Hebrews Lesson 43 February 16, 2006
NKJ John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
The focus of these first 10 verses that we began last time is on the superiority of Christ's priesthood. Just as the human priesthood was under the Mosaic Law, the Aaronic high priesthood was a priesthood held by a man on behalf of other men; but his office was held at the authorization of God. In the same way Christ as a man represents other men and His position as a priest was the result of God's appointment. That is the thrust of these verses. Just as God appointed Old Testament priests, so God appointed Jesus Christ. It was not a matter of self-glorification, but a matter of appointment under the authority of God within the framework of God's plan for human history. It has implications not only for you and me as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ today in the Church Age, but also in terms of our future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ as kings and priests as emphasized in the book of Revelation. The thrust of these first 3 verses is on the fact that every high priest is appointed by God. This is a general principle. That is, every high priest in reference to the Old Testament was appointed by God. We covered that last time. There are certain purposes for that priesthood. This is defined in both verses 1 and 2 in chapter 5.
NKJ Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.
That is offerings in reference to free will offerings and various offerings outlined under the Mosaic Covenant and sacrifices for sin should be taken for one phrase. That relates to the burnt offerings, guilt offerings, trespass offerings and offerings related to the Day of Atonement. These were all different sacrifices, blood sacrifices, that foreshadowed the substitutionary spiritual atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. Last time we spent the time looking at the background of the Aaronic priesthood and what is taught about that in the Old Testament to give you background because the under girding argument that runs from chapter 5 through chapter 8 is the superiority of Jesus' priesthood over that of the Aaronic priesthood.
Now why is he arguing that? We sit here as gentiles 1900 years later saying, "Okay. Why is that significant?" It was significant to them because they were former Jewish priests saved out of a Levitical system. That was their frame of reference. They had apparently left Judaism and were in a Christian community of some sort. There are a lot of questions that we have on exactly who these individuals were; but they were coming under different kinds of pressure, persecution, adversity, and rejection from their Jewish relatives – those who were still serving as priests. Because of that pressure, they were on the verge of giving up this new faith in Christ and going back under the Mosaic system. That is why the writer of Hebrews is challenging them not to fall by the wayside, not to drift away as he says in 2:1, but to press on. As part of his rationale that he builds to encourage them and challenge them is to emphasize the superiority of the new priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is superior to that of the temporary priesthood that was defined in the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament. To do that, he builds a case through Old Testament scripture references. He does it by analyzing the institution of the priesthood under the Mosaic Law.
So last time we looked at that background of the Levitical priesthood and we noted several things. I am not going to go through every point that I went through last time. We noted that there are three priesthoods in the Old Testament. There was a patriarchal priesthood that came into existence after Adam sinned. It was established. We know that Abel offered sacrifices for himself and Noah offered sacrifices for the family. Abraham offered sacrifices. Isaac offered sacrifices for the family. This was a patriarchal priesthood that was based on the leadership of the father over the family. In some cases, if it was an individual, they could offer sacrifices for themselves
The second priesthood was the Melchizedekean priesthood. Both the patriarchal priesthood and the Melchizedekean priesthood were based upon regeneration. They were believers. The Melchizedekean priesthood was a royal priest. Melchizedek was a Gentile. His priesthood was royal. He was the king of Salem. The town Salem later became Jerusalem. So Melchizedek is the royal high priest in Jerusalem. As a gentile that priesthood applies to all people, not just the Jews.
Then under the Mosaic Law God instituted a temporary priesthood based on genetics, based on their relationship to Levi as one of the 12 tribes of Israel. So the priesthood in general is based on Levitical descent. The high priesthood is based on descent from Aaron who is Moses' older brother. Moses was appointed by God to be the high priest in Exodus 28. The priesthood would pass down through his children. That will be the case even in the Millennial Kingdom. The Zadokite (those that followed David) priesthood is a descendent from the priesthood Aaron.
Those three priesthoods are functional in the Old Testament. The one that is under examination here is the Aaronic high priesthood. The contrast is that these men were used to the Mosaic system based on the Levitical offerings of the Mosaic Law. It was a temporary priesthood. But, Christ's priesthood is superior because it follows the order of Melchizedek.
