Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Sacrificing Priest (Hebrews 4:11-16)

"Therefore, since we have a Great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess" (Hebrews 4:14).

Does it make you nervous to think of God wielding the knife of sacrifice and cutting you apart in order to make you holy? Don’t be afraid. The Priest who wields the knife is Jesus Himself. He is the one who sees everything and who takes up the scalpel to cut away our sins.

That is the point the author of Hebrews makes next. To understand it fully, we have to think back to Leviticus 16. The Aaronic high priest on the Day of Atonement offered the fullest form of the sin offering. He took the blood and put it on the third and highest altar, the mercy seat. When blood is displayed, God’s wrath is appeased (Exodus 12:21–23). Blood is first put on the horns of the courtyard altar, and this opens the way to the altar of incense in the outer room of the tabernacle. Then blood is put on the altar of incense, which enables incense to be offered. Finally, blood is sprinkled on the highest altar in the inner room, the Holy of Holies. That altar is called the place of propitiation (appeasement), or the mercy seat.

Yet, the high priest never progressed beyond this. The blood on the mercy seat did not enable him to enter into the Holy of Holies and remain there. Rather, he had to back out and not enter again for another year. Jesus, however, was more than the high priest, and His blood was worth more than the blood of bulls and goats. Jesus is Great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron. His blood cleansed the way into the Holy of Holies permanently, enabling Him to take His seat on the throne.

Now that Jesus has made it to the throne, He turns around and offers us a hand so that we too may run our lesser race. He knows what it feels like to go under the knife of God, and now that He wields the knife, He does so with sympathy. He makes no mistakes. He makes us perfect sacrifices. We can trust Him. Under His guidance, and thanks to the sacrificing sword of His Word, we can make it through the wilderness and enter into the same rest He has entered. And when our suffering under His knife seems too intense, we can go boldly before the throne of grace and find mercy and grace to help us (Hebrews 4:16).

Have you ever been under His knife? Are you under it now? Find encouragement to persevere from Hebrews 4:11–16. Discern how this passage tells you to think and feel about your sufferings, and strive to do what it encourages you to do.