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The Sacrifice of Obedience

by August Konkel

acrifice and submission are not popular words these days. The watchwords of a self-centered pluralistic society are

rights and power. Rights are achieved through power, which means that rights are attained through conflict. Conflict is the avenue through which we pursue what we perceive to be equity in relationships. "Collective bargaining" is one of our euphemisms for the power struggle that ensues as workers pursue their demands (rights). Elected public officials face an endless stream of lobby groups seeking to marshall power for their cause. The pro-abortion lobby is a constant reminder that we are quite ready to exercise the power of taking life in order to achieve a right (called choice). This exercise of power to achieve rights leaves u s with a curious morality in our relation ships. The year 1991 in Manitoba began with a nurses' strike that left ailing heart patients needing elective surgery to die (to get rights for nurses), while nurses provided the emergency service of killing unborn children (to protect the rights of women). Sacrifice to help someone can result in the escalation of violence as you threaten someone else's struggle for power. The struggle for power is the way of the world. The world may change the appearance of power by joining it to something so noble as rights, but in the end this only makes it more sinister. Power is made to serve other values (such as keeping status or jobs as more important than children) or different ideas of equity (as quotas to ensure equal representation). The end result of this exercise of power is simply to change whom we discriminate against. Power and rights do not make things more right. Human relationships remain in conflict, which may actually intensify. Unfortunately, the apparent altruism of exercising power for rights often seduces Christians into fol lowing the ways of the world as being right. The ways of Christ are not those of this world. Instead of power, we see Christ as the one who is obedient doing the will of his father. Christ is the example of one willing to sacrifice rights, even that of his own life, in order to achieve a much

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greater righta right relationship with God and with people. Christians are called to follow his example, but with the full knowledge of the costly kind of sacrifice this kind of obedience to God may require. The call to the sacrifice of obedience after the manner of Christ is made most urgently in Hebrews. The example of the sacrificial obedience of Christ reaches a climax in Hebrews 10:5-10. Christ has fulfilled the will of God making possible a new relationship with God under the new covenant (Heb 10:11-18). The chapter concludes with the strongest warning against despising this sacrifice of obedience (Heb 10:23-31) and urges that we be willing to suffer loss if need be, even if we are ridiculed by the world (Heb 10:32-34), and that we exercise patient endurance for such sacrifice has a great reward (Heb 10:35-39). The example of the obedience of Christ with its power for establishing a right relationship is given in the terms of a profound desire to do the will of God as expressed in Psalm 40:6-8. This psalm is the starting point for our understanding of the need for obedience in our struggle in this world. It expresses the desire that must shape our lives, but it recognizes the failure that seems to characterize our lives. It is Christ who as a man fulfills that desire, and through his obedience pro vides a right to a new relationship with God and a power for the sacrifice we may need to make in the conflict of this world.

The Desire for Obedience


Psalm 40 divides into two parts, as is evident by the presence of Psalm 70 which is a repetition of verses 13-17. This has led some commentators to interpret Psalm 40 as a union of two different psalms. Briggs says there is a thanksgiving song and a prayer song, with verse 13 serving as a connecting seam. The first song expresses deliverance after patient waiting, and praise of the people with a fresh outburst of joy. Sacrifices would be offered if acceptable, but preference has been given to hearing the law as prescribed in the book roll and preaching it to the great congregation. The second song is a prayer for speedy help against enemies, that they may be ashamed by defeat while the people rejoice in Yahweh and magnify his name. Dahood finds this to be an individual song instead of a national one. First is a hymn of thanksgiving for healing from mortal illness, which is followed by a lament. It is probable that Psalm 40 was originally a unit, and that

