The Long Game

James 1

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The letter of James has some of the most immediately practical wisdom you can find in the Bible. Some have called it the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” If you are looking for guidelines about how a Christian should live, James is a great place to start.

The only problem is that some of James’ advice is hard to take: 

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NRSV)

I don’t know about you, but when I’m going through difficult things in life, I’m not feeling joy. Isn’t joy supposed to be reserved for things that are… joyful? Isn’t joy for when people get married, or when babies are born, or when a new season of your favorite show is available to stream, or when you are going to have tacos? Yes, joy is for the good things in life.

So why does it sound like James is telling us to enjoy suffering? Is he insane?

Well, no. In order to understand what he is saying, we have to think of the long game. We’re not to be joyful because of the difficult times we are facing, but because of the growth potential they provide for us. Going through things teaches us to endure, and being able to endure makes us more mature and complete. Pressures shape us into stronger people. Recall that if you subject carbon to intense heat and pressure, you get diamonds!

Consider any elite athlete. They didn’t get where they are by accident, but through years of difficult and intense training. Do you think they truly enjoyed all of that training? Of course not, but I bet they did enjoy knowing that through their training, they were going to be the GOAT at their sport.

If you want your muscles to become stronger, you have to progressively challenge them. Likewise, when our faith is challenged, it also becomes stronger. James is asking us to take on the right attitude of joy during our times of discomfort, because we know that through those challenges, we are deepening and growing our faith.

In thinking about all these things, I’m reminded of the time Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, under unimaginable distress because he knew he would soon lose his life. Imminent death is the kind of thing that would test anyone’s faith, even Jesus. He didn’t want to go through with it any more than you’d want to drive a stake into your own eye socket. In his situation, I would have been tempted to just run away and wash my hands of the whole thing. I’d say to myself, “This whole messiah business has taken quite a turn and I just want a quiet life somewhere.” I can imagine he had that same temptation. Surely he didn’t enjoy being betrayed, put on trial, scourged, and nailed to a piece of wood to die in total humiliation.

Jesus didn’t have to do what he did, but he was thinking of the long game. Yes, he knew he would face a horrible death, but deep in his heart he had something resembling joy. Not joy because of the circumstances he was enduring, but because of what was just over the horizon. It was this joy and hope that allowed him to muster the strength to say with his dying breath, “It is finished.” He knew that his dying would mean, paradoxically, conquering over the powers of sin and death, and leading us on a mass exodus out of their clutches. He knew that his resurrection would unleash a new reign of God on the earth and again put us at one with God.

Jesus did what he did because he was thinking of us.

-Jay Laurent

A couple questions to reflect on:

1. What are some trials or difficult times that you have had to endure?

2. Can you think of any ways you grew as a result of these times?

Do Good

Hebrews 13

Saturday, October 1, 2022

I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot!  The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional.  So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week!  You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!

I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter.  Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers.  Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know.  Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.

We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so!  If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole.  That is a big responsibility!  These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet.  Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!

Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others.  We are told to do good and share with them.  Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers.  But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people.  And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it!  But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone.  We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God.  Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it!  I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.

Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word.  Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood!  That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing!  This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives.  He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!

We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us.  As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others.  In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.

Grace be with you all!

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

(originally posted for SeekGrowLove on February 17, 2018)

Application Questions

  1. Reading through Hebrews 13 which of these final instructions is most powerful to you?
  2. How will you share and do good to others this week – remembering that this is your sacrifice which pleases God.

The Secret to Not Growing Weary

Hebrews 12

Friday, September 30, 2022

One of the most powerful sections of this chapter are the opening 3 verses: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.”

The imagery of verse 1 closely resembles that of ancient stadium competitions. Imagine the crowd seated all around you, and you are competing in a race on the stadium floor. You are in the midst of a great multitude of people cheering you on as you strive to win the competition.

While the author of Hebrews likely did not have this exact thought in mind when he wrote that “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” since the word “witnesses” does not refer to spectators but rather individuals who can testify to living by faith, there is something to be said for realizing that we are not living the Christian life merely by ourselves. What the author intends for us to get from these opening verses is that we stand in continuity with the long line of ancient believers despite not ever receiving the promise of “being made perfect” (cf. 11:39-40).

If ancient believers stood firm in their faith despite enduring much affliction and opposition as the author recounted in chapter 11, then that ought to be encouraging to us that we too should stand firm in our faith. To bring his point to a climax, the author then targets the ultimate example—Jesus.

With many historical believers from whom we can draw inspiration and encouragement from, there is none more significant than the example of our Savior. We are told explicitly to “think of him” with regard to his immense suffering at the hands of sinful people and the ultimate shame of crucifixion and to realize that he willingly endured both for the sake of the “joy set out for him.”

