When we become increasingly aware of our sin and grow more disgusted by it, we become less impressed with ourselves. When we rightly understand our sin and the magnitude of what the Lord has done for us, the results must be a broken and contrite heart. We must tremble at the Word of God.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. — Isaiah 66:2
Humility has fallen on hard times. Our world is not a place that generally rewards humility. If there ever was a “me first” generation, it is ours.
There are many examples of pride and arrogance around us and within us. We even use the term “humble brag” as part of our everyday vernacular. Our civilization is so immersed in vanity that we hardly even notice it anymore. And being self-centered pays these days. It pays big! The world is delighted with those who put themselves in first place, at least for a season.
Do you know what I have noticed in my life? I see the pride in other people far more quickly than I see the pride in my own life. Jesus addressed this same human tendency and certainly did not fail to rebuke it, saying, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). How natural it is to recognize the faults of others while explaining away our own!
The Word of the Lord is clear in Isaiah 66:2. God looks with favor to the one who is humble and contrite. The world may devalue those who live in humility, but the Lord looks upon them with approval (1 Peter 5:5).
As with all things related to obeying God, humility demands we choose to please the Lord more than we crave the approval of people.
While it is tempting to live for the applause of those around us, it is wise to remember how fleeting the admiration of the watching world truly will be. Though the world’s acceptance may be quickly gained, it is just as easily lost.
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By Cole Newton — 7 months ago
We have such a high priest. A priest that is eternally and omnipotently using His exaltation in order to serve us. Priests primarily served in two functions. They offered sacrifices to atone for sin, and they made intercession, praying to God on others’ behalf. Presently, Jesus is serving as our high priest by praying for us to the Father, which is the kind of praying that kept Peter from falling away like Judas.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
Hebrews 7:26-8:5 ESV
In our previous text, the author of Hebrews took us through a marvelous journey as he explained the mysterious prophesy that the Christ (David’s Lord) would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. As we noted, the purpose of Melchizedek’s brief appearance in Genesis 14 and in Psalm 110 must have been one of the greatest lingering questions for God’s people throughout the ages. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit revealed Melchizedek’s purpose as a type and prefiguring of Jesus.
In essence, we were shown that Jesus is a priest-king, just like Melchizedek. Although Melchizedek’s name means king of righteousness and he was the king of Salem, which means peace, Jesus is the true King of righteousness and King of peace. In the text of Genesis 14, Melchizedek appears suddenly and is given no exit or genealogy, making his priesthood seem unending; however, as the eternal Son of God, Jesus truly is unending.
Next, the author walked us through how Christ’s priesthood, which was resembled by Melchizedek’s priesthood, is superior to the Levitical priesthood. After laying his arguments before us, the author concluded by pointing toward why all of this was necessary: it is the proof that Christ can legally be our great high priest, mediating between us and God, and guaranteeing our salvation through His better covenant.
It was Indeed Fitting // Verses 26-28
With that nutshell of verses 1-25 set before us, we continue in this sermon-letter with verse 26: For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Of the first part of this verse, Richard Phillips notes:
A better translation would be, “Such a high priest was fitted to us.” The point is that Jesus as high priest is perfectly fitted for the predicament in which we find ourselves; he is appropriate in every way to be the Savior of sinful humankind.
Like most things in Hebrews, the author already introduced us to this notion earlier, for he said in 2:10: “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Like puzzle pieces must be fittingly arranged in order to complete the puzzle, our salvation through Christ’s suffering is perfectly fitting to the eternal purpose of God. In the same way, Jesus Himself is also the exact Savior that we needed (and still need!). There is no other means of salvation from our sin because there is no other savior who is fit to save us. Christ alone is qualified to be the guarantor of the better covenant and to be the captain of our salvation, leading us as adopted sons and daughters of God onward to the eternal glory of God.
