Friday, March 3, 2017


"For every high priest taken from among men
is appointed on behalf of men
in things pertaining to God,
in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;
he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided,
since he himself also is beset with weakness;
and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins,
as for the people, so also for himself."

Just look at the title, "high priest."  Doesn't it make you think of someone on the top tier?  Someone who is above us?  We know from Leviticus 11:10 that the priests were to be taken
from the tribe of Levi, and of the family of Aaron.  "I pick you, the very best one," is a childhood chant in a game.  But it was considered the highest honor to be chosen to be the high priest, to be the one who would go once a year through the veil into the holy of holies. 

Even though someone was picked because of his worthiness, it was also in recognition that none are worthy in that the sacrifices would be for himself as well as the people.  In fact, the high priest would go in with a rope around his ankle and bells sewn on the bottom of his robe so that if he was found unworthy to enter into God's presence, he would be struck dead, and they would be able to drag the dead body out.  If his bells stopped ringing, it meant trouble.  To be in God's presence was a scary thing, a take-off-your-shoes kind of moment.  Nobody wants to be in the hands of an angry God.  That's why the priests approached with offerings and sacrifices to show their neediness before God.

"The high priest was the mediator between God and the people; and it was his office, when the people had brought these gifts and sacrifices, to offer them to God in their behalf...In reference to this twofold view of the Divine Being, his worship was composed of two different parts: 1.  Offerings or gifts.  2.  Sacrifices.  1.  As the creator and dispenser of all good, He had offerings by which His bounty and providence were acknowledged.  2.  As the lawgiver and judge, against whose injunctions offences had been committed, He had sacrifices offered to Him to make atonement for sin...As we have a high priest over the house of God, to offer all our gifts and sacrifice, therefore we may come with boldness to the throne of grace."  (Adam Clarke)

The curtain was rent in two into the holy of holies the moment Christ died upon the cross.  It was torn from the top down, as only God could do."  We have access through our high priest, Jesus.

Then there is another qualification that I really haven't thought about much before.  Yes, he is a high priest, born of a certain lineage, but he is still just a man.  "The reason the high priest should be slow to punish and prone to forgive is, that he himself is also compassed with weakness...As he is also a transgressor of the commands of God, and unable to observe the law in its spirituality, he must offer sacrifices for sin, not only for them but for himself also: this must teach him to have a fellow feeling for others." (Adam Clarke)  So then, he is qualified to be a high priest, also because he is just like us, plucked from this same pool of humanity.

Oh, the irony of the high priest and his counsel of cronies who convicted Jesus.  By this time, they had so many interpretations of interpretations, laws about laws, restrictions upon restriction, that it was like a competition to be the most religiously correct.  It also had become quite a political struggle of power.  Some say that Joseph of Arimathea's father and brother--who was the grandfather and father of Mary, were murdered, leaving her an orphan,  to get them out of the way of being chosen to be the high priest.  It wasn't a pretty picture as they sat in haughty judgment over the true high priest, Jesus our Savior.  Yes, indeed, they felt threatened.  So they incited the crowd to cry, "Crucify Him!"

How radically different is the picture in this passage when we find that the high priest was to show "compassion on the ignorant.  The word signifies, not merely to have compassion, but to act with moderation, and to bear with each in proportion to his ignorance, weakness, and untoward circumstances, all taken into consideration with the offences he has committed: in a word, to pity, feel for, and excuse, as far as possible; and, when the provocation is at the highest, to moderate one's passion towards the culprit, and be ready to pardon; and when punishment must be administered, to do it in the gentlest manner" (Adam Clarke)  Oh, how the words of Christ on the cross echo here, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

"Most men sin much through ignorance, but this does not excuse them if they have within reach the means of instruction.  And the great majority of the human race sin through weakness.  The principle of evil is strong in them; the occasions of sin are many; through their fall from God they are become exceedingly weak...but, weakness is no excuse, when the means of strength and succor are always at hand...As he (the high priest) is also a transgressor of the commands of God...he must offer sacrifices for sin, not only for the people, but fore himself also: this must teach him to have a fellow feeling for others." (Adam Clarke) 

The position of the high priest was done away with when the one and only true High Priest came.  Not only that, but, He sent us His Spirit to dwell within us to give us power over sin. 

"Let our weakness and ignorance henceforth, instead of discouraging and keeping us back, be the motive and the plea which lead us to come boldly to Him for help, who can bear gently with the ignorant and erring.  In the pursuit of holiness our ignorance is often our greatest source of failure...Do learn the lesson: the whole priesthood of Jesus has this one object, to lead thee boldly and joyfully to draw near to God, and live in fellowship with Him.  With this view trust Jesus as definitely with thy ignorance and weakness as with thy sins." (Andrew Murray)

There was a reason Jesus was called a shepherd while we were called His sheep.  It's because sheep are not very smart.   Dare I say that perhaps we are not so bright either at times.

My son likes to watch reality police shows like Southern Justice or cops live on television doing their duty.  When one is caught, isn't it the first instinct to run?  Silly sinner, don't run away from God, run to Him.  He is the one who can pardon.

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