A Priest to Represent You

High_Priest_Offering_Sacrifice_of_a_GoatWhat would a job description for high priest in Israel have looked like? Hebrews 5:1-4 tells you.

Your High Priest represents you. He offers sacrifices for sins. Hebrews discusses the requirements for high priests generally. They had to be able to deal gently with sinners. They also had to be appointed by God. Your priest is human, selected from among men in order to represent them. An angel couldn’t be the redeemer. You need a priest because of sin. Christ represents you, as the Old Testament priest did the people of Israel, in matters for which you are responsible to God. His work is that of making offerings, specifically to remove sin. His work as priest involves Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. The priest draws you to God. His work can be contrasted with the prophet, who brings God’s Word to you. “The priest does not merely send, but actually brings men near to God. . . . [He] brings men to God representatively, through himself. . . . [A] contact with God on his part at once involves also a contact with God for them. . . . [He] draws the believers after himself, so that they come where he is.” Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 94,95.

Your Priest is able to deal gently with you. He is gentle with the ignorant. This is not merely feeling compassionate, but gently tending, as a shepherd does his sheep. The erring are wandering through ignorance. The priest must have this attitude if he is going to represent the people before God. Moses did, Numbers 12:3. The priest is subject to the infirmities and weaknesses that his people are: Joshua, Zechariah 3:1-5; and Aaron, Exodus 32:24. The priests, all except Christ, had to offer sacrifices for their own sins. Yet their experience of sin helped them to understand and represent their people. Hebrews has in view the offerings on the Day of Atonement, which helped to increase the awareness that sin separated even the priest from the holy God. In contrast, Christ, though truly human, was sinless, and had no need to offer a sacrifice for himself, Hebrews 4:15; 7:27. Jesus understands your struggle with sin.

But how did you get to be a high priest? Your Priest is called by God. A priest cannot appoint himself to office. The men who held that office were ordained by God. God set up the priesthood, Exodus 28:1. No other priesthood can be legitimate, see Numbers 16-17. After Christ came there is no other high priest, and every believer is a priest. The Reformation emphasized the uniqueness of Christ as High Priest, and flowing out of that, the priesthood of all believers. Even the exceptional non-Levites who functioned in a priestly role, were set apart to that work specifically by God, 1 Samuel 3.

This Priest was ordained by God himself. Aaron was set apart by God for his work as priest, Exodus 28:1. He began the line of legitimate priests. Hebrews will contrast this legitimate and glorious line with someone even more glorious. What of your great High Priest, Jesus Christ? Hebrews reminds you that he was not of Aaron’s line, Hebrews 7:14. Yet he was a priest, as we’ll see, after the order of Melchizedek, Hebrews 5:6ff.

You need a priest because your sin comes between you and God. You need a priest who knows your weakness, who can deal gently with you, not by ignoring your sin, but by providing exactly the remedy you need–a perfect sacrifice. Christ meets all of the qualifications. He is the perfect High Priest you need.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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