats was not a sufficient substitute for man.  No matter how much blood was spilled, the priests had to keep on making the sacrifices.  A better sacrifice and a better priesthood were necessary.
     Therefore, the Lord promised he would send a greater priest who would make a greater sacrifice—a sacrifice which would be sufficient for all the people, for all time.  The Lord’s Anointed would present himself as the priest who would make atonement, and as the Lamb of God which would be slain.  The Christ would serve as both victim and priest in the sacrifice made for you.  The blood of him who has neither beginning of days nor end of life was shed to atone for the sins of all mankind—from the beginning of days to the end of the world. 
     The Christ would be a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Though we know little of Melchizedek, what little we do know vividly foreshadows the priestly work of Jesus.  Melchizedek was not merely a priest, but also a king.  And not just any king, but the king of Salem.  When translated, that means “King of Peace.”  Jesus Christ has secured your peace.  He is the propitiation for your sins.  In other words, he is the sacrifice that puts an end to God’s wrath.  God’s wrath does not hang over you; for Jesus has suffered it and died under it for you.  The wrath of God has been satisfied by Jesus’ innocent blood and sacrificial death.  The power and the fear of death have been destroyed by Jesus’ resurrection.  This is your great peace—knowing that your sins are forgiven and that your own resurrection to everlasting life awaits you.  Do not doubt it.  The Lord has not only said so; he has sworn it.
     The Lord’s Anointed would be a priest in the order of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek means “King of Righteousness.”  Certainly Jesus is a righteous king.  He is the divine Sovereign who became flesh and lived a holy life.  But Jesus is not merely one who is righteous; he is the one who supplies righteousness to you.  He shed his innocent blood for you.  That innocent blood was sprinkled on you in your baptism.  You are covered in Jesus’ righteousness.  And if God sees you as righteous, he cannot be angry with you.  Instead, he sees you as his own dear child; and he tells you so.  More than that, he has sworn it.
     When Melchizedek appeared to Abraham, he brought before him a feast of bread and wine and blessed him.  And your Melchizedek does this too.  He sets before you the feast of bread and wine by which he gives you his crucified and risen body and his holy and precious blood.  These had been sacrificed for your salvation, and from this altar they are given for your salvation.  At the beginning and end of each Divine Feast, he reminds you that the Lord has put his name on you.  In this way, your Melchizedek blesses you. 
     Jesus is a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  This is much greater than any other priesthood.  For, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)  Jesus, anointed in the order of Melchizedek, reigns as king of peace and lives forever to intercede for you.  He tells you over and over again that God’s love rests upon you.  The benefits of his sacrifice—his forgiveness, his peace, and his salvation—endure as long as he does, which is forever. 
.       The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)  Jesus is your King of Peace.  He is your King of Righteousness.  Your everlasting priest bestows everlasting blessings upon you.  His word of peace stands firm.  The Lord has sworn it, and he will not change his mind.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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