Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. — Hebrews 4:14 ESV
One of the tenets of the sacrificial system was the priestly ministry. In Leviticus, the family of Aaron was chosen for the priesthood. Aaron was from the tribe of Levi and it was prescribed that all the high priests going forward would be a descendant of Aaron’s.
The priesthood was a lot of responsibility. The priests had to make sure the people knew the Law. They had to prepare and offer all the sacrifices. They had sole responsibility for the care of the tabernacle and all the things in it. Once a year, the high priest was required to make an atoning sacrifice for all the people.
Oxford Dictionary defines atonement as the action of making amends for a wrong or injury. The atoning sacrifice was a way of repairing the relation with us and God. The high priest was the one who made this sacrifice on behalf of the people.
But the priests were flawed. They also sinned and fell short of the glory of God. Before they could offer a sacrifice for the people, they had to offer one for themselves. As we read through the biblical account, we see many examples of priests who failed to live up to the standards God had set for them.
- Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10).
- Eli didn’t control his sons who treated the offering of the Lord with disdain and contempt (1 Samuel 3:11-14).
- The young Levite who became a priest to Micah who served false gods (Judges 17).
The examples above are just a few of those which plagued the priesthood. The earthly priesthood quickly taught us that animal sacrifices weren’t enough to cover our sins for eternity. They were meant to point us to Christ, the perfect Lamb of God. But then one day, Jesus.
When Jesus came to save humanity, the priesthood changed. Firstly, Jesus did not come from the Levi tribe, He was from Judah. He did not have to offer sacrifices for Himself because He was perfect and did not sin. He did not have to offer sacrifices daily because His sacrifice on the cross was enough to rid humanity of all its sin.
Unlike the high priests of the past, Jesus is immortal. His life will never end. He never runs out of energy or has to rest or take a break. He is constantly interceding for us before the Father.
There are two books in the Bible that teach us about the role of the priests: Leviticus and Hebrews. Leviticus shows us the cost of relationship between humanity and God–blood had to be shed. But it also teaches us that the blood of lambs and goats is not enough to wash away the impurity of our sins.
Leviticus opens our eyes to the need of something–Someone–greater than sin. Leviticus points us to Christ.
The book of Hebrews focuses a lot on the role Jesus plays in heaven as the high priest interceding on our behalf. In Hebrews, we see the fulfillment of the promise of Leviticus. We can thank God that we have a high priest who not only knows what we go through as human beings, but He also successfully lived a sin-free one.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. My heart isn’t always right and I don’t always do those things that please you. Forgive me for those times when my offering was less than you deserved and help me truly worship you in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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