The Book of Hebrews #16 chapter 5:1-9
The Book of Hebrews
Jesus Christ, the Perfect Priest
Hebrews 5:1-9
 
When I study a book of the Bible, I always want to keep a couple of things in mind.  First, the theme or purpose of the book, and secondly, it’s original recipients or hearers.
 
Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish believers outside the area of Jerusalem to show them the superiority of Jesus to Judaism, and to encourage them either to make Him their Savior, or encourage them if they already had.
 
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome in making that switch was questions about priesthood. If this new covenant is better, where is your high priest? Where is that mediator that takes man to God? How are your sins going to be pardoned when you have no one offering sacrifices and no one interceding for you?
 
A Jew’s relationship with God was absolutely dependent on the work of a priest.  By the way, so are yours and mine as Christians.
 
So for a Jews to make this transition there is going to have to be some attention giving to that subject.
 
We saw last week a very clear and concise statement in regard to that in Chapter 4, verse 14.  Christianity, the new covenant, is not without a high priest. We have a great high priest and His name is Jesus.
Now having stated that in 4:14, beginning in Chapter 5 and running through the end of Chapter 10 is the proof that Jesus is, in fact, that great high priest.
 
This is really the heart of the book.  The largest single portion dedicated to any theme in Hebrews, s strategically located in the middle of the book, around which everything else revolves is the proclamation that Jesus Christ is, in fact, a great high priest superior to Aaron or to any other high priest who ever lived. And that Christianity does have a high priest who takes men to God. That's the purpose of Chapters 5 through 10, the eternal and perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ.
 
So for the next several weeks we'll see how Jesus fulfills this priesthood. Now right off the bat in chapter 5, the Holy Spirit does something very strategic to begin the discussion of the priesthood of Jesus.
 
In the first four verses of chapter 5, He gives the Jewish qualifications for a priest, and by doing that He's reminding them that God’s standards haven’t changed.  Then in verses 5-9 he shows how Jesus meets the qualifications.
 
This is a very important point to make because humanly speaking, Jesus didn’t qualify. He was a part of the wrong tribe. He wasn't born in the right family. He hadn’t spent His life preparing for this. So outwardly, He didn’t fit what they thought were the qualifications.  So it’s important that Jesus be seen as qualified to serve as a priest.
 
 
 
So let’s take a look, first of all, at the qualifications.
 
There are three of them given in the first four verses.  So in verses 1 to 4, we have the qualifications.
 
The first qualification for a high priest was he had to be
 
1. Selected by God from Men
 
verse 1
 
Every Testament priest was chosen by God from among men. Let’s put the emphasis, first of all, on the phrase “among men”. God instructed Moses to call out Aaron and his sons to minister as priests.  God was very specific, very direct and anybody who tried to serve who wasn’t selected by God got themselves in a mess. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram tried to minister in a way that God had not ordained them to minister and the ground swallowed them.
 
So first of all, God chooses His priests from among men, and remember, we’re dealing with God’s requirements.  Now the importance of being selected by God is obvious.  But why does He make the point of the priest being selected from among men?  Isn’t that obvious?  It sure wouldn’t be a monkey would it?
 
That point is made, I believe, to emphasize the incarnation of Christ.  If God had never become man, He could never have been a high priest. He could never have been a mediator. He could never have been an intercessor.
He could never have offered that sacrifice for the sins of His people which divine justice required.
The incarnation was an absolute necessity for God to meet His own requirements regarding the priesthood, and was an imperative if salvation was to be accomplished.  So the priest came from “among men”.
 
Then notice the word “appointed or ordained” in verse 1.  The word ordained means an authoritative appointment to an office. And here you have the fact that priests were not arbitrarily selected, nor were they selected on the basis of their own will, but by God.  A true high priest had to be appointed by God directly.
 
Verse 4 expands that though a little.
 
Verses 4
 
Why does He put the spotlight on Aaron?  Well, Aaron was the first, but Aaron also reminds us of a vivid verification of the fact that God is the onle who selects the priests.
 
In Numbers 16, Aaron had his authority challenged and God stepped in to verify that Aaron is for real by causing Aaron’s rod to bud and bear almonds.
Now think about the significance of that.  His walking stick budded and had almonds on it.  What does that represent?
 
That's a good question, glad you asked. Think about this:  supernatural fruit or product was always the sign that a man had been called by God. Think about Elijah and the widow’s oil or Samson’s power.
 
