From And For The People

FROM AND FOR THE PEOPLE

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sin, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honour on himself, but he receives it when called by God just as Aaron was. (Heb. 5:1-4)

What makes the difference between a high priest and the rest of the people and what gives him the right to carry the office of high priest?

He is ‘called by God’. He is set apart by divine appointment to stand between God and the people and to offer sacrifices on their behalf – sacrifices acceptable to God because He prescribed what was to be done and how it was to be done in order to forgive their sin and to bring His people near to Him.

What qualified him to be a high priest? He was chosen from among the people. That meant that he had to be one of them. He had to be human, subject to the same sins and weaknesses as they were so that he would not consider himself better or a cut above the rest. Why was this? He needed to be gentle with his fellow sinners because he walked in their shoes. He needed to approach God with his people on his heart, not as a judge but as one of them.

He was also chosen to represent the people to God. He was the go-between, standing between his sinful compatriots and a holy God to bring blood to atone for their sin. Before he could atone for the sin of anyone else, however, he had to remember that he was also guilty before God. He also need blood to cleanse him from the guilt and pollution of his own imperfections before he could represent the nation to God.

The high priestly office was ongoing because death brought an end to the ministry of one man, and the office had to be handed on to the next and to the next as each succeeding generation passed on. It was, therefore, an interrupted function. No one was able to carry on standing before God for his people indefinitely.

How frustrating for God’s people when a kindly and sympathetic high priest died and was replaced by a man who did not carry the weaknesses of his people on his heart! The people were at the mercy of those who represented then, good or bad. This office was both a blessing and a curse for them, depending on the qualities of each man who stood before God for them.

In the same way, Christ did not take on Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to Him, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ And He says in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’ (Heb. 5: 5-6)

What was the writer trying to prove? Jesus was fully qualified to take on the office and function of high priest for His people. He was one of them – born and raised as a Jew. He was appointed by God to be high priest, not of the tribe of Levi who had to pass the office on because of death. He was of the order of Melchizedek – a mysterious figure who appeared on the scene briefly during the time of Abraham. We shall learn more of him as the letter proceeds.

Why Melchizedek? He was both king of Jerusalem and priest of the Most High God, and Jesus was to be both king and high priest, both offices to be fulfilled in one man which was forbidden of the Levitical priests. Jesus was both the Son of God, making Him eligible to be a priest and a descendant of David, putting Him in line for the throne of David.

Why was this so important to these Jewish readers? As true Jews, they had to be sure that Jesus was no usurper. He had to have the qualifications laid down in God’s word to fulfil the offices of king and priest, of which Melchizedek was the forerunner. Did He qualify? Yes. Was He eligible? Yes. In every way Jesus was superior to the Leviticus priesthood, and fully qualified and competent to represent His people to God.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Luella Campbell


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