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p a r t of it w a s later s e p a r a t e d for liturgical u s e . Weiser, Vilmar, Gunkel, a n d m a n y conservative c o m m e n t a t o r s have u n d e r stood it t h i s way. If it w a s n o t originally a unity, t h e n t h e e x p a n d e d p a r t h a s surely b e e n composed a s a c o n s c i o u s extension of t h e original p s a l m indicated by t h e significant n u m b e r of word plays t h a t occur by u s i n g t h e s a m e Hebrew roots in b o t h p a r t s of t h e p s a l m . 4 P s a l m 70 is possibly a n a d a p t a t i o n of t h e original p s a l m for specific liturgical u s e . Its m a i n distinction is t h e p r e d o m i n a n t u s e of t h e n a m e Elohim over t h a t of Yahweh. Boling h a s s h o w n t h a t t h i s is t h e r e s u l t of a s e p a r a t e poetic tradition in parallelism. The difference of t h e u s e of t h e n a m e for God in parallel lines a n d t h e s h o r t e n e d form of t h e p o e m b o t h point b o t h point to a a s e p a r a t e u s e of P s a l m 70 in w o r s h i p in w h i c h it would have h a d a distinct function a s a l a m e n t . The desire for obedience in P s a l m 4 0 w a s probably ex p r e s s e d a s p a r t of a larger liturgy of a prayer to God. This p s a l m m a y be classified a s a royal liturgy of supplication, similar in form to P s a l m 27. The diversity of form between t h e two p a r t s of t h e p s a l m is only a p p a r e n t , a s t h e formal a n d s u b s t a n t i a l c h a n g e s are merely a p a r t of t h e progression within t h e liturgy. The liturgy begins with thanksgiving a s a p r e p a r a t o r y role for t h e l a m e n t a n d prayer, t h e latter e l e m e n t s b e a r i n g t h e key function in t h e liturgy. The king e s t a b l i s h e s t h e g r o u n d of p r e c e d e n t in a p p r o p r i a t e praise by which h e will move forward to a prayer for further deliverance in a time of renewed crisis. The thanksgiving refers to a time w h e n t h e s u p p l i a n t ' s life w a s t h r e a t e n e d , possibly b y illness or military crisis. Near disaster w a s t u r n e d into stability a n d a victory h y m n which will inspire t h o s e w h o h e a r it to fear a n d t r u s t God (v. 4). It is probable t h a t t h e king participated in t h e a p p r o p r i a t e sacrifices (v. 7), b u t t h a t t h e s e alone were n o t e n o u g h . The law (Torah) of t h e king "written a b o u t me in t h e roll of t h e book" (v. 8) is t h e specific r e q u i r e m e n t t h a t h e be one a m o n g h i s b r o t h e r s subservient to t h e covenant (Deut 17:14-20). The king professes t h a t h e h a s "two e a r s " which lead h i m to obedience to t h e c o v e n a n t beyond t h a t of t h e cultic offerings (Deut 17:19). His declaration t h a t "your i n s t r u c t i o n is in t h e m i d s t of m y being" is a n acknow ledgment of t h e deeper a n d spiritual r e q u i r e m e n t s of t h e Torah of kings. The king h a s further declared t h e r i g h t e o u s n e s s of God in t h e great a s s e m b l y (w. 10-11), which might be t h e a c t u a l congregation in w o r s h i p or t h e people of t h e n a t i o n . The prayer for t h e c o n t i n u e d experience of t h e covenant faithful n e s s of God (v. 12) now forms a t r a n s i t i o n to t h e l a m e n t

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concerning the present crisis. The source of trouble is both that of external enemies (w. 13a, 14-16) and past failure (v. 13bc), the latter no doubt being the principal cause of the crisis. In spite of past failure, the lament is a statement of confidence even as the enemies are described (w. 15-16), which leads to the assurance of triumphant exultation of God that will follow victory (v. 17). The climax of the prayer is reached in the concluding verse as the king humbles himself before God who alone can give the victory. The king prays as one who carries the burden of the nation; though he has waited patiently (v. 2), there can be no undue delay in the answer to his prayer (v. 18). Viewing this psalm as a type of royal psalm helps to account for the individual and collective elements as well as the specific Torah regarding the covenant. The psalm is cast in the first person, as the king is the principal participant, but the assem bly is present (w. 10-11) and will join in the exultation (v. 17). Within the covenant context the king has a representative role, as he carries the responsibility for his people. Implicit in the psalm is a principle of representation within the kingdom of God, here represented by the nation, for the future of the kingdom as a collective entity depended on the king. Though it is attractive to view Psalm 40 as a royal liturgy, its use can scarcely be limited to that form, for it continued in use long after the monarchy. The psalm could refer to any individual who has given the thank offerings for deliverance and now places himself at the call of his master ("here I come") with the Torah ("the role of the book") which prescribes to him ("it is written for me") the right course of conduct. Such an individual finds himself in renewed crisis as a result of his sins, and so prays with humility and confidence. It is possible that the prayer (w. 14-18) was specifically separated from the rest of the psalm (Psalm 70) for use in a nonmonarchical age. Whether Psalm 40 was a prayer by a king on behalf of the nation, or by an individual in time of crisis, it expressed a desire for obedience as the true sacrifice required by God, and a prayer for deliverance because this desire is not realized. This is the true dilemma of the human situation. God requires the sacri fice of obedience in our lives, not merely the sacrifice of external liturgy.

