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Do we need to follow the Mosaic Law?

Should we rest on the sabbath? Should we keep ourselves ritually clean? Should we practice an eye for an eye? Should we offer animal sacrifices? All of these were required by the Mosaic Law. Should we obey the Mosaic Law and do these things? If not, why not?

Genesis 14 contains a very brief reference to King Melchizedek. While we have very little information about Melchizedek, the information we do have helps us decide whether or not we need to obey the Mosaic Law.

Abram met Melchizedek after he defeated the alliance led by Chedorlaomer. What do the following verses tell us about Melchizedek?

Gen. 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.

Gen. 14:19 He [Melchizedek] blessed him [Abram] and said, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;

Gen. 14:20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” He [Abram] gave him [Melchizedek] a tenth of all.

First, let’s talk about his name. “Melchi” is the Hebrew word for “king”. “Zedek” is the Hebrew word for “righteousness”. Melchizedek was “king of righteousness”.

Melchizedek was the king of the city of Salem. In the Hebrew language, “Salem” means “peace”. The Hebrew word for “city” is “Jer”. If you combine “Jer” and “salem” you have “Jerusalem”, the city of peace. Melchizedek was the king of the city that eventually became known as Jerusalem.

Melchizedek was a priest of God Most High. The Hebrew term that was used is “El Elyon”; Melchizedek was a priest of El Elyon. “El” is a generic term that means “god” and can refer to any of the numerous gods that existed at that time. “Elyon” means “high”. Melchizedek was a priest, but he was not just a priest of any god, he was a priest of the God that is above all other gods.

Now let’s see what the book of Hebrews tells us about Melchizedek. Let’s start at chapter 6.

Heb. 6:20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Melchizedek was king of Salem around 2000 BC. Mosaic Law was established around 1500BC. Christ became priest in the order of Melchizedek around 30 AD.Jesus became a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. This is different than the Jewish priests. The Jewish priests were from the order of Aaron, also known as Levitical priests. Jesus did not become a Levitical priest, He became a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Why?

Heb. 7:11 ¶ Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?

Heb. 7:12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

Heb. 7:13 For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar.

Heb. 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.

Jesus could not be a Levitical priest because only descendants of the tribe of Levi could be Levitical priests and Jesus was a descendant of the tribe of Judah. In order for Jesus to be a priest, He had to be a priest in a different order, so He became a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Now let’s consider the question of whether or not we need to follow the Mosaic Law. Let’s look again at verse 12 as well as verses 18-19. Notice the changing of the law and the setting aside of a commandment.

Heb. 7:12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

Heb. 7:18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness

Heb. 7:19 (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Moses established the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai. The Mosaic Law included a priesthood known as the Levitical priesthood. When Jesus became a priest, He became a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Since the priesthood changed when Jesus became a priest, the law changed also and the Mosaic Law was set aside.

Jesus is our priest and since Jesus is not a Levitical priest, we are not required to follow the Mosaic Law. This does not mean we have no law to follow, it simply means the Mosaic Law is not part of the law we need to obey.

 

Further Reading

Which Biblical commands apply today?

Should we have a day of rest?

 

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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”