Daily Devotion for Monday 8th July 2024

Hebrews 5:1-10 (with OT quotes in italics)
 
Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honour, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
       ‘You are my Son,
       today I have begotten you’;

as he says also in another place,
      ‘You are a priest for ever,
      according to the order of Melchizedek.’

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
 
Reflection

Chapter four ended by speaking of Jesus as ‘great high priest’. He offers support, empathy and mercy when people turn to him (4:14-16). At this juncture the earliest readers might have thought, ‘But we have high priests already – in the scriptures, in Jewish life, in temple worship.’ So the next few chapters of the letter tackle that concern. They show the ancient priestly ministry as a signpost to Jesus; yet he completes and surpasses what they could do.
 
Two points set the scene. Firstly, priests need to deal with fragile and fallible people. Israel’s high priests could do this because they too were fragile. Their ministry carried a regular reminder of their sin, as well as that of others (vv.1-3). On the Day of Atonement the high priest offered sacrifice for himself, before representing the people’s sins to God (Leviticus 16:6, 15). Secondly, priests need to be called. It wasn’t a job you applied for. Aaron, father of the priestly family in Israel, had been called (v.4).
 
So what about Jesus? Responding to the point about calling, Hebrews reaches again for Psalms 2 and 110 – already used in chapter one, about Jesus – to declare Jesus’ status as God-given. As both Son and priest he did not say, ‘I’d like to be…,’ but God said, ‘You are…’ (vv.5-6).
 
As for the first point, Jesus entered deeply and fully into our human weakness on his journey to the cross and in his prayers in Gethsemane (vv.7-8). In suffering he was ‘made perfect’ (v.9) – enabled and equipped to reach into the lives of others with saving and strengthening love.
 
Melchizedek is a bit of a mystery. He is mentioned so briefly (vv.6, 10). We must read on to learn more. This unusual and impressive figure comes centre-stage in chapter seven.
 
For prayer

Do you have any pastoral responsibility for other people – perhaps as elder, church leader or minister? You may know something about these people’s struggles and fears. But do remember too to be honest with God about your own weakness and sins. From that sharing with God you will gain the integrity and humility to support and strengthen others.

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