The Power of Obedience


The need for obedience under the old covenant was ex pressed through the continual offering of sacrifices for sins

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(Heb 10:1-4). These signified not only the failure of obedince, b u t the sacrifice t h a t would be n e c e s s a r y to restore a right relationship to God. The writer to the Hebrews sees Christ a s the king w h o not only consciously entered into obedience a s expressed in the psalm, b u t gave his body a s the sacrifice required to bring cleansing from disobedience (Heb 10:5-10). Even the c a s u a l reader will notice t h a t in m a k i n g this application of Psalm 4 0 : 6 - 8 to J e s u s a significant word h a s changed. Psalm 40:6 expressed obedience in t e r m s of "ears you p r e p a r e d me," while Hebrews 10:5 s p e a k s of the "body you p r e p a r e d me." It m a y seem t h a t this is a m a n i p u l a t i o n of the text in order to m a k e it applicable to Christ. Moffatt says "The LXX mistranslation (of body) is the pivot of the a r g u m e n t . " 1 The charge t h a t this is a mistranslation m a y be d r a w n too easily. The u s e of "ears" a s a symbol for obedience is n a t u r a l in Hebrew which u s e s the word "hear" to m e a n "obey." This m e t a p h o r is not a s appropriate in the Greek language a n d m a y require i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . 1 1 The term "body" is probably a n interpretive p a r a p h r a s e , a s suggested by Bruce: "The Greek t r a n s lator evidently regarded the Hebrew wording a s in i n s t a n c e of p a r s pro toto; the 'digging' or hollowing out of the e a r s is p a r t of the total work of fashioning a h u m a n body." Moffatt acknowledges t h a t "though the LXX m i s t r a n s l a t e d the Psalm, however it did not alter its general sense." 1 Westcott says "The body is the i n s t r u m e n t for fulfilling the divine c o m m a n d , j u s t a s the ear is the i n s t r u m e n t for receiving it. God originally fashioned for m a n in his frame the organ for h e a r i n g his voice a n d by this h e plainly shewed t h a t he w a s m a d e to obey it." 1 4 The primary motif in the choice of this p a s s a g e is the t h e m e of obedience. Christ by obedience fulfills the promise of the new covenant t h a t the law will be written on our h e a r t s , t h a t we will be God's people, a n d t h a t we will all know h i m (Jer 31:33-34). The fulfillment of this covenant m a k e s possible forgiveness (Jer 31:34b), a n d a new b o l d n e s s in coming to God. As we accept the new covenant we come with t r u e h e a r t s , a full a s s u r a n c e of faith a n d a clear conscience (Heb 10:22). We hold fast this confession (Heb 10:23) not only by the words we say, b u t by the way we live (Heb 10:26). We come to God, a s did Christ, in the spirit of the Psalmist, desiring to do his will. The a u t h o r of Hebrews h a s c h o s e n a n d applied his text with great care. O.Palmer Robertson h a s d r a w n attention to the parallelism of Psalm 4 0 which brings out the t h e m e of obedience.

