Hebrews 5:6, Psalm 110, 1 Timothy 2:3-7

Proclaim Jesus!

The author of Hebrews isn’t through arguing for the superiority of Jesus as the intercessor on our behalf, over the priesthood of Israel. Like Aaron, Jesus was appointed directly from God. Unlike the corrupt priesthood in the day that was purchased or gained through political intrigue, Jesus was twice identified in His life personally by God as the appointed intercessor for all mankind. He was superior because He was one of the people, human, himself but without sin. His sacrifice did not pass through the sinful hands of any man. God directly appointed Him and them established Him as the High Priest for all mankind through the resurrection from the dead. But there was more evidence to support Jesus’ superiority. Hebrews 5:6 says, “As he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’”

Mentioning Melchizedek is a reference back to the days of Abraham. Pfeiffer explains the significance of this. He says, “This provides the key to the contention that the priesthood of Christ is superior to that of Aaron and his descendants. Although all priests in Israel had to be of the Aaronic line, the Law itself spoke of a pre-Aaronic priest who was recognized by no less a personage than Abraham. Melchizedek had been the priest-king of the city-state of Jerusalem (Salem) at the time Abraham had rescued Lot from his captors. Subsequently the Psalmist spoke of an ideal and everlasting priestly line after the order of Melchizedek.”[1] It seems that the mention of Melchizedek is saying that Jesus was of an order that pre-dates Aaron. He is superior because He was priest long before Aaron even existed. Jesus’ order is affirmed by Abraham, the father of the whole nation, and therefore is superior.

But it’s not only that the Order of Melchizedek, of which Jesus belonged, is much older than the priests of Aaron’s line, it is an order that will last forever and ever and ever, Hallelujah! The quote from Psalm 110 is a key passage for understanding much of what is to follow in the book of Hebrews. But it seems to me that the purpose of it begins in this verse by pointing out that Jesus’ divine appointment predates Aaron’s and will outlast Aaron’s. Further it is an uncorrupted priesthood unlike that of Aaron’s. The priests cannot offer an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. They cannot intercede for us. Neither the Prophets, the Angels, or Moses himself are capable of mediating a relationship with God. Only Jesus can do that. Paul encourages the young preacher, Timothy, to set aside his interests in the law and efforts at measuring up to God’s standards. He wants Timothy to focus on what matters. He says, in 1 Timothy 2:3f that God…”desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” What is that truth Paul? Verse 5 tells us, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” Paul goes on to tell Timothy, “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle.” Preachers should preach “Jesus.”

[1] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 44.

Hebrews 5:5, Psalm 2:7

Listen to Jesus!

In chapter 5 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer is arguing for the superiority of Jesus as the great high priest over the high priests of Israel in Aaron’s line.  First it was noted that the high priests of Israel were sinners and had to offer sacrifices for their own sins before they could offer them for the nation’s sins. This is not so with Jesus. All the sacrifices offered by man, any man, are tainted with sin. The only perfect, pure sacrifice was offered by Jesus on our behalf. Then the writer notes that priests are appointed by God and don’t have the authority to appoint themselves. In Exodus 28 we see that God called for Aaron so that He could appoint him and his sons as priests for Israel. The calling is something God does and this is exactly what happened with Jesus. Hebrews 5:5 says, “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’”

The superiority of Christ’s priesthood over the Aaronic Order was important for a couple of reasons. Furthermore, Jesus’ role has nothing to do with His lineage. He’s not of the line of Aaron, therefore a direct commission from God had to be made and it was. He didn’t inherit it as a child of Aaron but received it personally as a commission from God directly like Aaron himself did. But also the high priesthood had become a political office. It did not even directly follow in Aaron’s line. Guzik observes this, “It is easy to see why the priesthood of Jesus was difficult for early Jewish Christians to grasp. Jesus was not from the lineage of Aaron. Jesus neither claimed nor practiced special ministry in the temple. He confronted the religious structure instead of joining it. In Jesus’ day, the priesthood became a corrupt institution. The office was gained through intrigue and politicking among corrupt leaders.”[1]

