When it comes to Christ’s compassion, we must readily admit that His compassion goes much further than what most of us can offer in compassion. What I mean by this is that when we offer compassion towards someone, the best we can do is have a fellow feeling of their suffering and try to support them while they are in that suffering.
Compassion is coming along side someone who is suffering, and trying to help them through their plight.
When it comes to the compassion Christ offers, it is much greater than anything we can offer our fellow man because His compassion is such that He invites us into the throne room of grace, in order to find the mercy and grace we need to get through our struggles.
Why do we need mercy and grace? What are mercy and grace? Well, the mercy of God is that kindness shown to someone who is undeserving. It would be like a man that slaps the president, but instead of having him arrested, the president shows him mercy and invites him to dinner.
Grace is very similar. It is unmerited favor with God. When we obtain those two things, we then find that God is no longer our enemy holding judgment and doom over our heads, but He becomes our Father and Friend. He becomes one that is close to us, relationally, through the atoning work of His Son.
This is why the gospel is so rich. Instead of having God as our judge, we get Him as our Father, our Friend, our Comforter. This is why Christ’s compassion towards us is so vital and wonderful.
As our High Priest, Jesus offers us something that no other priest before Him can offer, He offers us entrance into the Father’s presence, through Christ mediatorial work as a priest.
There is no better place to turn in our grief, in our struggles, in our disappointments that to the Father in prayer. This is what Jesus gives us, and it is by far more rich, and real than anything we can offer one another.
His grace is real. His mercy is real. His compassion is abundant, and when you notice this in view of our sin and transgressions against God, we see that it is truly remarkable.
The writer of Hebrews has shown us that Christ’s compassion is the greatest of all, because not only does He identify with us, in that He was tempted as we are, but He offers us a solution to the fact that we are weak and tempted. It’s one thing to offer compassion by way of comfort. It’s quite another to provide a compassion that provides a deliverance from our weaknesses and temptations.
It is in view of this that he writes: Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In this we see God’s compassion for His children. It is as if the Father says, “Yes, you are a wretched sinner towards Me and My Holy Law, but I’m going to show you grace and mercy, open your heart to my truth and invite you into My Kingdom for all of eternity.”
He accomplishes this through His Son, a most excellent High Priest. He is excellent because He provides a remedy for our sin, and a solution for our temptations: grace and mercy.
Now, the writer of Hebrews has made this point. He now turns to use the example of the Levitical high priests to help support his point. What point is that? The point that a high priest must be able to identify with his subjects, of which, Christ did just that.
For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
The High Priest are from Men.
Every high priest taken from among men – First we see that the high priests did come from men. God uses fallen men in His plan of redemption. We know from Numbers 16-18, Leviticus 8-10 and Exodus 28-29, that these men were to come from the line of Levi. They were to be Levites. This was one of the qualifications to be a high priest. The high priest was to serve a short time and then another would serve.
We know that the position became corrupt and that there were even those who were not from the Levite family who served, but we must not let this get in the way of the purpose of the position.
God set this position up as one of service. The high priest was to serve the people, recognizing that he was there by God’s hand, not his own. He was appointed by God to serve. Note: this is in the passive. God was the one that lifted him up. Those who lifted themselves up to the position by their own hand were surely to endure the wrath of God, and they who did so, did so foolishly.
But we must not let that get in the way of us knowing that a sinful high priest was appointed to represent a sinful people.
They were chosen from men for the purpose of offering both gifts and sacrifices to God for sins. He was to go before God on behalf of the people and offer sacrifices. Now we know that the sacrifices did not pay the debt of sins, 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. But they were to offer then with the view that God would provide the perfect sacrifice to come, that being Christ.
But the high priest did more than just offer sacrifices. He was also to serve the people as their representative and showing compassion towards them.
He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.
He knows his own weaknesses and short comings, and in knowing this reality in his own life, he was to show compassion to the ignorant and those going astray.
This doesn’t mean that the high priest abuses grace in the process. What I mean by this is that he was not like many today who think the meaning of the word grace is to look the other way when sin arises in the household of God.
When it comes to grace, we don’t mean that we gloss over sin. We mean unmerited favor from God, and this unmerited favor is God’s grace to us, that we have been given faith in order to believe in Christ and be saved. Not because of anything found in us, but solely out of His love and decision to choose us before the foundations of the world.
What the high priest is charged with doing is coming along side the ignorant and those going astray, and helping them see their error. He is to rebuke them gently and help them turn away from sin.
Notice, this is for those who sin ignorantly. In other words, unintended sin. He must know the difference between unintended sin and sins “perpetrated to vex God (Psalm 95:7-11).”
Remember the sins that God’s people committed in the wilderness were such that God put an end to His mercy. He closed the door to them, closed the door to the promise and left them in the wilderness to perish. After 40 years, their children did enter God’s promised land. But not the original members of the Exodus.
Unbelief, by man, is considers so heinous that it leads to the door of God’s mercy being closed. His grace does end. His mercy towards men does cease for those who remain in unbelief, who refuse to believe, who refuse to trust in Him. Unbelief is the worst sin for man, and it leads to all the other kinds of sin, for if you truly believed God and His word, you would take every action against sin. When we believe what it says, we see our need to be compelled by the Spirit to turn away from sin. We cling to Him and His word.
