Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 5 2013 - Hebrews 7:1-14 – King of righteousness

What's in a name? For us, a name is just a convenient handle or identifier, but not all names are like that. Before the Virgin Mary's child was born, Joseph was told that he was to be given the name "Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus, the Greek form of the name Joshua, was a common enough name in those days, but this child was to bear the name not simply as a convenient handle but as a description of his calling: Joshua means the Lord saves; in this child the Lord had come to save his people.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews makes much of the fact that Jesus is made our great high priest after the order of Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means King of righteousness. This Old Testament character was king of Salem (or Jerusalem). Salem means Peace, so Melchizedek was also King of Peace. Jesus is heir to these two titles. He reigns over a kingdom which is characterised by righteousness and peace and he reigns "on the basis of the power of an indestructible life" (Hebrews 7:16). His kingdom will know no end.

I wonder what picture the word “righteousness” conjures up for you. It describes that which is right and just and true. But we know that we live in a world that is far from righteous; it is a world in which many things are wrong and there is much that invites God’s righteous judgment. And we are all too aware that this is not some disease which is confined to others; in every part of our own lives we fall short of what God created us to be. How can we have a part in the kingdom of righteousness?

The writer to the letter to the Hebrews, unlike Paul, does not speak explicitly about justification, but he has much to say about the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Jesus died for us and has been raised from the dead for us. He has conquered the power of death and is now our Great High Priest in the heavens. Trusting him, our sins are forgiven and we are declared righteous in God’s sight. These themes are wonderfully brought together in the hymn of Charitie Bancroft:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The king of glory and of grace.
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Saviour and my God!

He is our peace. He is our righteousness. He is our unchanging and unshakable hope of glory; one day, at his appearing, we – and all things – shall be put to rights.

Father God, we praise you that Jesus is both King of Righteousness and King of Peace and that in your grace and goodness you have brought us to own him as Lord and to live as subjects of the King. May our lives reflect the righteousness and peace that we see in Jesus, anticipating the day when all that is broken shall be healed and the whole of creation shall be characterised by righteousness and peace.

Peter Misselbrook