With these words, the Preacher would have rocked the world of those trying so hard to be true to God’s law, given by Moses. “For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” The people had to know the old system was flawed, and that’s why our hope is now in Jesus. He came to be our perfect sacrifice, acting as our high priest forever. As the Preacher concludes this thought, “But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
There’s a lot packed into this passage. The references to Melchizedek have foreshadowed Jesus, anticipating that he will be the perfect high priest who will reign forever. The righteousness, peace, and timelessness we see in Melchizedek point directly to Jesus. It is Jesus’s role as high priest that grants us access to God.
The idea of having a High Priest is a bit foreign to most of us because of what Jesus did for us. But the Preacher’s audience of Jews would have encountered a high priest regularly at festivals and animal sacrifices. A high priest was needed to cleanse their sins, up until 70 AD when animal sacrifice stopped. This reading does a good job of explaining the importance of what a high priest does for the people.
To be a high priest was a great honor given only by God. Even Jesus didn’t assume that would be his role despite fitting the criteria perfectly. It seems having the awareness of human weakness was important for the high priest. Until Jesus, even the high priests fell prey to sin and would have to cleanse themselves.
Our story continues, and we hear about what happened to Jonah after going overboard during the ferocious storm. Jonah does this in the form of a prayer. And he prays this from the belly of a fish! From the sounds of it, God’s rescue of Jonah was “just in time” using the fish to catch him and bring Jonah to safety.
Jonah prayed, and God heard him. “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me.” It didn’t matter that Jonah had turned his back on God and avoided doing what God had asked him to do. Jonah wisely realized that his only hope was in the very God he was running from. God was also faithful and did not let the rebellious Jonah die.
What was happening in Timothy’s church? Paul’s counsel about worship practices boldly addresses some specific issues. It sounds like people were not keeping their places of worship holy. In church, there is no room for anger, controversy, or flamboyancy. There are plenty of churches in existence today who need to hear Paul’s words.
Paul lays out what a place of worship should look like. He starts with the reverent attitude we need when we pray. With a pure heart, our prayers should be sincere and directed to God. Many people think that we pray our hands should be folded and heads bowed. That these hands are lifted to God means you are proclaiming before God that you have nothing to hide. Men are to be praying in church, not caught up in fighting or anger. Such behaviors distract from the goodness of God and allow Satan’s grasp within the sacred walls.
Paul urges us here. What an intense message! It’s not simply a suggestion that we pray. We are even told what to pray for. For other people. You know it’s a gift you can given another human being they may never know you gave. God is the one who matters anyway, and he will be pleased.
Paul’s urgent plea tells us how to pray as well. “Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” Everyone we encounter needs a Savior. Everyone has a secret hurt or struggle, but not everyone has taken that to God. Our need for prayer has no bounds. That’s why intercession is so powerful. We can carry those burdens for others right to the throne of God!