What joy was that? What joy could be present in having to experience such awful torment and pain? Jesus’ joy was to do the will of his Father, even if that was to suffer humiliation and an excruciating death upon the cross. Perhaps it is because there is no greater example of perseverance through hardship and an unwavering resolve to live by faith than Jesus the Christ.

This seems to be the reason why the author tells the readers that they are to keep their “eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” If we understand that Jesus endured all the horrific torture and shame because he trusted in God, then we too can draw strength from him as the greatest witness (i.e., testimony) to standing strong in our faith amidst trials and adversity. Because if we focus our attention on him as the pinnacle of a life lived by faith, then we will “not grow weary in our souls and give up.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. When was the last time you felt yourself grow weary? What were you focused on at the time? What would the writer of Hebrews 12:1-3 suggest you remember and stay focused on instead? How might that help?
  2. What helped Jesus endure? How can that help us as well?

Something Better

Hebrews 11

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The opening verse of this chapter sets forth the premise of what is to follow: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (v. 1). The author will go through no less than 10 explicit individuals, and mentioning a list of several more, who exhibited faith in their life. And then the chapter concludes by saying “All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us” (vv. 39-40).

The chapter’s conclusion draws together the litany of exemplary witnesses by tying it to the faith that they share with the audience. And while the exemplars of old had not received the promise, it was by no fault of their own, but it was determined beforehand by God that in his grace, he planned for “something better” to be available to the readers that was not available in the past to all those faithful witnesses that were mentioned. And that “something better” was “to be made perfect” (v. 40).

Now, to modern readers the idea of being made perfect might not be the same as the biblical idea of being made perfect. In Hebrews, the idea of “perfection” entails the definitive forgiveness and putting away of sin, purification and consecration to God, and glorification (i.e., resurrection). And so, to be “made perfect” refers ultimately to eschatological salvation that is bestowed on the worshiper through the high priestly ministry of Christ (cf. 10:14).

But let’s think for a moment, why does the author need to go to such a great length throughout the chapter to simply demonstrate that believers prior to the new covenant did not receive what was promised? Why make the emphasis so extravagant?

One reason for the author’s inclusion of such a long description of exemplars of the faith is to celebrate those who stood with faith looking forward to the promise, but yet not receiving it in their lifetime. The testimony of all these witnesses is that “Faith holds onto the promise, even when the evidence of harsh reality impugns its integrity, because the one who promised is himself faithful” (William Lane, Hebrews [WBC], 395).

I think we have all probably dealt with times when we are holding on to faith, but it doesn’t seem like anything is happening or changing, and we didn’t actually get to see the outcome of our faith. This is what it was like for the believers in the old covenant who looked forward to the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise. But we don’t have to look forward since Messiah has already come and has begun to fulfill what God promised.

Therefore, while we have not been “made perfect” yet to the fullest extent of what God has planned for those who trust in him, in Christ we have the definitive sacrifice for sin, the cleansing of our conscience, and a taste of the powers of the age to come. Let us continue to hold fast to our faith in hope of what God has promised that is yet to come: resurrection and final victory over the power of death, so that those who stood by faith before us can also be made perfect with us in God’s coming kingdom.

-Jerry Wierwille

Questions

  1. What encouragement do you gain from reading of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11?
  2. Which heroes of the faith are you most looking forward to being with when we together receive God’s promise and reward at the resurrection and coming Kingdom? Why?

When No Sacrifice is Left

Hebrews 10

September 28, 2022

Chapter 10 contains one of the five major warning passages in Hebrews, which makes up the second half of the chapter. It is this section that we will focus on as it functions in a very unique way in this context.

Leading up to verse 26 where the warning begins, the author has now fully explained the perfect sacrifice and the forgiveness that is now possible which was not available under the old covenant. And so, as the author concludes, “where there is forgiveness of these sins, another sacrificial offering for sin is no longer required” (v. 18). This is valid so long as certain conditions are met as the author will go on to describe.

The warning passage begins: “For if we deliberately continue sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire that is about to consume the adversaries” (vv. 26-27).

For those who choose to continue willfully committing sin after coming to know the truth about Christ’s sacrifice, it says “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” What does it mean that there is “no longer” a sacrifice for sins? The author has just gone to great lengths to show the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and such an offering as Christ’s is the only one that is able to “perfect forever those who are sanctified” (v. 14).