Again, 7:1-25 was ultimately concerned with Christ’s legal qualifications to serve as our great high priest. Here the author lists five rapid-fire qualities that qualify Jesus in His very person to be our high priest: holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Several commentators have made the case that the first three of these descriptions can be taken together to display Christ’s perfect moral character. Holy describes His sinless perfection before God, innocent describes His sinless perfection before other people, and unstained describes His sinless perfection within His own heart. Of course, like so many things, the distinctions are made for our own benefit of understanding. One cannot be holy before God without also being innocent before others, and one cannot be innocent before others without also being unstained in one’s own conscience. These descriptions truly apply to Christ alone, and we ought to be thankful that they do. As Owen reminds us:
Unholy sinners do stand in need of a holy priest and a holy sacrifice. What we have not in ourselves we must have in him, or we shall not be accepted with the holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
Although it is heresy today to speak of any insufficiency in us at all, we doth protest too much. Our society’s very fixation with affirming one another reveals that the internal paradise is a sham. We have not ascended beyond the basic moral compass that God has ingrained upon our hearts, and we have not transcended above truth itself. As I have said before, depression and anxiety statistics reveal that we are not as free and happy as we keep telling ourselves; instead, we are a society that is collectively caught in Giant Despair’s dungeon.
While we refuse to admit it, we are just as in need of a Savior as any other people throughout history. As the author of Hebrews has noted, we certainly have need of a Savior who is like us and is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. However, we also require a Savior who is separated from sinners. Consider Owen’s reflection on this point:
He was not set apart from them in his nature, for God sent his Son “in the likeness of sinful men” (Rom. 8:3). He was not set apart from men during his ministry on earth. He did not live apart from everyone in a desert. He spoke with tax collectors and prostitutes, and the hypocritical Pharisees rebuked him for this. His holy and undefiled… He was separate from sin, in its nature, causes, and effects. He had to be like this for our benefit. He became the middle person between God and sinners and had to be separate from those sinners in the thing he stood in their place for.
We cannot be saved by one who is altogether like us. In the Pilgrim’s Progress, Help was able to pull Christian out of the Slough of Despond because he was not in the bog himself. Likewise, our salvation is dependent upon Jesus being what we are not, that is, without sin.
The fifth and final description of Jesus’ qualification to be our high priest, exalted above the heaven, will be expounded upon by the author himself in verses 1-5 of chapter 8.
Because these qualities are true of Christ, verse 27 is also a reality: He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. This verse contains such wondrously good news that the author will essentially spend 9:1-10:18 unpacking this thought in detail. For the moment, let us simply consider what is being introduced to us for the first time in this sermon-letter. Jesus is qualified to be our high priest because He belongs to a superior priesthood than the Levites and because He is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Amen!
By Iain M. Duguid — 1 year ago
Written by Iain M. Duguid |
Friday, November 18, 2022
As a prophet, Ezekiel embodies in his actions both the Lord who has sent him and the people of Israel to whom he goes. In this dual representation Ezekiel foreshadows the ultimate sign-act, in which the Word becomes flesh and the Lord of Glory humbles himself to come and live among us, an act far more restrictive and humiliating for divine glory than anything Ezekiel undertakes. Jesus comes not merely to show us the enormous scale of our sin for which judgment could rightly befall us. He comes also to bear our punishment through the priestly act of atoning for us, offering his own body as a sacrifice on the cross to deal with our sin, once for all (Eph. 5:2).
1“And you, son of man, take a brick and lay it before you, and engrave on it a city, even Jerusalem. 2And put siegeworks against it, and build a siege wall against it, and cast up a mound against it. Set camps also against it, and plant battering rams against it all around. 3And you, take an iron griddle, and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; and set your face toward it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel. 4“Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. 5For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. 6And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year.7And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared, and you shall prophesy against the city. 8And behold, I will place cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege.
Ezekiel is commanded to begin his ministry immediately by performing a series of sign-acts, warning of the coming of judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah. Many of the prophets are instructed to carry out dramatic action to accompany their messages, ranging from simple sermon illustrations to complex acted-out parables. These signs are not merely visual aids; they are designed to reach people’s wills and hearts, enabling people not just to see the truth but to feel it.1 Ezekiel performs more sign-acts than most prophets, perhaps because his communicative task is harder than most. He must preach a message of Jerusalem’s inevitable downfall to a people convinced it could not be captured by the nations—and then, after the city’s fall, he must convey hope for the future to a people crushed by despair. Even those who are reluctant to stop and listen to Ezekiel’s words will be forced to recognize the import of his message through these dramatic signs. It will become clear even to a reluctant audience that a prophet has been in their midst when these signs begin to become reality.
