Christianity 201

August 6, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re beginning something new at C201. Each Sunday when you come here you’ll see the same title, Sunday Worship, with an article or study which revolves around some aspect of that theme, which as most of you realize, involves much more than music.

NIV Genesis 14:17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Melchizedek blesses Abram. Isn’t that the opposite of where we should be looking to consider worship? Isn’t worship about us blessing God through our worship?

I was drawn to this passage through a chapter in Rob Bell’s book, What is the Bible? I know Bell is controversial, but hear him out on this. He writes that Abraham has been promised that God is going to do a new thing through him. He begins a covenant with Abraham. Something that has not existed prior.

But then along comes “a priest of God Most High.” So there’s already a thing. An ongoing thing. A thing that’s been taking place long enough for there to be a priesthood. And even though we’re only 14 chapters in, the writer of Genesis assumes we get what that means. Long before the birth of Levi, there is already the notion of an ecclesiastic structure; within it a group that is set apart — by the designation priest — to serve in some capacity related to the sacrificial system which, in chapter 14, is just beginning. I think that’s Bell’s point.

So Melchizedek is part of that priestly class then, right?

Maybe not. Many believe that this is a theophany, a place where God himself breaks in and makes a post-Eden appearance. Perhaps even a Christophany, an Old-Testament appearance of the Son. (We’ve written on this subject a few months ago in this article.) Really, how can anyone ignore the mention of bread and wine in verse 18? So shouldn’t Abram fall on his face and worship Melchizedek? That’s what often happens in theophanies, where the term “the angel of the Lord” is used to describe the one making an appearance. Instead, Melchizedek blesses him.

So let’s instead go back to the idea that this priest is in every sense a human like us; the idea that there is a designated structure that involves a set apart, priestly class. We have a reference to him again in Psalm 110:4 and also in Hebrews. Who does he serve? What does he do?

Remember, by the time the book of Genesis is recorded, it’s a given that we know something of the meaning of the word priest. Part of the sacrificial system was to offer animals and the fruit of the land in hope of God’s blessing. But part of it was also as an act of thankfulness for blessings already received.  It meant honoring God’s place, God’s position, God’s status, God’s authority, God’s power, God’s involvement in the everyday, God’s predisposition to bless, God’s prerogative to withhold blessing. A calendar cycle would evolve which represented the intersection of God’s work and our lives.

There was a role for the priest in all of this, as overseer of that system. In facilitating that worship.

The people didn’t worship 24 hours a day. There were fields to cultivate, animals to feed and children to tend to. But where they set apart their time, they did so with the aid and direction of one set apart to lead. In other words, before the establishment of the singers, we could see the priests as worship leaders. Just not in the sense we use that term today.

But this priest “blessed Abram.” Is that backwards?

It depends how you were raised. In a Roman Catholic context, there’s nothing surprising about a priest blessing children or even blessing objects. If our modern day worship leaders are some type of parallel or equivalent, do they, in addition to facilitating God-directed worship, ever bless the assembled worshipers? Or does that tread into the murky territory of responding to God in hopes of receiving something in return; i.e. a blessing.

I want to raise the possibility then that Melchizedek is part of something larger, and something ongoing, and something that Abraham is going to be a part of, but in so doing, he is plugging into something long-established. Something that pre-dates the new thing God is doing with him. Some that has already been taking place…

…in heaven. That is to say beyond the time constraints of this earth. In eternity. We see visions of angelic worship in Revelation but that heavenly worship is, to use a common phrase today, a pre-existing condition. In other words it follows through in Revelation but it also precedes Genesis.

And the notion of being a “priest of God Most High” is an extension of what has already taken place in heaven, is already taking place in heaven, and will continue to take place in heaven: The worship of God.



September 27, 2012

Reading Leviticus With Jesus

Joe Amaral is one of Canada’s leading experts on understanding the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament. Originally self-published, his book Understanding Jesus was published by FaithWords, who have just released What Would Jesus Read, a daily devotional.  To learn more about Joe’s books and videos, visit First Century Foundations.

Our post here is actually two consecutive devotionals from the book.

Leviticus 9:22 Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.

This passage is about the beginning of the priests’ ministry and their responsibilities.  You have to remember that at this point in time, the people themselves were not able to approach God.  They couldn’t even come into the tent.  The priest did everything for the people when it came to their spiritual lives.

The priests sacrificed the animals on the people’s behalf and would make atonement for their souls.  There were many daily rituals and rites that could only be performed by the priests.  But they were also responsible for blessing the people.  They would speak God’s Word and blessing over them.  It’s a pattern that needs to be carried out today by believers.

We are all priests.  We all have the responsibility to be a blessing and to bless those around us, both in word and in deed.  As people of faith we need to be a light in a dark world.  People are verbally beaten down on a daily basis.  Be like Aaron: speak a blessing over and into people.  Live like a priest today.

Leviticus 9:23 Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.

Everybody loves to read about the glory of the Lord appearing to people.  Not just in ancient times, but still to this day.  How do we get to see His glory?  Is it when we whip ourselves into a spiritual frenzy during worship?  Is it when we pray for hours at a time?

It’s not that God can’t or won’t move during these times.  However, we seldom think of the context in which God moved in this particular passage.  It’s no secret, yet very few catch it.  Here it is… are you ready for it?  The priests had just finished performing the sacrifices as God required; then they emerged and blessed the people.  After that, that’s when the text says the glory of the Lord appeared to the people.  Did you catch it?  The priests obeyed God’s commands… and He appeared to them.

That’s the not-so-secret to seeing God’s glory.  He has called us to live a life of obedience.  When we walk in His ways, it brings glory to His name.  And in turn, He shows us His glory.  Obey Him today and release His power and glory in your life.

Joe Amaral