Sunday, 13 April 2014

HEBREWS 2:17-18 - A MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST

'A MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST'
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
v18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
I couldn't help it - I was tempted - the temptation was just too strong - I'm not the only one, nearly everyone does it!
Have you ever found yourself saying something like this, or thinking it to yourself?
Temptation can be powerful! It knows how to appeal to us. It senses our weak spots. It entices, seduces, woos us, promises what we most desire.
It can be persistent! It just doesn't give up until we give way. It comes first thing in the morning, even before we have really come to, it follows us throughout the day, it seizes on any quiet moments we get to whisper in our ear, sometimes it shouts at us, it gets inside our brain, it it is there at the end of the day saying: "Do it tomorrow."
If only there was someone who really understood what it was like to be tempted. Someone who had been through it even more than we have. Someone who was pushed to the extreme limit and came out the other side without giving way, without sinning.
Someone who we could trust not to condemn us, but to help us. Someone who could make a difference when temptation comes like a bulldog which bites our leg and will not let go until we give in. We cannot unlock temptations jaws and free our selves from it's grip - but he can help us, and will help us when we are tempted.
Someone who can put us back on our feet when we have given in to temptation, and we are ashamed of our sin. Someone who when we feel we cannot go on, there's no point for we will just fail again, can free us from sins entanglement, and keep us in the faith, running the race.
The writer to the Hebrews has more good news for us, there is!
Last week we saw his good news that we can be freed from the slavery of a lifelong fear of death.
Isaiah had prophesied that the LORD would be as a mighty champion for his people - 49:24-26
24 Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25 For thus says the LORD:
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
and I will save your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
Then all flesh shall know
that I am the LORD your Saviour,
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
The Son of God, Jesus, had come as that champion. To be our champion he had to be one of us. Through the incarnation he partook flesh and blood, he became our brother.
He contended with our oppressor, the devil, who used the power of death to keep us in fear. Jesus came and broke the power the devil, he has destroyed his hold over us. How did he do this? Through his own death, on the cross. Now nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The devil may come with his accusations, but we can tell him that Christ has died!
We may be free from that lifelong slavery of the fear of death, but we are not yet free from temptation. The devil has been struck a mortal blow from which he will never recover, but he is still a dangerous foe of God's people.
Who can help us when we are tempted? Who can stand us up again when we fall? The answer is in v17: our merciful and faithful high priest.
Just as Jesus had to be one of us to be our champion, so he had to be one of us to be our High Priest.
Here the writer introduces what will be one of the great themes of this letter. He hinted at it in 1v3 After making purification for sins. That's what priests do.
Now he spells it out, and will develop this in great detail in the coming chapters. Jesus our High Priest.
1. He begins by restating a truth he has been hammering away at to get it into our thinking and to make sure it stays there: The Son became man. Jesus is fully man and fully God.
11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things,
17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, (That includes suffering and being tempted.)
2. Last week we saw that it was necessary that he became a man so that he could die in our place. A man had sinned, a man must pay.
Tonight he gives another reason why the Son had to be made like his brothers in every way: So that he might serve God as our High Priest.
What is a High Priest? What does he do?
To prepare us for the ministry of Jesus as our High Priest God gave Moses the law which set out the regulations for appointing a high priest, who could serve, and what they were to do.
Until then the head of a household acted as a priest to the family. We find Noah, Abraham and Jacob making sacrifices, and offerings to God.
Now the law provided for the appointment of Priests and the high priest.
They couldn't just amble up to the alter in a pair of jeans, or the then equivalent. They had to wear special priestly robes. Described in Exodus 28.
Ex 28:29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgement on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD.
Aaron was to go just once a year into the holy of holies, on the day of atonement and make an offering for the sins of the people. Other sacrifices were made every day on the alter outside the holy of holies but only once a year did the High Priest enter with the blood of the sacrifice.
The high priest represented the people before God.
A. The writer says four things in v17 about Jesus as the high priest:
[1.] He was a merciful high priest.
Nowhere else is a priest described as being merciful.
God is described in that way:
Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, v7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.
Eph 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--
Our high priest is God and man, he is merciful.
In the gospels Jesus is asked to have mercy and he does:
Matthew 9:27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” He restores their sight.
Matthew 15:22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” He casts out the demon.
Jesus shows mercy to his people. Mercy to those who are being tempted and to those who have fallen to temptation.
Our high priest shows mercy to us.
[2.] He was a faithful high priest
Psalm 145:13-14 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
1 Samuel 2:35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.
Jesus is that faithful priest. He is trustworthy. We can trust him. He is faithful to God and faithful to his people. Faithful in all his duties as High Priest.
When you are tempted you can trust him. When you have fallen you can trust him.
[3] He was in the service of God.
He is our high priest because that is the service God has asked of him. He represents us before God.
[4] He was to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Here is the big issue! Our sins. The times we fall to temptation. Each sin worthy of death. How can we go to God when we have fallen to temptation?
Because we have a high priest who made propitiation for our sins.
What does propitiation mean?
Propitiation is the turning away of anger and wrath. When a person is propitiated he is appeased.
Now God takes our sin personally. It is an offence against him. Sin is not just breaking the law, it is breaking HIS law. It is rebellion.
How does God react to this? He is angry. The Bible speaks about his wrath. It is said that there are over 20 different words in the OT to express the wrath of God.
Ezekiel 7:8 Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge you according to your ways, and I will punish you for all your abominations.
Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Slow, not never to anger!)
1 Thess 1:10 Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The wrath of God is real. That's why we need such a great salvation!
To make propitiation for our sins is to divert the wrath of God from us, it is to appease his wrath, to restore a broken relationship.
Our High Priest does that by offering up his own blood. The wrath that should fall on us fell on him on the cross. His sacrifice made peace with God for all who believe on him.
B. This is why he can help those who are being tempted.
v18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
The writer is not saying he suffered through his temptation, although that is true, but that Jesus' suffering was a source of temptation. He was tested through his suffering.
Testing the strength of metals. When will they break?
Jesus was tested to the limit and did not break! He did not fall to temptation. You will never be tempted to the extreme that Jesus was. That is why he can always help you when you are being tempted.
How does he help?
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
He gives you the confidence of sins forgiven.
Doesn't that encourage you to give way to temptation? Well if I fall I shall be forgiven?
No, the very thought that he has made propitiation for our sins through his own blood, makes us want to resist temptation because we remember his love with which he gave himself for us, and so we love him and do not want to fail him. We love him more than we love the sin which we are being tempted to commit.
There is even more to his help than this. The writer is going to expand of Christ as our High Priest in the coming chapters.

For now, if you are going through temptation then remember Jesus, your high priest. He is able to help you. You do not have to give in. Go to him and ask for that help. His Holy Spirit lives in you and he can bring you that help from Jesus.

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