A Priest Sympathizes With The People

A Priest Sympathizes With The People

He can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided.
–Hebrews 5:2

In Hebrews 5, the writer outlined the requirements for an Old Testament priest. What were the priest’s duties? First, as we saw yesterday, the priest offered a sacrifice for the sins of the people.

Second, the priest was to sympathize with the weaknesses of the people. Hebrews 5:2-3 says, “He can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness; and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.” The word translated “deal gently” means “to moderate.” The priest could find the middle ground in dealing with people, reminding them of the holiness of God while gently dealing with them about their sin. The priest in the Old Testament served as that umpire between God and man that Job longed for in Job 9:32-33. And when he dealt with the sins of the people, the priest was to do it in a gentle, understanding way.

By the way, notice that the people the priest dealt with were those who were “ignorant and misguided.” In the Old Testament, sacrifices were available only for sins committed unintentionally, in ignorance. There was no allowance for calculated, defiant sins.

In Numbers 15:28-30, Moses said, “The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. . . . But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people.” The sacrifices were for ignorant and misguided sins, but there was no sacrifice for intentional, deliberate sin. Literally, in Hebrew, that sin is called “high-handed sin.” It is a picture of somebody who raises a fist in the face of God and says, “God, I don’t care what You say. I am going forward in my sin.” In the Old Testament sacrificial system, there was no sacrifice for that kind of sin. The sin that was forgivable was the sin that was unintentional.

Included in that category of unintentional sin were sins of anger–when somebody got overwhelmed by anger, lost his temper, and murdered somebody. That was a sin of passion. Maybe somebody was overcome by temptation and gave in to a moment of lust. If that person was repentant and asked for forgiveness, there was a sacrifice for forgiveness. But for the defiant sin, for a person who refuses to ask forgiveness, there was no remedy for that kind of sin. The Old Testament priest was able to offer forgiveness, through sacrifice, for the unintended sin.


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.