The author of Hebrews has pointed out in the first four chapters, the superiority of Jesus over the prophets, the angels, Moses, and the Law and now in chapter 5, he picks up the thought of the Levitical priesthood, especially the “high priest” who would intercede with God on behalf of the people with sin offerings. Again the writer is pointing out how Jesus is superior to everyone and everything else related to their former religion. Hebrews 5:1 says, “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” It appears that the point of this discussion is that the intercessor must come from the people. He must be one of them and it is God, Himself, who chooses the intercessor on the people’s behalf. The role of all the high priests throughout the history of Israel was to intercede with God with sacrifices and offerings to absolve the people from their sins.

The High Priest must be one of the people. The prophets spoke for God to the People. The angels were sent by God to serve the people. The Law of Moses was God’s speaking to the people. The High Priest was also the one who spoke to God for the people. He had to be a man to do this. Jesus was fully human and indeed was one of us. The message from the people to God that the priest would bring had to do with atonement for their sins. He brought sacrifices to God from the people that would establish a basis for absolution, forgiveness, and restoration of a right standing before God. These rituals were repeated often whereas with Jesus, as we will read later, was accomplished for us once and for all. The gifts and sacrifices would never need to be offered again.

The many sacrifices of the Old Testament had interesting names; the guilt offering, the sin offering, and the peace offering are just three of them. If you were to tell me “your sins are forgiven,” would I then be able to walk away at peace with God, guilt free, and confident that all my sins are forgiven? It’s just not that easy, is it? I would still brew over my sin and struggle with doubt over my guilt and not fully experience peace with God. We sometimes need counseling to relieve the pain of our past. Stedman says that was the role of the priest. He writes, “But if we read Leviticus and Deuteronomy carefully, we will see that such priests served in the place of modern psychologists and psychiatrists today. In explaining to the people the purpose of each offering, they would be dealing with problems of fear, insecurity, anxiety, guilt and shame. Thus they fulfilled an extremely important role in the nation’s life.[1] It is the role of “counselor” that Jesus fills so perfectly in our lives. It’s one of his names according to Isaiah 9:6. We are often reminded at Christmas time that one of Jesus’ names is “wonderful Counselor.”

[1] Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 1992), Heb 5:1.