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Greater Than, Less Than

The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death. —Oscar Wilde, Salome

Because I struggled with math as a kid, happy memories from class are few. But I did love the day we played the “Greater Than” game. At first it was easy; but as the numbers grew larger, I struggled. When my teacher added letters to the numbers, I checked out.

Still, the game excited me. Finally I could apply math to everyday life. As long as I measured something numerical, the game was useful. I could use statistics to definitively argue which NBA team was the best. But when I tried to use the “Greater Than” game on categories that are subjective—like favorite musicians, presidents, or pick-up trucks—things got a bit more complicated.

Why is this important? The author of Hebrews loved to play the “Greater Than” game. A major theme of his letter is “Jesus is better than… ” But to him, this wasn’t a game; it was of utmost importance. He was acutely aware that some of his letter’s recipients had turned from the new covenant back to the old covenant. They were choosing the lesser over the greater and forfeiting the joy of their salvation.

And so he develops what I call a “downstream argument.” A downstream argument states that once you’ve established the greater thing, everything downstream from that thing is greater as well.

Our passage this week asks us to consider the greater priesthood by contrasting two men—Melchizedek and Abraham. Both men were good, but one man was greater. And when we follow the greater man downstream, we will find a most powerful truth.

So who was the greater man? Surely it was Abraham, right? That’s why he gets all the press in Sunday school.

We don’t know much about Melchizedek, but we do know that in Genesis 14:19 it says he, “blessed Abram…” And when the author of Hebrews writes about this event, he tells us, And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater (Hebrews 7:7).

Why was Mel greater? And how does this knowledge affect our understanding of Jesus?

Jesus, sometimes I choose the best thing; other times I’m pulled toward the lesser. Examine me this week. If any part of my faith is rooted in the lesser, uproot it and replant it in Your indestructible life. I want to experience the full joy of You—today! Amen.

Dive deeper into Hebrews with Pete’s video series Better: A New and Living Way!
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