A Merciful and Faithful High Priest

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I want to bring a little before you what Scripture tells us of the Priesthood of Christ; and still more the way He is in the presence of God for us.
The first four verses of this Chapter refer to the previous one. The Apostleship of Christ as sent into the world—the Word of God spoken by the Son—The High Priest of our profession. It impresses upon us the importance of taking heed to the Word spoken by Him: to neglect it were eternal ruin.
But He is the Priest as gone up on high. He came down to manifest God to man, He is gone up to represent marl before God—believers of course— “those who come unto God by him.” He is a Man on high, taking part with all that we are—sinlessly of course—in all that God has produced in us. When we speak of taking part, it shows that He had no part naturally. He took up the seed of Abraham.
Here Scripture speaks at once of (what is never lost sight of in the Gospel) “the world to come.” That new state of things under Christ. As Adam had all put under his dominion—(Gen. 1:2828And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)) He lost this headship too—so all is to be put in subjection under man’s feet, i.e., Christ’s feet as man. As yet “we see not all things put under him; but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.” God has set Him in the highest place, when He had been in humiliation in the lowest. The very fact of His; having being humbled and obedient in it, is His title to exaltation. Being in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and.... became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. (Phil. 2) There I get the man of God’s purpose. Adam was the man of God’s creation in responsibility—Christ is the man of God’s purpose. All promises were to Him as the seed of the woman, there were none to Adam. Christ was to destroy all the power of the enemy, and to bring man by redemption into God’s purpose when he had entirely failed. Thus we are brought in by grace as sharers in what He inherits as the man of God’s counsel.
We do not see our place with Him until we see how He is raised above all creation. The first reason is because He was the Creator of it all; the second, because He was the Son; and the third, because he was the man of the counsel and purpose of God.
“He took not up angels”—most glorious of beings who are kept of God—witnesses of God’s preserving grace and mercy; ministers to do His pleasure—holy angels. They are not named at the creation, but as spectators. “The sons of God shouted for joy.” But they were not the vessels of God’s purpose—man was to be that. And that the whole thing might be of God, man having gone down below all creatures—below the brutes in that sense—for man is lower than a worm in the degradation of his own lusts and his forgetfulness of God. He has sunk down into the lowest state of wretchedness, and misery, and sin. Christ comes down to take him up in that kind of love which had no motive but what is in God, and the misery of its object. He gave His son, in whom he delighted, for those who were children of wrath. “He took not up angels, but the seed of Abraham.” It makes nothing of us, because it is the very character of God’s love to take up the sinner.
A holy being, delighting in God, is a thing we can understand; but there is nothing more extraordinary, when we come to look at men—even Christians—degraded in sin, (for flesh is no better in the Christian if he allows it to act,) and in all the weakness and degradation of a brute, and to find such a being put into all the blessedness of the Son of God. “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” The heart sinks down with shame when we think of what we are, and what we have been, and when we contemplate the grace that has so dealt for and with us! Yet God would display all His ways, nay, Himself! and this Blessed One takes us up in our failure, weakness, temptation, and sin too, as a merciful and faithful High Priest—the One who will be before us in everything, leader even in our praises. “In the midst of the church (assembly) will I sing praise unto thee!” He leads up all our praises to His Father, and in the ages to come He is going to show “the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus!”
I get to learn the manifold wisdom of God when I find myself connected with fallen man on one side, and with the Son of God on the other. I must get an absolute and complete redemption, entirely and totally taken out of the condition in which man was under judgment, and an introduction into another in Christ; so that God loves me as He loves His Son! And then my greatest blessedness is to find out every instant of my life my absolute dependence on His grace. If I forget it for a moment I sink back practically into all that I was—I was an independent sinner, now I am a dependent saint! With flesh still in me while here, and every sort of temptation, and all that gives me those necessary exercises of heart in passing through things here, I am forced to lean upon this grace. I learn all I am, and at the same time, through mercy, I learn all the blessed grace of Christ Himself, when I am thoroughly exercised and humbled, so that God can let the flood of His goodness flow in on my heart. I find that I have got Christ before God instead of my sins; that He is there an advocate with the Father, who has been the propitiation for me. He is my righteousness. Then comes all I have got to pass through.
If the condition of my heart is such that I know Christ as my righteousness in the presence of God, I have nothing to think about on that matter—the question of sin is a settled one, and I have nothing to have experience about then, (I have joy to be sure in the thought of this, and I have to bless God for it); but I know that I am introduced into a totally new thing, and this makes the riddle of my state. It makes my heart be exercised as to how far I am daily living in this new condition, and how far I am living in the old. You may do both (though not at the same moment) if you are not watchful; but if you are walking in the new, you are walking in the Spirit, and it is of all importance to see that I am not only walking rightly, but in the Spirit.
If you are doing so, He is showing you what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man. You realize yourself as united by the Holy Ghost to the Head of this new creation; you are conscious that you belong to it, to the very center and Head of it, “of His flesh and of His bones.” The Holy Ghost takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to us—reveals Him to us. It is the Spirit, not of bondage, but of adoption, and I, a child, and an heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ, I get into all the scene of glory which is His in the heavens, and in the earth; and I know “the things that are freely given to me of God.” I live in them, set my heart upon them, them alone, because it is where Christ is.
