During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:7-14
Welcome to the book of Hebrews. I floated right by Titus and Philemon without any water-related passages that I could find. The book of Hebrews is apparently a letter to Jewish believers. The author and recipients of the letter are not so clear. It does seem there is general agreement that the author was not Paul, but some other learned early follower of Christ and the recipients were Jewish followers of Christ that were having difficulty accepting some parts of the new teachings.
The author is teaching about obedience and submission, and using Christ and His willingness to sacrifice and submit as an example. Jesus’ tears, fervent prayers. and petitions are part of the reason He was heard by God. Of course Jesus had a hotline to God being the Son of God and all, but in a mysterious metamorphosis He was fully God and fully man at the same time. In the act of Jesus dying on a cross he became “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”. Jesus made it clear to all those with ears to hear that He was the Living Water that we all need to live.
Then comes this a statement which has puzzled me every time I float past it reading the bible, apparently Jesus “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek”. As far as I can tell this was an appeal to the Jews who were not willing to allow Jesus as their “high priest” unless he fit into the priestly order, which had historically only been descendants of Levi, Abraham’s great-grandson. This would seem to be a clear mixing of the “old treasures” with the new. The author seems to acknowledge that this “priesthood” of Melchizedek reference is confusing “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.”
I am not sure what is meant by they are “no longer trying to understand”. The image it conjures in my mind is someone putting their hands over their ears and making noise so that they do not have to hear something objectionable that someone is saying to them. The Hebrews seem to be making a conscience decision to reject parts of the new song being shared with them about Jesus. It sounds like the author is likening them to a young child refusing to eat their dinner “You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
So these young and confused followers are rejecting the hard and challenging teachings in favor of the easy to digest parts. They are not alone in their selective submission. I think we are all guilty of reserving certain behaviors and beliefs from our old selves. We need to learn to eat the “foods” that are good for us, and I am not talking about peas, spinach, or Brussels sprouts. The “foods” we need to learn how to digest and consume are the hard truths of the Gospel. God wants to shape us into new beings by teaching us to eat spiritual “food” that will help us to grow and be strong and courageous on our journey home to the undiscovered country.
Prayer: God help us to learn how to grow strong in our faith through the consumption of the spiritual truths you need us to hear, even if we find them hard to swallow sometimes.