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?

So Egypt Will Know

Exodus 7-9

Exodus 7 5 NIV

Moses does not believe that he can speak adequately, so what does God say? He does not tell Moses, “I am sorry. I picked the wrong man.” No. Instead He says, “I picked you for a reason. If you can not speak, then delegate that duty to Aaron.” God still says that He is going to speak through Moses, not Aaron. Once Aaron has received the words from Moses, then Aaron can speak them to Pharaoh. In fact, this is the way that religion is going to work for the rest of human history. God will pick a prophet, whether that prophet thinks he is capable or not, and will speak to the rest of humanity through that single person. God is also able to set up leadership through this prophet and the prophet can lead others and coordinate with them in order to achieve more and reach more people. This is what is established in the Levitical priesthood.

 

I recently heard an interesting interpretation on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. I have usually not been able to define the phrase “hardened heart” when I read it. This interpretation however, defines the hardening of a heart as making a man brave. Under this interpretation, God did not force Pharaoh to refuse to listen. Pharaoh first chose to ignore the words of God. Then, when he became fearful because of the plagues, he was willing to let the Israelites go. It is at this point that God makes Pharaoh brave, allowing the Pharaoh to hold to his original decision not to let them go. I think this interpretation has some merit and is interesting at least.

 

Why did God choose the plagues that he chose? Why did he turn the Nile to blood? He could have turned it to mud or dried it up or anything. Why did he send a plague of frogs? Why not crocodiles or giant river snakes or something a little more intimidating? Why gnats? Gnats are just tiny little things, a nuisance at worst. Well God is the mastermind behind all of this, so He must have known what he was doing. Let’s try to think about all of these plagues in the context of Egypt. We know that Egypt is full of sorcerers who have a handful of tricks. We also know that the Egyptians were polytheistic and had many zoomorphic gods. Finally, we know that the Pharaoh had been oppressing the Egyptians with hard work and even worse, had slaughtered all of their baby boys.

 

God could have just dried up all of the water in the Nile and it would have had the same effect. All the fish would die and begin to rot and stink. There would be no water to drink. Yet God chose blood. This relates to what I said yesterday about turning people by degrees. God is starting with a plague that the Egyptians think is mere magic. The same thing occurs for the frogs, but the magicians can not create gnats. There is definitely some symbolism to blood in the Nile, possibly referring to the Pharaoh’s slaughter of the newborns. I also think it has to do with the significance of the river to Egypt. That river was a large part of the economy for them, they relied on it. So God took it away. Man should rely on God because he is the source of life. Even at this point in history, people knew that blood is an essential part of life and thought that a person’s life was in their blood. Thus, by turning the river to blood, God is saying, “I give life and I take away life.”

 

The plague of frogs is a weird one for me. The way it is described makes it sound like an inconvenience; they are just everywhere. One commentator I read said that this was poking fun at the Egyptians gods Hapi and Heqt. God was directly challenging the gods of Egypt.

 

The gnats are particularly nasty. Have you ever been out on a run in the summer when all of a sudden your mouth is full of gnats? Maybe that is just me. It is one of the most unpleasant experiences. Now have you ever been in a dry, dusty field running around and kicking up dirt? That is also quite unpleasant. It gets tough to breath. One time I was in a situation like this and I had to keep blowing my nose until it stopped coming out black. Now replace the dust in this field with gnats. That is a nightmare.

 

I am going to stop there and ask that you ask yourself these questions and see if you can come up with an answer. Why flies? Why livestock? Why boils? Why hail? God has every tool imaginable at his disposal, yet He deems these to be the best plagues for this situation. Why is that?

 

 

Thanks everyone for starting this plan and sticking to it! If you started from the beginning, great job making it this far and if you are just joining, I hope that you are able to find a routine of your own or hop in with this one. There is nothing better for the mind than to focus on God’s word daily.

 

Thanks for reading,

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=exodus+7-9&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Exodus 10-12 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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