We also looked at the role of the priest. The priest had a role to serve in the temple (the tabernacle and later the temple):
- to oversee the sacrifices and offerings, Deut 18:5
- to pray for the nation, Joel 2:17
- to teach the law to the people, Lev 10:11 and Malachi 2:7
- to be an example of personal spiritual growth, Deut 33:9.
We also looked at the anointing of the priest at the initiation of his responsibilities as well as some of the instances related to the rebellion against Aaron's priesthood. We will come back and look at that some of that again this evening by way of review.
So there are 3 things that we learned from verse 1.
- A priest is appointed by God. He is not self appointed.
- A priest represents man to God.
- He offers gifts and sacrifices for sins to God for the individual.
That is the thrust of verse 1.
NKJ Hebrews 5:2 He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.
Then we have the purpose given in the opening part of verse 2. Now if you are looking at your Bible, verse 2 probably stands as a separate sentence.
That is not how it reads in the original. It begins in the original with the present active infinitive of the Greek verb metriopatheo which is an infinitive of purpose here. This indicates a purpose for the operation of the priesthood.
Literal translation: In order that he would have compassion on those who are ignorant.
It emphasizes that it moderates one's feelings. It has the idea of dealing gently with somebody, to bear reasonably with somebody, to exercise moderation toward someone in relation to their emotions and passions. The idea here is that the priest is not the one who will come along and be judgmental. The individual comes along and brings his sacrifice. He is going to admit his sins when he lays his hands upon the goat. For example in the scapegoat offering he will rehearse his sins. The priest will hear that. He will not act shocked. The priest is not going to judge him. It is a matter between the individual and the Lord. So the priest is one who can have compassion or understanding.
Then we have two words that come up - ignorant and led astray. This relates to two different kinds of sins that are indicated in the Old Testament. The first is a sin of ignorance. It is not that they are ignorant people; it is that they have committed a sin and they are not aware of the fact that it is a sin. Many times we may commit certain acts that we may or may not know we are sins. We may not know that it is a sin. Other times we may commit a sin right in the middle of an entire chain of sins and we don't even realize that we committed that sin. We are out there and we are gossiping or slandering character assassination right in the middle with some blasphemy and we didn't even recognize that. We all do that. We get involved in a string of sins at times. Rather than have to confess every one of them we use I John 1:9.
NKJ 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
He cleanses us from the known and unknown sins. So this word here in the Greek is agnoeo. The "a" at the beginning serves like the "un" prefix in English. It negates the word. Then the word noeo is from the root like gnosis or epignosis. It is that word for knowledge. So it indicates ignorance, to be uniformed, to not know something, to not be aware of the fact that something is a sin. So there is one class of sin that comes under unknown sins. They are not willful sins.
The second class is defined by the verb planao - to be misled, to be deceived, to cause something to go astray in a specific way or from a specific way. This indicates a known or willful path of sin. It covers both. It covers your unknown sins. It covers your known sins. It covers you sins of ignorance. It covers your sins of cognizance. So it is the role of the priest to be understanding of those who have committed unknown sins and those who have committed willful sins.
This is the verb perikeimai which indicates that he is surrounded by weakness.
The last word is astheneia. This is an interesting word. I always have fun with this one. The "a" at the beginning is the same alpha prefix that indicates a negation. The word stheneia is the word for strength. So literally it means without strength. Now the word can refer to lack of physical strength in the sense of illness or weakness or being crippled or anything like that. This is how it is used most of the time in the gospels. However there it is one statement that Jesus says that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. There it is talking about a spiritual weakness or a spiritual inability. About 75% of the time in the Gospels that word is used to refer to physical sickness. That is usually the word that you find those who were sick came to Jesus and were healed.
Then when you get into the epistles this percentage does a fill flop. About 75-80% of the time in the epistles the word refers to a spiritual weakness, a spiritual inability. It is rarely used to refer to a physical illness. This is the same word that is used in that passage in James 5 that everybody gets curious about when it talks about sickness.
NKJ James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
Everybody thinks it has something to do with physical healing. But it doesn't have anything to do with physical healing. The word that is used there is asthenes. It refers to a spiritual weakness. That is exactly what the whole book of James is talking about – to persevere in times of testing. That doesn't have anything to do with being sick. It doesn't fit the category of being a health test. It is that if any of you are spiritually falling apart call for spiritually mature believers to pray for them. It emphasizes that aspect of prayer. There are synonyms that are used in the passage that are also translated sickness. But, they don't have anything to do with sickness; they have to do with weakness. So that is the meaning of that passage in case that ever comes up. It doesn't have anything to do with physical sickness.
