Commentary by Walter Albritton

June 27


We May Confidently Ask God for Mercy

Because Jesus is Our Compassionate High Priest


Hebrews 4:14 – 5:10; 7.


Key Verse: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. – Hebrews 4:14


          The early Christians were converts from Judaism. They were familiar with the role of the priest. He was a bridge, or the mediator, between the people and God. He was the one chosen to offer sacrifices to God for his own sins, and the sins of the people. Priests had to be descendants of Aaron, who was from the tribe of Levi. Over time, there emerged the “high” priest who supervised the offering of sacrifices in the tabernacle and later in the temple.

          Since all men are sinners, the priesthood was stained with sin even as the altar was stained with the blood of animals. Some priests became corrupt even as some have in our own day. Even the high priests became ungodly men, as was the high priest in the time of Jesus. The old covenant was broken. A new and better way was needed. So the Father sent his Son to be our great high priest.

          Aaron and all who followed him were fallible men. The best that they could do was not enough. They served for a little while and died. In contrast, Jesus is alive forever. He conquered death, offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and then ascended into heaven. Now he sits at the right hand of the Father, ready to serve us as our heavenly high priest.

          Jesus is our ultimate “bridge” to the Father. Or, in other words, the Cross upon which he died, now bridges the gap between God and us. Though our sins created a great chasm, separating us from God, our great high priest Jesus has secured God’s mercy for us through his death. We may “walk” by faith across that Cross into the merciful arms of the Father. This is the good news of the gospel.   

          Indeed, this is such good news that the writer of the Book of Hebrews urges his readers to “hold firmly to the faith” they professed when they accepted Christ as Savior. Do not slip back into Judaism, with its corrupt priesthood, for now we have in Jesus a high priest who can meet our needs forever. He was fully human so he can understand our temptations, yet he lived a sinless life.

          Because Jesus is our compassionate high priest, we may “come boldly to the throne of grace.” We may come with confidence that God will grant us mercy, and that his grace will be sufficient for our every time of need. Once it was very difficult to obtain mercy. God could be approached only once a year and only the high priest could go into the holy of holies. The great curtain in the temple represented the wall that separated us from God. When Jesus died, however, that curtain was ripped down the middle, as though by the mighty hand of God, from top to bottom. The death or sacrifice of Jesus removed that wall, opening the way for all believers to approach the throne of grace. What a mighty work was done that day!

          Christ did not “run” for the office of high priest. He did not get the position through political influence. He “humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” Christ was divinely appointed our great high priest to complete God’s glorious plan of salvation. He was not “qualified” on the earthly level for the priesthood since he was not a descendant of Aaron, but his “credentials” were even greater because he was God’s Son and “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

          This raises the question, who was Melchizedek? Our knowledge of this mysterious figure is limited. Some have conjectured that Melchizedek is Christ appearing in the Old Testament. This assertion has no scriptural support; it is simply a fanciful idea. What actually do we know about Melchizedek?

          He appears in Genesis 14. (Later he is mentioned in Psalm 110:4.) He is the “king of Salem,” and “the priest of the most high God.” He brings “bread and wine” to refresh Abram and his men. Then he blesses Abram and offers praise to God. Abram is grateful and gives Melchizedek a tithe or a tenth of all the spoils he had taken from the kings he had defeated. After this cameo appearance, we hear no more from Melchizedek.  

          It appears significant that Abram refuses any favor from the king of Sodom, the city that symbolizes evil and rebellion against God. Abram is adamant, saying that he will not take even a shoelace from the king of Sodom. However, he gladly accepts the bread and wine offered him by Melchizedek, whose name means “my righteous king” or “king of righteousness.” He also welcomes the blessing offered by Melchizedek. In so doing, Abram recognizes the king as a priest, for offering a blessing was a priestly function. “Salem” apparently is another word for Jerusalem, which means “peace,” so Melchizedek is the righteous king of peace and priest of the most high God. So much symbolism invites much conjecture.

          The best we can conclude about Melchizedek, however, is that he is a “type” or prototype of the Christ. Christ our Redeemer is the King of Righteousness and the Prince of Peace. He is the Priest of God who offers us refreshment or new life through bread and wine. He also has no beginning and no ending. However, Christ is much more, much greater than Melchizedek, for he is our Prophet, Priest, and King, and the author of our eternal salvation through whom alone we have the forgiveness of our sins.

          Let us seek grace to trust and obey our heavenly high priest, and unashamedly tell the world that we know One who invites us to come to him with confidence that at his feet we will find mercy! What great good news this is – that broken, sinful men and women may find mercy by trusting the compassionate high priest who offers us peace with God!

          Let us hold firmly this truth, and come boldly to the throne of grace for the mercy that transforms life!  

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