Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 18 September 19:
Hebrews 5:1 – “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God….”
Hebrews 5 describes the role of the high priest (referencing both the Levitical priests and Melchizedek) to introduce the perfect priesthood of Christ, the Great High Priest. The chapter closes with a warning not to be “dull of hearing and “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” (Hebrews 5:11, 13) The final exhortation for us is to mature in our “discernment” by training and “constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
As described last week, we are called to be the image of Christ on earth. As Christians, we are called to emulate Christ’s priestly example –
- Exodus 19:6 — …and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
- 1 Peter 2:5 — You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 2:9 — But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
To mature in the priestly example embodied by Jesus, we must constantly practice. Today’s readings give us some things to practice –
- Intercession and Reconciliation. “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” (v.1) Paul also says elsewhere, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) As priests on earth, sent wherever God has sprinkled us like salt, we are to serve as agents of reconciliation between others and God, which involves much intercessory prayer (spiritual gifts to God) for others while constantly proclaiming to them “the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into the marvelous light. Who around you are you interceding for in earnest prayer and talking with that they might be reconciled to God?
- Grace. “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.” (v.2) As Christ’s appointed priests on earth, we deal gently with others and show grace to others because we live by grace and because the grace we share is part of our testimony to the power of grace in Christ. Do you always deal gently and graciously with the “ignorant and wayward?”
- Prayerful humility. “Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.” (v.3) We have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not because of our deeds; and we have been freed from the penalty of sin through Christ. Yet, we nonetheless must pray continually for our own growth in Christ so that we can grow in fellowship with Him and lead others to Him.
- 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.
- Proclaiming Christ. “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” (v.4) It is not about us but all about Him. We don’t attempt to share honor and glory with Christ, rather we direct all honor and glory towards Him as we remain wholly humble in our obedience. Our goal is not for people to admire our example and seek to emulate us but rather for people to admire Jesus and seek Him. In your example, always proclaim Christ.
- John 3:30 — He must increase, but I must decrease.”
- Learning Obedience. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (v. 7. 8) Jesus prayed earnestly concerning His circumstances and was heard “because of His reverence.” How does your reverence for God effect your prayer life? Jesus trusted the Father with His prayers and also with His circumstances, which He knew were in the Father’s sovereign hands. Jesus, “learned obedience through what He suffered.” For sinless Jesus, this ‘learning’ was simply experiencing a different level of obedience rather than learning how to be obedient. However, for us, we grow in obedience as we “practice” obedience through suffering. As we walk in obedience through the challenges of life, we grow in our Christ-like character and serve as priests, as ambassadors for Christ, to those around us who are also struggling and need Jesus – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28, 29)
Do not be “dull of hearing,” or “unskilled in the word of righteousness [and] the basic principles of the oracles of God.” (vs. 11-13) Practice and training as a maturing priest, following the example of our Great High Priest, Jesus.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 September 20: Today, practice intercession and reconciliation, grace, prayerful humility, proclaiming Christ, and learning obedience.