One of the hardest things that new pastors have to deal with especially (old pastors do too) if a congregation is not very well taught is to be in a situation like I found myself in when I first went to Irving about 20 years ago to pastor a church. I was going back to Dallas to work on my doctorate. About a month after I arrived (Of course I hadn't had much time to lay any ground work or deal with anything.) there was a young woman in the congregation who was pregnant and she started to miscarry. She and her husband went to the hospital. There is an interesting back story. I really didn't know this lady. She was 4 or 5 years younger than me. She had grown up at Camp Penile. Her father was a well known Sunday school teacher at Bethel Presbyterian here in Houston. Her husband was well known because when he was at Baylor he was like a spy feeding inside information on the liberals at Baylor to Paul Pressler and some of the others who were leading the conservative side of the Baptists resurgence of the orthodox view of the inerrancy of the Scripture. They were a nice couple but they had some funny ideas. They called me and wanted to know if I would come down to the hospital and pray with them. I did. I showed up and there were two other men from the church there with a bottle of Wesson oil. It was time to anoint with oil and pray for the sick. When a woman is about to have a miscarriage this is not the opportunity to take time to teach them a little doctrine. Trust me! That comes with experience as a pastor. You anoint them with oil. You pray and you wait until a more opportune time to straighten them out. That is what I did. I had been a pastor long enough at that point to realize that there are times when you suck it up and go with the flow because otherwise all you will do is create trauma.
Every body gets messed up with English translations at times because they have always been translated a certain way. Most people don't realize this – Bible translations are a money-making business. Most of us don't think about it that way, but it is. The number one best seller is the Bible. And why do you think there are so many different translations coming out? I know of two more translations that are coming out this year. It is a money-making business. But, they learned (at least the conservative evangelicals learned ) back in the '50's that if you don't translate certain verses the way they have always been translated then some radical fundy is going to accuse you of radical heresy and your Bible won't sell. That is what happened with the RSV when they didn't translate Isaiah 9:6 with virgin. They translated it with young woman. Ooooo! The conservatives just hit the ceiling over that and the sales fell off. So Bible publishers learned back then that you don't change things up too much, especially well known familiar verses because people won't buy the translation. So some of these verses don't change a lot even though we have superior knowledge of Greek and theology background studies and other things simply because they don't want to lose money on their investment. It is sad when it comes down to business.
This word astheneia is not talking about physical sickness; it talks about spiritual weakness. The priest is a fallen human being just like the fallen human beings that come to him. He shows a compassion and an understanding for them rather than a self-righteous judgmental attitude. He is the one who represents them before God as he brings sacrifices for sins to God with reference to their sin.
Literal translation: In order to have compassion on those who are sinning out of ignorance and out of willfulness since he himself is also subject to spiritual weakness and failure.
NKJ Hebrews 5:3 Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.
He is from among the people and has spiritual weakness.
The human priest has to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as well as for those who come before him because he is just as much a fallen sinner as they are.
We get an example of this in Leviticus 16:6. So turn with me in your Bible back to Leviticus 16. We are going to spend a little more time looking at the background to the priesthood in the Old Testament.
In Leviticus 16 we have the initiation of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the one time a year when the high priest would go into the inner Holy of Holies. He would go behind the veil and put the blood on the mercy seat, which pictured the propitiatory sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always have fun on Thursday night when we have our Hebrews class because I get to tell stories on my Thursday morning class at the College of Biblical Studies. We all learned a new word today. I think that there were three people in the class that had heard the word "propitiation" before. I like to bring those things in because I want you to recognize that the vast majority of believers out there are biblically illiterate. And it is just getting worse. And I am not talking down on that group. They are there at the college because they realize they don't know anything about the Bible and they need to learn something about the Bible. And that is why they are there. I made the point today and I try not to be too heavy handed on this. I hadn't said this before with this class but I said it this morning. "Just a little thought moment here. If you are here at the College of Biblical Studies because you aren't learning the Bible at your local church from you pastor then perhaps (using that time honored Texas idiom of a double subjunctive) you might ought to think about going to a church that teaches the Bible." I saw about three light bulbs go off today. It is amazing that people just don't think about this. Five people said that they had heard a sermon on propitiation. I was pleased to hear that; but that meant that there were 11 people who had never heard a message on propitiation. So we learned a new word today because we were going through Exodus and I got into the basics of the furniture in the tabernacle as we went through there.
