Our Great High Priest

Aaron, Moses's brother, was designated by God to be the first High Priest of Israel. In Numbers 18:7 God says to Aaron:

"But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death."

Note that Aaron did not earn the priesthood in a contest of holy living. It was given to him as a gift. No human being deserves to stand in the gap for sinners before God, nor speak for God to His people. There is none who is holy.

But God knew His people would not be able to perfectly obey His law, so He designed a system of sacrifices and worship to deal with the sins they would commit. Central to that system were the priests who received the lambs, goats, bulls, grain, wine, etc. from the people and made the proper sacrifice on their behalf at God's altar.

The priest was to be the go-between. The priest was to represent God to the people, and represent the people to God. It was a vital role and ministry for redemption and forgiveness.

In reading through the procedures God gave Moses concerning the sacrifices and the priesthood one is struck by the volume of things the priests were to faithfully do, and by the vital role they played. The priests were to maintain the temple, keep the lamps lighted, carry the tent of the tabernacle when the assembly moved, bless the people, make the sacrifices, and even declare people and residences clean or unclean from leprosy or mildew or other infection.

They alone could make the sacrifices that brought forgiveness to the people. And Aaron alone, as High Priest, could enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement once a year on the great Day of Atonement.

Aaron had two significant blotches on his leadership of Israel beside Moses. He gave in to the will of the people and fashioned the golden calf idol for the people to worship while Moses was up on Mount Sinai (Exodus 32), and he joined Miriam in challenging Moses's leadership of Israel (Numbers 12). He was disciplined and forgiven, and overall exercised faithful leadership as Israel's first High Priest.

Another came later to be the perfect High Priest. His name was Jesus.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

Since the Son of God fully entered into humanity, this High Priest, Jesus, was tempted in every way we are tempted, did not sin, and is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He stands before God for us and represents God to us. He makes atonement for our sins. Aaron was the first High Priest. Jesus is the Great High Priest.

It has always been the heart of the Living God to forgive and redeem His fallen, corrupt, sin-ridden people. He graciously received sacrifices for sinthe lives of animals given in place of the life of His people. And then Jesus made the perfect sacrifice that both forgives sin and breaks its power in our lives. Hebrews puts it this way:

"But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:11-14 NIV)

Thanks be to God! Let us cast our lives fully on the grace of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, and live our lives to honor Him in all things!

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