If Christ’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice that is sufficient to take away sins forever, and since the author made it clear that the old covenant sacrifices could never “take away sins” (v. 11), then if a person disregards the cleansing and sanctification that is brought about through Christ by willfully continuing to sin, then they have no other recourse to fall back on for forgiveness. Christ’s sacrifice is the only offering that can remove the defilement of sin. Therefore, repudiating Christ and disregarding the knowledge of the truth leaves a person with nowhere else to turn. And that is why the author says that such a person only has to look forward to a “terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire.”

It is God’s will that we turn away from sin and embrace Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf so that we may be forgiven and cleansed from sin and have “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (v. 22). The means by which we can have this purification in our hearts and minds has already been provided by God through Christ.

And this is why the author warns the reader that they must not fall away and turn aside from the knowledge of the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of the chapter, in one of the final exhortations, the author asserts, “So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (vv. 35-36).

In Christ, there is forgiveness from sin now and forevermore. But outside of Christ, we have no hope and no provision for sin. If we will endure in the faith, holding onto the perfect sacrifice of Christ, then we will have done the will of God and will receive the reward of what he promised—everlasting life.

-Jerry Wierwille

Questions

What 4 things are we told to do in Hebrews 10:22-25 (“Let us…” -in NIV – do what 4 things?). Which of these 4 do you think you do most regularly already (though, still with some room for improvement)? Which one would you like to concentrate on doing better this month? How?

Who has spurred you on to love and good deeds? How did they do it?

Who has been an encouragement to you? How did they do it?

Why is Jesus Better?

Hebrews 9

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Previously, in chapter 8, the author disclosed that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and is the mediator of a better covenant that is enacted on better promises (8:6). While the author has simply made this assertion, it now remains for him to explicate how Jesus’s ministry is “superior.” And it is in chapter 9 that the author takes up this very task.

In the 1st part of the chapter, the author recounts the old covenant ministry under the Mosaic Law. There was a tabernacle and sacred items and a place where atonement was made by priests. Yet, it says that “this is a symbol for the present time…until the time of restoration” (vv. 9-10).

All the institutions of the old covenant were limited because they “cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience” (v. 9). They mandated various sacrifices and rituals which by their nature were unable to bring the worshiper the true cleansing that was the intended goal of atonement and salvation.

But, in verse 11, the author now turns to present the superior ministry of the Messiah in the new covenant. Throughout the rest of the chapter, the author goes into great detail about how Jesus as our high priest in the new covenant has accomplished everything that the former covenant and regulations could never achieve. Everything from the cleansing of the tabernacle to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice was done by Jesus, not in the earthly tabernacle, which was a copy of the heavenly reality, but in the heavenly tabernacle by offering himself as the “better sacrifice.”

Jesus’ sacrifice was “better” in at least two regards. First, the author says that Jesus did not offer a sacrifice many times as the high priest in the former covenant had to because he entered the tabernacle every year. Jesus entered the sanctuary in the presence of God only once. Second, Jesus did not offer the “blood of another” by bringing an animal sacrifice like the high priest of the previous covenant but rather offered his own blood as the sacrifice for sin.

As verses 13-14 say, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?” What the author is comparing is that if under the old covenant the animal sacrifice was sufficient to sanctify the worshiper for the purification of the flesh, then the blood of Jesus must be able to do more than that.

And this is exactly his point: Jesus’s sacrifice is able to do what the old covenant sacrifices never could, and that is to cleanse our conscience from “dead works,” which are the sinful deeds that lead to death and require forgiveness and healing. The old covenant had no power to cleanse the worshiper’s heart from their sinful deeds.

But praise be to God that through Jesus and his sacrifice our minds and hearts can be washed clean of our sin and that we may with a pure conscience “serve the living God.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. Compare the conscience of a sinner under the old covenant to your conscience under the blood of Jesus. What makes the difference?
  2. How will you use your pure conscience to serve the living God today?

The Best Covenant

Hebrews 8

Monday, September 26, 2022

In verse 6 of Hebrews chapter 8, it states that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and therefore is the mediator of a “better covenant” with “better promises.” What then follows in verses 8-12 is the longest consecutive Old Testament quotation in the New Testament. The quotation comes from a section in chapter 31 from the Prophet Jeremiah.

Now, when the author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the mediator of a “better covenant,” it doesn’t mean that the covenant is just a little bit better. It is indeed better, but how much better? Is there a way that we could quantify the degree of “betterness” that characterizes the new covenant? I don’t think so.

The new covenant is greater and better than the old covenant to such a degree that a comparison is nearly impossible. Perhaps we might say that the distance between the two covenants is like the difference between the height of the earth’s atmosphere and then the height of the universe. As glorious as the old covenant was, it was still imperfect. But, the new covenant brings the perfection that the old covenant pointed toward and prefigured in a typological way.