NKJ Leviticus 16:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died;
That is a reference to what happens in Leviticus 10. Just so we have a little background on this, let's turn back to Leviticus 10.
All that goes on between 10 and 16 is instructional. It is important for us to go back to see what happens in chapter 10 because all of this relates to the principle that the writer of Hebrews is establishing in these first four verses - that the priest is appointed by God. Nobody else has the right to appoint a priest. Nobody can be self appointed as the high priest. God is the one who determines who the high priest is. This goes back to that wonderful principle of exclusivity that we find in the Scripture that unbelievers hate. That is that there is only one way to God and He is the one who defines what that way is. There was only one way on the ark and that was through the door. There was only one way to survive the flood and that was on the ark. There was only one way into the presence of God in the tabernacle. You had to go through the gate. And to go through the gate the first thing that had to happen was there had to be a sacrifice on the brazen altar. You can't come into the presence of God unless you do it on the basis of His rules and first of all there has to be a blood sacrifice. After that there was the laver and there had to be cleansing from sin before the priest can go into the presence of God.
Now Aaron had four sons – Nadab, Abihu, Ithamar, and Eleazar. Nadab and Abihu were as rebellious as the rest of the Exodus generation. I think that was one of the key points that God was demonstrating with this Exodus generation. He was demonstrating His grace in delivering them from slavery in Egypt. But he was demonstrating the horrible consequences of rebellion. They were the generation to exemplify rebellion. They were the poster children of rebellion. I think that if you think about the plan of God, just as Galatians 4:4 says that Jesus came in the fullness of times, I think that God waited till this particular generation to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. God is a multi-tasker. Part of what He was doing is (they were now large enough to bring them back to the land), He chose this generation because He knew that they were so rebellious. He didn't start with their children who were not rebellious but with them to demonstrate His grace to a rebellious generation. So often we learn (I do, y'all probably don't) from making mistakes more than from doing it right. I think most of us are probably that way. After we have screwed up about 20 times or 20,000 times then we finally figure out why this is important and why God said to do it a certain way. The basic issue in the angelic conflict is authority orientation. This is why the Scriptures make such an issue out of authority. That was the original sin of Satan. It was arrogance, but it was directed in the rejection of God's authority.
NKJ Leviticus 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
So Nadab and Abihu decide that they are going to enter into the presence of God on their own terms. Again it shows that God is the one who defines the terms.
The result was divine judgment.
NKJ Leviticus 10:2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Now here is Aaron. If you are a parent, put yourself in Aaron's place. Aaron has just lost two of his sons. What is God's instruction?
NKJ Leviticus 10:3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.
So Aaron's reaction as a human being and as a father would be anger and resentment and grief and the overt expression of that. But God says that you can't do that because the issue was a higher issue. They were violating God's holiness.
I want you to pay attention to this statement that Moses makes in verse 3. I must be regarded as what? Holy. Now we have studied this word before. Some of you may need to be reminded that the word "holy" does not mean morally pure. That is what most people think of as holy. Holiness is one of those words that are over used in Christian vocabulary. Most people don't know what it means. It is based on the Hebrew word qodesh which means to be set apart. That's the main idea. When it is applied to God the root idea is to be unique. I think more and more that the distinction of God, the uniqueness of God, relates to the fact that He is the creator. It reinforces the creator-creature distinction. God is totally different. God is the creator. We are the creatures. He is unique. He is distinct. He must be treated that way. One of the things that makes Him distinct is His righteousness and His justice. That is how righteousness and justice play in as a secondary idea to the main idea of being set apart. But because we are called to serve Him as believers we must align ourselves with His holiness. We cannot treat that lightly. He is totally distinct and we must not treat Him in a profane, light, or unworthy manner. That is really what it meant in the Mosaic Law not to take the Lord's name in vain. It doesn't have the idea of fixing the name of God or Jesus before a statement of profanity. It means to take His name or to use it in a light manner. People who say, "Praise Jesus." Or "Hallelujah!" as an automatic response to everything without thinking about what those statements mean are taking the Lord's name in a light manner. You never thought about that did you? They are treating it in just as much a light manner with no real meaning as someone who uses God or Jesus as a curse word.