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Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired My ears you have digged Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required (Then I said) Behold I come (In the scroll of the book it is written of me) I delight to do your will O my God Your law is within my heart. The m e t a p h o r of "ears to h e a r " is explicitly parallel to t h e delight for doing God's will. The knowledge of t h i s will is always in t h e m i n d of t h e obedient servant. The words in p a r e n t h e s i s provide a b r o a d e r framework for appreciating t h e c o m m i t m e n t to obedience. In t h e application of t h e text in Hebrews 10:8, t h e parallel p h r a s e s have b e e n b r o u g h t together to draw o u t the lesson of obedience (sacrifice a n d offering, b u r n t offering a n d sin offering you have n e i t h e r wished nor desired). It m a y further be n o t e d t h a t all t h e t e r m s for offerings have b e e n m a d e plural to e m p h a s i z e all t h e offerings of the old order which are offered yearly (cf. w . 1-3). The Psalmist h a d learned t h a t t h e presen tation of himself in willing obedience w a s God's delight. The Messianic act of obedience c u l m i n a t e s in t h e sacrifice of offer ing Christ's own body. In the full application of t h e Psalm to Christ t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t of t h e new covenant in which the law is written o n o u r h e a r t s is t h r o u g h t h e offering of this great act of obedience. The motif of obedience in Christ fulfilling t h e covenant is not s u d d e n l y i n t r o d u c e d in Hebrews at this point. Reference to t h e qualifications of a high priest is m a d e in s u m m a r y form in Hebrews 2:17-18. The high priest m u s t be tested a s t h e b r e t h r e n to help t h o s e w h o are tempted, b u t faithful (i.e. obedient in service to God to propitiate for t h e s i n s of t h e people). This qualification is further amplified in Hebrews 4:14-5:10 where we r e a d : 1 6 ...let us hold fast our confession, for we (have) a high priest ... who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. ...let us with confidence draw near to the throne... (4:14-16). Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:8,19610). Following t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n of Christ a s high priest after t h e order of Melchizedek, on t h e b a s i s of h i s obedience, t h e a u t h o r

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c o n t i n u e s t h e t h e m e of obedience in living u p to a C h r i s t i a n profession with a s t r o n g w a r n i n g p a s s a g e (Heb 5:11-6:12). He t h e n c o n t i n u e s to develop t h e theology of God fulfilling his p r o m i s e s . C h a p t e r 7 establishes t h e valid claims of a high priest, while c h a p t e r s 8 to 10 elaborate u p o n t h e t a s k of t h e high priest J e s u s Christ. His t a s k is m a r k e d by fulfillment. C h r i s t h a s fulfilled t h e Aaronic priesthood a s well a s t h e priesthood of Melchizedek, e n d i n g t h e former a n d establishing t h e latter forever. The Old Covenant w a s i n s t i t u t e d for t h e sake of a t o n e m e n t , b u t w a s u n a b l e to t a k e away t h e c o n s c i o u s n e s s of s i n s (Heb 10:2). Christ fulfilled t h i s covenant in order to m a k e propitiation for s i n s of t h e people by offering His own body in obedience. This t e r m i n a t e d t h e validity of t h e first covenant a n d established t h e new (Heb 10:9-18). J u s t a s t h e first covenant h a d b e e n dedicated by m e a n s of blood, so also
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t h e second. Two c l a u s e s of t h e Psalm q u o t a t i o n are u s e d to describe two p h a s e s of Christ's priesthood. In order to bring a b o u t "propitiation for t h e s i n s of t h e people" (Heb 2:17), it w a s n e c e s s a r y to have t h e offering of t h e body of Christ once for all (Heb 10:10). In c o n t r a s t to material offerings is t h e offering of Christ's body ("you p r e p a r e d m e a body"). The act of material offering a s formerly practiced (Heb 10:1-4) signified t h e n e e d of s h e d d i n g of blood, b u t did not require a m a n to truly give himself to God. Christ in offering His body fulfilled t h e Aaronic priesthood in the final work of a t o n e m e n t . God, however, required not j u s t t h e blood offering, b u t t h e service of a true, g e n u i n e a n d u p r i g h t h e a r t (I S a m 15:22; Ps 40:6; Ps 50:7-15; Isa 10:10-17; J e r 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Amos 5:21-24). He re quires obedience whereby t h e will of God w a s done, dedication according to t h e priesthood of Melchizedek. A second clause, s e p a r a t e d from the first, describes t h i s p h a s e of Christ's priest hood ("then I said come, O God, to do your will'"). The offering of t h e body w a s a passive obedience accomplishing a t o n e m e n t , b u t w a s m a d e effective by t h e active obedience of doing God's will. These are precisely the p o i n t s m a d e by t h e original psalmist. He will give n o t only t h e offerings for sin, b u t himself a s a n offering in active obedience. The fulfillment to which this pointed w a s accomplished in Christ. The result of this fulfillment h a s b e e n t h a t God according to h i s gracious will h a s sanctified t h e sons, t h e believers (Heb 10:14). The Son in t h e capacity of t h e "great priest over t h e h o u s e of God" (Heb 10:21) t e a c h e s the s o n s to offer in t h e capacity of priest. They do not offer in t h e priesthood of Aaron, 8 April 1991