There were competing voices crying for their own right to be high priest! That’s not the way Aaron was called to that office and it was not the way Jesus was called to His office. Many of the commentators argue that the “today I have begotten you” in this verse is of course a reference to Psalm 7. But the application of this to Jesus by the author of Hebrews is pointing toward the day of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We’ll see in Hebrews 5:9 that the day of Jesus appointment is referring to the day He was “Perfected.” Pentecost says, “By quoting Psalm 2:7 he shows instead that, at the resurrection, Jesus Christ was appointed by His Father to the role of High Priest.”[2] Pfeiffer observes, “Both at the baptism of Jesus and at the moment of His transfiguration the Father designated Jesus as the Son who was to be heard and obeyed.”[3] The obvious superiority of Jesus over prophets, Moses, Angels, and the Priests of Israel should make it clear who we should listen to. It’s all about Him! He interprets the Bible for us! He informed us on several occasions that it was all about Him. Focus your attention and look for and listen to Jesus.

[1] David Guzik, Hebrews, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Heb 5:5–6.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost and Ken Durham, Faith That Endures : A Practical Commentary on the Book of Hebrews, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000), 94.

[3] Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1962), 44.

Hebrews 5:4, Exodus 28:1

Letting Jesus Be Jesus!

The “honor” of serving as a High Priest in Israel was something that no one could bestow upon himself. Aaron did not appoint himself. In Exodus 28:1, God calls Moses to bring Aaron and his sons before Him that He could appoint them as the priests of Israel. As it was God Himself that appointed Aaron, so too it was God Himself who appointed Jesus to His role as the Great High Priest for us all. Hebrews 5:4 says, “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” The writer of the Handbook for Translators wants those who wrestle with this text in different languages to focus on the issue at hand and not be misled by the idea of the “call” itself. They say, “The wider context is concerned with valid appointment to the office of high priest, not so much with the call itself.”[1]

I can’t tell you how many sermons I’ve heard, books I’ve read, and Christians I have talked to, that try to take this passage and some others that are talking about the legitimacy of Christ’s call by God, and apply it to a human “call to ministry.” That’s not what this passage is about. It’s not about me although I would like it to be sometimes. It’s about Jesus! So much of the Bible is taken out of context in order to make it mean something “to me” that the original point is missed altogether. The Bible is all about Jesus, it’s not about you! He’s the only one who can offer a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Only His righteousness is sufficient to meet the perfect demands of God. Jesus’ perfect life and perfect sacrifice on Calvary is what the Bible is all about. He’s the center of God’s message to man and it’s seen from Genesis through Revelation. He does for you and I what we could never do for ourselves. If you feel you have to add something to that through your own efforts, dedication and hard work, I feel sorry for you.

You and I were not appointed by God to save ourselves or others! We are not David going down to meet Goliath in the Valley of Elah! Not nearly! I am a frightened warrior standing with other frightened warriors needing a champion to fight for me. Jesus is that Champion. I am not Joshua (OT name for Jesus) wanting to stand against the giants in the land of Canaan. I am one of the other spies shaking in my boots at the size and demeanor of the enemy. I’m the one who needs a champion to take the land for me. Jesus is that Champion. We must stop seeing the Bible as just another self-help book to inspire us to take control of our lives; “Be like Daniel! Be like Joshua! Be like David! Be like Jesus!” I am not Daniel. I am not Joshua. I am not David, and I am certainly not Jesus! I want to let Jesus be Jesus! I want to be the sinner who is saved by God’s grace through the only perfect life and sacrifice that could ever be made. It’s not until we get over ourselves and let Jesus be our savior that we’ll ever find true rest. Through faith in Christ, my Giant enemies have been conquered! He did it for me. He is the only legitimately appointed Messiah, Savior, of us all. We cannot save ourselves. We must let Jesus save us!

[1] Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 96.