When do we come near to God? Every time we pray as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The word there for holy is related to our other word, sanctify. That is why when we begin to pray we confess our sins. That is experiential cleansing or sanctification. We recognize that we are coming into the presence of a righteous and just God. There must be cleansing of sin before we do that. We don't come into God's presence after we have been running around in the yard so to speak and all dirty with sin like it doesn't matter. We must come to God the way He says we come to Him and not treat Him lightly. This is what is pictured with Nadab and Abihu. They want to come to God on their own terms. The result was that God took them out immediately.
Now let's go back to chapter 16.
NKJ Leviticus 16:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died;
NKJ Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.
You see, this is really serious. You don't come to God on your terms. You come to God on His terms. He has the right to define how we come to Him. No man can come to God except through Jesus Christ. He is the only way.
NKJ John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
You can't come to God on the basis of your sincerity or on the basis of ritual you engage in or on the basis of your own concept that "I am really a great and wonderful person and I have given all this effort and energy to religious observance. God ought to let me come into His presence because I am a wonderful person." That is how most people want to come into the presence of God. They never think of the fact that this is a God who is holy.
Let's turn for a minute to Isaiah 6. Sometimes I think it is good for us to just reflect upon the holiness of God and what that really means and how totally distinct and how radically other God is in terms of His righteousness and justice. Isaiah is speaking.
NKJ Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.
He has a vision where he sees the Lord or he is transported in some way before the very throne of God.
NKJ Isaiah 6:2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
NKJ Isaiah 6:3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"
So the emphasis here is on the holiness of God.
NKJ Isaiah 6:4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
NKJ Isaiah 6:5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
Isaiah just falls on his face. It is like an automatic reaction. He is scared to death because he realizes how unworthy and unclean he is to be in the presence of God. He screamed out.
This is his vision of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, the supreme incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.
NKJ Isaiah 6:6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.
NKJ Isaiah 6:7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged."
What are we talking about here? This is cleansing – confession of sin. Isaiah is already a believer. The fact is that we can't come into the presence of God without cleansing because God is a holy God and we have to take that seriously. There are too many believers today who have so trivialized God in terms of the love of God and the friendship of Jesus ("What a Friend We Have in Jesus") that while these things are true; it minimizes the significance of God in His holiness and His righteousness. Whenever we see someone in the Scriptures like John as we will see on Sunday morning in Revelation 1 see the risen Lord Jesus Christ in His holiness or the Lord Jesus Christ or like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 - they fall on their faces. It's the light of the glory of God. It exposes our sin to the core of our being. It has to be an unnerving reality for someone to be in this kind of light. It is a moral light. It isn't just a physical light. It exposes who we are. This is why people react to God. They don't want that. They don't want to be exposed. But that is what the Word of God does.
John says this in John 3.
NKJ John 3:19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
The inclination of the sinful heart is that we don't want the exposure that comes from being in the presence of the light.
Back to Leviticus 16.
There is only one way before God. So Aaron has to come into the ark. This whole passage in chapter 16 leads up to and describes the operation on the Day of Atonement when the high priest goes in and presents this sacrifice for the nation. But what precedes the sacrifice for the nation is that he has to have a sacrifice for himself first. That is what Hebrews 5:3 is talking about. The priest is required to offer a sacrifice for his sins before he offers a sacrifice for the people because he has to be cleansed.
So God instructs Moses that Aaron can't come inside the veil except once a year.
NKJ Leviticus 16:3 "Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.
A sin offering was offered for unknown, unwilling sins. A burnt offering was a symbol of one's whole presentation of himself to God in the sense that he is presenting himself to the service of God. So the priest would come and offer a sin offering and a burnt offering for himself first.
NKJ Leviticus 16:4 "He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on.
Notice the detail here. He has to get dressed in a certain way. You see God's details on how we enter His presence extended in the Levitical system down to how the priest dressed. He had to wear his priestly garments. He had to put them on a certain way. And before he put them on he had to make sure that he took a full bath. So he has to treat this with all of the honor and respect that it is due because it is all holy to the Lord. That is what was on the plate on the headdress that the high priest wore, "Holiness to the Lord". It is all about holiness. In fact that is the key word in the book of Leviticus. Man just can't come into the presence of God without there being a sacrifice.
NKJ Leviticus 16:5 "And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering.
