Psalm 51:1-12; Exodus 30:1-10; Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (read online ⧉)
Incense was used as part of the priests’ daily worship of God. It was a prescribed practice. Priests had a number of prescribed practices that they were regularly responsible for. They were constantly doing their tasks before God, both to honor him and be the representative of the Israelites before God.
Before a priest could do their duties, they had cleansing rituals that had to be completed. By virtue of their post, they didn’t get to be cleansed. They are imperfect beings, too, just like us. This remains the case today, whether they are in the other Christian traditions where the priestly role retains much of the intercessory nature of the Israelite priests, or in ours.
This is where the author of Hebrews gives us pause and hope. The author informs us that Jesus Christ [perfect, Son of God, Son of Man, Eternal, begotten of the Father] has now taken the role of the ritual priest, and by his very nature and sacrifice is the eternal offeror of the sacrifice he was.
The author of Hebrews goes so far as to elevate Jesus to the High Priest (highest person of religious authority in both culture and law), and then tie Jesus to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-14), who was the first person scripture calls “priest”. The author, then, is tying Jesus into the priestly realm before ever the person called Israel (let alone the tribes) even existed. By doing so, it is being established that how and what Jesus does in regards to priestly things overcomes, is superior to, and is the ultimate expression of the priestly sacrificial system.
While the author of Hebrews is showing Jesus’ rightful place as (ultimate) priest and intercessor, the author also speaks to Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was fully human. Jesus was and is fully divine. The two natures of Jesus laid bare for all to see. God as fully human. God who knows and lived with all our weaknesses and temptations, stands with us and for us.
1) How do you understand Jesus as God and human?
2) If you could avoid punishment, would you?
3) What does it mean to you that Jesus—who could have chosen not to die—chose to die to take your punishment, death?