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Hebrews 5





At the end of the previous chapter, the writer made what would have been a startling statement to those first century believers who had come out of Judaism.  The writer stated that Jesus was better than the High Priest.  In Jewish thought, the High Priest held the highest office and was the epitome of the Levitical system.  It would have been most difficult for anyone with a strong Jewish background to think of anyone more important than the High Priest.  But Jesus is better.

The topic of the High Priest is continued in the chapter before us today.  As we get started we will find the author making the claim that Jesus is better than Aaron.  We have already read where Jesus is better than Moses.  Now we encounter the truth of Jesus’ supremacy over Aaron.

We are reminded that the High Priest was chosen from among men.  His original and primary responsibility would have been to represent the people before God.  The Old Testament prophet’s responsibility was to represent God before the people.  But the High Priest was to take the people before God.

In verse 1, we read where he was responsible for offering gifts and sacrifices.  The concept of “gifts” is a reference to the peace offerings that were given as a means of holding back the wrath of God and allowing sinful humanity to approach Him.  The “sacrifices” is a reference to the sin and guilt offerings which would have been characterized by the shedding of blood.

In verse 2 we read why the High Priest could be effective.  Because he was a man, he could have understanding of other men (people) and their tendency toward ignorance and waywardness.  After all, he would have struggled with the same issues.  Because of that, the gifts and sacrifices he offered were not just for the people of Israel.  They were for him as well.

This was such an important responsibility that God chose the first High Priest and developed a system of selecting the High Priests to come.  As verse 4 reminds us, Aaron was selected first.  After that, Eleazar, Aaron’s son was made the High Priest.  From that point, the selection was to be made from a direct hereditary succession from Aaron.  And that actually was followed pretty well for a long time.

By the time you get to the New Testament, however, things had changed.  The Roman Caesar and/or his local proconsul had started selecting the High Priest.  That in turn made the position more political than spiritual which created part of the mess that Jesus walked into.  Once the Roman government started doing that, they did it at will.  This was opposed to the Old Testament system that allowed for the role of the High Priest to be a life-long responsibility.

In verse 5, we see where Jesus who is our Great High Priest did not select Himself for that position.  But instead God made that decision.  The heredity issue was resolved in the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.  And in verse 7, there is the appointment to the office of Great High Priest like Melchizedek.  The writer of Hebrews will have much more to say about the mysterious Melchizedek in the pages to come.

Because I am now out of space, I need to jump to verse 9 where we read that Jesus “was made perfect”.  We have to be most careful here.  We should not read into that that Jesus was not perfect beforehand.  He was always and will always be perfect.  The concept of perfection here refers to the fact that Jesus perfectly completed His goal or task.  Finally His temptations and His sufferings even to the point of His sacrificial death makes Him the perfect Great High Priest.

Hebrews chapter 4






FYI, These devotionals that we have been using have been from Bro Joe several years ago.  Lots of things going on up here, but I wanted to update you on why things have not been as consistent. 

With my eye surgery two weeks, I am still struggling to read and be able to write.  Josh has been carrying things in a variety of areas, and he is worn out.  I enjoy writing these, but some days and weeks are just busier than normal.   --- Jeremy

As this chapter opens and flows through the beginning of verse 11, the concept of rest is obviously important to what is being taught here.  But as you are reading through these verses it can get a little confusing.

One of the reasons it is confusing is the majority of us are not a Jewish audience.  And not one of us happens to be a first-century Jewish audience.  So, we don’t have a lot of the experience, knowledge, or history that the original audience of this letter would have had.  That’s not our fault.  It is just a truth.

So, as we are working through these first eleven verses and trying to discern what God wants us to know, it is important that we consider the fact that there are three different kinds or rest alluded to in this chapter.  There is a historical rest which refers to what the nation of Israel was supposed to have when they entered the Promised Land.  There is a present rest which is what all believers should be experiencing.  As Christ-followers we no longer are at enmity with God.  So we should be experiencing rest from that conflict and in our new relationship with Him.  The third kind or rest is future rest which is what Christ-followers will ultimately experience in heaven. 

So when we get to verse 6 and encounter the notion of people not being able to enter rest because of their disobedience, we have to ask which rest is being spoken of.  Since it mentions those who “formerly” heard the Gospel, we must assume this is a reference to those in the wilderness.  Verse 8 supports this. 

The point I’m trying to make here (and I am afraid I am not doing a very good job of it) is this.  This chapter is not teaching that we can lose our salvation or the promise of eternal rest.  Our disobedience or lack of faith on this earth can and does have consequences.  But once we are part of the great, forever family of God, we are always a part of that family. 

And thankfully verse 7 allows for additional opportunities for more people to become a part of the forever family of God.  For those who have heard and rejected in the past, “today” is still available as a time to hear and believe.

In verse 12, we encounter a great truth about the nature of God’s Word.  It has the power to separate us into our most minute and intimate parts.  This explains why no one can be hidden from God but instead, all are exposed to His omniscient sight.  And all will give an account to Him as the Omnipotent Judge.

The chapter ends with the truth that Jesus is our Great High Priest.  Because He was tempted in every way that we are, He is able to help us with our every temptation.  Because He cares for us, we can confidently come to Him and receive mercy and grace.  Mercy is not receiving what we deserve.  Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.  By the way, we desperately need both.

Indeed, verse 16 says we can boldly approach the throne.  This would have been a mind-boggling thing to those who had grown up Jewish.  In the Jewish religion, the only one who could approach the physical place of God’s presence (the Holy of Holies in the Temple) was the high priest.  And he could only enter that most holy of places one time a year on Yom Kippur to make intercession for the Jewish people.

But Jesus has torn open the veil and has opened up a direct path to God.  As Christ-followers we can continuously access God.  And the whole time, Jesus, our Great High Priest, is making continuous intercession for each of us.


Posted by Joe Ligon with

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