NKJ Leviticus 16:6 " Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.
That comes first. Before he can function as a priest to the nation, he had to deal with his own spiritual condition.
Now we are going to get into some interesting fun stuff. The word atonement is always difficult word for people to get a grasp of. It is an English word that is made up with the idea of at onement - the bringing together of two opposing parties. Atonement was put together with those two words, at onement. It has that idea of bringing things together. And for a long time (you probably have been taught this) I used to teach this until I did some recent study. The word for atonement in the Hebrew is the word kaphar. It was the idea of covering. Now that was easy. When I was a first year Hebrew student memorizing vocabulary kaphar – cover. That works. I can remember that. But recent studies in cognate languages (languages related to Hebrew just as you have romance languages Latin, French, Spanish that are cognate languages. Many times if you are a Spanish speaker you can hear Italian and work your way through what they are saying. If you speak Arabic and you are listening to a Hebrew speaker you can pretty much figure out what they are saying. The same thing is true with other ancient Near Eastern languages like Ugaritic and Acadian.) So traditionally the concept of atonement because of the picture that you see with the Ark of the Covenant is a covering of sin.
Let me remind you what the Ark of the Covenant looked like. It is a box. It is a wooden box covered with gold. That is a picture of the hypostatic union. The wood represented the humanity of Christ. The gold represented the deity of Christ. Inside the box were placed 3 things – the broken Ten Commandments which took place after Mt. Sinai when they rebelled against God and they had Aaron make a golden calf, manna, and Aaron's rod that budded that we will look at in a minute in Numbers 16. All three of those things represent Israel's rejection of God's provision. They rejected His provision of the Law. They rejected His provision of logistical grace in terms of the manna. They rejected His spiritual leadership that He had selected in terms of Aaron. That is what Aaron's rod represented.
On top of the box was the mercy seat. On the top of the mercy seat (we are all familiar with this) were two cherubs looking down as it were on the sin of Israel. The high priest would come in on the Day of Atonement and he would place the blood from the sacrificed Day of Atonement lamb and place it on the mercy seat. It covers the sin as it were. Oh, that makes sense.
But recent word studies have indicated that the word kaphar doesn't emphasize covering as much as it indicates cleansing. Now Aaron is already saved. Aaron is already in terms of his priestly typology, is already redeemed. Even if you had a priest who wasn't truly saved the initiation into the role is a picture of that salvation.
Remember, in the life of Israel one thing that will always help you is to think of the history of Israel as a corporate people as a picture of what happens to the individual believer in the Church Age. For example as a nation they are called through Abraham. Following the calling of Abraham, they are redeemed by the Passover lamb. He pays the price of their sin. Then they are identified with Moses at the Red Sea. Then they go into the wilderness of Sinai. They go down to Sinai and God gives them the Law which is the protocol plan for the Old Testament believer. It is how the redeemed people are supposed to live. So the rest of the story from the wilderness wanderings, the conquest, and judges is really related to experiential sanctification issues. As a nation they are saved over here on Passover. That is why they don't get the law first and then get redeemed. They get redeemed first and then they get the Law. The Law tells them how a redeemed people that are adopted by God as the first born to be a kingdom of priests, is supposed to live.
So in terms of the typology that the Holy Spirit is presenting here, Aaron is already saved. The nation is already redeemed. The Day of Atonement doesn't have to do with justification salvation; it has to do with post salvation cleansing year after year after year. One of the interesting things that supports this is that when the Jewish rabbis translated the Old Testament into the Greek Old Testament called the Septuagint for 70 (The legend is that 70 rabbis translated the Pentateuch in 70 days. That would have been quite a feat) that when they translated that Hebrew word kaphar in to Greek they used the Greek word katharizo most of the time. Now the Greek verb katarizo (katharos) is the Greek word used in I John 1:9.
NKJ 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It has to do with that ongoing cleansing from sin after salvation. So this is what is going on here. Every year there has to be this national cleansing of sin. As the Hebrew writer says, the blood of bulls and goats can't really take away sin. It is an annual reminder that everybody in the nation is a fallen sinner and there needs to be ongoing cleansing for sin. So first Aaron has to go into the tabernacle and he as to offer a bull as a sin offering. He has to make atonement for himself and his house.
NKJ Leviticus 16:7 "He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
NKJ Leviticus 16:8 "Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the scapegoat.