for final s u b s t i t u t i o n a r y offering h a s b e e n m a d e o n their behalf, a n d t h e old Covenant is obsolete. They are to offer in active obedience like Melchizedek. God is claiming their whole being, for they are called to do His will. Those w h o are sanctified now have God's law on their h e a r t a n d mind, a n d are b e n t on doing God's will. 1 9 U n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e fulfillment of t h e high priesthood in Christ is to serve a s a b a s i s for perseverance in t h e C h r i s t i a n life. A t e n d e n c y h a s b e e n to view Hebrews a s a theology i n t e r s p e r s e d with serious a d m o n i t i o n . A more correct perspec tive m a y be to see t h e a u t h o r a s delivering a n exhortation to C h r i s t i a n living b a s e d on a theology t h e r e a d e r s s h o u l d know. The way of faith is obedience to t h e will of God. The sacrifice of obedience is t h e e s s e n c e of a life lived in relationship with God. This exhortation to obedience is u r g e n t for C h r i s t i a n s of o u r time. We need to learn again its necessity a n d its cost. Christ gave h i s life in order to restore o u r relationship to God. In t h e s a m e way sacrifice will be required on o u r p a r t if we a r e to experience intimacy a n d h a r m o n y in relationships. This m u s t begin with t h o s e r e l a t i o n s h i p s closest to u s . In s p e a k i n g of p e r s o n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s t h e apostle Paul u s e d t h e example of Christ. H u s b a n d s m u s t give themselves for their wives a s Christ gave himself for h i s c h u r c h (Eph 5:25). At t h e s a m e time, we m u s t learn s u b m i s s i o n to one a n o t h e r in t h e fear of Christ (Eph 5:21) a n d apply it within o u r own s p h e r e a s is a p p r o p r i a t e , w h e t h e r it be a s wives (Eph 5:22), children (Eph 6:1), or s e r v a n t s (Eph 6:5). This will prove to be costly, b u t it will prove to be right. Power struggles in marriage, family, labor force, or elsewhere will n o t likely b r i n g equity b u t will b r i n g c o n t i n u e d conflict. Power struggles are not always avoidable, b u t t h e C h r i s t i a n m u s t r e m e m b e r t h a t it c a n be right to sacrifice your rights, especially if this m a y d e m o n s t r a t e o u r obedience to God. It is right b e c a u s e t h o s e w h o have b e e n forgiven live in active obedience to God with their whole being. It is right b e c a u s e o u r sacrifice will be o u r gain in t e r m s of t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p s we m a y preserve or gain.

Notes
1. C. Briggs, The Book ofPsalms, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914) 1:351. The seam explains that evils were suffered because of many iniquities. The evils of verse 3 are then personi fied and enlarged upon [ibid., 356). 2. Mitchell Dahood, Psalms, AB 16 (New York: Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1966), 245.