But unbelief, we jump headlong into sin. This is what took place in the wilderness. They remained a stiff-necked people and set out to vex God.
The high priest was to deal with these sins as well, but not out of compassion. These intentional sins come out of a rebellious heart, and the high priest is to deal with them as well, cutting those people off from the camp. We call it excommunication…
But the sin of ignorance comes out of weakness, and not rebellion. Here, the high priest acts out of compassion because he knows his own weaknesses.
It is because of this weakness that he found in himself and in the people he represented that he was to offer sacrifices for sins. The high priest was in need of sacrifice just as much as the most lost Israelite. This is the writer’s way of saying: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord (Romans 3:23).
Even the high priest himself, fell short of God’s glory. The sacrifice he made for himself was God’s reminder to him, that he had a spiritual need as well. He was just as needy when it came to the gospel as the next man.
This was and is still necessary even today. Not the need for sacrifice, but the reminder that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord (Romans 3:23). We may have different functions in the body of Christ, but there is still a need of sacrifice for us, pastors/teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons, WIC presidents and officers, Sunday school teachers… Sunday school attendees, and even those who skip out on Sunday school for various a sundry reasons. All have fallen short…
Therefore the high priest must make a sacrifice for himself. The entire process should have caused all involved to humble themselves for they would have seen the blood that was shed. They would have seen it.
We see the reminder when we have communion. The red wine represents our Savior’s blood. It represents the sacrifice that He made on our behalf. There had to be a sacrifice made for His children, and for His children, that sacrifice was Christ. He took our place, even though we would have reviled Him given the chance.
Again, a true reminder of grace and mercy. Had we been in the crowd that day that he went through the trial, we would have chanted with the rest of them: “Crucify Him!” Our sin nature is such that left to ourselves, we would have had the same mob mentality.
The beauty is, that even though we would have uttered those words, and some of you probably still are, He lovingly takes us, shows us true compassion as the true High Priest, and makes us partakers of His priestly work.
He says to us: “Yes, you would have nailed me to the tree as well. But my love and compassion for you is far greater than your hatred of Me. Therefore, I will make you mine. I will send my Spirit to convert your heart, so that you can be My loving child, and reside with Me forever. I will be Your God, and you will be MY child.”
The earthly high priests could never offer such grace or mercy. God used them in order to point others back to Him. They were never meant to be seen as THE mediator for Christ. Their work was to direct the believer’s attention to the coming Messiah.
The problem arose when the high priest thought that they were something because they were high priests. The position was always meant to be a position of humility and service, not a position of power and exaltation. The writer confirms this by saying:
And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.
First we need to see that service in the body of Christ is never to be done so for power. Yes, the position is one of honor. It was a privilege to serve as a priest. It is a privilege to serve as a priest today.
We all have been given a wonderful privilege to serve Christ. This should never be done out of arrogance, but out of humility for when you realize that you were called by God, just as the high priest was, then you realize that it was His decision and nothing to be found in us.
This is why Paul stresses that there is no reason for boasting in Ephesians 2:8-10. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Our service for Him is rooted in humility. We have nothing to boast about but His goodness and kindness towards us. He showed us grace, worked faith in us, we believe and because of that kindness and gentleness, we serve Him doing the works that He prepared beforehand for us to do.
The same was true for the high priest in the Levitical system. They were given a job to do, and were to do it because of the one that called them, not because of anything in and of themselves.
They were not to take that honor to themselves. Sadly, this is what happens when sinful men fill godly positions. Their sin deludes them into thinking that they are special because of their roll in the body of God’s people. It is true that the roll itself is special, but it is not true that the man himself is special.
It is the one who calls those into ministry that makes us special, not the one that is being called. Remember Balaam’s ass? If God can use a donkey to speak, then we should not be boastful at all that God can use us as well. Yes, we should feel honor and privileged that God would call us. This should not lead us to pride, but to humility. There is no room for a boastful behavior.
Listen again: And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.
They were called by God to the service of being a high priest. They had nothing to do with the fact that they were born into the line of Levi. They had nothing to do with that placement in the birthright. That was God’s doing. Not only did God place them in the birthright, but sovereignly worked in their lives to put them in the place of becoming a high priest.
God is the one that calls. We do not exalt ourselves. The same is true for the doctrine of election. A lot of people hate this doctrine for various reasons, but all we are saying is that God calls those whom He will save. The election is not because of anything found in us. We are not what makes election special. God didn’t look down and say, “My, My, look at those fine specimens to choose from. I thin I will take that one for he will really help Us in our cause.”
Quite the contrary: Paul shows us in his letter to the Corinthians, that God often calls those whom the world would call foolish for His purposes.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”[a
Where is the boasting in this? He is showing us that there is no true qualities in us that God needed in growing His Kingdom. Yes, we may be gifted in certain areas, but that is not why God chose us. He can and does use our gifts, but He doesn’t have to. Our prayer should be that He does use our gifts for His glory, and when He does, let us glory in the LORD.
The point to all this is that God did call the high priest from men in order to use them for His purposes. He did so from the line of Aaron. Here we see the writer make a transition. He was using the earthly high priestly system to show us that Our High Priest was and is different. He is of another nature all together.
So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “ You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “ You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
We will get into this more next week. But the point we see here is that our High Priest served perfectly. He did not exalt Himself, but actually lowered Himself in order to serve.