And with Jesus mediating a new covenant, this indicates that the old covenant is obsolete and no longer needed since the new covenant has totally eclipsed its purpose and function. Everything that the old covenant stood for and provided—the ways that it conveyed God’s law to his people, revealed the knowledge of him, and made provision for atonement for sin—has been fulfilled and superseded in the new covenant by Christ himself.

The new covenant promises which surpass anything that the old covenant offered was prophesied by Jeremiah when he wrote, “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, and the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Therefore, it might help to think about the new covenant as being the “best covenant” because there will not be another covenant. There will be no “new covenant 2.0” or the “new revised covenant.” Nothing that can improve the new covenant any further. God’s law is in the hearts and minds of his people, he instructs them in his ways, all God’s people know him, and he has forgiven their sin completely, never to remember it.

The light of the new covenant is so far greater than the light of the old covenant that the old covenant simply pales in comparison. The well-known colloquial idiom, “It doesn’t even hold a candle to it” seems apt to apply here where if we imagine the new covenant having the glory and radiance of the sun, then what source of light can compete with it. The old covenant is like the moon, when reflecting the sun, the moon provides just enough light to walk around at night and see most objects near you. But it is still dark, and the potential to stumble or trip is very real. However, the light of the new covenant is like noon day where everything is illumined, and we now walk with full vision of what is before us.

The new covenant is better in every way, and we are able to receive and experience all of these better promises it has to offer. Let us count ourselves blessed to have a Savior who mediates this superior covenant that we can enjoy.

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. What are the differences between the old covenant and the new? (You can find several differences in this chapter alone, but
  2. Why do you think the all-knowing God didn’t just start out with the best/new covenant?

A Better Hope

Hebrews 7

Sunday, September 25, 2022.

We can’t jump right into chapter 7 without revisiting the last few verses in 6.  In the end of the previous chapter we are discussing Jesus being regarded as a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  (Gesundheit!)

The beginning of chapter 7 explains who Melchizedek was for the readers and, in a way, giving Jesus some street cred.  The author clearly wants to stress the place of power and importance this King was in (vs. 4) and why it was important that Jesus came from his order.  Verse 15 and 16 explain a little more on why Jesus was to come from his order- it’s because his ancestry doesn’t exactly lead to priesthood!  Coming from a carpenter and a seemingly average woman isn’t a common start for someone so deserving of our praise and worship.  I think the author here was trying to give Jesus some more credibility for the Hebrews he was writing to.

Verse 18 and 19 has some of my favorite language in it!  “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.”  Why do we need Jesus?  Because the old law was weak, useless, and made nothing perfect!  Couldn’t be more clear than that.  With our new hope (Jesus), we are able to draw near to God and have a close personal relationship with Him.  Before Jesus, the law required sacrifice and prevented people from having that personal relationship with God that we all know and love.  After Jesus, or rather after Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, we are saved completely and always have a connection to God through Jesus’ intercession (vs. 25).  How amazing is that?

In the last few verses of chapter 7 the author again is explaining how lucky we are to have Jesus and why we should come to him!  He is not only perfect and blameless, but he also sacrificed himself once for the forgiveness of all sins (vs. 26-27).  Past, present, and future.  He took care of them all!  As someone who has grown up in the church it’s easy for me to unconsciously be aware of this fact.  I know Jesus died for all of my sins.  Big and little, from when I was born to where I am now, and where I’ll be tomorrow.  But I’m guilty of forgetting, or at least not recognizing how important that is for my life.  If I try and place myself in the shoes of the people who were reading this letter for the first time in that setting, how overwhelmed with grace and love would I be?  I no longer have to sacrifice by the old law, because there is a new oath that has been appointed by a forever-perfect Savior.  Can you imagine the relief, love, and astonishment you might have as someone hearing that for the first time?  Why is it different for us today, simply because we already know?

Today and throughout this week I encourage you to pause and consciously reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ.  Recognize his sacrifice and thank him for the relationship he allows us to have with our Heavenly Father!

-Sarah (Blanchard) Johnson

(originally posted for SeekGrowLove on February 11, 2018)

Application Questions

  1. What does it mean to you to have Jesus acting as high priest, not from the line of Levi but from the order of Melchizedek?
  2. Is Jesus the only way to draw near to God? Why?
  3. What are some things “we” in general hope for? How does Jesus offer a better hope? Who do you know who needs to know about this better hope?

