But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands…
The high priesthood of our Lord is a matter full of important consequences to us relating to His sacred Person and His work in our redemption. Of course the term is one derived from the Jewish ceremonial worship: and it is to the books in which that worship is ordained, that we must look for its explanation. I find the first ordinances respecting the high priest's office in Exodus 28. There Moses is ordered to take to him Aaron his brother, and with many prescribed ceremonies and adornments to consecrate him as priest; i.e., as afterwards abundantly appears, as chief, or high priest. We need not follow these prescribed ceremonies, further than to cull out from them the general character of each portion of them, as applying to the office of our blessed Lord. As they were to be without blemish or deformity, as they were to be clothed in holy garments for glory and beauty, as they were not to defile themselves with any uncleanness, so was He, as the very first condition of this His office, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. They, these priests of Israel, were like their brethren in outward form, but, unlike them, were not to be made unclean by things which rendered others unclean. And so Christ took on Him the likeness of sinful flesh, but did not become sinful: He partook of the infirmities of our nature to the full, but did not partake of its pollution. But, when the high priest is thus constituted and apparelled, what is the first matter of which we read, belonging to his special duty and office? Precious stones are to be taken, two sets: upon both the sets are to be graven the names of the tribes of the children of Israel: once, on two onyx stones, which are to be worn on the shoulders of the high priest: the other time, on twelve separate stones, whose names are specially detailed; and this last tablet is to be worn on his heart. We have here a double-feature of the office. The high priest is judge; the high priest is intercessor. And this too belongs to the reality of the high priesthood of Christ. All judgment is committed to Him. And thus judging, thus ordering His Church, He bears His people written on His heart. He can never forget them, for He represents them, and He loves them as Himself, and He bears them on Himself as a memorial before God continually. The next point which requires our notice is important, as introducing a whole class of duties which mainly constituted the high priest's office (see Exodus 28:36-38). Here we have the high priest in a new character: that of one bearing the iniquity of others, who are made acceptable to God by that his hearing of their iniquity. The plate of pure gold — the "Holiness of the Lord" inscribed on it — must of course be taken as indicating, in connection with his bearing their iniquity, the acceptance before God, as holy, of the people of the Lord whom he represents. It will be enough at this part to say, that our blessed Redeemer here also fulfils the reality of which these high priests were a shadow. Not only does He carry His people engraven on His heart before God, but He presents them to God as holiness to Him, by virtue of His having Himself borne their iniquities. Take the apostle's testimony to this in Ephesians 5:25. Then come, in the book of Exodus, the rites and ceremonies of the consecration, or setting apart of the priests to minister before God. Concerning these, one remark before all is suggested to us by the writer of this Epistle to the Hebrews: — viz., that no man took the office unto himself, but only those who were selected and consecrated by God, as was Aaron. The very name of the Lord by which we call Him, Messiah or Christ, signifies the Anointed. But we now come to that which was by far the larger portion of the duty of the priests of old, and of which we shall have much to say as concerning our great High Priest Himself. "Every high priest," says our Epistle, "is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices." This was the priest's especial office; to minister for the people in the things concerning God, and to offer sacrifices for sin. Now almost every particular is explained by the writer of this Epistle to have immediate reference to our Lord: and of those not so mentioned several. are so obvious as to be unmistakable by any intelligent Christian.
1. First of all why all these ordinances of sacrifice at all? Why all this taking away of animal life, and this sprinkling of blood, ceremonies of a kind painful and revolting now to our minds and habits? All these sacrifices, thus divinely appointed, were ordained to signify greater and spiritual truths: "the Holy Ghost thus signifying," as we have it written here: God having a matter to make known in His good time, which should be no type or shadow, but His own very truth: and that matter being, the death and satisfaction of our blessed Lord, His eternal Son. But let us follow this out, considering Him as our High Priest. "If He be a Priest," says the writer of our epistle, "He must of necessity have something to offer." And here we have God's High Priest, whom He hath consecrated and sent into the world. By what offering shall He propitiate God towards those His people? Who shall shed the blood that may sprinkle our holy things and make them pure? Who shall go far, far away, bearing upon his head the iniquities of us all? Hear His answer — "Lo I come to do Thy will, O God." He is spotless. He unites in Himself our whole nature: strike Him, and we are stricken: let His sacrifice be accepted, and we are cleared from guilt: let that blood of His be carried into the holy place of God's presence in heaven, and an atonement is made for us. There are several ether, apparently minor, but really not less interesting points of comparison, between the high priests of old and our blessed High Priest and Redeemer. Their sacrifices were imperfect, and of no intrinsic value or avail. They therefore needed renewing continually, day by day. But His is perfect and all-sufficing. It needs only to be believed in, and applied by the obedience of living faith to the heart., Again: those high priests, by reason of their being mortal men, were continually renewed from time to time. None of them was permanent: they came as shadows, and so departed: theirs was no abiding priesthood, to which all men might look for atonement and acceptance. But the Son of God abideth for ever: "He dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him: in that He died, He died for sin once: in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." For ever does the virtue of His blood endure: for ever does His holy priesthood avail. There is with Him no wearing out, no forgetting, no failure of earnestness, no vacillating affection, no exhausted pleading. He is for all, He is over all, He is sufficient for all, He cares for all. So then, once more — inasmuch as they were human high priests, they were fellows with their brethren. Was then theirs any advantage over Him? In that land of Judaea, under the shade of those walls of Jerusalem, you might perchance see the high priest holding conference with the erring or the penitent: might see the venerable man of God, on whose brow was His anointing, with the hand of the young offender laid in his, pleading eye to eye till the tears chased one another down the cheek glowing with shame: and then might trace the judge of Israel watching, reminding, building up the returning sinner in holiness. Shall we envy them? Were they better off than we? Ah no! The sympathising high priest on earth, what is he to the sympathising High Priest in heaven? Few indeed, and interrupted could be such interviews: narrow indeed and partial such sympathies. But our High Priest is not one who lacks leisure or power to receive all who come to Him at any time. It is for us, for the least among us, that the eternal Son of God is thus constituted a High Priest: for our sins, for our wants, for our daily feeling, and obeying, and approaching to God. It is to purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God, that His holy blood was offered: to make us pure, upright, clear in purpose, and like to our God and Father.
Parallel VersesKJV: But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;