Not Taken, But Received
And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee”; just as He says also in another passage, “Thou art a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrew 5:4-6
Back in Hebrews 3:1 the inspired writer is moved to exhort the church to “consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession”. The church is to consider Jesus in these offices in juxtaposition to Moses, the Old Testament giant of faith. As the apostle of God, involved in the physical delivery of the nation out of slavery, he also functioned in a quasi high priestly position, by his admittance into the presence of Yahweh and intercessor of the nation of Israel. These were roles normally reserved for the high priest.
The Hebrews held Moses in high regard. The purpose of comparison is to demonstrate Jesus’ superiority as the Son over the house of God compared to Moses, the servant in the house of God. This was to lift their perception from the service Moses executed in the physical realm to that which Christ executed in the spiritual.
In the previous three weeks we’ve covered the Old Testament passages that are cited which properly communicate Jesus’ superiority as the Apostle and deliverer, and the importance of faithfully heeding His voice until we enter the Father’s rest, which is a heavenly, eternal rest.
Now the Holy Spirit moves the writer to work on enlightening our understanding and consideration of Jesus Christ as our High Priest in the heavenly places. To enhance and insure a correct understanding of this lofty position, the penman is moved to quote first from Psalm 2:7, which reads: “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee.’ “, and secondly, Psalm 110:4: “The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ “
These are two pretty meaty Old Testament quotes that are attributed to Jesus Christ by the divinely directed scribe of the Hebrew letter. These deserve to be chewed on and digested one piece at a time. That we will do. First we must review historical events associated with the LORD’s call and confirmation of Aaron as the high priest to the nation of Israel. These are important foreshadowed events that will help us as the church to properly appraise the LORD’s declaration and confirmation of Jesus Christ as our high priest.
Aaron, The Foreshadow
Aaron did not jockey for the high priest position among the elders of Israel, nor did he lobby his younger brother Moses currying favor for the coveted position of intercessor and administrator of things concerning the Tabernacle sacrificial system. When the LORD gave Moses the pattern for the Tabernacle, the sacrifices and the priesthood, He called Aaron and his descendents to be priests to minister to Him. (Ex. 28:1). One would think this would put an end to any controversy. Oh, but the LORD’s working here with men that are still carnal minded and selfishly ambitious, looking to receive glory among men.
Korah, jealous of Aaron and Moses’ privileged position before the LORD, led a rebellion in the camp seeking for participation in the priesthood apart from being called by God. This little escapade is recorded in Number 16 and 17 for our example and instruction. The results for Korah and his little band of rebels (by the way, the Scripture says they were “men of renown”, Num. 16:2b) in instigating this uprising against God’s chosen, led to their deaths. The LORD opened the ground and swallowed whole Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the leaders of the insurrection, then smoked up the 250 men who joined them, as a demonstration of His displeasure.
After this incident, the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for the deaths of the LORD’s people. The LORD’s wrath broke forth and He sent a plague upon the camp. If not for Aaron’s intercession in making atonement via the incense on the altar to check the plague, many more than the 14,700 would have died. (Num. 16:41-50)
The final demonstration the LORD utilized to designate Aaron and the tribe of Levi as those He had called to minister to Him, was to have all the leaders of the twelve tribes bring a rod with the name of the leader of the tribe upon it, and place them before “the testimony, where I meet with you” (Num. 17:4b). The rod that budded would be the sign affirming who the LORD had chosen. Aaron’s rod was the only one to bud and bring forth ripe almonds from among the twelve rods. This wonder was done before the eyes of all Israel “as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they should not die.” (Num. 17:10)
So important was this event of Aaron’s rod budding, it was one of the three things that were placed in the ark of the covenant, along with the manna and tables of the covenant. This was the day, if you care to accept it, that the LORD made absolutely known to the nation of Israel that He had called His servant Aaron and his descendents, to minister to Him. You’ll notice that Aaron never once attempted to take this honored office to himself, to seek to glorify himself among the nation of Israel. He understood no one could take it to himself, but only receive it, if called by the LORD. This is the foreshadowed pattern, brethren, that we will see fulfilled in Christ when He receives the office of eternal High Priest. Stay tuned.