Imitate Those Who Inherit the Promises

Hebrews 6

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Do you have any Christians that you look up to? Lately I’ve been learning about a pastor named Tim Keller who has really inspired me. Much of his teaching is sound, and he is a great preacher. He is also incredibly successful at bringing Jesus to new people. He has grown his church in New York City (a rather hostile environment for Christianity) and has helped plant over 700 new churches in 75 cities all over the world through a church planting organization that he founded called Redeemer City to City. This to me is exactly what Jesus wants to see his church doing. When he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he meant it, and this is what it can look like.

If you tried to take Tim Keller, or your local church’s pastor, and teach him about how to baptize, repent or pray for people, you would look silly. These guys have been around the block a time or two and they shouldn’t be relearning these basics of the faith. I think that is what is being said in Hebrews 6. It’s just inappropriate to take the first step of the faith and then keep taking it repeatedly, walking in a circle. Jesus has a mission, and once you have come to believe in him, your next steps should always be towards the fulfillment of that mission. That isn’t to say that these topics shouldn’t be taught, but rather they should be taught as a foundation for a new Christian and other beliefs should be built on top of them. However, strong condemnation is given to those who witness the works of the Holy Spirit and yet fall away from the faith. It says it is impossible to restore again to repentance. It also says that if land bears thorns and thistles then it is worthless and will be burned. Beware of people like this, who have seen the power of God and yet never take the next step, never bear fruit and don’t help further the mission of Christ.

Instead, be an imitator of those who inherit the promises through faith and patience. Imitate people like Jesus, who taught, healed and loved. Imitate people like those Christians whom you look up to. Imitate people who never cease spreading the gospel. These people have seen the promises of God and make every effort to give back to the one who loved them first. God has been making promises to mankind for a long, long time, and his promises are true. We see the promise that he made to Abraham to multiply him, and we see the fulfillment too, albeit long after Abraham may have thought it possible. That’s where patience comes into play. God’s timeline isn’t your timeline, but his promises are true just the same. Continue to imitate Christ in all things, since he is our forerunner, the one who goes out before us. Learn his ways and walk in them. He, after having suffered, entered into the Holy of Holies, the place where God resides, and there he prepares a place for us, too.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Who has been a great role model for you in displaying faith and patience while waiting for what God has promised?
  2. What can you do today, and this week, to practice showing “diligence to the very end” (vs 11).

Understanding the High Priest

Hebrews 5

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament was responsible for bridging the gap between God and man. Their job was to make sacrifices for the people to turn away God’s wrath. People are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). Every person sins against God and is therefore guilty and worthy of his wrath, and therefore, death (Romans 3:23, 6:23). In order to turn away God’s wrath, blood must be spilled, since blood is what is owed. By sacrificing an animal to God, that debt is paid, and our just punishment is delayed. The priest’s role in this is as mediator. Normal people don’t need to (and in fact aren’t allowed to) offer their own sacrifices. The priests do it on their behalf. The priest takes your offering and presents it to God. For this to work, priests need to be blameless in their own right and that is why they also offer sacrifices for themselves. The most important sacrifice of the year is on the day of atonement when the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies, the location of God’s mercy seat. On this day they offer a sacrifice for all people and bring it directly to God’s feet by sprinkling the blood on the mercy seat. Only the high priest is authorized to enter this area. All others would surely die.

If Jesus is our High Priest, then he is the one who can approach God on our behalf. He is the one who can turn away God’s wrath. He is the one who has our interests at heart, having been tempted the same as us. However, Jesus is different from the priests who came before. He is not of the old order or Levitical priests; he is a priest of the order of Melchizedek. Jesus isn’t selected for his priestly service because of his heritage, but instead because of his obedience (Hebrews 5:8). He is a High Priest who we can trust, because we know that he was truly obedient to God and was without sin. He himself said that God would send legions of angels on his behalf (Matthew 26:53). If God will do that for his Son, then we can truly believe it when Jesus said, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).

What is it that you are hungering for? Do you long for a faith as strong as the apostles? Do you want to do the works that the disciples did in the book of Acts so that God can be glorified and more can be saved (Acts 3:6, 5:15, 6:8, 8:7, 9:34, 9:40, 14:3, 19:11-12)? Pray daily. Ask and you will receive (Matthew 7:7). You have a High Priest who understands you. You have a High Priest who can ask the Father, and the Father will listen.

-Nathaniel Johnson

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Pretend you are God writing a job description for a mediator between God and man. What qualifications does the role require? Any benefits to the job?
  2. Can God mediate for himself?
  3. What makes Jesus the perfect mediator?
  4. How have you personally benefited from Jesus in his role as mediator and high priest? What coming benefits are you looking forward to?
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