The evidence of the calling of God is found in the product of his ministry.  No man can legitimately call himself the high priest unless God directly has appointed him to be such.
 
So first of all then, the true high priest must be called from men by God.
 
Here’s the second characteristic.
 
The true high priest must be
 
2.  Sympathetic with Men
 
Verse 2
 
The priest is to be compassionate and the emphasis of his compassion is in regard to sin.  The weaknesses that are addressed here are primarily our tendency to sin.  Because of our weakness, temptation is a real issue.
 
And because of that, the priest is to have compassion.  What is compassion? The idea of compassion means to be gentle because you feel it too.
 
A person who has no compassion couldn’t care less about anybody else's pain. But a priest must come from men, because he must able to bear gently with the faults of other men knowing that he's got the same problems.
 
Priests were those who got involved in life.  He had to feel with the people. He must know their highs. He must know their lows.
That phrase, “also subject to weakness” is a single word in the original text and it really can’t be translated into English.  We don’t have a comparable word so we have to use a phrase.  And it carries the idea of treating others gently because you feel it like they feel it.
 
But it goes a little deeper than that.  It also carries the thought of being in the middle of emotions.  It’s kind of being somewhere in the middle between irritation and apathetic. And because of that, you are tolerant, but not indulgent.  The priest was to be somewhere between grief and indifference.
 
It’s that ability to deal with a person so you can understand what he’s going through but you are still able to lead him in the right path and not be driven by the emotion.
 
And the recipients of that compassion are described as those who are ignorant and going astray.  Does that describe anyone you know?
 
What does it mean to be going astray because of ignorance?
 
Numbers 15:28 says, "So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the Lord, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him.”
 
In other words, the priest ministered only on behalf of the one who sinned in ignorance, unwittingly and thus went astray.
 
And by the way, in all of the Old Testament there is no provision made for the deliberate and defiant law breaker.
 
The emphasis here is on compassion and the high priest was to have sympathy toward those who ignorantly go astray.
 
The third characteristic of the priest was
 
3. Sacrificing for Men
 
end of verse 1 and verse 3
 
Notice from verse 1 that the priest offered for sins on the behalf of men. He was appointed for men in things pertaining to God. He was to bring men into the presence of God. He was to act on the behalf of men in the things that opened up the way to God.
 
Notice also in verse 1 that it says He's to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. This was his main work. His work was a work of gifts and sacrifices.
 
The indication is the priests had two responsibilities.  First of all, gifts. Now what are gifts? This most likely included all of the money that the people gave and all of the various things that they brought to the priest as gifts to God.
 
But I think the direct reference is to the meal offering. There were many offerings that were outlined, but there were five key ones. Only one of those offerings was a bloodless offering and that was the meal offering. It was a bloodless gift of thanksgiving and dedication to God.
 
 It’s interesting how it worked.  The person who wanted to bring the meal offering would bring fine flour and oil and frankincense poured in the oil to make it smell good.  A handful of all of this stuff would be burned on the altar and the remainder would belong to the priests for their own consumption and if you didn't want to bring just a sack of flower and the oil, you could bake it or pan fry it.
 
However, there were some restrictions involved in the pan-fried cake or the flour that you brought. There could be no leaven or honey in it because it would ferment.  It also had to have salt as a preservative.
 
So they had to keep out anything that would ferment and put in salt to preserve. What was the significance?  The meal was a dedication offering. It symbolized the dedication of a person and all his possessions to God in complete thanks for what God had done.  And because it was a dedication offering, God wanted the symbol to show a dedication that would not ferment, but one that would remain.
 
The reference to gifts in verse 1 may be this meal offering because of all the offerings, this one was offered to God as a dedication.
 
On top of that He also offers sacrifices for sins.
 
And take note it is not sin, singular, but sins, plural.  There is only one permanent solution to the sin problem and that is the blood of Jesus Christ.  So what the priests did dealt with the “sins” problem.  And everyone, including the priest had that problem.  That’s why, as verse 3 tells us to offer sacrifices, not only for the people, but for himself.
 
No priest was a perfect priest. So what he had to do was go in there and go through the whole rigmarole for himself and then come back and do it for the people.
 
By the way, isn't it wonderful that when Jesus went in, He went without sin. He never had to offer a sacrifice for Himself.
 
So the high priest then is qualified by being selected by God, sympathetic with men, and sacrificing for men. Those are the qualifications.  Next week we’ll see how Jesus meets the qualifications.
 
Let’s pray.

 

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