I belong to all this scene consciously thus; but as a poor earthen vessel, and God’s plan has always been to make us find our place in those things, by leading us through the wilderness, where we are thoroughly tried and tested. We are no longer in Egypt; we have passed the Red Sea on our way to Canaan, (we are there now as to title and privileges too,) hut not actually come to it yet. We are running the race—present in the body, absent from the Lord. We have not got to the rest yet, and we have to labor to enter into it; and in our own strength to seek to do this were to labor into misfortune and wretchedness.
When God visited Israel in Egypt, He said not a word about the wilderness. His purpose was to bring them to Canaan. His plan was to teach them in the wilderness. So with us. His purpose was to bring us to heaven when He placed His Son there: His plan is that we should pass through all the exercises of heart down here that we may discern pod and evil; and yet more, to learn that God “withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous;” and we ought not to withdraw our eyes from Him!
This takes many shapes in the soul. Discipline working by the power of the Spirit of God in us, which produces that energy of heart which says, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3) This, too, in an epistle where sin is not mentioned, and flesh only to say that we have no confidence in it. The intents and purposes of the heart are all right, the eye is single, and the whole body full of light. Opposition is a different thing to a man who had this.
Who had such energy and singleness of eye as Paul? One sinks with shame to think of him in contrast to ourselves, and he has to get a thorn in the flesh; something to oppose and thwart him in his energy. Why? That the power of Christ might rest upon him! He must be brought into a furnace, and he glories in infirmities. Then, My grace, my strength, is sufficient, Paul, for you! You must be a dependent man, a weak man. Ah, says Paul, “When I am weak, then am I strong.” Human energy was a striking quality in Paul, but he must have a dependent heart on Christ. Do I not find in Philippians a dependent heart in Corinthians, “Without were fightings, within were fears.” No comfort, no rest of spirit. You must get cast down, Paul, and then I will come and comfort you.
It is the plan of God to bring us into the wilderness, where everything in our hearts is tried. Where He suffers us to hunger and feeds us with manna that we knew not, that we may know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. That was the way the Lord Jesus Christ lived.
Do you walk as practically living by every word of God, beloved friends? or, do you walk in the counsels of your own hearts? Do you not live a greater part of your lives in your own thoughts? Can you say, The Word of God bids me do this and nothing more? What blessed grace it is to us that we should have every movement of our lives, our inward ways, all governed by the Word of God. That is Divine wisdom.
Living by the Word of God my flesh gets thwarted. If I listen to flesh I sin, and lose my communion with God. My heart condemns me, and my confidence is gone. My heart gets away from Him, and unless instantly restored there is a disinclination to return to communion with God. The flesh has got to possession. What are you to do now? There I get an advocate with the Father. He recalls my soul. But this is not the special subject of Hebrews. There it is that there is grace to help in time of need, that failure may not come.
When I am near God I judge myself, I can say, “It is not I; It was I, but it is not so now.” And I condemn it and judge it. But I must first know that I am with God, and God for and with me, for this. I must be living in proper Christian life in order to have Christ sustaining me—helping me in my praises, in my infirmities and failures too, but helping me out of them. A poor feeble creature, with a treasure in an earthen vessel. Christ has seen to the righteousness which I needed there, and now He ministers the grace I want down here. My eyes then look “straight on” in the energy of the Spirit of God. This is one part of the Christian’s life.
But besides this, I find opposition from Satan too. I belong to God’s army—I have to, fight God’s battles. The land belongs to God, but the Canaanite is there still. This is “Joshua-work,” and I must know that I have passed the Jordan—dead and risen with Christ. That I have put off the old man, and put on the new, and thus that Christ’s death has been applied practically to all in myself. I have to reckon myself dead; to bear about in my body, the dying of Jesus. All the movements of flesh have been brought under the power of the cross, and crushed and broken. There is no real entrance into the land, no real looking back at Christ’s death until the heart is thus really circumcised. We have been put into heavenly places that we may walk according to it. Heaven is thus in our hearts while we are going through the wilderness. You do not want the armor for the wilderness; you want it for your conflict with Satan’s power. You are with Satan in heavenly places—with God in the wilderness. Wonderful paradox! But Christ is there on high, a High Priest, close to God, so that I am always conscious of a throne of grace, and help in time of need. He thus brings down grace; brings down heaven.
O what blessing! The very things that I have to dread in myself, and rightly too, as those which separate me from God, these things bring God to me! He is a High Priest that can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He has passed through the difficulties and trials Himself, and is now a Man in the presence of God; not in them now, but He knows all that I am in. He can understand and enter into them not only as God, but as Man. He can understand what your heart goes through.
The Lord give us to be faithful in the exercise of our hearts; to learn to be soldiers, but with an exercised, sifted heart—one that knows itself—the spirit of self-broken—the remains of self-detected from day to day. That grace working in us thus, we shall find Christ the portion of our hearts yet more and more.