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Limitations Of The Old Testament Priests

The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
–Psalm 110:4

What were the limitations of the Old Testament priests? First, their qualification was superficial. All you needed was the right genealogy. You had to be a descendant of Aaron, Moses’ brother who was the first of the high priests.

Second, their authority was restricted. The Levitical priests were prohibited from serving in government. They could never become king. This is why Jesus was from the tribe of Judah.

Third, their ministry was narrow. They could receive tithes and make sacrifices for Israelites only, not for Gentiles.

Fourth, their sacrifices were temporary. There were no seats in the temple because a priest’s work was never done. He had to stand and make sacrifice after sacrifice because no animal blood could remove sin.

Fifth, their time and place of service were limited. You could only serve from ages 25-50 as a priest. And to be able to offer a sacrifice, there had to be a temple. Since the temple was destroyed in AD 70, there have been no more priests. There is no place for priests to do their primary function, which is to make sacrifices.

Now compare the limitations of the Levitical priests with Melchizedek, described in Genesis 14. Melchizedek came hundreds of years before Aaron. And notice that his qualification was spiritual, not superficial. His father and mother were not listed in Scripture. His qualification was not based on his genealogy, but on his dedication to God.

Second, his authority was unlimited. Melchizedek was both a king and a priest over Jerusalem.

Third, his ministry was broad. It was not limited just to Israelites. In Hebrews 7:1, Melchizedek is called the “priest of the Most High God.” The term used for God in that verse is not Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel; instead, it’s El Elyon, the most universal name for God. Melchizedek served the God of the entire universe, not just the God of Israel.

Finally, his service was unending. Melchizedek “remains a priest perpetually” (7:3). He was not limited by age. He was a priest as long as he was alive. Also, in Genesis 14, he ministered before the temple was constructed. There was no limit to his service. These are some of the reasons it is significant that Jesus is a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4).

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “And Now For The Main Course!” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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