Advent 2018: Until the Son of God Appears

Day 13: O Come, Great High Priest

Leviticus 9:1-7, Leviticus 16:29-34, Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 5:1-10, Hebrews 10:10-14

 

A homeowner’s work is never done. There is always grass to be cut, siding to be repaired, fences to be mended, windows to be washed, shelves to be dusted, floors to be vacuumed, bathrooms to be cleaned. And by the time you do all that, the grass is overgrown; it’s time to start over and work through the cycle again.

Certainly, there is a positive feeling of accomplishment that comes with properly caring for your home. There is a healthy sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with maintaining the things God has given us to steward. But if we’re really honest, it also comes with a bit of frustration—not with having something to care for, but because it all tends towards decay and disrepair, no matter what you do.

Our spiritual lives aren’t all that dissimilar. If not cared for, they tend toward decay. For ancient Israelites, this decay was daily and ritually cared for and covered by the sacrificial system. The high priests would offer animal sacrifices and burnt offerings to mediate the relationship between God and His people, offering atonement for sins and creating sacred space for God and man to commune.

High-priestly work was sacred but also very bloody and gritty. To our modern eyes, it would seem pretty gruesome. The sights, the sounds, the smells—death lingered in the air, providing cleansing and life, yes, but also visceral reminders of the weight of sin and the cost of atonement.

We may read about the Old Testament sacrificial system in our Bibles occasionally, but it’s no longer an embodied reality that daily confronts our senses. We see it from afar, but the high priests would have encountered it as regularly as we encounter repeated labor or chores in our homes. In the face of consistent regression, they worked in obedience to God to keep Israel’s spiritual relationships in order.

The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus’s work as High Priest was permanent and universally available—an amazing relief to the first recipients of the letter. Christ not only took on the High Priestly role, but He fulfilled it forever! (Hebrews 10:10).

This knowledge should embolden us as we approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Knowing that we have an empathetic, and omnipotent intercessor should give us confidence as we work with God to put our spiritual house in order. Where we have weakness and shortcoming, He has strength and healing. We know longer need to worry about returning to a well of daily sacrifice, a patchwork system of grace, because we are covered by the perfect blood of an eternal and unwavering sacrifice.

Certainly, our spiritual walk will be one of progress and regress and then progress again, but that does not mean Christ’s sacrifice is insufficient. Rather, in our regress we turn to Christ our courageous and loving High Priest. In Him, we have grace abounding and a sacrifice that cannot be exhausted.

Written by Andrew Stoddard