Hebrews 5:3, Jeremiah 17:9

Jesus: The Only Pure Sacrifice

The subject of Hebrews chapter five is the superiority of Jesus’ priesthood over the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Testament. The chief priests of Israel were to deal “gently” with God’s people. That should not have been a problem for them because they were “one” of them. They were taken from among the people and shared all the same struggles as the people and what was even more important, they were sinners just like the people they offered sacrifices for. Hebrews 5:3 says, “Because of this, he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.”

You would think this would lead to a “gentle” approach to dealing with sinners, being one yourself. I like the way Hughes put it, “When one is truly aware that he or she is a sinner, and couples this with the interior awareness of human weakness, this person will deal gently with others. Conversely, a harsh, judgmental, unsympathetic spirit is a telltale indication that one has outgrown his sense of weakness and awareness of sin. Many evangelicals fall into this syndrome after humbly coming to Christ at conversion, for their initial experience of sanctification deludes them into imagining they are better than others. Such arrogation however, actually disqualifies them from spiritual ministry.”[1] This is an important observation because this became the fate of the priests and religious leaders in Jesus’ day. They were able to blind themselves to their own sinfulness and focus their attention on demanding righteousness from others. Jesus often tried to bring the religious people to an understanding of their own sinfulness. It didn’t seem to work well.

Jesus, on the other hand, as Brown says, “certainly did not need to offer a sacrifice for his own sins as the Old Testament priests did, but because he went through so much bitter and hostile temptation, he can the more effectively meet our own deep spiritual needs.”[2] How can He be more effective than someone who sins in the same way as the people do? All the sacrifices offered at the hands of the priests of Israel were offered by the hands of sinful people. Their hearts, as Jeremiah said, “were desperately wicked and deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). All the sacrifices offered to God on behalf of the people were filtered through the sinful hands of the priests, no matter how accurate the offering was. Regardless of how sincere the sinner was in bringing his offering or how sincere the priest was, every sacrifice was filtered through sinful hands. Every offering of man is corrupt! But Jesus’ offering was pure in every way. There was no guile, no corruption, no deceit, nothing that defiled the offering. Jesus was both the sacrifice and the offeror! The sinfulness of the priests made it impossible for them to offer a pure sacrifice! Listen, all the sacrifices you and I make are corrupt! They all pass through sinful hands and hearts! The only sacrifice worth putting your faith and confidence in is the one that Jesus made for you.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, vol. 1, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 138–139.

[2] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 97–98.

Hebrews 5:2, Jeremiah 23:2, Matthew 23:4

Giving Up Our Religion

The writer of Hebrews looks back at something he talked about earlier with a view toward clarification. In Hebrews 4, he mentioned that Jesus is not so distant from us that he can’t sympathize with our situation. He feels our struggles and our pain.  He was fully human and could relate completely. Each high priest had to be able to relate to the people not only in their life struggles, but in their failures and sins. The high priest in Israel should be tender and gentle with sinners. Hebrews 5:2 says that because he is one of them, “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” Of course this was not the case with the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. They insisted on stoning a woman found in adultery. They wanted to banish Jesus for violating the Sabbath and were always accusing Jesus and his followers for breaking their laws. When Jesus healed sinners, the religious leaders had no compassion. They only looked on with condemnation and judgment.

The Lawyers and Religious leaders did not deal “gently” with sinners. They were harsh and demanding on the people just as the Old Testament prophets predicted. Jeremiah spoke of the “shepherds” of Israel and said, “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:2).  Jesus confronted them because “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23:4).

Jesus’ strongest words were not to sinners but to the religious leaders of His day. He called them snakes, whitewashed tombs rotten on the inside, hypocrites, and only out for what they could get, be it wealth or position. Yet he was always trying to bring them to repentance. He wanted them to understand their own failures and sins so they could deal more compassionately with others. He told them the law against murder is violated by their own hatred. He said their lusting is a violation of the law against adultery. He called them to give up everything if they wanted to follow Him hoping it would open their eyes to their own sinfulness. What Jesus wanted them to give up wasn’t their wealth, position or privileges. He wanted them to give up their religion. But they couldn’t do it! It’s no different today. The hardest thing to give up for Jesus, and the only thing He really wants, is for us to give up our religion and trust completely in Him.

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