Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Work of the Priest (Hebrews 5:1-4)

"Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Hebrews 5:1).

Having mentioned that Jesus is our Great High Priest, the author of Hebrews now intends to develop that theme at length, so that we can have confidence in trusting Jesus to lead us through the wilderness of trial and temptation to the rest of God.

The high priest appointed in Exodus and Leviticus was taken from among men to represent them to God. He was assisted by the other priests (and after the Davidic revamping of the priesthood, by the twenty-four chief priests as well), but he was in charge of the whole operation. He represented men before God and spoke God’s words to men. He also maintained God’s house (tabernacle and temple), putting bread and wine on the table, trimming the lamps, etc. Thus, he served God as an exemplary human being.

Because of Adam’s sin, nobody was allowed to go into God’s house and perform these services, and nobody was fit to represent man before God. The Aaronic priesthood symbolized the true Melchizedekian priesthood that Jesus would perform. The sacrifices offered by the high priest can be divided into two groups: gifts and offerings for sin. The sin offerings, which reached their climax on the Day of Atonement, focused on atonement for sin. The other offerings, including the whole burnt offering and the peace offerings, focused on man’s gifts to God.

According to Leviticus 4, the sin sacrifices were offered for sins committed in “inadvertency.” This means sins committed in a state of confusion, sins of being led astray. The sin offerings did not cover for high-handed, premeditated sins; such sins required that the sinner publicly confess his sin and bring a trespass offering. Later, the author of Hebrews will take this up. For now, he says that the high priest could deal gently with those who committed sins of wandering because he himself was subject to the same kinds of weakness. Indeed, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest offered a bull for his own waywardness before offering a goat for the waywardness of the people. Jesus can deal even more gently with us because He resisted an even greater kind of temptation to sin, as we have seen.

Your pastor probably prepares himself for worship by confessing his own sins before he leads the congregation to confess theirs. We are all priests now in a sense, leading each other in worship. As a mother, a father, a teacher, a boss, an elder, do the same.