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.
Every one of us needs a priest, and the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is that perfect priest. In chapter 5, he reminds us of the requirements for a priest. What was a priest supposed to do?
First and foremost, the priest had to offer a sacrifice for sin. “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” (5:1). Every day, you and I have dozens of things that get thrown at us: Things pertaining to our job. Things pertaining to our children. Things pertaining to our health. But there is another area of life that is more important than any of those–things pertaining to our relationship with God. That is the most important aspect of our life, isn’t it?
The priest came to deal with things pertaining to our relationship with God. And the most pressing problem we have in our relationship with God is sin. Sin has separated us from God, the prophets said. So the priest dealt with that problem. He came to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The gifts probably refer to the grain offerings that were used to offer thanks to God. But the priest also offered sacrifices for sin–the blood of animals that was used to atone for the sins of the people. The primary job of the priest, Hebrews 5:1 tells us, was offering a sacrifice for sins.
Now, there are a number of things I try to do to help you as a pastor. I try to be a shepherd to lead you. I try to be a prophet to speak God’s Word to you. That is what I am commanded to do for you. But there is one thing I can never do for you. I cannot offer a sacrifice for your sins. That is why no pastor in the New Testament is ever referred to as a priest. Why? Because we cannot do the number one function of a priest, which is to offer a sacrifice for sins.
You may say, “Well, Pastor, you are no use to me. I am going down to the Catholic church. They have a priest there.” Guess what? That guy is a very nice guy. But if you go to his service, he is not going to be offering any sacrifices either. You may say, “Then I ought to go back to Judaism. I’ll go down and talk to the rabbi.” Not long ago, one of the most prominent rabbis in America came to see me. He is a very gifted individual, and we had a delightful discussion about common points between Judaism and Christianity. I asked my friend what the Day of Atonement meant to him. He said it is about reconnecting to God, and he gave a beautiful explanation for it. But he never mentioned offering a sacrifice for sin. Jews have not done that in 2,000 years. Why? There is no temple left to offer a sacrifice in. Yet every one of us needs a priest to offer a sacrifice for our sins. So, if your pastor can’t offer a sacrifice, if the Catholic priest can’t do it, and if the rabbi can’t do it, then who can offer the sacrifice? That was the writer’s whole point. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Who Needs A Priest?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2018.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.