This is a picture of confession because he is going to lay his hands on both of these goats. He is going to confess sin. One goat is going to go into the wilderness; one goat is going to be sacrificed. The sacrificed goat is a picture that sin is dealt with. The fact that the other goat goes into the wilderness is the fact that the sin is removed and it is no longer an issue. It goes off and is taken out of the camp.
Chapter 16 in Leviticus goes on to deal with the whole ceremony and ritual related to the Day of Atonement which is a picture of national cleansing. This ritual has tremendous reality. Why? Because as believers they would understand what it pictured. Now if you aren't a believer you don't understand the picture so the ritual has no reality. So we have to be careful when we use phrases like "ritual with reality" and "ritual without reality" because all of the ritual in the Old Testament had reality if you were a believer and understood what it pictured. But if you weren't a believer it didn't have any reality because you didn't understand the doctrines that were embedded there. The same thing with the Lord's Table in the Church Age. If you're not a believer, you don't have an appreciation of what is going on in the Lord's Table because you don't understand the person and work of Jesus Christ and you haven't trusted Him as your savior. So it is meaningless ritual. But if you understand the gospel message and you understand the person and work of Jesus Christ then that ritual has reality. The same thing was true for baptism. Baptism was a ritual that had reality if you understood what it was a picture of. It was a picture of the believer's identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. If you don't understand that this, it was ritual without reality. Every now and then I hear people use that terminology very loosely. The reason ritual has reality is because you know the doctrines that are pictured in the ritual. If you don't know those doctrines, it has no meaning. You end up emphasizing the ritual as a means to gaining God's approbation.
Last time we looked at Exodus 28. This time we looked at Leviticus 10. There is this constant challenge to the exclusivity of Aaron's appointment by God.
Then in Numbers 16 there is the rebellion of Korah, Nathan, and Abiram where Korah, Nathan and Abiram want to set up an alternative priesthood. There are 250 who follow them. Then God isolates them once again demonstrating His exclusivity, demonstrating His righteousness and His justice. He isolates them that and they stand out. Every time I read that I think about what a scene that must have been. Picture the fact that you have a couple of million Jews in the wilderness. Then in this one area of the camp where you have a group that wants to set up their own alternative priesthood and God announces that He is going to judge them. So, everybody ought to back off. Now with what they have seen so far you would think that the Jews would understand what it meant to back off. They do; they began to back off. Moses comes along and Moses says that if this is true and they violated the standard then the earth would swallow them up and if it's not true they would die a natural death like anybody else. At that point the earth rumbles.
Let me back up. Before that each of these men, Korah, Nathan and Abiram and their families including grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, children and infants all stand out in front of their tents. It is like a procession. Everybody is standing there at morning roll call. Moses makes His announcement and the earth begins to rumble. It opens up and swallows them – babies, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. The whole clan of these 3 men gets swallowed into the earth and it closes up on them. Nothing is left.
It doesn't stop there. Then fire from heaven comes. Then what happens? God evaporates the 250 other men who were following them in their rebellion. So you get the impression that God really doesn't like rebellion. He has appointed Aaron to be the high priest. Do you get that message? I get that message. But the next day the Jews get up and they grumble and complain all over again. This must have been a really tough crowd to work. After all of that they still grumble and complain about Aaron.
This is the background. This is when God told Aaron to take his wooden staff from a dead tree and put it into the tent of the meeting along with the others who wanted to compete for the role of high priest. God would perform a miracle and the dead wooden staff of the one God chose would sprout green leaves and branches. It would start to grow again. That is what happened to Aaron's rod. When we talked about Aaron's rod that budded that is what we are talking about. It symbolizes their rejection of God's appointment of Aaron as a priest.
So we see all of this in the background to those first four verses in Hebrews 5.
NKJ Hebrews 5:4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.
That is what was happening with Korah, Nathan, and Abiram. That is what was happening with Nadab and Abihu. They wanted to take that honor for themselves. They wanted to make themselves priests because they didn't understand that to function as a priest you had to be appointed by God. It was not something that was generated by the individual. They had to be called by God just as Aaron was.
Now that sets up the analogy. The rest of these verses from verse 5-10 apply that analogy to the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ to His position as the Royal High Priest for all eternity. The key idea is that only God as the right to appoint the high priest. He defines the terms on how we come before Him.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.