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3. H. C. Leupold, Exposition House, 1969), 3 2 2 .

of the Psalms

(Grand Rapids: Baker Book

4. "Thought" ( w . 5, 17); "too mighty too n u m b e r " (w. 5, 12) "see" (w. 3, 12); "desire, delight" ( w . 6, 8, 14); "will, be pleased" (w. 8, 13); "salvation" ( w . 10, 16). 5. R. G. Boling, " ' S y n o n y m o u s ' Parallelism in t h e Psalms," JSS 5 (1960): 248-55. In t h e 'Elohistic Psalter' t h e n a m e Elohim is t h e A-word (first line), a n d t h e r e is n o i n s t a n c e w h e r e Yahweh a s t h e B-word (second line) h a s b e e n replaced by Elohim (250). He believes b o t h t r a d i t i o n s a r e very a n c i e n t to be so firmly estab lished a n d so faithfully p e r p e t u a t e d (255). 6. J . H. E a t o n , Kingship and the Psalms, SBT, Second Series 32 (London: SCM Press, 1976), 42-44; A. R. J o h n s o n , The Cultic Prophet and Israels Psalmody (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1979), 3 9 9 - 4 1 2 . 7. Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, Word Biblical Commentary Texas: Word Books, 1983). 19 (Waco,

8. F. Delitzsch, Psalms, 2 vols. (Reprinted, G r a n d Rapids: William B. E e r d m a n s Publishing C o m p a n y , 1973), 2:39-40. 9. Craigie, Psalms, 314. Commentary on Hebrews 10. J a m e s Moffatt, A Critical and Exegetical (Edinburgh: & Clark, 1968), 134.

11. The history of t h e Greek text is n o t certain a t t h i s point. The older Greek m a n u s c r i p t s r e a d body (Sinaiaticus, Vaticanus). The later Greek versions (Aquila, S y m m a c h u s , Theodotion, a n d t h e fifth c o l u m n of Origen) r e a d e a r s . The Old Latin also r e a d s e a r s . Two h y p o t h e s e s a r e possible for this evidence. The Old Greek m a y have originally read ears, b u t either t h r o u g h textual c o r r u p t i o n or u n d e r m e s s i a n i c influence w a s c h a n g e d to read body (so Masswo Caloz, Etude sur la LXX Originienne du Psautier, Gottin gen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978, 383-4). A consideration of the textual data and the history of the Greek translation would indicate the translation was originally body. Later translations tended to be more literal, so the change to ears is expected. The reading body is clearly pre-Christian, and it is unlikely a change of the word ears to body would occur under Jewish concepts of messianism. The possibility of textual corruption is remote. A study of the methods of ancient translators makes it probable the original translation was body (see James Barr, The Typology of Literalism in Ancient Biblical Translations, Gottingen: H u b e r t a n d Co., 1979). This t r a n s l a t i o n w a s simply a d o p t e d by t h e writer to t h e Hebrews. 12. F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews E e r d m a n s Publishing Co., 1964), 2 3 2 . 13. Moffatt, Commentary on Hebrews, 138. to the Hebrews (New York: 14. Brooke F o s s Westcott, The Epistle (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.

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MacMillan a n d Company, 1892), 3 0 8 . 15. O. Palmer Robertson, "'Ears Digged'= Body Prepared' (Hebrews 10:5-10): A H e r m e n e u t i c a l Model for the Modern Exegete?" Un p u b l i s h e d Paper, C o v e n a n t Theological Seminary, 1982. 16. The t r a n s l a t i o n u s e d is t h a t of Philip H u g h e s (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, G r a n d Rapids: Wm. B. E e r d m a n s Publishing C o m p a n y , 1977). The outline of H u g h e s is excellent at this point. Christ is i n t r o d u c e d a t 4:14 a s the high priest superior to Aaron. The u n i t y of t h e section t h r o u g h 10:18 on the qualifi c a t i o n s a n d fulfillment of t h e high priesthood is well e x p o u n d e d . H u g h e s , a s m o s t c o m m e n t a t o r s , m a k e s a major b r e a k at 10:18, tending to isolate the t h e m e of the obedience of Christ from its application in the exhortation. The homiletical u n i t y of this c h a p t e r would s e e m to be significant to u n d e r s t a n d i n g the t h o u g h t s t r u c t u r e of the book, a perspective c o m m e n t a t o r s have t e n d e d to neglect. 17. The interpretation t h a t Hebrews is showing the fulfillment of the Aaronic a n d Melchizedek p r i e s t h o o d s by the u s e of Psalm 4 0 is given by Kistemaker in Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews, (Amsterdam: Wed G. Van Soest N.V., 1961), 124-5. 18. Ibid., 126-8. 19. Ibid., 129.

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