The first of his sign-acts is in three related parts, depicting Jerusalem as a city besieged not merely by the Babylonians but by God as a result of the people’s long history of sin. Those who remain inside the city will be reduced to starvation rations and, worse, forced to eat defiled food. The exile in Babylon will not be a brief sojourn but a lifetime, akin to the forty-year wilderness wanderings. There is a glimmer of hope in that Ezekiel’s 430-day ordeal matches the nation’s 430-year stay in Egypt, suggesting the possibility of a new exodus at its conclusion. Yet the focus of the sign-acts is very much on the reality of the imminent judgment on Jerusalem from the Lord.
Ezekiel’s first sign-act involves erecting an elaborate model depicting Jerusalem as a city under siege. He is to take a clay brick, perhaps 10 inches by 24 inches (25 cm by 61 cm), and draw a map or a picture of Jerusalem on it while it is still soft (v. 1). Such bricks were common building materials in Babylon, and city plans sketched out on bricks have been excavated at the site of Nippur, in the same region as Ezekiel’s exile.2 Then the prophet is to create a diorama of a besieged city around the brick, with siege ramps, army camps strategically located around the city, and battering rams to break through the walls (v. 2)—all the latest weaponry and the overwhelming force the Babylonians will bring to bear on Jerusalem. With the city surrounded by the Babylonians, there would be no way into or out of Jerusalem.
Yet the Babylonians are not Jerusalem’s biggest problem. The prophet himself is to take the Lord’s part in the drama, with his face fixed toward Jerusalem, representing a settled attitude toward the city, and an iron griddle, or pan, between him and the city, depicting the complete severing of relations between Israel and her God (v. 3). The use of an iron object highlights the impenetrability of the barrier. No communication between the people and the Lord will be possible, which means that their cries for mercy and relief will go unheeded. This griddle is thus the visual equivalent of the Lord’s forbidding Ezekiel in the previous chapter to act as an intercessor for the city (cf. comment on 3:24–27 [at v. 26]).
The dual agency of Jerusalem’s awful fate is prominent throughout these signs. The Babylonians may provide the army that is to besiege the city, but it is the Lord who has decreed the city’s inevitable destruction and has cut off any channels of communication. This must have seemed inconceivable to many of the prophet’s contemporaries, raised on the assurance of Psalm 46, that Zion could not fall so long as the Lord dwelt within her. Ezekiel will challenge head on this concept of Jerusalem’s inviolability in Ezekiel 8–11 (cf. the sermon of Ezekiel’s contemporary Jeremiah in Jeremiah 7).
By Kim Riddlebarger — 4 months ago
Since our sanctification is every bit as much an act of God’s grace as is our justification, all those who have been justified by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, will (as the Catechism says) live according to all of God’s commandments. Since our efforts at obedience (like our sin) are covered by the blood and righteousness of Christ (making even the worst of our works pleasing to God), our heavenly father delights in our feeble efforts to do good.
Closely related to the doctrines of justification and sanctification is the subject of good works. One of the most common objections raised by critics of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is this: “If we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, what place does that leave for good works?” Even the apostle Paul had heard a similar objection raised among Christians in Rome. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1).”
Questions like this one arise from the concern that if God’s grace is stressed too much, Christians will become lazy and indifferent to the things of God and will not demonstrate a sufficient zeal for good works. After all, what incentive remains to do those works God commands us in his word, if our standing before God depends upon the good works of another–Jesus Christ? More importantly, as the critics contend, if the doctrine of justification is true, and we are justified sinners even after we become Christians, then why do good works at all, since they are still tainted by our sin?
Paul’s answer to these questions in Romans 6 is emphatic. In response to the charge that stress upon grace makes Christians indifferent about how they live, Paul writes, “by no means!” The apostle’s explanation is simple. “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:2-4).
After arguing that sinners are justified by faith alone, and not by works (Romans 3:21-28; cf. Galatians 2:16), the apostle can make the point that those who are justified through faith have also died to sin. Christians no longer desire to live under sin’s dominion because they have been buried with Christ, and subsequently raised to newness of life.