Study Notes

Hebrews 4:14-5:14


Twice now in our study of Hebrews, we have quickly skipped over references to Jesus as our high priest. In chapter two, He was described as...

Hebr. 2:17 ...a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Then in chapter three, He was called...

Hebr. 3:1 ...the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.

Now, with the rest of chapter four and all of chapter five ahead of us in this study, it is time to look more closely at Jesus as our great High Priest. This will not be, however, the final word on this subject, since much more remains to be said on this topic, especially in chapters eight and nine.

4:14-16 A Great High Priest

Jesus is called a great high priest. In order to understand this more fully, we should look at a little history.

When God led the Israelite people to Mount Sinai from their bondage in Egypt, He gave them the Law. In that Law, the Lord outlined all the details of the priesthood that He was establishing.

The men from the tribe of Levi would serve in the temple, and those who were descendants of Moses' brother Aaron would serve as priests.

Aaron would be the high priest, with special duties and additions to the priests' uniform.

The ephod that the high priest wore had two shoulder pieces with onyx stones on them, with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel engraved on them. It represented the fact that the high priest bore the people of Israel on his shoulders.

He also wore a breastpiece, which had twelve stones on the front, each engraved with the name of a tribe of Israel. It symbolized that the people were near to the high priest's heart.

Inside the pouch of the breastpiece were the Oo-REEM and the Toom-MEEM. These were used to determine the judgment of God. Thus, the high priest would have had special knowledge of God's will.

Another special part of the high priest's uniform was a turban with a gold crown on it. This crown was engraved with the words "Holy to the Lord." This stated that the high priest was to be holy, set apart for God.

The high priest was not only set apart in uniform, but also in duty. It was the job of the high priest to make atonement for the people on Yom Kippur by entering into the Holy of Holies, that part of the tabernacle which represented God's throne room in heaven. He was only allowed to enter in once a year, on Yom Kippur, and only after a laborious set of washings and consecration.

But here, the writer reminds us that Jesus passed through the heavens. He has opened the door for us to the throne room of God. With Jesus as our high priest, we ourselves are invited in - directly to the throne of God. It is Jesus Who bears us up on His shoulders, Who keeps us close to His heart, Who knows God's will, and Who is holy to the Lord.

5:1-6 The Earthly High Priests

Since the high priests down through the ages were descendants of Aaron, naturally they were men. And since they were men, they had sin to deal with - their own sin. Not only was each high priest offering sacrifices for the people, but also for himself.

Now Jesus, as our high priest, offers the best of both worlds. Yes, He can relate, for He is a man. However, He was sinless. The Scriptures say that He...


We have a high priest Who understands our weaknesses, Who has been tempted as we have been, but has not Himself been defiled by sin. Thus, He devotes His full attention to our grace and forgiveness.

The Order Of Melchizedek

Interestingly, Jesus our high priest is not a descendant of Aaron. He is not even from the tribe of Levi at all. Remember, He is...

Rev. 5:5 ...the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David...

Jesus was born of Judah, not Levi. How, then, does He qualify to be our great high priest? That requires another short history lesson.

In Genesis chapter 14, we read of an interesting event: After a large battle, a victorious army sacked Sodom and Gomorrah. They took everything - the valuables, the food, and even the people. Lot was living in Sodom at this time, so he was one of the people captured.

One man escaped, and ran to tell Abraham. Abraham took 318 men with him, and chased them down. He and his men defeated the army, retrieved all of the goods and all of the people, and brought them back. At that point, we read,

Gen. 14:18-20 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tenth of all.

Melchizedek was both a king and a priest. He blessed Abraham, and Abraham paid a tithe, a tenth, of what he had earned.

The only other time he is mentioned is in the messianic Psalm 110, when the Lord says to Jesus,

Ps. 110:4 ..."Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

Not a prominent priesthood in the Old Testament, but proven to be superior to the Aaronic priesthood. You see, the writer of Hebrews spends some of chapter five and most of chapter seven talking about this priesthood. Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, in that He is both a king and a priest.

Also notice that the descendants of Aaron who served as high priests would do so until they died. But because Jesus will never die, He is a priest forever.

5:7-10 The Work Of Christ

When Jesus walked the earth, He suffered a great deal. You recall that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He tearfully and candidly prayed to the Father.

Luke 22:44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.

No matter how agonizing the cross ahead was, He submitted Himself to the Father. He knew that the only way for us to have our sins paid for was to suffer and die. And so, He...

Matt. 26:42 ...prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done."

Jesus knows the price of obedience. He learned it first hand. Now, He can relate to our sufferings - when we struggle against the temptation to do our will instead of the Father's will. He is our source of eternal salvation if we follow His example and obey Him.

5:11-14 Milk Or Meat?

The author really wanted to move into some deep theological and typological teaching. Really meaty stuff. He wanted to continue talking about the Melchizedekian priesthood, but there was a problem. The Hebrews to whom he was writing hadn't progressed in their Christianity like they should have after all that time. "By this point," he says, "You ought to be teaching the Scriptures to others." But instead, you're back to babyhood.

How did he know where they were at spiritually? Because a baby doesn't know right from wrong. When we grow up, we learn by practice what is right and what is wrong. Toddlers will fight and scream out of selfishness over a toy. But we teach them, train them up, having them practice the concept of sharing.

Righteousness in the Christian's life is the same thing. It is learned by practice, enabling us to grow up and mature in our faith. We must allow our senses to be trained to discern good and evil. That comes from coming to church, having devotions, reading the Word, praying and fellowshipping.

And if that ever stops, we begin to regress. Notice that verse 11 tells us that they had "become dull of hearing." They had not always been like that. They had become like that.

The word "dull" in that verse is the Greek word for "slothful and sluggish." It literally is a compound word meaning "no push." They had stopped pressing forward. Saints, it is so important that we keep going forth, pressing on, practicing righteousness in our faith. As Paul told the Philippians,

Phil. 3:8-14 ...I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from {the} Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which {comes} from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained {it} , or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of {it} yet; but one thing {I do} : forgetting what {lies} behind and reaching forward to what {lies} ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Let's press on, that we not become dull of hearing.

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